A Guide for Seniors: Using Technology to Support Your Health

Thanks to modern technology, daily life is easier than ever. Ordering food, booking a vacation, keeping up with friends—all of these things have gotten simpler. Cutting-edge tools have also made life easier for seniors. If you are looking for ways to maintain your health and happiness as you age, Peabody Place offers a roundup of some innovative technology tools for seniors to help support health and make life easier.

Take advantage of cooking apps

Once you retire, you will have more time on your hands to devote to hobbies like cooking. When you aren’t pressed for time, preparing a meal is a far more enjoyable experience. Make the most of it by mastering senior-friendly recipes. Nutritious food gives you the nutrients and vitamins you need to maintain energy, which can be difficult to maintain as we get older.

Your smartphone can be a useful sous chef when preparing food. Cookster provides a roundup of practical apps to download. The Allrecipes app offers free recipes, for instance, while SideChef provides easy step-by-step instructions for meals targeted at newbie chefs. Finally, Tasty lets you manage all your different recipes easily in one place.

Consider taking a multivitamin

Even with a healthy diet, you might not get all the nutrients you need from food and drink alone. Many Americans fail to get the recommended daily amount of vitamin A or D, for example. A supplement specifically designed for seniors can help ensure you aren’t missing out on any essentials.

Use a technologically advanced pillbox to keep track of your supplement intake as well as any other medications you may need. Modern trackers don’t just allow you to compartmentalize pills based on day of the week; they also remind you to take them at the right time using gizmos like flashing lights or sounds.

Focus on fitness

As your needs change over the years, it’s important to look for exercises that will help improve your quality of life. Focus on activities that allow you to work on your balance, strength, and mobility. Yoga, swimming, and cycling are great ways to boost your health while having fun doing so. If you prefer working out at home, find a suitable regimen that works for your age group and requires little to no equipment. You can even turn to fitness apps with at-home workouts you can enjoy at your own pace.

Modern fitness trackers and smartwatches can keep track of everything from heart rate to how much physical activity you get on a daily basis. Some models can also alert emergency services if needed. This can be especially useful for older individuals who are more prone to dangerous falls at home. While new models can be pricey, a refurbished one can offer the same benefits at a lower price. Simply jazz it up with a new band, connect it to your smartphone and you’ll be ready to go.

Take advantage of preventative care

Preventative care is the key to living a long and healthy life. Regular checkups allow your doctor to catch potential signs of illness early and to make lifestyle recommendations so you can get on a healthier track. Note that Medicare may cover preventative measures; for instance, with a Medicare Advantage plan, you may qualify for certain wellness programs.

If you aren’t currently in Medicare Advantage, it is possible to switch during the yearly enrollment period. This is your chance to reexamine your current plan and see if you should upgrade. Medicare.gov provides all the information you need to help you decide whether you should make the switch.

Stay social with modern technology

Finally, don’t forget to address your mental well-being as well. Many seniors may find themselves feeling isolated, especially after retirement when they no longer have the daily social contact they once had. This is why living at Peabody Place can make such a difference. With an array of activities and social programs, residents can stay engaged and enjoy a sense of community. For additional ways to stay connected, use apps to find volunteering opportunities, join a MeetUp group related to a favorite hobby or pastime, or consider even rounding up friends for weekly card games via Zoom.

With the above tech tips and tools, you can maintain your well-being physically and mentally.

Continued good health is the first step to enjoying your golden years as much as possible. Technology can also bring enjoyment to your life, which is important for your health — whether using a tablet or smartphone, you have a plethora of entertainment at your fingertips!

 

By Rhonda Underhill, Guest blogger
GetWellderly.com

Those pesky Robo Calls and Elder Exploitation

By Marylee Gorham

I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to my mobile phone in terms of actual calls since texting is an easier, faster, more efficient way to communicate. However, when someone has tried to reach me lately, invariably they are frustrated with the all too frequent message “voice mailbox is full.” Annoyingly, I am clearing out unwanted messages at least twice a week.  I believe 99% of these calls are robo calls.

Robo calls were on the decline in the early months of the pandemic, but folks, they’re back in full force overtaking their pre-Covid peak with an estimated 4.9 billion robo calls in March 2021 alone. Half of them are being placed by scammers. Seniors are a primary target for these calls and lost $1 billion in 2020, according to the FBI.

The pandemic had some unimaginable consequences, one was the surprising drop in robo calls early on in 2020. In April 2020, by all accounts, less than 3 billion dubious calls were made – the lowest figure in two years.  As we’ve all become used to working from home however, spam and scam calls have begun to increase, soaring to unprecedented numbers in 2021.

According to robo call prevention service YouMail, 1,911 calls per second or 159 million calls per day were logged in March 2021! This company estimates we will have received north of 51 billion unwanted calls by the end of this year!

Telemarketing spam, automated calls from companies you haven’t authorized to contact you, prerecorded messages dangling goodies or those that demand payment for non-existent debt, all have the singular goal of getting you to send money or disclose sensitive personal data.

It’s important to note that many robo calls are legal. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows them for some informational or noncommercial purposes, such as political campaigning, polling, and outreach by nonprofit groups. Your medical provider’s office can robocall you with an appointment reminder, an airline with news about a flight change, even weather alerts – it’s all perfectly legal.

Congress has passed a law attempting to put an end to robo calls, but it hasn’t been very effective so far, due to loopholes. The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission identified them as the top complaint in 2020.

How is it that telemarketing is even legal?

Telemarketing – by definition a soliciting business sales contact by means of a phone call – is legal, provided the telemarketer complies with the law, including the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Consumer Protection Act. You might be surprised to learn that the Act prohibits:

  • Calling before 8.00a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Robocalling without your prior written consent
  • Calls that don’t identify the caller, who they’re calling on behalf of, and contact information for such person
  • Robocalling without an opt-out mechanism
  • Calls to anyone on the Do Not Call Registry (other than exempted calls).

Agencies and other entities that will never call you

Vigilance and mental dexterity are required when fielding these calls. Scammers are able to mask their true location using technology that engages ID spoofing, which is when the number looks legitimate and may appear its coming from a local source within your own area code. It isn’t.

Government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service or Social Security Administration will NEVER call you. Any communication from these agencies will ALWAYS be in the form of a letter, on official letterhead, received by regular mail.

Lately scammers have created fraudulent calls centered around “the attorneys have negotiated a settlement for your unsecured debt” and phony calls for confirmation for your order for Walmart or Amazon. With online shopping exploding during the pandemic, you might find yourself thinking twice about this particular scam.

My personal favorite: [there is] a warrant for my arrest due to fraudulent activity on my Social Security.  Press 1 now to speak to us blah, blah, blah. I say, send the Sherriff’s over right away, let’s see what happens next!

How Do Scammers Get Your Number in the First Place

Most telemarketers purchase phone numbers from third party data providers. Here’s how those providers may have procured your number, according to the Better Business Bureau:

  • You called an 800, 888, and/or 900 number (they use caller I.D. technology and collect phone numbers)
  • You applied for credit
  • You contribute to charities
  • You are a registered voter
  • You bought anything, or entered any contest, and gave your phone number in the process
  • Your phone number is on your checks.
  • You call a business, and they have caller I.D. (which, you should assume they do).

“Can You Hear Me” & “Is this you?” and other trick questions

According to Eva Velasquez CEO & President of Identity Theft Resource Center advises caution when answering that first question. “By getting you to answer ‘yes’ to that one question at the very beginning of the call, rather than somewhere in the middle of the conversation, where dubbing would be more obvious – scammers can record your affirmative answer.”  A recorded ‘yes’ can be used to extort payment for a product or program later on, or to authorize transactions on a credit card. Likewise: “Is this the lady of the house” (?) “Are you there (?)”, and other leading questions that could elicit a one-word response; your best strategy quite simply is to hang up.

Our elder population may be especially vulnerable to such calls.

Changes to the brain

Such terms as “age-associated financial vulnerability” or AAFV have been coined by eminent doctors in the realm of neuropsychology. Mark Lachs, a practicing physician at Weill-Cornell Medicine in New York has written:

AAFV as a pattern of financial behavior that places an older adult at substantial risk for a considerable loss of resources such that dramatic changes in quality of life would result and that is inconsistent with previous patterns of financial decision making during younger adult life. This condition can occur in the absence of dementia or other neurodegenerative diagnoses and may or may not be the presenting manifestation of such illnesses.”

The theory that as we age, regardless of cognitive disease, our ability to detect suspicious situations may decline.  We may become prone to seeing the upside of a ‘too good to be true’ deal and downplay the risk. Elders may be inclined to believe the last person they spoke to, overly trusting of a persuasive voice or worse, ill-equipped to deflect high-pressure telephone predation. Social isolation and loneliness further set up our elders for exploitation, not to mention, they may be in possession of substantial assets. Older folks are more likely to live alone, without a strong local support system to act as a second set of eyes and ears, seniors can be lured into financial traps.

Older adults have comparatively more wealth than younger generations, and make up a massive demographic most attractive to criminals intent on fleecing seniors of their hard earned retirement funds. The number of people aged 65 and older will nearly double in the next 30 years, making up one in five of the US population. One gerontologist put it this way: abuse of the elderly is, at its core, lack of social support. The cure is social support. The best way to help vulnerable loved ones is just to be there, to be present in their lives.

Elders of a certain generation who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II may be less skilled at navigating the Internet and determining scams perpetrated via this platform – and scammers are ever more technologically sophisticated.

One particularly high-profile conviction involved a spectacularly odious fellow from Jamaica who unwittingly targeted a seemingly frail 90 year old, who just happened to be the former head of the FBI and the CIA, William Webster, with the promise of fake sweepstakes winnings.

Scientist now are focused on the physical changes in the aging brain related to financial vulnerability. In some cases new emerging patterns of mistakes with money may be a harbinger of cognitive decline. Nathan Spreng, a neuroscientist at McGill University, has been conducting research linked to scamming and the elderly. His two groups of 13 elders of similar age, education and socioeconomic standing looked at who had been victimized by a successful scam and who had not. Interestingly their brain scans were markedly different. Says Spreng:

“When we looked at the structural integrity of their brain, we identified one region in particular that was significantly smaller in those individuals who had been scammed than those who had not. A thinning of the part of the brain called the ‘insula’ which gives you this body sense of the perceptions of the environment that something’s not quite right and it’s a signal that all of us in life kind of need to learn how to listen to. In the case of aging, that signal just isn’t as loud.”

In an award-winning paper published by the Brookings Institution, researchers identified a peak age for handling money matters: on average it’s 53 years old.

Of course, this AAFV scenario doesn’t necessarily mean all of us as we age will suffer.  Plenty of older folk are just as sharp as they were in the 20s and 30s and indeed, many seniors have that edge over their younger selves, shall we chalk that up to wisdom {?} or as I like to quote Kathy Bates in the film Fried Green Tomatoes, “I’m older, and I have more insurance!” Financial acumen and scam-spotting really are complex matters. Gullibility to scams does cross all generations but we would do well to do all we can to protect our elder loved ones.

Set up a Financial Plan for the Future

Robo calls and elder exploitation

Make a plan early before decline becomes apparent and crisis is not looming on the horizon.   Decisions made while fully competent include designation of Power of Attorney – that trusted person who will be the driver for money matters if and when that becomes necessary. Likewise making accommodations for one’s Durable Power of Attorney for HealthCare and Advance Directives can also block would-be scammers at a time of exquisite vulnerability.

The Foundation for Healthy Communities planning guide is a great resource to access appropriate documents without attorney fees. Look at  www.healthynh.com for details.

What Makes Peabody Place Different from the Rest?

There used to be a huge difference between not-for-profit retirement communities and private sector retirement communities. Not so much anymore. In general, both private and not-for-profits have abandoned the ‘middle’ market and have gone straight to the ‘high’ end of the market. Although we have a tremendous County system that does a great job for those at financial risk – most people – those who are in the “middle” – have been abandoned.

Not by Peabody Place! At Peabody, we have not forgotten our heritage. We were created by the community to serve the community — and that is what we continue to do both now and with our new expansion. I do not want anybody to think that just because we will have a new building that we are going to become ‘exclusive’. Not at all!

You will pay a lot more elsewhere — but you will not get more. Sometimes people assume that they cannot afford assisted living or nursing home level care and are surprised after talking with us to find that they can! Please do not be reluctant to give us a call to explore options either for some time soon or to plan for the new building. You just might be pleasantly surprised!

Construction Update

Why do we have ‘Fuzzy Steel Beams’? All of our structural steel will be fireproofed with a sprayed-on coating. That process has started and will continue until done. The installation of roof trusses continues, and the mechanical contractor continues with first-floor drain line installation in advance of pouring the floor. Today we also received a visit from the gas company and there is speculation that our existing service might need to be ‘lowered’ during construction. Later this line will be removed when the new building opens. I will let you know more as I learn more.

I hope you can get out to enjoy this weather — the weather that we all hoped we would have had for this past weekend!

Howie