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There’s been plenty of talk about the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act, yet many North Carolina seniors may be unaware of what it specifically means to their health care.

The law, which some refer to as Obamacare, doesn’t affect seniors when it comes to direct care because they are already covered under Medicare. However, the law does impact Medicare by reducing the coverage gap for prescription drug coverage and eliminating abuse, fraud and waste within the system. The so-called doughnut hole in prescription costs (Medicare Part D) should continue to shrink and be eliminated by 2020.

By doing these things, the Medicare program should be strengthened and the life of the program extended by nearly a decade.

Seniors have an opportunity to get in front of diseases by taking advantage of annual wellness checkups that could allow doctors to find and treat problems sooner rather than later. In the past, seniors had to pay deductibles, copayments and other cost-sharing for preventive care in Medicare.

In the first 11 months of 2013, three-fourths of Original Medicare Part B enrollees in North Carolina received all free services, while 153,732 participated in annual wellness screenings.

Such screenings, in some cases, allow seniors also avoid unnecessary visits to the hospital that could lead to health care-acquired infections.

The law puts Medicare Advantage plan payments more in line with the costs for the Medicare program.

The law also creates incentives for medical caregivers to improve quality and enrollee satisfaction.

A voluntary long-term care insurance program provides a cash benefit to help seniors and people with disabilities obtain services and supports that will help them to remain in their communities.

Charlotte seniors also receive greater protection through portions of the law meant to address elder neglect and exploitation. The ACA provides for background checks for employees in nursing homes and requires the immediate reporting of suspected crimes to police. The law provides incentives for individuals to train and seek employment at such facilities.

 

While the law isn’t perfect, it does provide some benefits that will hopefully extend the life of Medicare and result in healthier lives. 


North Carolina has long been a popular state for retirees, and more so every year. With hip towns like Ashville, Boone, Chapel Hill, and, of course, Charlotte that offer big city culture, access to the great outdoors, and an affordable cost of living, it’s no wonder that more and more seniors are choosing the Tarheel state for their golden years. Charlotte especially has earned a reputation as a vibrant city for all ages, its Visitor Association slogan being “Charlotte’s Got A Lot” that makes it easy to travel anywhere in the country and enjoy plenty of fun and excitement in your own back yard.

Another reason North Carolina is such a popular retirement destination, however, is because of its financial incentives for seniors. The state has wooed Baby Boomers with tax breaks that are hard to beat. They were recently improved in 2013, with measures such as lowering the income tax rate to 5.8% in 2014 and 5.75% in 2015 with future drops possible in coming years. Social Security is not included in the types of income that are taxed.

North Carolina also recently ended its estate tax, an especially relief for anyone with 5.25 million dollars or more set aside, which was the previous limit for exemption. This is a huge boon for anyone who had planned and saved beyond the immediate living costs of retirement or anticipates passing along property or other assets. With that extra peace of mind, it’ll be even easier to relax and enjoy all the fun that Charlotte, and North Carolina, have to offer.

 

 

Deciding if it’s time to move into a senior care facility can big a big decision, but it can be made easier by approaching it like other big steps in your life, such as purchasing a house. When you buy a house, there’s a lot to consider, from your lifestyle to your needs to your finances. Planning retirement isn’t so very different. You want to make sure that your needs are met, that you’re near the people you love, the things you like to do, and the resources you regularly need in the community.

That means planning ahead now is hugely important. “The first years of returns have an outsize impact on your retirement savings sustainability,” explains Mr. Finke, a professor in the department of personal financial planning at Texas Tech University. The further you plan ahead, the more prepared you’ll be for a variety of possibilities. One factor to consider is whether you will want a retirement community that can age with you as you transition through different levels of independence. Different levels of care may have different costs you’ll want to factor in to your long-range strategy, much as you might want to plan ahead for the potential appreciation or depreciation of a property before purchase, or anticipate how soon you might outgrow your new home.

You’ll also want to consider how you spend your time and if your retirement community is adequate for your needs. Like shopping for real estate, it’s good to consider the geographic location, proximity to friends and family, to activities you enjoy, and what your lifestyle is. Do you travel a lot? Play golf? Enjoy mahjong? Enjoy sports games or theatrical performances? Want to see your grandchildren regularly? Consider these factors the way you might consider a new home in terms of  how often you entertain or how many bedrooms you need or if you like the layout of the laundry room. It’s important to be honest about your daily needs and to be able to envision yourself enjoying and benefiting from your new life in a senior care facility.

Do you need help with things you used to do easily, like getting ready for a party or managing your laundry? All of these factors are important to consider when deciding if you need the support of a retirement community and, if so, which one to choose, much as you  might consider which school zone a home would be in or how long the commute to work is. By approaching the unfamiliar decision of whether or not you are ready for a retirement community as if it were a more familiar decision you may have made before, you can make it seem simpler and less overwhelming. Take a look at each set of factors—the financial, the logistical, the lifestyle—and this will also help you break down a tough decision into manageable considerations. 

Friday, 29 November 2013 10:57

Seniors Gain Independence By Getting Online

Did you know that “43% of Americans over 65 use at least one social networking site, compared with 26% in 2010 and 1% in 2008?” according to a PEW research study? Seniors are currently the fastest growing demographic on social media platforms, finding them (and other online tools) valuable assets to leading independent, well-connected lives. According to the PEW study, “Older people are looking to maintain ties with their family, particularly those who live far away. They want to see pictures of their grandchildren. Seniors also look up old friends and connect with people who share similar hobbies. The majority of seniors on social media are using Facebook.”

That’s no doubt in part because Facebook is such a great one stop shop that makes it easy to do a lot of things with one account. You can share pictures, find out about local events, create private groups to talk with family, friends, or your craft circle, share articles and interesting content, and more. There are fun online games and contests that work through Facebook, too. Its’ a great place for seniors to maximize their online activity with relative simplicity.

While it might have been true years ago that older folks weren’t tech savvy, today’s retirees were only in their 40s at the advent of the internet. They may not have adopted a tech-heavy lifestyle as fast as younger generations, but many still gained computer and web skills on the job or simply as the internet grew more widespread in everyday life. Now many seniors are taking the time to learn or improve web skills as the internet makes it easier than ever to refill prescriptions, manage money, get in touch with friends, and share memories.

Often the first place many businesses update their contact info, hours, and other crucial information is on their websites or social media pages. Fewer and fewer phone books are distributed, and these days paper media is often out of date shortly after it is published. Even many newspapers and magazines are moving online. One of the best gifts you could give a senior loved one this year is the gift of helping them get online or manage their web life more easily so they can stay up to date and in control of day to day affairs with online tools.

 

Whether your loved one lives alone or in a supportive retirement community, their independence will be increased simply by being able to use online tools to get in touch with friends and family all over the world and having all the information they need at their fingertips about senior living facilities, area events, vacation plans, medications, investments, and more.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 14:47

Enjoying the Holidays As You Age

It can be stressful dealing with the holidays as you get older. You may be less independent or mobile than you once were, and find daily household tasks a challenge, much less the added effort of decorating the house, baking and cooking for holiday parties, and hosting big family gatherings. Living in a retirement community can alleviate much of the stress of the holidays, allowing you to spend more time enjoying good company and good fun. With a little planning ahead of time you can avoid holiday stress and make the most of new traditions.

It can be a huge reduction in stress just to plan out what your ideal holiday would be instead of automatically launching into your usual preparations. Write down what you would most like to do for the holidays, and then check with family and friends to see if that overlaps with their vision. Create the holiday you want, not the holiday you’ve always had. Especially if you’re moving to a senior living facility or visiting others for the holidays, this is a great opportunity to create celebrations that suit where you are right now, or to plan ahead for how you’ll handle it when you meet a situation that’s raising your blood pressure.

Plan to do your shopping early before the crowds get big.  Black Friday deals are often not as good as they appear and by doing your Christmas shopping bit by bit in the fall, you can avoid the major budget crunch of doing all your holiday spending at once. If you are traveling for the holidays this also gives you ample time to ship gifts to their destination with plenty of buffer in case something is lost or broken along the way, or if there is a delay due to holiday volume.

Most of all, treat yourself. The holidays should be an enjoyable time full of making great memories. Plan ahead of time as much as possible how you can ensure you are well rested, eat right, and have all the medications you need on hand. Don’t be afraid to take downtime during the day or rest up for evening festivities. If you will be traveling for the holidays, make sure everyone knows what your needs are so that you don’t find yourself in a situation that frustrates your mobility or ability to manage things like oxygen tanks. Just be communicating with those you’ll be sharing the holiday with well ahead of time, you can make for an easy season for all.

 

 

A 2009 Pew Research survey found that the older people get, the younger they feel, relatively speaking. That’s great news because by acting as young as you feel, you can say “no” to all the clichés that being elderly automatically means declining health. When acting young and keep you young, there’s simply no reason not to keep it up.

One of the keys to acting as young as you feel is taking time to know yourself in a deeper way. Write down what you are grateful for in a journal each morning and maybe learn to meditate. Take thoughtful walks and try to use your time mindfully. Observe the world with a more careful eye.

Now that you are retired and your children have grown, there’s more room in your day to savor the world around you, and to notice the little things that make it so lovely. Try to return to that place of wonder and surprise that you had when you were much younger, before you got so busy and caught up in daily routine.

Living more intentionally in this way will make it easier to enjoy everything you do, from the activities and social events at your retirement community to fun happenings around town. Go for a stroll at Wing Haven Gardens, or the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Attend one of the Shakespeare performances or wine festivals at The Green in city Center, a favorite spot for things to do in Charlotte. In spring the Sensoria Festival hosted by the Central Piedmont Community college will give you a lot to consider, with many writers and visual artists from around the world sharing their work.

 You don’t have to be a stereotype as you get older. Forget the seniors you see in movies and books—there are as many ways to be in retirement as there are retirees. Embrace everything there is to do at your senior living facility and enjoy this new opportunity to take on live with a different perspective.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013 12:22

Travel Tips for Seniors Seeing the World:

Travel has never been easier than when you live in a retirement community. You know everything at home will be well taken care of while you are gone, and you can have peace of mind during your trip. There’s also no better time to travel than when you are retired—with a freer schedule, senior discounts, and plenty of independence, this is your moment to see the world. We have a few tips to have the most fun:

· Pack extra items like hearing aid batteries, insulin syringes, camera batteries, and any over the counter or prescription medications you take regularly. In a pinch you can find these overseas or in different parts of the country, but you might run into different brand names or dosages, especially outside the US. Taking extras and keeping everything in your carryon will reduce the chance of confusion.

· Research the trip you’re planning yourself. Travel agents can be very helpful, especially if you need extra accommodation for a disability or another reason. However, you can often find good deals on your own with a little internet research. AARP and AAA can be great resources that will also help you avoid scams. Try sites like Kayak or Groupon as well to put all the pieces of your trip together or pick up a great deal.

· Have fun customizing your trip. Even if you are going on a guided, contained tour there is often free time you can use to pursue more specific interests. Tour guides may be willing to take their party’s interests in account and add in the occasional detour.  No matter what form of trip you are taking, make it your own.

·  Plan in time to recover. That doesn’t mean staying at the hotel to rest, but if you are spending all day on your feet in a museum, consider using the next day to take a ferry to the next destination or touring by double-decker bus.

· Don’t forget the electronics! You’ll want to make sure your camera memory card is cleared off beforehand, and that you have the charger, cable to connect it to a computer, laptop charger, cellphone charger, and more. Store everything together in a Ziploc bag to protect from moisture and getting tangled or misplaced.

It’s so much easier to plan ahead for a fabulous trip when your everyday life is already simplified by a reliable retirement facility. Senior housing makes it easy to do what you want by taking the load off your day-to-day routine. That confidence can make for an amazing travel experience, knowing that everything at home is in good hands and ready for your return. So go on—have an amazing getaway!

More and more people are talking about downsizing these days. Once the stuff of empty nesters moving into smaller homes, downsizing isn’t just for retirees anymore. Many are realizing the benefits of small space living, or simply living with less. This is great news for the seniors who are making a move. By  looking at the  larger conversation about downsizing and seeing how folks of all ages approach pairing down your possessions, you can make your transition quicker and easier!

One method that’s gotten a lot of press recently is the 100 Things Challenge. Based on a book by Dave Bruno, the Challenge is exactly what it sounds like– reducing the number of possessions you have to just 100! It’s not that we recommend doing something that extreme, but it’s an inspiring place to begin planning your downsize. If you could only pick 100 things according to the rules of the challenge, what would you choose?

By doing this exercise on paper, it can help you see both what you need for day to day living and what special things you couldn’t part with because of the memories they hold. From there, you can add to your list of things that will move with you based on the space you will have. Thinking in terms of your 100 most essential things can help you see what you already have in your home in a whole new light, such as the cast off musical instruments your kids tried out in school, shoes you no longer wear, forgotten wedding gifts or kitchen gadgets you rarely use.

This will make deciding how much space you need at your new home easier, and reduce the amount of time and money you spend packing and moving. Downsizing can save you a lot of money—especially if you sell your home and reinvest the proceeds, and from the lower cost of living that comes with lower property taxes, utilities, and more. You might even make some money off the items you choose to sell.

No matter who you are and your reasons for downsizing, whether you want a simpler lifestyle, have your eye on an urban condo, or have picked senior housing as your new home, it’s always good to take stock of what you have. By checking in on your lifestyle in a conscious way, you can get closer to the life you want to live. What better time than retirement to get your life closer to your dreams? Downsizing can help you get there!

Charlotte, North Carolina is regularly picked as one of the best cities in the country for retirees. And no wonder—in addition to a great climate, reasonable cost of living, and fantastic cultural options, Charlotte area businesses boast many senior discounts that help seniors do more for less. From restaurants to activities to transit, Charlotte clearly has a lot of respect for its retirees, and welcomes them with great deals.

There are, of course, the national chains that often offer senior discounts are various locations. Goodwill outlets throughout the Charlotte region offer anyone 55 or older a whopping 25% off on Tuesdays. Bealls, Big Lots, and Rite aid also offer retail discounts for those at various age cutoffs. Chilis, Boston Market, Bennigans, Denny’s and Arby’s all offer about 10% off to seniors, or a free drink with an order.

What’s especially exciting, however, are the deals from local businesses firmly entrenched in the local community. You can take a trip with your grandchildren to the Carolinas Aviation Museum, which offers discounts for both children and seniors. Grab a bike to cruise to your favorite galleries, shops, and restaurants at a Charlotte B Cycle bike share station, which provides a promotion code for a $10 discount on the annual membership. Both Renaissance Park and Regent Park golf courses offer special senior rates. And if you want to hit the road and get out of town, head to Amtrak’s Charlotte station and 15% off your fare if you are 62 or older!

In a city that already offers so much to its retirees, it’s wonderful to find the city welcomes seniors down to the last detail! When you retire to Charlotte, you retire to a city that takes care of its own

According to Richard C. Mohs, vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine,  “In many cases, an older person's brain may be less effective not because of a structural or organic problem but simply as a result of lack of use.” That’s great for those who are concerned about reduced memory function as they age. If you want to use it instead of lose it, here are our recommended steps towards a fitter memory:

  • Dial back distractions. Studies show that “as we get older, our ability to filter out distracting influences actually decreases, making it all the more important to concentrate on the task at hand.” It can take a lot of effort to break the multi-tasking habit after years of cramming so much work into busy days and using electronic devices, but it’s well worth it.
  • Clear up clutter. Not only do you need to reduce mental distractions, it’s important to get rid of environmental ones as well. It will reduce your stress level and make it easier to remember where things are and what you need to be doing if everything is organized. Pick up office products to help you keep your paperwork tidy, create a day planner to know what tasks lie ahead, and spend some time each day tidying up small messes. Anything you can do to simplify will keep your memory clearer as well.
  • Emphasize exercise and nutrition. By treating your body right, you’re helping it support your mind. After years of diet habits dictated by a tight schedule or what was near work or your children’s activities, it’s time to form new ones. Eating right and getting in daily physical activity can reduce other health conditions, offers an opportunity to socialize, reduces stress, and can mean learning a fun new skill like cooking or tennis, baking or biking.
  • Love learning. Learning is one of the things that helps your mind grow when you’re younger, and that doesn’t change with age. Giving your mind new things to process and store helps keep those skills sharp, just like continuing to work your muscles helps them stay strong. Now is the time to study French like you always wanted to, or maybe take a Tango class. Pick up classic literature you always meant to read, or give yourself over to an interest in music.
  • Rev up remembering. Memory isn’t only a matter of ability or health, it’s also a matter of practice. Rev up your ability to remember information by practicing memorization techniques. Pick up new vocabulary words using flash cards or word games. Study famous speeches using memory palaces or acting techniques. Learn a new religious or poetry verse each day. Make remembering routine.

These steps can make a big difference in your memory function, while also improving other areas of your life. Try them today and see the difference it makes it helping you stay on top of day to day life.

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