Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Best Retirement Communities in US per MSN Money

There are many theories about the criteria you should use in finding the perfect retirement community for you.  Among the issues you need to consider are climate, community amenities, type of housing, proximity to family, and convenience.  You may also want to be near a golf course, university, sports venue, or your favorite fishing hole.  More than anything, you should consider whether or not your new community will fit into your lifestyle.

When my husband and I chose our retirement community of Laguna Woods Village, on the outskirts of Laguna Beach in Southern California, we were pleased to find one which had a golf course for him and an equestrian center for me, as well as a mild climate and access to a wide variety of activities both within and outside our retirement village.  The picture which accompanies this article is one I took while horseback riding on one of the trails in our community.

In an article published by MSN Money, the authors came up with their own list of "The Best Retirement Villages in America."  You may or may not agree with the choices they made.  However, if you want to make sure you have considered all your possible choices, this list is a great place to start, although you should not limit the possibilities just to the names on this list. If you click on the "Retire in the US" tab at the top of this page, you will find a number of additional articles about other potential retirement locations.

My best recommendation is to keep an open mind.  You may find that a community you first discarded because of its location or climate may turn out to be the perfect place for you.  Below is the MSN Money list:

MSN-Money: Best Retirement Communities

The Villages in Sumter County Florida is located about 45 miles northwest of Orlando. The community of single-family homes is occupied by 118,000 residents who manage to use approximately 50,000 golf carts to get around the community.  The Villages are broken into smaller neighborhoods surrounding three town squares with dancing, drinking and live entertainment available every night of the year.  There are 48 golf courses and 80 pools. 

Del Webb Retirement Community at Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Georgia is a single family home community on the edge of a man-made lake less than two hours from Atlanta.  It is near mountains as well as the lake and is a gated community with golf where residents can also find places nearby to go fishing, sailing, horseback riding and skiing in winter.

Covenant Shores at Mercer Island, Washington is a faith based community just across a bridge from central Seattle.  Residents have easy access to all that Seattle has to offer including theater, music, and restaurants. The community has a putting green and private marina for canoeing and kayaking.  The residences consist of studios or one and two-bedroom apartments.  There is also a wellness center and health care services.  These are independent living residences with a variety of dining options.

Del Webb Sun City Hilton Head in Bluffton, South Carolina is a single family home community with 14,000 residents, three golf courses, a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, performing arts center, sports park.  There are a number of Sun Cities around the nation, including near Palm Springs, California and Georgetown, Texas.  Although they are not on the MSN Money list, you may want to tour one of the other Sun Cities near you as part of your retirement community research.

Del Webb - Great Island Community in Plymouth, Massachusetts is located near Cape Cod.  The community is made up of approximately 600 private homes, many with large backyards and wooded forest views.  There is a large clubhouse and the 75 acre Great Island Pond with canoeing and other water sports available. In addition, you have your choice of leisurely weekends on Cape Cod or in the nearby city of Boston, with a variety of cultural and sports venues.

Solivita in Kissimmee, Florida is a 4,300 acre community of single family homes with lakes and two semi-private golf courses in the Stonegate Golf Club.  Residents can also enjoy the Riviera Spa and Fitness Center with an indoor walking track and heated lap pool.  The community is broken up into a variety of smaller neighborhoods. 

The Clare in Chicago, Illinois is a 53-story high rise in the center of the city with easy access to all the city's restaurants and shopping areas.  It is one of the tallest developments designed exclusively for senior citizens in the world.  These are rental apartments and the amenities include a health and wellness center, as well as fitness and swimming facilities.  There are regular monthly activities.  The community has three restaurants and two bars for the use of the residents.  Dining credits are included in the monthly rental fee, which means that most of your meals are included in the rent.

Rio Verde Community and Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona  has stunning mountain views, local wineries, Southwestern architecture, two golf courses, and a Saddle Club with a member owned luxury stable.  It is proud of its "Cowboy Country" atmosphere and the design of the single family homes reflects that concept.

You can learn more about all these locations by reading the full MSN Money article or by looking up the websites for each of these communities.  If you live near one of them, go ahead and arrange a visit. They are located all over the United States, including in the Northeast, the Northwest, the Southeast and the Southwest.  There is a location and climate for everyone.  A personal visit is always the best way to assess a potential retirement community.

For more information about where to retire in the US or abroad, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, common medical problems, travel and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Link Between Stress and Alzheimers

Many Americans seem almost addicted to stress.  We scurry from activity to activity, sometimes feeling guilty if we take time for ourselves to relax, rest or meditate.  After all, we only live once and we want to cram every possible job, responsibility and adventure into our days.  However, not only could the stress of that busy lifestyle actually reduce the number of days we have to enjoy during our lives, but the stress could also cause us to develop Alzheimer's Disease or other forms of dementia during the final years of our life.  If you hope to avoid these brain disorders, one place to start is to learn to control your stress.

All stress is not bad.  We need some stress in order to accomplish anything in life.  However, it is important to find the right balance in our lives and make time to relax and rest.

Too Much Stress is Dangerous

According to Kathy McCaleb, a researcher with Cognitive Care Solutions, too much stress can affect all aspects of our life, including our work, play, family relationships, friendships and home life. It can cause both mental and physical reactions, including the ones listed below.  In particular, you want to notice that one of the mental reactions can be various types of dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease.

Mental Reactions to Stress

Lack of Focus
Dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease

Physical Reactions to Stress

Blood Pressure changes
Immune system decline
Heart disease
Appetite Changes
Libido Changes
Reduced energy level or fatigue
Weight changes (either weight loss or weight gain)
Digestion issues
Increases in the brain proteins associated with Alzheimer's Disease

Relaxation Can Reduce Your Dementia Risk

If stress can cause some or all of the problems listed above, including Alzheimer's Disease, then learning how to relax and how to practice mindfulness can diminish your risk of developing this common form of dementia.  Below are a few of the ways to learn to relax, improve your overall health and, particularly, protect your brain health:

Use imagery to take the focus off distractions
Practice deep breathing
Try sequentially tightening and relaxing your muscles

Many people believe they do not have the time to meditate or that they cannot empty their mind.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Recently, I read an article about the most basic elements of simple meditation.  It can be done anywhere, even in public, in the time it takes you to breath once or twice.  All you need to do is mentally think slowly of the word "inhale" while you breath in, then think slowly of the word "exhale" as you breath out.  While you are thinking those words, you are emptying your mind, just for a moment, of everything else.  At the same time, you are calmly breathing and bringing oxygen into your lungs.  It is as simple as that.  "Inhale" .... "Exhale" .... repeat.

Practice Mindfulness by Appreciating the Simple

The key to mindfulness is learning to enjoy the simple things in life.  You do this when you:

Focus on the present, not the future or past
Enjoy the ordinary ... a meal, shower, or beautiful morning
Pamper yourself
Get a massage
Try yoga, Tai Chi or other forms of gentle exercise
Get a pet and spend time with it
Try journaling
Invest time in your healthy relationships
Avoid toxic relationships
Practice saying "no"
Fight depression; it is not a normal sign of aging

Use Technology to Fight Stress

One of our daughters, a special education teacher, recently purchased the newest version of the Garmin Vivofit fitness tracker. The other day it vibrated and when she looked at the screen it indicated she was getting stressed. The screen said, "Breath with Me."  Great reminder.  We do not know what the exact technology it uses to determine that someone is getting stressed and needs to breath, but it is a useful piece of technology.  I am sure there are other fitness trackers which will pick up the same clues and help you know when to relax.

Use whatever technology you have at your disposal to help you reduce your stress, whether it is a fitness tracker, calendar on your phone, your favorite music, or even the ability to simply turn off your phone and other technology periodically and enjoy the people who surround you.

Helpful Websites on Stress and Brain Health

If you are having difficulty reducing your stress or you are uncertain how to deal with your stress in healthy ways, the following articles may help you:  The Cleveland Clinic, "10 Everyday Stressors and How to Conquer Them" by Kate Hanley, April 4, 2012 (  "How Deep Relaxation Affects Brain Chemistry" March 31, 2015 "Relaxing for Your Brain's Sake" by Alvaro Fernandez, March 20, 2008

If you are interesting in learning more about common health issues as you age, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire and more, use the tabs and pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Make Your Retirement Bucket List

Whether you believe you have another three years or thirty years left in your life, it is always important to have something to look forward to.  Everyone should have goals, hopes, and dreams.  One way to put them all together is by creating your own personal bucket list.  You may want to have a short one for the coming year and a larger one consisting of things you would like to accomplish during the remaining years of your life. If you are looking forward to retiring in the next few years, you will be even more excited about the future if you create a bucket list full of the things you would like to do after retirement.  In this way, you will immediately have a plan for how you want to keep busy after you stop working.

Your bucket list should contain a list of places where you would like to travel, people you would like to see, performances you think you would enjoy, new experiences or hobbies you want to try, financial changes you need to make in order to accomplish the above things, and anything else which is important to you.  Below is a list of suggestions to get you started, but feel free to let your mind run wild.  Whether or not you achieve everything on your bucket list is not important.  In fact, you may even want to update your bucket list from time to time.  You just need to make sure you have a reason to get out of the house and stay engaged in life right up to the very end.  Whether you are still in your working years or newly retired, having goals and working to achieve them is a proven way to stay physically healthy and mentally active.

Ideas for Your Bucket List

1.  Have you visited all the tourist traps in your area, or did you postpone going to see them because they are so close?  Make a list of all those sites you have been meaning to see, but never thought you would have the time.  People travel hundreds of miles to visit some of these places.  Maybe it is time you should check them out, too.

2.  Make a list of two or three distant places you have always wanted to visit.  Do you have a yearning to go to Europe, Indonesia, or South America?  Do some research.  Make a list of specific cities or locations you would like to visit.  Find out how much it would cost in air fare.  How much are hotels or other accommodations in the area?  How would you get around once you are there?  Are there tours which would save you time, trouble and money? Order a travel guidebook and read all about the locations on your list.  Start a savings account so you can make your dream a reality.

3.  Why not travel around the U.S.?  You could go on a road trip in your car, rent an RV, get a bus pass, or travel by train around the country.  Who knows what adventures you might have as you travel throughout our nation?  You may even want to venture into Canada or Mexico when you near our borders.  Better bring along your passport, just in case!

3.  What types of cultural and entertainment events do you enjoy?  Make a list of museums, plays, sporting events, musicals and concerts you have always wanted to enjoy.  Then, try to find a way to do at least one thing on this list every year.

4.  Do you have relatives or old friends you rarely see?  Get in touch with them.  Plan a reunion.  Perhaps they will want to join you in completing some of the other items on your bucket list.  In fact, you may want to combine visiting some of your relatives while on a road trip around the US. You could also add in a side trip to attend a special event which is high on your bucket list. 

5.  You are never too old to learn something new.  Have you always wanted to learn a new language, play an instrument, become an artist, improve your cooking, or learn some other new skill?  Sign up for classes.  Depending on what you want to do, you may be able to find fun classes at your local community college or senior center.  Classes are a great way to make new friends, too.

6.  Are you an empty nester, divorced or newly retired?  You may be lonelier than you realize. Have you considered getting a pet?  Visit the local animal shelter and check out the cats and dogs they have available.  If you don't want a puppy, they often have house-broken older dogs which are looking for a home.  Don't be afraid to get something a little more exotic, too, such as a bearded dragon, bird, guinea pig, rabbit or miniature goat.  This is your opportunity to get the type of pet you always wanted, but never thought you would have the time to take care of.

7.  Unsure how you will be able to afford to do the things on your bucket list?  Talk to a financial planner so you are confident you are in strong financial shape going into retirement.  Having a financial plan which includes money set aside for travel or hobbies will give you the confidence to enjoy your retirement.

8.  Do you have some other "crazy" ideas which have been bouncing around in the back of your mind.  Sky-diving? Trekking the Himalayas? Scuba diving in Indonesia? Living and traveling in an RV? Learning to fly a plane? Sailing around the Caribbean or the San Juan Islands in Washington State?  Put them down in writing and create a plan to make them come true.  Life is an adventure.  Enjoy it.  These ideas may not be as crazy as you think!

If you are interested in learning more about aging, financial planning, ideas for where to retire, common medical issues, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Top Retirement Posts in 2018

Every winter, our final post is a summary of the most popular posts of that year.  It has been interesting to see how the topics have changed slightly over the years.  This year, the top post was on End of Life Planning.  It was followed by posts on how to help your grandchildren earn scholarships, how Medicare handles certain health problems, and how to prevent dementia. In fact, concern about dementia has been the most recurring theme over the past few years.

There have been three developments with this blog in 2018.  The first was the addition of the services of a Medicare expert from Boomer Benefits, Danielle Roberts, who is licensed in 47 states.  Either she or one or her co-workers will be happy to answer your individual Medicare questions. You can find her photo, phone number and email address in the lower right-hand column of the blog.  Danielle also has written several guest posts about Medicare for this blog during the past year and you can find them by clicking on the Social Security and Medicare tab at the top of the page.

Secondly, as the author of this blog, I have decided to personally join an Alzheimer's research study at the University of California - Irvine MIND facility. I have been sharing what I have learned in some of my blog posts and plan to continue to do so in coming years.  I believe that my readers will find the information I am sharing will be valuable.  To see all the posts on dementia and Alzheimer's Disease which have been discussed in this blog, use the Medical Concerns tab at the top of the page to find links to all of them.

Thirdly, I narrowed down the variety of ads which are visible on the sidebar of my blog. All the ads in the right-hand column are either from Amazon or Google, both reputable advertisers.  This means you should be able to comfortably use the links in the sidebar to obtain information about advertised products without fear of malware or viruses.  I'm not sure you can say that for all the advertisers you encounter on other sites on the internet!

Now for the list of the most popular retirement posts in 2018.

End of Life Planning for Baby Boomers - The most popular post of the year was about the steps we all need to take in order to prepare for the end of our lives. For example, you should contact a lawyer, write a will, set up a trust, and complete an advanced healthcare directive. You should also talk to a mortuary, prepay your funeral, if possible, and leave instructions with your heirs.  Get details and learn more about the other steps you should be taking in this post.

College Scholarship Tips for Grandchildren - Despite the risk to their own financial future, according to AARP, approximately 53 percent of grandparents help their grandchildren with their educational expenses.  Learn how you can help your grandchildren earn scholarships and reduce their need to take out debt or turn to you for help.  This could benefit you both and was another very popular post over the past year!

Medicare Coverage for Heart Disease - If you have a heart attack, what will Medicare cover?  How many heart screenings, tests, etc., are covered each year?  Get the answers so you know what to expect before you find yourself in the hospital.

How Medicare-For-All Would Work - A number of recent politicians have expressed support for a Medicare-For-All program in our country.  However, how would it work? What are the benefits and concerns about a program like this?  Learn more about this proposal so you understand the concept and how it could gradually be implemented.

Hearing Loss Increases Dementia Risk Dramatically - An important way to prevent or postpone dementia is to engage with other people.  However, if you have hearing loss, your socialization could be reduced and your risk of dementia could increase.  Learn more about this important issue.

Lower Dementia Risk with Exercise - Anything which is good for the heart is good for the brain.  This is especially true when it comes to the importance of getting regular exercise.  Learn more about the best types of exercise to lower your dementia risk.  

International Travel Tips for Senior Citizens - Are you planning an international trip?  If you have not traveled overseas in a while, there are certain issues you need to consider in making your plans.  Even if you are a seasoned traveler, you may find these tips to be helpful, so be sure to check out this post before your next overseas trip.

Medicare, Substance Abuse, Addiction and Alcoholism - Many senior citizens suffer from problems with substance abuse, including addiction to legal and illegal drugs, as well as alcoholism.  If you need help recovering from these problems, how much of the cost will Medicare cover?

Socializing Reduces Dementia Risk - Did you know that following the MIND diet, getting adequate sleep, and engaging in a variety of types of exercise have all been shown to dramatically reduce your risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease?  Socializing is another important way to improve your brain health and lower your dementia risk.  Learn more about how it can help you to spend time engaging with other people on a regular basis.

Prediabetes and Diabetes Prevention - Roughly one in four adults over the age of 65 have diabetes, and significantly more have prediabetes.  A large percentage of people with these conditions are NOT aware of it.  However, this is not a disease which you want to ignore.  Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.  As a result, it is important we all understand how to avoid it and how to minimize the damage it can cause. This article is a good place to begin to expand your knowledge of this life-shortening disease.

If you are interested in learning more about Medicare, common health issues, dementia, where to retire, financial planning, Social Security and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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