Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Budgeting for Senior Citizens - How To Stay on Top of Your Finances!

This month we are fortunate to have a guest post by Roni David with excellent suggestions on managing our money as we age.  It is very timely because just this week I was speaking to a friend who lost her husband a few months ago.  He had always handled their finances, and she told me she had no idea how to set up a budget so she could comfortably be assured that her money would last the rest of her life.  

I worked with my friend that afternoon to help her set up a budget and suggested she speak with a money manager to get more details about her IRA and other finances. The next day she told me she had already taken some actions to get her finances in order.  This woman is 80 years old, which proves that you are never too old to learn something new, including how to budget.

Below is the article by Roni Davis. Check it out and see if her post can help you do a better job of managing your own money and, hopefully, avoiding a late-in-life bankruptcy.  It is never too late!

How to Budget for Seniors

As a senior, you probably don’t have the influx of cash that you once had before retirement. Whether you are living off of savings or receiving payments in another form such as a pension or Social Security, you only have a certain amount of money to work with each month. Budgeting is a great way to keep track of your spending to ensure that you do not live outside of your means while enjoying retirement.

Why Should Seniors Budget?

Budgeting is important for anyone, but it can be especially important in retirement. Without a budget, you could lose track of your spending and exhaust a lot of what you have saved. In some cases, seniors can even go into debt because they have not budgeted their money properly. Here are the main reasons why budgeting is important for seniors.

Limited Income

Some people have the luxury of saving a lot throughout their life so that when they retire they have plenty to live off of. However, for some people, this is not an option and, in retirement, they have a small amount of money to work with. Many seniors live primarily on Social Security, which doesn’t pay very generously, forcing them to live on a very limited income.

This can be a huge transition from a lifestyle where you receive a paycheck each week and, if seniors do not budget properly, they may find themselves spending more than they have.

Get help with a Budget Planner (Ad)

Expenses Can Change

As with anyone, expenses change over time. Your housing payment may go up, or your bills can go down. The difference for seniors, however, is that the consequences of expenses changing for the worst can be much more serious. Most seniors do not have the ability to increase their income by changing jobs or picking up extra shifts. Budgeting is crucial to avoid this issue, so that if expenses do change there will be a sufficient amount saved.
Seniors Cannot Afford Debt

When you fall into debt early in life, it isn’t great, but you also have the means to pull yourself out of it. Additionally, when you are in debt in your 20s or 30s, you have years ahead of you to pay it off. On the other hand, seniors do not have this ability, and depending on the extent of their debt, they can take it to the end of their life. While you may be wondering why it would matter if they are not going to be made to pay it off, this can seriously affect any inheritance they want to leave behind. You certainly do not want to leave your grandchildren finances which are on the brink of bankruptcy

How to Budget as a Senior

If you are approaching retirement, or know a loved one who could use some budgeting tips, here are some easy ways to start:

Make A Monthly Expenses Worksheet

The first step to any budgeting plan is to figure out how much you spend each month. This is important because it tells you how much you are going to absolutely need for each month. This is also a good time to examine whether any of your spending needs to be cut back. For example, if you are paying to live in a senior living community, this could take up a large portion of your budget. In this case, you could look for a different, less expensive place to live.
Take a Look at Yearly Expenses

Not all of your expenses will be the same each month. Some of your utilities will cost more at certain times of the year, especially during the summer and winter months. During these times you will probably run your heat and air conditioning more often, which is going to drive up the cost. When you are creating your basic budget, you need to factor in these changes, especially if there is a large difference during certain months.
Choose Your Insurance Well

Insurance premiums can be paid on installment plans, whether it is monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. Therefore, depending on the cash flow that you have, spacing your payments out in a certain way might be better for you. This would give you the time you need to make sure you save enough over the course of several months to pay for it at each installment.

Paying for your insurance annually does require you to spend a lot of money at once, but generally this is the cheaper way to go. This includes premiums for car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, and homeowners insurance.  Just make sure you are putting aside enough money monthly to make the payments when they come due.

Account for Leisure Expenses

When you create your budget you should include more than just your necessary expenses like housing, food, insurance, and more. You should also account for the things that you purchase as luxuries, including shopping for yourself and others, travel, and personal care. This is  a good area to cut back, if you find that your spending is exceeding a reasonable amount each month. 

If you plan to take cruses or expensive vacations, you should include these kinds of expenses in your budget and plan for them. Overall, the more you include in your budget, the more prepared you will be for the future.

About the Author:

Roni Davis is a writer, blogger, and legal assistant operating out of the greater Philadelphia area.

* * * * * * * * *

One option many people are discovering, which could help their budget efforts, is to earn extra money in retirement by opening a small home business.  They might do tutoring, give piano lessons, become a tax preparer, or almost anything that appeals to them.  Some people, like the author of this blog, are opening small home businesses such as my Etsy store, DeborahDianGifts, (Ad) where I sell hundreds of jewelry selections and other gift items.  

Whatever you decide to do to supplement your retirement income, it is important to realize that Social Security rarely provides all the income you will need in retirement.  You need to plan well in advance how you will support yourself.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive one weekly email containing the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, 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.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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

Photo credits:  Roni Davis, Amazon, Pixabay and DeborahDianGifts on Etsy

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Surprising Heart Disease Symptoms You Might Not Recognize

Perhaps you get out of breath easily, and assume it is just because you are out-of-shape, or maybe you have leg pain and associate it with arthritis. You might experience some nausea or indigestion and blame it on something you ate, or a mild case of stomach flu. You probably believe that these discomforts have nothing to do with your heart health.  However, these are just a few of the surprising symptoms of heart disease which you may never have heard about, but they might mean you need to head to the emergency room or, at the very least, discuss these issues with your primary care doctor or a cardiologist.

Below are lists of both common and unusual heart disease and heart attack symptoms, as well as ways to reduce your heart attack risk.  They all are based on articles from AARP, as well as on WebMD and the Kaiser-Permanente website. Many of these symptoms are frequently mistaken for other health problems, such as arthritis or indigestion.  Women, in particular, may tend to dismiss their health symptoms as not being significant. However, it is important that everyone is familiar with all the unique signs that they may have heart disease or, worse, that they are on the verge of experiencing an immediate heart attack. 

In addition to what you learn later in this article, you may also want to get the book, "The Simple Heart Cure: The 90 Day Program to Stop and Reverse Heart Disease" (Ad) and try their recommended lifestyle changes, which can dramatically improve your heart heath. You could be surprised to discover that these changes not only help your heart, but also may relieve some of your other health conditions, too. For example, some of these changes might also reduce your diabetes risk, problems with osteoarthritis, and even lower your odds of developing certain types of cancer, especially the ones which are associated with diet and lifestyle issues. 

This book is partially based on research into several foreign cultures which have an exceptionally low risk of heart disease.  We can learn from them, regardless of where we live. People in some places around the world rarely get the diseases that many people in Western nations regularly die from.  With a few lifestyle changes, many of us will be able to avoid or reduce the symptoms mentioned below.

Common Symptoms of Heart Disease

Difficulty breathing, especially when lying flat on your back.  If you have fluid building up in your lungs, it may make it harder for you to breath when lying on your back. Other related problems can include sleep apnea and snoring.  

Hip and/or leg pain when walking can be a symptom of peripheral artery disease, which means you may have blockages in your leg arteries.  These blockages can cause pain which you may have thought was caused by arthritis.

Sexual or erectile dysfunction is frequently a blood-flow problem, indicating that your blood vessels are have difficulty expanding and contracting properly.  The blood flow issue is likely to also be affecting your heart, as well as your sex life, and this problem applies to both men and women who experience sexual dysfunction.

Unexplained fatigue could mean you have an obstructed coronary artery.  If you tire out easily after doing routine activities around your home, this could be a sign of decreased blood flow to the heart.

Waking up more than once a night in order to pee is another indication of heart disease. It is especially serious if you are also experiencing swollen ankles and legs, because that can mean that your heart is too weak to properly pump fluid to the kidneys during the day.

Bad breath and/or periodontal disease indicates that you have bacteria which can enter your bloodstream through bleeding and diseased gums.  This bacteria can cause inflammation, clogged arteries, and strokes.  Make sure you see your dentist regularly and follow their instructions, especially if you have other symptoms of heart disease.

You have fatty growths, usually near the ankles and elbows, known at xanthomas.  These are a symptom of high cholesterol, which can triple your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Swollen ankles and lower legs can mean that your leg veins are not able to return fluid to the heart.  If you have swelling in only one leg, it may be caused by a blood clot or infection.  If you have swollen feet or ankles, as well as some of the other symptoms listed above such as shortness of breath, you should contact your doctor immediately. 

Symptoms of an Imminent Heart Attack

Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women. However, sometimes people describe it as pressure, heaviness or tightness in the chest.  

The chest pain can also radiate to the neck, jaw, back or arm, causing pain in those areas.

Nausea or stomach pain, water retention, and bloating can sometimes be heart attack symptoms, especially in women, particularly when combined with any of the types of pain mentioned above.  

Sudden shortness of breath, particularly when combined with the above symptoms, means you should call 911 or have someone immediately take you to the emergency room.  You should also be alarmed if you get short of breath while doing something ordinary, such as grocery shopping or making the bed.  This is especially true for women, who tend to wait longer before they seek care.

Unexplained sweating or breaking out into a cold sweat for no reason, especially when combined with other symptoms, is another reason to suspect you are having a heart attack.

Overwhelming fatigue, dizziness or feeling light-headed for no reason should also alarm you.  If you find it nearly impossible to complete your normal activities, see your doctor. If you also have other symptoms, suspect a heart attack as a possible cause and go to the emergency room. You could be having a "silent heart attack," or one which is not accompanied by chest pain.

How to Lower Your Heart Attack Risk

The best way to reduce your risk of a heart attack is to make lifestyle changes and work with your doctor to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.  You may also want to make the following changes:

Stop Smoking. Nothing more needs to be said about that. We all know that smoking is a killer!

Get regular, moderate exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week.  This could include walking, swimming, housework, or gardening.

Change your diet and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  Reduce red meat and whole fat dairy, as well as commercial baked goods, which may contain transfats.  If you are not sure how to use your diet to reduce your heart disease risk, another book to consider is: "The Heart Disease Prevention Cookbook:  125 Easy Mediterranean Diet Recipes for a Healthier You." (Ad)  It could change your life and reduce your risk of other illnesses, as well.

Finally, follow your doctor's orders about diet, exercise, taking baby aspirin, staying hydrated, or taking a statin to lower your cholesterol.  If they recommend other medications, such as a blood pressure medication, be sure to carefully follow the instructions.  If you need special medical procedures, or the doctor recommends getting a pacemaker or heart stent, take advantage of these life saving devices.  We are fortunate to live in a time when many heart issues, and other health problems, can be mitigated with lifestyle changes, medications, and medical devices. 

Find gifts for your loved ones at:


Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about retirement, Medicare, Social Security, common medical issues as we age, 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.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

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

Photo credit: Getti Images, Amazon, and DeborahDianGifts on Etsy

Friday, October 14, 2022

Update on the 90+ Longevity Study by the University of California - Irvine

If you regularly watch the television show, "60 Minutes," you may have seen one of the stories they have shown about The 90+ Study, an ongoing project lead by Dr. Claudia Kawas, M.D., from the University of California in Irvine. The research was begun in 1981, long before Dr. Kawas was involved, but continues to be handled by her and other researchers at UCI.  Most of the people that were studied over the past 40+ years live in the retirement community of Laguna Woods Village, where the project is still going on today.  Such a long-term study has enabled them to get detailed information about the two separate issues of longevity and how to reduce your risk of dementia, since few people hope to live a long life while suffering from a disease like Alzheimer's. 

Recently, Dr. Claudia Kawas, the current lead researcher on the project, spoke at a Healthy Aging Forum in Laguna Woods Village to bring residents up-to-date on what the researchers have learned.  What she discovered has been fascinating.  As a resident of Laguna Woods, I attended this forum, took photos of her slides, and want to share a bit of her research with my readers.

Longevity Continues to Increase

According to Dr. Kawas, she estimates that one-half of all children born today in developed countries can expect to live to be 100 years old!  She acknowledged the fact that our nation's longevity has dipped the past couple of years because of Covid.  However, she believes that other medical advances will enable us to continue to expand our lifespans.

Who Did the UCI Researchers Study?

The study began in 1981 and between that year and 1985 they enrolled 13,978 senior citizens from the Laguna Woods Village Retirement Community, which was called Leisure World when they started.  Because of the makeup of the residents living in the community at the time, the people who enrolled in the program were primarily white, well-educated, had a median age of 73 at the time, and about two-thirds of them were women.

The researchers continued to follow up with the original enrollees in 1983, 1985, 1992, and 1998.  They have continued to enroll new subjects and study them since that time.  Dr. Kawas announced that 2022 is the last year she plans to enroll new subjects ... so she will eventually be able to retire!  Perhaps another researcher will pick up where she left off but, meanwhile, they have learned a lot about the two separate issues of longevity and dementia!

What Factors Are NOT Associated With Longevity?

The first issue they studied was longevity ... which qualities did or did not seem to help people live longer. 

They studied a number of factors which they thought MIGHT influence how long people would live.  Although these factors might benefit people in other ways, they did NOT help people live longer. Here is the list of factors they studied which did NOT seem to increase longevity:

Vitamin C - either from diet or supplements did not help them live longer

Vitamin A  - either from diet or supplements did not increase longevity

Vitamin E supplements - did not increase lifespan

Calcium consumption in the diet - did not help respondents live longer

Consumption of soft drinks by the elderly - did not affect longevity according to the researchers (which I thought was interesting).

Some of the above factors also surprised Dr. Kawas, because she had expected the vitamins and minerals mentioned above to have an effect on increasing longevity.  Although they might have other benefits, they did not seem to increase how long you would live.  (However, readers may have seen recent research which has shown that the simple act of taking a daily multi-vitamin can dramatically reduce dementia risk, which is discussed later in this post.)

What Factors WERE Associated With Longevity?

The factors below DID seem to increase how long a person would live, and some of these items also surprised Dr. Kawas.

Moderate caffeine consumption from coffee or tea did add to their lifespans.

Moderate alcohol consumption - one small drink a day for women and two for men increased longevity.  People who drank that amount lived longer than people who drank more, or who did not drink alcohol at all.  However, it is possible that the reasons many people do not drink alcohol is because they already have serious health problems or because they did significant damage to their bodies from alcohol abuse early in adulthood.  The researchers did discover that excessive drinking was associated with a shorter lifespan.

A Body Mass Index slightly ABOVE average seemed to improve longevity.  People who were very skinny or very obese did not live as long as people who were of average or slightly above average weight. (Yay for those of us who carry a little extra weight.)

Daily Exercise made a difference.  Those who exercised for 15 minutes a day did better than those who were sedentary.  Those who exercised for 30 minutes lived even longer.  Those who exercised for 45 minutes or more did the best.  However, there was no longevity benefit for those who exercised more than 45 minutes a day.  There is no need to run marathons, unless you simply want to. So take a nice, 45 minute walk every day, and you have a better chance of living to a ripe old age.

Non-exercise activities or participating in hobbies also added to longevity.  The key, however, was that they had to ENJOY the activities. It doesn't help to just force yourself to do things you don't enjoy.

A Positive Attitude is important, too.  Being depressed shortens your lifespan, but being enthusiastic and positive can add to the length of your life.

Who Gets Dementia?

Next, the researchers went on to investigate whether or not their long-lived subjects developed dementia, what physical indications of dementia they could find in their brains, and what lifestyle factors seemed to make a difference in who did and did not develop dementia.

What Assessments Did They Perform on the Study Subjects?

The research they performed over the years on the people enrolled in the program far exceeded simple physical examinations and interviews.  Here are some of the ways the researchers evaluated the participants:

They studied their Medical History;

Performed Neuropsychological Tests on their memory, language ability, and executive function;

Completed both neurological and physical examinations;

Asked the participants to complete detailed questionnaires over the years, covering their diet, lifestyle, amount of exercise they get, activities they participate in, and other factors;

Did genetic studies, including looking at their DNA and cell lines;

Performed various types of brain imaging, including MRIs and PET scans.

In addition, they asked the participants to donate their brains to the researchers, so they could autopsy them and look for various types of pathologies, such as a build-up of amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain, or signs of microinfarcts, white matter disease, hippocampal sclerosis and a disease called LATE, which is when a protein called TDP-43 accumulates in brain cells. 

As you can see, the researchers were very thorough in researching not just how long the people lived, but also the incidence of dementia in this population.  They also learned what behaviors seemed to help prevent or postpone dementia as they aged.

Resilience is a Significant Factor in Preventing Dementia

Dr. Kawas particularly appreciated the people who donated their brains, because she was able to learn so much from them.  Some of the people who never appeared to have dementia while they were alive, had a number of troublesome pathologies in their brain that were only found after they died.  On the other hand, some people who had experienced dementia symptoms while they were alive seemed to have fairly healthy brains.  That was a surprise!

In other words, you do not always have to be a helpless victim of the plaques, tangles and other problems that may exist in your brain.  Some people seem to manage well in old-age, despite how their brain looked when it was autopsied.   Dr. Kawas called this protection against signs of dementia, even in the presence of serious pathologies, resilience.  People who have resilience seem to age better than people without it.

Another Surprising Finding!

Most of us assume that Alzheimer's Disease is the most common cause of dementia.  However, in her research Dr. Kawas discovered that it only accounts for about 25% of cases of dementia.  Vascular dementia is actually the most common cause, resulting in about 40% of dementia cases.  LATE (which stands for limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy) accounts for around 19% of cases, Lewy Body dementia causes about 5% of cases, and all the other pathologies account for the remaining 11% of cases of dementia.

It is also interesting that people can have MORE than one cause of their dementia at the same time. For example, someone could have both Alzheimer's Disease and vascular dementia at the same time.  Obviously, the more pathologies you have, the more likely you are to have obvious symptoms of dementia while you are alive.

The concern that vascular problems lead to vascular dementia is also why researchers often tell people that activities which help your heart will also lower your dementia risk. If vascular dementia accounts for 40% of dementia cases, then any behaviors which hurt your heart will also increase your risk of developing vascular problems in other parts of your body, especially the brain.  Conversely, what is good for the heart is also good for the brain.  Living a heart healthy lifestyle can also improve your brain health. One excellent book you may want to read can be found here:  "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease - The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Research Based Cure"

While I encourage you to read the book, the bottom line is that getting exercise, eating healthy unprocessed foods, following the advice of your cardiologist or internist about taking statins and other heart medicines, getting adequate sleep, continuing to learn new things, AND taking a multi-vitamin can help you postpone or prevent vascular dementia, and may also reduce your risk of some other types of dementia, as well.   

You can also learn more about the 90+ Study at www.90study.org and can look for Dr. Claudia Kawas and the 90+ Study on YouTube.  Their research is fascinating.

One way I have learned to keep myself mentally sharp and resilient has been by learning new things, writing posts on my blog, setting up an Etsy store and designing products for it. I think that it is important that everyone over the age of 60 continues to have creative and mentally challenging activities in order to remain sharp.  I also take the advice of Dr. Kawas and other researchers by getting regular exercise, sleeping 7+ hours a night, eating healthy foods, taking my prescribed medications and recommended vitamins, and staying active.

You can find gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts.


Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about saving money, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, 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.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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

Photo credits: Dr. Claudia Kawas at UCI, Amazon book cover, and my Etsy Store

Friday, September 30, 2022

Social Media Safety for Retirees --- and Everyone Else

Many of my friends are retired and they make up most of my social media connections, as well.  Now that they are no longer in the work force, they have much more time to spend on various sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

Personally, I love how easy it is to stay in touch with distant friends through various types of social media.  It is so nice to enjoy photos of their trips, their grandchildren, and special events in their communities.  Some of them are people I have not seen in decades, and would have no idea what is happening with them without the help of Facebook and Instagram.  I also like seeing recent photos of my grandchildren and other relatives, since I do not see them as often as I would like to.

However, I have also seen situations where I recognized that my friends have put themselves, their families, and their friends in danger, without realizing it.  Perhaps if they knew about some of the risks they are taking, they would become more careful.

Here are a few of the things everyone who uses Social Media should know.

Avoid Online Quizzes

Many of the quizzes you see on sites like Facebook are actually "phishing expeditions" which are intended to steal the personal information of the people who participate. Those games sound like so much fun, but the researchers who create these quizzes are actually putting together a secret portfolio about you.  They may suggest you discover your "special name or animal" based on your birth month.  At other times, they ask you if you remember the names of streets where you lived as a child, your first pet, the first concert you attended, your favorite foods, and so on.  What they are looking for are clues that would help them guess your passwords, and then they can use an online automated tool to run thousands of combinations, until they get access to your accounts.

Once they access your social media accounts, they can also get information about all of your friends who are connected to you on those sites.  As a result, you are not only exposing yourself, but you are exposing them, as well.

Watch Out for Engineered Social Media Messages

Once scammers know your name and a little about you, they can pretend to be you and send messages to your family and friends.  For example, they may send out a Facebook message, pretending to be you, and include a link.  If one of your friends clicks on the link, they may discover they just downloaded dangerous malware onto their computer.  

Another way a scammer can misuse this information is by sending emails to your friends, asking for donations, financial help in an emergency, or for gift cards to be sent to "help a sick relative." I know of two separate ministers from two different churches who have had their Social Media accounts hacked, and messages were sent to all their church members asking for everyone to send them an "Amazon card to help someone in need."  In fact, neither minister knew anything about this message being sent under their names, and the Amazon cards were directed to the off-shore account of a stranger in another country.  It was impossible for the donors to recover their funds.

If your information is misused, it sometimes starts with you answering perfectly innocent questions on social media.

Social media can be very addictive, too, especially for someone who is lonely and spends a lot of time at home by themselves, which has been the case for many people the past few years. The television show, Frontline, put together a documentary which might interest you:  "The Facebook Dilemma."  (Ad)  

Be Careful About Releasing Personal Information

Even if you do not participate in online games and quizzes, you might still release dangerous information about yourself, if you are not careful.  For example, do not post photos of your vacations while you are still traveling.  Wait until you get home. Do not post photos of expensive items you just received for Christmas or a birthday. These types of posts can be tempting invitations to thieves, especially if your post is public or if you have a huge number of Facebook "friends," or if your account has secretly been hacked. 

Be Aware of Who Sees Your Posts

Although I have this blog, as well as public Twitter and Instagram accounts which I use to promote articles on this blog and products on my Etsy Store, my other social media accounts are very private.  I carefully controls who sees my personal posts.  

Even when I post on my private Facebook page, not all of my Facebook friends see all of my posts.  Did you know that you can create various groups that can only see the posts you want them to see?  This can be very handy if you want to say something political or comment on anything controversial.  It is also convenient if you only want some of your friends to see private photos of your grandchildren, or your vacation photos.

Personally, I have several different groups who see only the posts I intend for them.  Only occasionally are my posts shown to all my Facebook friends. Everyone should try to limit the number of people who see their posts to those people who are actual, real-life friends whom you trust.  In addition, if you are discussing any sensitive information (such as about your career), you may also feel more comfortable limiting who sees your opinions.

As for Instagram, I only have a very small number of personal Instagram friends, just my family and very close friends.  I deny all friend requests from strangers.  I have a much larger business Instagram account for my Etsy Store, and I manage to keep my two accounts separate.  You can follow me on Instagram at:  https://www.instagram.com/deborahdiangiftsonetsy/

It is especially important to be careful what you reveal about yourself on sites like Nextdoor. Only post to your immediate neighborhood.  Even then, be careful about revealing your address or too much information to strangers.  On sites like Nextdoor, it is far too easy to accidentally provide thousands of strangers with your phone number, email and home address, especially if you use your account to try to sell or give away unwanted items.  Choose your audience carefully, and limit the personal information you provide.

As a result of the safeguards I have taken, I feel safe promoting my Etsy store in public.  Whenever a stranger messages me and seems to go "off-topic" and ask personal questions, I do not respond. If they become persistent in trying to send me a direct message, I block them.  If someone wants to buy a tote bag or piece of jewelry from my shop, I am happy to help them. If they want to know where I live or anything else personal, I do not provide that information.

My Etsy store provides all the information most people would ever need to know about the products I have designed and sell there. For example, I give the information about the item, the sales price, the shipping information and other facts about my jewelry in each Etsy listing. That is all the information they need. They don't need to know where I live or how to reach me outside of Etsy. Anyone who has an online business needs to be careful about the personal information they release.

If you would like to see the gifts in my shop and want to learn more about my Etsy store, DeborahDianGifts, you can check it out here: 


Review Your Security and Privacy Settings on Every Site

When you use any type of social media account, take a little time periodically to check your privacy settings.  Make sure that no one can see your posts unless you want them to. Occasionally remove the names of anyone who has died or whom you no longer see.  Do this so that someone pretending to be them cannot infiltrate your accounts.

Use strong passwords, and a different one for every account you have.  To be extra careful, change your passwords every 30 days, or use one of those sites which will handle your passwords for you.  You may also want to use two-factor authentication, which means that a website or app must confirm a password change by sending a code to a secondary source, such as your email or a text to your cellphone.

My suggestion is that you get an address book and list your passwords in it.  It will help you keep them organized.

How to Find Your Privacy Settings

Facebook - They have multilevel privacy settings, so you must review each one.  Set them so everything is as private as possible.  Look for Facebook's "privacy check" and "privacy shortcuts"  and they will guide you to the various settings.

Instagram - This site is owned by Facebook and the two sites can be linked by users.  To find the Instagram privacy settings, click on the three vertical lines in the the upper-right corner. (Those lines are sometimes called the hamburger menu.)  From there, you can make your privacy settings somewhat secure.  However, you should also refuse to allow anyone to follow your private Instagram account, unless you know them personally.

Twitter - Click on the three dots in the column on the left of your screen (under the link to your profile), and then click on "settings and privacy".  This will enable you to control your Tweets, disable your location, discover who can see your posts, and more.  

Nextdoor - Go to the Settings tab to determine how your name is displayed on the site and whether you want to get notifications when someone in your neighborhood posts something.  Be very careful about which neighborhoods to follow whenever you post something.  This is your greatest risk on this site ... that you will post to many more neighborhoods than those which are closest to you.  You may want to shorten your name, either using just your first name and last initial, or your first initial and your last name.   You may even want to use a middle name or something similar, to make it harder for someone to look up your personal address. Avoid getting into controversial discussions on Nextdoor.  It can cause unnecessary friction with your neighbors.

Look for the privacy settings on any other sites you use, too.

Block People Who Make You Uncomfortable

Whether someone reaches out to you by email, Twitter or wants to "friend" you on another site, feel free to block anyone who makes you uncomfortable for any reason.  Do they seem overly friendly?  Are they asking you personal questions?  Is a stranger "love bombing" you, paying you lavish compliments on your appearance, asking you to be friends in real life, or inviting you to try "free samples" of a product? Are they asking for financial assistance?  It is best to block them and remove their ability to view anything you post.  These are all popular tricks of scammers ... and many of them are very good at convincing you that they are sincere.  Don't fall for it.

An unbelievable number of scammers have used social media to successfully trick people into "lending" them money or providing personal information.  Don't let yourself become their next victim.

If you are interested in learning more about the effects of social media, you might consider watching "The Social Dilemma," a documentary which is available on Netflix.  The advantage of watching it and the other video recommended here is that they will make you more conscious of how you use social media.  Have fun, enjoy it, use it to stay in touch with your friends and family, but do not get yourself in trouble with it.

Buy this at: etsy.com/shop/DeborahDianGifts
The bottom line is that you need to take every precaution to keep your life as private as possible.

For example, photos I take are often used to design the products on my Etsy store, including this framed photo of the California redwoods in the far northern part of the state, near Eureka. However, I never give people any other details about how it is that I came to take those photos.

You can also find inspirational jewelry, 12 Step gifts, gifts for retirees, t-shirts, and other items at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts.  Check it out at:  


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If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, 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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You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credits: istock and the author's Etsy store.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Electrical Brain Stimulation for Memory Improvement in Seniors - tDCS Machines and Our Brains

"Cheerleader Brain" - Mascot of the UCI Memory Lab

One of the things we may want to do when we are retired is to take some risks which we may not have tried when we were younger, still working, and raising a family.  In May, 2022, I volunteered to participate in an electrical brain stimulation program at the Working Memory and Plasticity Laboratory at the University of California in Irvine.  I admit I was nervous about having electricity shot through my brain, but I also wanted to see if it could help me avoid dementia.  Only time will tell if that will be the eventual effect, but I have seen some measurable short-term improvement in my memory, so I already feel that the risk was worth the benefit to me.

The brain stimulation program began with an MRI and a variety of memory tests, which set a baseline for me.  The following week, I went to the Memory Lab for five days of additional memory tests.  While performing some of the tests, my head was covered with electrodes which were hooked up to a tDCS machine which sent a mild current of electricity through my brain. I did not feel anything and even wondered if the machine was actually working. The following week, I had a second MRI.  During this follow-up MRI, they flashed words on a screen and I used a hand-held device to indicate which words I had been asked to memorize during the preceding week.  

After this single week of electrical brain stimulation, I subjectively noticed that my memory seemed to be a little better and quicker.  However, being a skeptic, I wasn't sure if I was just imagining the improvement.

Three months later, in August, 2022, I had a third MRI and another battery of memory tests to see if the improvement in my memory had continued to last.  Similar to what the researchers did in the second MRI, during the third MRI they flashed words on a screen and I used a hand-held device to indicate which words I had been asked to memorize three months before.  I was surprised at how many I still clearly remembered!  Then, I took a fresh battery of memory tests and reached a higher level of short-time memory than I had in the past. In other words, my memory was measurably better!

International Interest in the Effects of Electric Brain Stimulation on Memory

The research being done at the Working Memory and Plasticity Lab at UCI is being conducted by Dr. Susanne Jaeggi and has been financed by a variety of organizations including the NIH National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Defense.  

The research collaborators include other American universities such as Stanford, the University of Michigan, and Washington University in the U.S., and research facilities around the world including collaborators at the University of Granada in Spain, Universities of Geneva and Bern in Switzerland, and many other international universities. 

Some of the Results of the Electrical Brain Stimulation Studies

While a variety of other researchers have been publishing the results from their studies, here are some of the general effects which have been found by the researchers at the University of California in Irvine:

Improvements in:

Working Memory

Long-term Memory

Visuospatial (reasoning) skills

Scholastic skills (math and reading)

They also learned that the results they found at the end of just one week of training have continued for at least several months after the training was completed, which suggests that the benefits could be long-term.  This could be a game changer in reversing mild cognitive decline and might even help postpone dementia!

The researchers also noted that the more effort people put into the training while undergoing brain stimulation, the more they improved.  They believe that cognitive strength, like physical strength, must be "exercised" in order to prevent decline.  

It was also important that the test subjects be fully engaged during the training.  It was not enough to just lay back and have a machine send an electrical current through the brain. The test subjects had to be working to improve their memory.  The people who did not improve their memory scores during the week of training had smaller benefits than those who tried hard to improve during the week.

My Personal Experience with Electrical Brain Stimulation

Fortunately, I did not experience any pain or discomfort during the sessions, other than the awkwardness of having electrodes attached to various spots on my skull with the use of a helmet ... and the terrible mess it made of my hair!

In doing the memory tests to the best of my ability, I sometimes experienced feelings of stress, especially when I failed to remember something I thought I should know, or when I felt a moment of confusion during some of the more complex memory games.  In pushing the test subject to perform to their maximum, I would assume that some people developed headaches during or after their sessions.  However, I felt fine afterwards. 

Being subjected to three MRIs in such a short period of time, especially when doing a memory activity during the last two MRIs, was a bit exhausting.  Each MRI took approximately an hour, during which time I was in a narrow tube with my head fixated into one position.  This procedure was certainly not something I would recommend to anyone with claustrophobia!

Slides of my actual brain from final MRI at UCI

It was all worthwhile in the end, because the researchers did see a measurable improvement in my memory compared to when I started the training.  My increased memory was also still measurable three months later.  Subjectively, I continue to feel as if my thinking has been a bit clearer and quicker since participating in the program.  Perhaps there is some placebo effect, but there is no question that the researchers were also able to measure that I had an increased memory after completing the training. 

After the final MRI, the researchers also gave me a CD showing slides of my actual brain.  They also told me that my brain was symmetrical, and had no obvious evidence of trauma, a medical problem, signs of a stroke, or a tumor. They also told me that some of the other test subjects had brain issues which resulted in them being referred to their personal physicians.  However, they said that visually my brain looked fine.  That was very reassuring!

How You Can Protect Your Brain

The UCI Working Memory and Plasticity Lab also gave me a brochure which suggested that I continue to take care of my brain by getting enough sleep, staying physically active, eating a healthy diet and being socially engaged.  They also recommended continued cognitive engagement which includes taking classes, or learning a new skill such as a foreign language, playing bridge or learning to play a musical instrument.

Personally, I believe that doing research on a wide variety of topics, like the ones I cover in this retirement blog,
Baby-Boomer-Retirement.com, as well as using my creativity to design products for my Etsy store have both been healthy ways to continue to practice the types of cognitive engagement they recommend. I am constantly required to learn new skills in order to effectively manage these websites. I also continue to practice a variety of word and memory games.  All these activities give me hope that I might be able to avoid dementia in the future.

How to learn more 

If you are interested in following this research or learning more about what has been discovered by cognitive researchers from around the world, you can go to the website of the UCI Working Memory & Plasticity Lab at:


The website contains a wealth of fascinating information, including links to articles which have been published by different researchers, as well as a very interesting video you can watch on the home page.  It shows examples of some of the memory games participants were asked to perform.  If I receive additional information about the results of this project, I will write future posts about it in this blog.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about retirement, Medicare, Social Security, common medical issues as we age, 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.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

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

Photo credit: UCI Memory Lab, Etsy