Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Is it Safe to Travel Alone? How Can You Make it Safer?

One of the activities which appeals to many new retirees is the ability to travel throughout the world.  A large number of retirees look forward to seeing exotic places and experiencing new adventures after they retire.  However, before you head off into the wild blue yonder, it may be worthwhile to research how to keep yourself safe, especially if you are planning to travel alone.

Treat Every Travel Location with Caution

Whether you are traveling in the United States or a foreign country, it is easy to get into "vacation mode," and assume that everyone is going to be friendly, helpful and honest.  While the vast majority of people you encounter are likely to be kind and welcoming, it only takes a few bad apples to ruin your trip.

A few years ago, two young male teachers I worked with decided to backpack across Europe during their summer vacation, staying in youth hostels. It seemed like an exciting adventure and an opportunity for them to travel widely on a budget.  However, one or both of them were robbed of their cash three times during their trip, always after falling asleep in a youth hostel.  One of them told me he would never stay in a hostel again.  If healthy young men can be robbed while traveling, senior citizens traveling alone need to be even more careful.

Even within the United States, I have had my debit card information stolen while traveling, with thieves attempting to use the stolen information while I was still away from home.  Fortunately, my bank was quick to pick up on the fraudulent activity, stop questionable charges, and contact me using my cell phone.  If it had not been for their vigilance, it could have ruined our trip.  Today, I no longer use my debit card when traveling and I am careful where I use my credit cards.

Certain Travel Destinations are Exceptionally Dangerous

While crimes can occur anywhere, Forbes Magazine published an article called "10 Most Dangerous Places for Women Travelers."  The list includes places where women tourists, in particular, are frequently the victims of assault or robbery.  It would be wise for men, as well, to be extra careful when visiting these spots.  The countries on their list are:


Do not take these warnings lightly.  Years ago, my husband and I took our young children to Jamaica.  A few days prior to our arrival, rebels entered our resort and killed everyone in in the lobby of the hotel!  During our stay, a private party in the golf clubhouse was interrupted by more armed rebels, who robbed and terrified the guests.  Other countries on the above list can be just as dangerous.  Wandering around alone could be risky for anyone, let alone someone who appears to be elderly or frail.

How to Protect Yourself

There is no way to keep yourself completely safe when you travel.  However, there are a number of steps you can take to significantly reduce your risk of being a crime victim while you are traveling.
*  Before choosing a destination, check out the U.S. State Department Travel Advisories website to make sure there are no extraordinary reasons why you should avoid that country or a particular region within a country.

*  Ideally, it is best to travel in a group.  Join tour groups which are going to the areas which interest you.  The guide will try to avoid the most dangerous neighborhoods and there is usually safety in numbers.

*  Dress and behave appropriately for the area you are visiting.  For example, when traveling in the Middle East, women should dress conservatively with their shoulders, arms and knees covered, avoid making eye contact with men, and seek out local women when they are lost, need directions or seek other information.  Approaching a man can be viewed as flirting. In addition, it is wise to limit the amount of alcohol you consume and avoid drinking in bars with strangers.  In fact, this last recommendation is smart almost anywhere you travel, including within the United States.

*  Carry your cash, cell phone and important documents, such as your passport, in a money belt close to your body. Do not walk around looking at your phone.  It can be easily snatched by someone else. If you carry a purse or bag, choose a cross-body style and only use it for items which are easily replaceable, such as make-up, hair brush, maps, or brochures.

*  Do not walk around alone in a strange neighborhood after dark.  This is true almost everywhere, but particularly when you are in a foreign country. Take a cab from your hotel or a similar reliable, well-lit location.  Do not hail cabs on the street.

*  While at your hotel, take advantage of hotel safes, bring along a door stop to make it harder for someone to sneak into your room while you are sleeping or showering, and consider bringing along a battery operated, portable door alarm, which would wake you if someone enters.

*  Consider purchasing the "Travel Safety Handbook: Your Guide to Safer, Better Travel" for more ideas on keeping yourself safe on the road.  

If you take the precautions above, you are quite likely to be able to travel nearly anywhere and have a great time.  You've been waiting your entire life for the opportunity to enjoy unfettered travel.  Enjoy it!

If you are interested in more information about retirement travel, where to retire in the U.S. and abroad, Social Security, Medicare, retirement planning, common medical problems and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit: Google Images: Green Prophet

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Retire in a University or College Town - Affordable and Fun!

If you live in a college town now, you have probably already decided it will continue to be the ideal place to stay after retirement.  If you do not currently live in one, but look forward to opportunities for personal growth and interesting activities after retirement, you may want to look for a college town in the state where you plan to retire.  Many people have discovered that college towns are the perfect place to live during your working years and are even better later in life, when you are ready for retirement.

We raised our children just a few blocks from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.  Our children practiced soccer on the sports fields at SMU, had their piano recitals in the performing arts theater, and bonded with many college babysitters over the years.  We also took them to see performances of the Nutcracker Suite, inexpensive concerts, plays and other special events.

When our children grew up and my husband and I relocated to California, we moved to another college town, near the University of California in Irvine.  As an adult, I have discovered that UCI offers special continuing education classes for senior citizens, membership in a lecture series at the University Club, and a lovely campus where we can walk.  Over the years, we learned there are numerous reasons why people of all ages, including retirees, benefit from living near a college or university.

College Kids and Retirees Have Many Needs in Common

If you are in your 60s, 70s or 80s, you may be wondering what you could possibly have in common with college students in their late teens or early 20s.  As it turns out, you may have more in common than you think.

*  You both like to be near affordable restaurants and similar services
*  You both enjoy affordable entertainment, including concerts, plays, ballet and orchestra performances.
*  You both may be sports fans and look forward to sporting events with admission prices far lower than the professional teams.
*  You both benefit from walkable neighborhoods where you can easily stroll to a variety of businesses.
*  You both can benefit from reliable public transportation, should you need it.
*  In addition, many large universities also have teaching hospitals and dental schools, an excellent way to obtain world class medical care at affordable prices.  Sometimes you can even sign up to participate in drug trials or other innovative treatments which may not yet be available everywhere.  For example, I am currently participating in a long-term dementia study.  Researchers at the UCI-MIND program test me annually to see if I will develop any signs of cognitive decline (which has not happened, so far).  If I do show signs of developing dementia, they will do further tests and offer to enlist me in drug trials in an effort to slow down the progression of the disease.  This is an opportunity which I am unlikely to have if I had retired far away from any major university.

Popular College Towns for Retirees

Below is a list of popular college towns based on the recommendations of AARP, and my own personal experiences.  You will see that the choices range from fairly large cities at the top of the list to small towns near the bottom. 

Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts
Portland, Oregon
Austin, Texas
University Park (in Dallas), Texas
Madison, Wisconsin
Arlington, Virginia
Minneapolis - St. Paul, Minnesota
Boulder, Colorado
Rochester, Minnesota
Columbia, Missouri
Columbia, Maryland
Irvine, California
Alexandria, Virginia
Berkeley, California
Princeton, New Jersey
Fitchburg, Wisconsin
Sheboygan, Wisconsin
La Crosse, Wisconsin
Lafayette, Colorado
Silver Spring, Maryland
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Lexington, Virginia
Bismarck, North Dakota
Brookline, Massachusetts
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Portland, Maine

Choosing the Best University or College Town for You

Of course, the above list is not comprehensive. There are dozens of other possible choices.  If you are interested in living in a college town which is not on the list, simply do a little research to make sure the community has amenities which interest you, whether that be a winning football or basketball team, performances which are open to the public, affordable housing, access to healthcare and good transportation.  You may also get more ideas for desirable college communities by purchasing a book about colleges and college towns.

Check out the Fiske Guide to Colleges using this link: https://amzn.to/2E7LUrC

If you are looking for a smaller community in which to retire, don't rule out the opportunities offered by local community colleges.  In Orange County, California, Saddleback Community College offers hundreds of free classes to senior citizens who live in the county.  These classes include photography, oil painting, history, yoga, aerobics, computer programs, health and much more.  Other community colleges across the country also offer free or low-cost classes to seniors.

In addition, you may want to investigate the crime rate and the overall feeling of comfort you have when you are strolling around the community.  Not all colleges, especially those in large cities, are in neighborhoods with low crime rates.

Finally, you may also want to check to see if the community you are considering has a Senior Center.  In addition to the resources which a college will make available, a Senior Center will also provide activities and resources geared specifically for an older population, including exercise classes, educational classes, low cost meals, entertainment and information about local services for senior citizens.

If you are interested in discovering more ideas for where to retire, in the United States and abroad, financial planning, Medicare, Social Security, common medical issues as you age, and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog: http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:   Photo of University of Missouri in Columbia courtesy of Google Images

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Our Bodies at Age 70

Baby Boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 or more a day.  Since this has been going on for several years, millions of them are now beginning to reach their 70s.  Aging can be an uncomfortable transition, and often people wonder what the future will hold in the coming years.  Recently, AARP Magazine published an article titled "Your Body at 70+" in their April / May 2018 edition and our readers may be interested in their conclusions.

Overall Health for People in their 70s

If you have not yet reached your 70s, you will be pleased to know that half of people surveyed who have already reached their 70s said that their lives had turned out better than they expected.

If you are a woman around age 65, you can expect to live, on average, another 20.6 years.  If you are a man of the same age, you can expect to live another 18 years.  Of course, whether or not you achieve that lifespan will depend on how well you take care of yourself.

You are less likely to die of cancer than people of our parents' generation, as long as you get timely cancer screenings.  For example, colon cancer deaths have fallen over 50 percent since 1970 because of colonoscopies and other screenings.

Other medical advances, such as pacemakers, are also likely to keep you living longer.  About 225,000 people a year have pacemakers implanted and the average age when this happens is 75.

You do need to get serious about your diabetes risk, however.  Approximately 75 percent of older Americans have either diabetes or prediabetes, and this disease can damage your heart, brain, kidneys, eyes and other organs.  If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, you can improve your health by enrolling in a diabetes prevention program, which will be covered by Medicare.

Your Brain in Your 70s

Because our generation is in better general health than the previous generation, our risk of dementia is about 27 percent lower.  That will be a major relief to those of us who have parents with dementia.

You can do your part to protect your brain by eating dark green leafy vegetables like kale, which contain the nutrients folate, lutein and carotenoids.  You may also want to read the other articles in this blog about reducing our risk of dementia by following the MIND diet, getting exercise, reducing your stress, getting adequate sleep, seeing your dentist and taking similar measures. (Click on the tab at the top of this article on Medical Concerns to find a number of additional research-based articles.)

Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep is a common complaint of nearly 50 percent of people in their 70s.  As a result, you may want to reduce your caffeine consumption in the afternoon and evening, and drink less alcohol.  If you still have trouble not getting enough sleep, talk to your doctor about getting help with sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and other problems which could be interfering with your sleep.

Your Eyes and Ears in Your 70s

Do not be surprised if you develop new vision problems at this stage of your life.  See your ophthalmologist regularly for checkups.  You may need cataract surgery or have to address other vision issues such as dry eyes.

Another common issue which affects about one-third of people in their 70s is hearing loss.  The National Institutes of Health reports that 50% of people over the age of 75 have a disabling amount of hearing loss. Modern hearing aids are barely noticeable and much more comfortable than the old ones, so do not hesitate to get one if you think you need one.

People in their 70s are more likely to develop dementia and have shorter lives if they have untreated vision and hearing problems, which is reason enough to take care of these problems.

Muscles and Bones in the Aging Body

If you are a Baby Boomer, it is highly likely that by the time you reach your retirement age you will have noticed some changes to your body.  Your joints may be stiffer, you probably have less muscle mass, and you may be getting a little shorter.  Exercise is the best defense we have against those problems, but talk to your doctor to make sure you are getting all the proper diagnostic tests to confirm you do not have a serious problem.  Ideally, you should combine a variety of types of exercise in your health plan, including weight bearing, aerobic, balance and strength training.  Many Medicare supplement plans include gym memberships.  You can also find classes through your city recreation department or the Emeritus program of your local community college. Reach out to find a variety of types of exercise programs.

Sex in Your 70s

According to the AARP article, one in six women and one in three men are still enjoying sex in their 70s.  Unfortunately, it is not possible for everyone.  Approximately 44 percent of men experience erectile dysfunction. In these cases, it can be helpful to see your physician and find out if your problem can be solved.  Another issue is that about 30 percent of women ages 64 to 84 live alone.  However, the good news is that this number has fallen in recent years because husbands are living longer. Since loneliness has been found to shorten our lives, maintaining connections in our life is one key to longevity.

The bottom line is there is no reason to fear your 70s.  You may still have a number of good years left to live and a better quality of life than you expected.

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

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  Google Images from Vuing.com - Carl and Ellie Fredericksen

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Marijuana, Brain Health, and Alzheimers Disease

While millions of Americans of all ages are using marijuana for a variety of reasons, including relief from pain, anxiety and nausea, researchers have begun to study whether prolonged use of cannabis can affect the brain.  The simple answer is "yes, but whether the effect is good or bad depends on a variety of factors."  Although no one dies of an overdose from marijuana, which is increasing its general acceptance by the public, there are both pros and cons to its use.

What are some of the facts which researchers have discovered about marijuana use?  The information below may help you determine whether or not it is right for you.

The THC in Marijuana May Slow Alzheimer's Disease

One of the scariest diseases facing aging Americans is Alzheimer's Disease, which is believed to be caused by beta-amyloid proteins building up in the brain.  These proteins turn into amyloid plaques and the good news is that the THC from marijuana appears to block the enzyme which produces the plaques. A preclinical study published in the "Journal of Alzheimer's Disease" (June 1, 2017) indicated that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (better known as THC) can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins.  Since THC is the component in marijuana which can make you "high," getting the dosage right is very important.

Even earlier, in 2006, Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego also observed that THC was an inhibitor of amyloid plaque formation and they published their findings in the "Journal of Molecular Pharmaceutics" on August 9, 2006.

Researchers are continuing to study whether THC can also have beneficial effects on other neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's Disease and Huntington's Chorea.

One difficulty with this research is determining the best dosage to benefit the patient while still allowing them to lead a normal life, drive a car and not suffer from the toxic or psychoactive effects of THC.

CBD and THC Can Treat Pain, Anxiety and Other Problems

Not all the components of marijuana make you high.  CBD is a substance found in marijuana which has health benefits, but will not make you high. Often it is derived from hemp rather than the marijuana plant, although the two plants are closely related.  Research indicates that CBD can relieve anxiety, reduce pain, stimulate bone growth, and possibly have anti-inflammatory benefits.  Other benefits may include a reduction in breast cancer cells.

THC, the component in cannabis which can make you high, can ease pain, increase relaxation, reduce the risk of nerve damage and suppress muscle spasms and convulsions.

CBD is often combined with THC to provide maximum benefits. The ratio of CBD to THC can range from 18:1 CBD to THC, up to a 1:1 ratio between the two components.  Unfortunately, finding the correct dosage for your problem is currently a matter of trial and error.  It is recommended that you seek the assistance of a doctor who is a Medical Cannabis Specialist to help you.

These products are available in oils, creams, vape pens, pills and edibles.  

Tips for Older Adults Experimenting with Cannabis

Since it can be difficult to determine the best dosage, and the right CBD to THC ratio for your health issue, experts recommend a few safety tips when you begin to use the products.

1.  Start with the lowest possible amount of THC and the highest concentration of CBD to make sure you can comfortably and safely tolerate the THC.  If it helps your problem, stick at that level.  If not, increase the ratio and quantity slowly.

2.  Stay hydrated with water.  Cannabis can dehydrate you and cause your mouth to feel dry.  Dehydration may also cause dizziness and increase your risk of a fall, which could complicate any health problems you have.

3.  Use the buddy system and make sure your buddy has tincture of CBD on-hand in case you have a bad reaction to the THC.  Using tincture of CBD sublingually may ease the THC effects if it appears you have taken too much.  However, it will not completely eliminate the symptoms.

4.  It is significantly safer to use legal marijuana which is inspected and analyzed for contaminants, including herbicides and insecticides which may have been used in the growing process.  Illegal marijuana varies widely in the amount of CBD and THC, often contains contaminants, and may even be "enhanced" with illegal narcotics, thus causing patients to consume unknown and dangerous additives.

5.  Work with your doctor, particularly a Medical Cannabis Specialist, when taking marijuana for medical reasons.  Let your other physicians know you are using it, because it could conflict with medications they are prescribing.  

Warning: Marijuana Endangers the Brain Health of Adolescents

While many teens and young adults are enthusiastic about using marijuana, the younger you are and the heavier your use, the more vulnerable you are to cognitive decline over time.  People who are regular, persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline as they move from childhood to midlife, according to an article published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal" October 2, 2012.

In other words, it would be prudent for most teens and young adults to avoid the use of marijuana or cannabis products unless there is a medical reason, such as the presence of seizures.

The bottom line is that marijuana is best used for medical purposes in the elderly, and should be avoided as much as possible by younger people, especially when being used frequently for recreational reasons.

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

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  Pixabay Images