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ConsumerAffairs News: Aging, Seniors & Eldercare

Last Build Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2018 14:53:54 +0000


Census Bureau reports seniors will soon outnumber kids

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 14:53:54 +0000

It's a demographic trend that has huge implications for future retirees

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
March 15, 2018

(image) The U.S. Census Bureau reports that an emerging demographic trend spells trouble for future retirees. By 2030 -- 12 years from now -- senior citizens will outnumber children in the U.S.

Jonathan Vespa, a Census Bureau demographer, says 2030 is the year in which all baby boomers will be age 65 or older. One in five people in the U.S. will be of retirement age -- at least, what we now consider retirement age.

By 2035, there will be 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.4 million under the age of 18, Vespa said.

Huge implications

The implications are huge when it comes to funding Social Security and Medicare. The Census Bureau report projects that by 2020, there will be about three-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person.

Four decades later, that ratio will shrink to just two-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person. The median age of someone living in the U.S. will likely rise from age 38 today to age 43 by 2060.

The reason for this, according to the Census Bureau, is the organic expansion of the U.S. population has slowed, and it projects that trend will continue. Families are having fewer children and people are living longer, often well into their 90s.

Aging of Japan

To see the implications, one need look no further than Japan, which has what some gerontologists call a "super-aging society."

"Aging is not only an immediate personal issue but also a salient factor in crucial public policies, such as pensions, health, and long-term care," according to a 2011 Japanese study in the journal The Gerontologist.

In 2014, one-third of the Japanese population was estimated to be above the age of 60, 25.9 percent were aged 65 or above, and 12.5 percent were aged 75 or above. People aged 65 and older in Japan make up a quarter of the country's total population.

The decline in the U.S. birthrate has coincided with a dramatic rise in healthcare costs, along with the costs of raising a child. In 2014, a U.S. government agency estimated the national median charges for having a baby were more than $13,000 for delivery and care for mothers and another $3,660 for babies.

It doesn't get any cheaper after that. As we reported last year, parents can expect to spend nearly $38,000 from birth to age 17.

Homeowners taking a holistic approach to ‘aging in place’

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 21:17:07 +0000

Aging consumers are making improvements that can help them stay in their home

By Sarah D. Young of ConsumerAffairs
January 16, 2018

(image) Homeowners are tackling projects that will allow them to remain in their homes as they age despite being unfamiliar with the concept of aging in place, according to new survey from HomeAdvisor.

The company says a holistic movement is taking hold of homeowners, who are addressing issues now that could be unsafe later in life. However, respondents to the survey say that certain home improvements arent necessarily linked to aging concerns.

Only half of those who participated in HomeAdvisors survey were familiar with the concept of aging in place. However, most were completing projects to improve the ease of living in their home.

Beneficial now and later

From fixing a cracked walkway to eliminating labor-intensive chores, homeowners are making improvements that can help them remain safely and comfortably in their homes as they get older.

"By taking a holistic approach to home improvement, homeowners will get their homes in good working order before aging-specific home improvements become necessary," said Marianne Cusato, Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame's School of Architecture.

"Take the front walkway for example. If there are cracks or dips in the concrete, homeowners need to address those existing safety issues before completing a project like adding grab bars, which they may or may not need in the future, she added.

Modifications to consider

Here are a few aging-specific improvements to consider, according to the report:

  • Improving lighting to make walking around the house safer and easier

  • Making modifications in the shower (such as adding a bench or threshold)

  • Moving the master bedroom to the first floor

  • Adding ramps and widening doorways for wheelchair access

  • Replacing stone/tile with carpet/wood for improved safety

But aging in place isnt just about adding railings and ramps. Almost half of homeowners aged 75 and older said they began improvements early with the expectation that they would grow older but remain in their home. Some of the most desired additions that respondents cited were lever-style door knobs, pull-out shelves, and smart fire detection and security systems.

Homeowners in the 55-75 age range also said they were making modifications that could help pave the way for easy aging but also be useful in the meantime. Projects included adding smart automated features, like a smart thermostat or voice activated systems, and adding grab bars and higher toilets in bathrooms.

Why advance care planning is important for you and your loved ones

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 16:25:22 +0000

Its vital for families to have an honest conversation about end-of-life care By Christopher Maynard of ConsumerAffairs October 18, 2017 The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reportsthat from 2002 to 2012, per person personal health care spending for the 65 and older population was $18,988, over fivetimes higher than spending per child ($3,552) and approximately threetimes the spending per working-age person ($6,632). The elderly only make up approximately 14 percent of the population but represent more than one third of the nations healthcare costs; one of the factors behind this disparity may be that families tend to resort to costly medical interventions to extend older family members lives as they age. According to American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine chief medical officer Dr. Joseph Rotella, this figure may be influenced by families not having a thoughtful conversation about what the patient wants. The public and the people we care for want to have a say in their care. Many families have had the experience of a loved one who was on life support, where the family has to make painful decisions, he said. The best way to avoid this worst-case scenario? Tackle the difficult conversation of your loved ones end-of-life wishes well in advance. The only thing that can make it easier is if they know what the patient would have wanted, Rotella said. Starting a conversation While there is no easy way to broach the subject of a loved ones end of life care, including a physician in these conversations can be very helpful. Hospice or palliative care doctors and nurses can provide valuable insight into what patients and their families can expect under various scenarios, which can help your loved one make informed decisions about their wishes. A doctors care planning visit can cost around $85 for a 16-30 minute session, but physicians have been able to bill Medicares Physician Fee Schedule since 2016 to cover the cost. Creating a document While having a discussion between you, your loved one, and a healthcare professional is arguably the most important step for advance care planning, all of that conversation must also be recorded in a legal document called an advance healthcare directive to be helpful. Consumers will want to focus specifically on drafting one type of advance healthcare directive called a living will, which dictates what a patient wants in terms of medical care if they are no longer able to speak for themselves in the future. This can address scenarios such as the use of dialysis or breathing machines, resuscitation orders, or organ and tissue donations if the patient passes away. Another type of advance directive called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions is also important because it authorizes a surrogate to speak on the patients behalf if they are unable to speak for themselves. You can learn more about advance healthcare directives by visiting this government site here. Not just for the old or infirm While advance care planning is especially important for older individuals or those with a chronic disease, experts say these decisions arent reserved just for the old or infirm. "Ideally, advance care planning is a process that you revisit throughout your life, continually evaluating what's important to you and what your priorities are," said professor Benjamin Levi of Penn State Hershey. "As soon as someone becomes an adult, they should start thinking about these things. For more information on advance care planning, you visit the Center for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) page here. [...]

Two studies present conflicting views of aging

Thu, 31 Aug 2017 15:14:01 +0000

The key, apparently, is to turn off the TV

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
August 31, 2017

(image) It's hard to count how many rock and roll songs have been written over the years cursing the prospect of getting old. But AARP says getting old is not so bad.

The seniors advocacy group bases that on the results of a new survey of both older and younger Americans. Among those age 18 to 39, nearly half said they believed getting old would be depressing. However, among those 60 and up, only 10% felt that way.

The survey shows that seniors actually have a higher level of satisfaction with life than their younger counterparts.

"The findings of this new survey are further confirmation of something a lot of people, especially older people, know instinctively and that is that our upper ages can be great," said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. "However, I think the survey also presents a fairly stark reminder that we're all faced by a lot of negative associations around aging some of it's 'in the culture' and some of it may be self-generated, but it's all damaging and, as this survey shows, it's often wrong."

Too much TV

But there are also obvious downsides to getting older unless you remain physically active, and a new study suggests the best way to promote activity and better health is to turn off TV.

The study by researchers at George Washington University (GW) shows seniors who watched five hours or more of TV a day and got fewer than three hours of physical activity per week were three times more likely to be unable to walk at the end of eight years.

Loretta DiPietro, who chairs the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at GWs Milken Institute School of Public Health calls TV viewing a very potent risk factor for disability in older age.

Damage from physical inactivity

Sitting and watching TV for long periods, especially in the evening, has got to be one of the most dangerous things that older people can do because they are much more susceptible to the damages of physical inactivity, she warned.

The GW study followed men and women who were 50 to 71 years old at the start of the study and all were in good health. Eight years later, 30% of them had trouble walking or could not walk at all.

Those who watched five hours or more of TV per day were 65% more likely to be part of that 30%.

Other studies have warned of the dangers of too much sitting for all age groups. The lesson, says DePietro, is that seniors who want to remain fit as they age must get up and move around more, limiting their time on the couch.

Questions to ask before considering a 'pension advance'

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 12:11:41 +0000

Signing away your pension for a lump sum payment may be an expensive proposition

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
August 11, 2017

(image) Retirees who are trying to make ends meet may be tempted to sign up with a company that promises to turn pension payments into lump-sum cash.

Instead of getting a check every month, the retiree essentially agrees to sell his or her right to the pension to the companyin return for the single big payment.

Officials in Pennsylvania, which has one of the largest populations of seniors in the country, is warning consumers to get all the facts before considering such a proposal.

'Thinly-disguised loans'

The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities calls these pension advances nothing more than thinly-disguised loans with no contractual or financial relationship with the consumer's pension or pension plan.

It points out that the company making the advance may collect a lot more in terms of pension payments than what it pays the retiree.

In almost all cases, the payments made by the consumer are more than a lender can legally charge on a loan to a Pennsylvania resident, the department said in a press release.

It intervened in May to stop one company from operating a pension advance business, citing it for not being licensed.

FTC's advice

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)notes that pension advances aren't cheap. They can carry fees that can push the effective annual percentage rate (APR), the cost of credit on a yearly basis, over 100%. In many cases, it says these companies also require consumers to purchase life insurance, with the pension company as the beneficiary.

There are several questions you should ask before considering a pension advance proposal.

  • Are you eligible? It might be against the law to sign over your pension to someone else. Check with your pension administrator.
  • How much does it cost? Do the math, measuring the amount you get against the number of payments the company will collect. The difference is the interest and fees the company is collecting.
  • Do you have to buy life insurance? If so, the premiums will be an extra expense.
  • What are the tax implications? A lump sum payment could push you into a higher tax bracket.
  • Can you cancel the deal if you change your mind? Maybe not, some of these agreements are binding.

The FTC says there are better alternatives for seniors who need extra cash. A personal loan from your bank or credit union might actually be cheaper.

If money problems are persistent, consider working with a non-profit credit counselor to find ways to reduce expenses.

For seniors, a fall can be really bad news

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 13:09:31 +0000

Study finds that for half, one fall is followed by other adverse events

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
July 7, 2017

(image) If you're 65 or older, it's very important for you to remain upright.

Falls are a common danger facing people as they age, and a new study shows the importance of avoiding that first one.

The findings, published this week in Annals of Emergency Medicine, showed that more than half the seniors who went to the emergency room (ER) because of a falleither had additional falls, had to be hospitalized, or died within six months.

"Our study shows an even higher rate of adverse events than previous studies have," said lead study author Jiraporn Sri-on, MD, of Navamindradhiraj University in Bangkok, Thailand.

Role of medication

And if an older person happened to be taking psychiatric medication or a sedative, he or she was even more likely to quickly suffer fall-related adverse effects.

"This is concerning because these types of drugs are commonly prescribed for elderly patients in community and residential care settings," Sri-on said.

The study looked at patients 65 or older who were treated in the ER for injuries as the result of a fall. It found that a small minority -- 7.7% -- developed adverse events within a week. For most, it took a little longer for other problems to develop. More than 20% reported additional issues within 30 days while 50% suffered an additional setback within six months.

The statistics

Within that period, 22.6% had at least one additional fall, 42.6% had to revisit the ER, 31.1% required a hospital stay, and 2.6% died.

Sometimes, a fall by an elderly person is caused by an underlying medical condition. The fall is simply a symptom of a larger problem.

But the researchers say medication no doubt plays a significant role in raising the risk. They say besides taking psychiatric drugs or sedatives, patients taking five or more medications were more likely to suffer a fall.

The study concludes that ER personnel havea huge opportunity to reduce the adverse event rate among older patients who have fallen. A simple step, the researchers say, would be to follow existing fall guidelines and educate older patients on safety steps to reduce future falls.

More people plan to grow old at home

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 12:17:20 +0000

Walk-in tubs, non-slip flooring, and other improvements make it easier By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs June 13, 2017 A lift smooths out stairways (AdobeStock photo) A generation ago, getting old meant moving into a nursing home, spending your last years being cared for in an institutional setting. Not only was it incredibly expensive, many didn't find it particularly pleasant. So as the first wave of the Baby Boomers begin to think about their final years, an increasing number plan to live at home as long as possible. The trend is called aging in place, and it is practical as well as satisfying. Studies have shown people do better emotionally and physically in the familiar environment of their own home. It is also a lot less expensive. There are two prerequisites, however. The aging person must remain in reasonably good health and certain modifications may need to be made to the home to make it safer and easier for an older person to navigate. 90% want to 'age in place' Since a study by AARP has found that 90% of people 65 or older expressed a preference to age in place instead of going to a nursing home or assisted living facility, builders and remodeling contractors have begun to specialize in elder-friendly designs. If you or an aging family member is selling a home, it might be wise to consider buying a new home that isdesigned and built with older occupants in mind. If you are aging in place in an older home, not designed to compensate for physical infirmaries, there are modifications that can make any more safer and more secure. Rodney Harrell, director of livability thought leadership for AARP, tells Forbes only 1% of the nation's housing stock currently meets the needs of individuals who are aging in place. In some cases it was a shortcoming as easily corrected as improving lighting. But it may also require more extensive modifications, such as widening doorways and hallways and providing a motorized lift to move from one level to another. Here are some retrofits that remodeling contractors are making to existing homes, and that designers are including in new construction: Non-slip flooring Falls are a huge risk to the aging population so many of these design features are intended to keep occupants in an upright position. It starts with the floor they walk on. Old, thick carpet should be replaced with a surface less likely to cause tripping, such as tighter weave carpet or nonslip vinyl, rubber flooring and even cork. It's especially important in bathrooms, where most falls occur. The surface should provide cushion and traction. New shower and tub design In the bathroom, bathing can pose real danger to older people who are unsteady on their feet. Ideally, an older person should be able to step into the shower without having to step over a barrier. If the bathroom is being remodeled, consider making the shower bigger, and designing handrails in key locations. In recent years walk-in bathtubs have become more popular features of a remodeled bathroom. Instead of having to step over the side of the tub, the bather enters through a water-tight door before filling the tub with water. Walk-in tubs usually require professional installation, but now most bathroom fixture companies offer one of these products. They also come with a variety of features, such as heated seats and water jets. Extra wide doorways Ramps and wider doors accommodate wheelchairs and walkers (AdobeStock Photo) Modifying doorways, making them wider, is another way to make a home safer and more functional for an older person. In the event the resident is confined to a wheelchair at some point, or must use a walker, it makes getting around easier and safer. It involves removing the old frame, or at least parts of it, and moving the door jamb a few inches to convert a 32-inch portal to one that is 36 inches wide. When replacing doors it also makes sense to replace[...]

For increasing number of elderly, there's no place like home

Tue, 02 May 2017 17:44:40 +0000

The aging in place movement appears to be growing

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
May 2, 2017

(image) The aging population basically has two choices. It canmove to an assisted living community or stick it out at home.For a growing number of seniors, the choice is home, in a growing trend known as aging in place.

The reasons are not hard to figure out. While some might like the companionship of others their own age and the availability of staff for assistance when needed, many others prefer the familiarity of their own home, one they might have lived in for decades.

One indication that this trend is growing comes from the National Association of Home Builders' remodeling arm, NAHB Remodelers. Its survey of member reveals more of them have been hired to make home modifications to making aging in place safer and more convenient.

Simple and inexpensive projects

NAHB Remodelers Chair Dan Bawden says the projects that tend to be simple and inexpensive are the more popular jobs remodelers are hired to perform.

The survey found 80% of remodeling companies are now doing aging-in-place projects, an increase from 68% in 2013. Twelve percent of clients added lighting. Installation of curb-less showers increased 9% and grab bars rose 7%. Non-slip floors rose 7% while 5% of clients wanted the width of doorways increased.

Bawden said more expensive aging in place projects seem to be falling out of favor. The percentage of clients adding a first-floor bedroom dropped a percentage point to 33%. Requests to install ramps or lower thresholds fell two points to 49%.

State policies

State and local government policies can also influence how easily a person can grow old in their own home. AARP recently issued a report that looked at various state policies necessary to help people age in place. The policies cover things like land use, housing and transportation, delivery services and increasing affordable housing.

Among the findings, the researchers said more thoughtful land use policies would allow seniors to live closer to, even within walking distance of the services they need. Alternative transportation can reduce reliance on a personal car. More affordable housing could reduce the number of older people whose only option is an institution.

Opioids and alcohol can be a deadly combination for seniors

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:32:30 +0000

Researchers find combining the two can severely affect breathing

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
February 9, 2017

(image) Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) show millions of senior citizens are taking too many powerful and addictive drugs, despite health officials' warnings that they shouldn't. That, in itself, can be a problem.

Surveys also show Baby Boomers, today's seniors, drink more alcohol than their predecessors. Again, a troubling statistic.

Combine the two, however, and you've got real trouble. Not just with addiction, but with staying alive.

Respiratory depression

A new study suggests that taking just one oxycodone painkiller with just a small amount of alcohol can trigger a potentially life-threatening condition known as respiratory depression, whichoccurs when breathing becomes shallow or stops altogether.

And it's seniors who are most likely to experience this condition.

Unfortunately, were seeing more fatalities and people in emergency rooms after having misused or abused legally prescribed opioids, like oxycodone, while having consumed alcohol, said Dr. Albert Dahan, the study's author. Respiratory depression is a potentially fatal complication of opioid use. We found alcohol exacerbated the already harmful respiratory effects of opioids.

There has been plenty of news coverage in recent months of the dangers posed by misuse of powerful opioid painkillers like oxycodone. It has been widely prescribed to treat chronic pain in seniors and can be highly addictive.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than two million U.S. consumers abuse opioids and 78 people die every dayafter overdosing on the drugs.

On their own, these drugs are problematic, and the Centers for Disease Control last year revised guidelines for prescribers. But researchers studying the combination of opioids and alcohol found that it increases the risk of a fatal overdose.

What the study showed

The study compared the effects of taking oxycodone in combination with alcohol on 12 healthy young volunteers and 12 elderly volunteers. One pill reduced baseline minute ventilation by 28% in the older volunteers, while adding a small amount of alcohol caused minute ventilation to further decrease by another 19%, a total decrease of 47%.

We hope to increase awareness regarding the dangers of prescription opioids, the increased danger of the simultaneous use of opioids and alcohol, and that elderly people are at an even greater increased risk of this potentially life-threatening side effect, Dahan said.

If consumers take one thing away from his study, Dahan says it should be that it is never a good idea to drink alcohol with opioid medication. That's especially true, he says, if you're a senior.

Seniors' brain activity linked to increased falls

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:32:25 +0000

Researchers want to look more closely at brain and nerve diseases associated with falls

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
December 13, 2016

(image) Kids tend to fall down a lot. When they do, they usually get up, dust themselves off, and keep going, no worse for wear.

Senior citizens also fall down a lot. But when they do, it can be a lot more serious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 2.8 million older people are treated in U.S. emergency departments each year for fall-related injuries.

These falls are often serious. The CDC says 800,000 people who fall are admitted to a hospital for treatment. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury.

Researchers, trying to figure out who is most at risk of falling, say brain activity may yield a clue.

Prefrontal cortex activity

In older people who had no signs of disease that would make them prone to falls, higher levels of activity in the front of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, were associated with a higher risk of falls later in life, said study author Joe Verghese, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY.

The main takeaway from this finding, he suggests, is these people were increasing their use of brain cells or using different parts of the brain to compensate for subtle changes in brain functioning.

A study of 166 healthy seniors found that when there were higher levels of brain activity while both walking and talking, the person was more likely to take a spill. The study also found that with every small increase of brain activity, there was a significantly greater risk of a fall.

Brain changes before physical changes

These findings suggest that there may be changes in brain activity before physical symptoms like unusual gait appear in people who are more prone to falls later, said Verghese.

Verghese says there needs to be more research done to look more closely at the link between brain and nerve diseases associated with falls.

Previous research has identified other things that can contribute to falls. The CDC has pointed to lower body weakness, vitamin D deficiency, medications that promote dizziness, and even vision problems.

The CDC says most falls are the result of a combination of risk factors, with the more risk factors increasingthe likelihood of falling.

Should seniors delay getting a flu shot?

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:32:19 +0000

A later shot might be more effective but the danger is too many people will fail to get vaccinated

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
October 5, 2016

(image) October is when there is usually a push for people to get flu shots. The vaccine is especially recommended for seniors and pregnant women.

Seniors usually need little convincing and are often first in line to get vaccinated. But increasingly, some seniors are being advised to wait a little later in the season. The reason is a four year old study that found evidence thatthe vaccine becomes less effective over time in the bodies of those 65 and older.

It suggested that seniors who got a flu shot in September or October might be more vulnerable to the flu later in the season, sometime when the virus is as its height.

According to a report by Pharmacy Times, that point of view is far from universal. It quotes the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices as saying the flu vaccine should be offered as soon as it is available.

The risk from delay

The Immunization Action Coalition notes that delaying a vaccination might, in fact, provide stronger immunity deeper into flu season, the risk is that too many older people will end up not getting a flu shot.

Whether you get it early or late, health care professionals say the important thing is to get vaccinated.

The most predictable thing about flu season is its unpredictability, said Dr. Claudine De Dan, a faculty member at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. The vaccine protects not only you, but also those whose arent able to get the vaccine because of their age or pre-existing medical condition.

Flu 'myths'

De Dan says she is constantly having to counter what she calls myths surrounding flu shots. One she says she hears quite often is flu shots can give you the flu. Absolutely untrue, she says.

The injectable vaccine is made from dead viruses, so it cant cause the flu, she said. After vaccination, your body does need up to two weeks to develop full immunity, so if you were already exposed to the virus, you could end up with flu soon after getting vaccinated.

She says other people wrongly believe that the dangers of getting the flu are just hype.

The truth is that even the mildest flu seasons can cause as many as 3,000 flu-related deaths, she said. "That could rise to more than 45,000 deaths and nearly 200,000 hospitalizations during a severe flu season.

De Dan says last years vaccine was about 60% effective, meaning you reduced the risk of getting a nasty case of the flu by 60%.

Hasbro's robotic pets may provide needed companionship for the elderly

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:32:19 +0000

Seniors can experience the perks of pet ownership without the cost By Sarah D. Young of ConsumerAffairs October 4, 2016 Pets are beloved for their ability to provide companionship. While people of all ages may thrive under the companionship of a pet, the elderly in particular may benefit the most. As we reported, having a dog around can lead to an improvement in the overall mental and physical state of elderly individuals. The happiness that dogs impart to their elderly owners can often be chalked up to the fact that dogs need care, including exercise and socialization. Dogs, of course, cant purchase their own food or bring themselves to the park; their owners must attend to their every need. In return, pets provide unconditional love and a self-esteem boost that comes as a result of being a pets sole provider and caretaker. But what if seniors cant take care of a pet? Hasbro thinks that even senior citizens who cant have a real pet -- whether due to physical limitations, financial constraints, or living arrangements -- should be able to experience the companionship of an animal. Robotic companion pets The toy manufacturer recently announced that its Joy for All line of toys would be getting a new member: a robotic golden retriever puppy. Previously, Hasbros line of senior citizen-targeted toys wasexclusively feline-focused. Consumers could purchase one of three different colored cats. So whats in it for those who welcome a robotic cat or dog into their life? For starters, no potty-training related accidents. There'salso no need to purchase food, no need to take your robotic pet for a walk, and no fear that your pet will dart out the door. But what these virtual pets lack in physical needs, they make up for in responsiveness.Hasbros robotic pets respond to petting and hugging, just like real pets. Repondsto touch Designed to bring joy and comfort joy and comfort to aging loved ones, the toy pets have a heartbeat as well as built-in sensors that respond to motion and touch. They can bark or purr, nuzzle your hand, and move their heads in response to different interactions. Pairing a senior citizen with a robotic companion isnt a new concept. Digital Trends notes that an emotionally intelligent robot was introduced into the homes of several homebound senior citizens during a trial in the Netherlands. Most seniors responded positively to the presence of the care-bot. Hasbros robotic companions can be purchased on their website. The cats are available for $99, and the puppy is available for $119. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> [...]

How to help older adults avoid financial abuse

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:32:18 +0000

Using new technology, healthcare and financial services professionals can provide greater protection

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
October 3, 2016

(image) With more people living longer, more senior citizens are falling victim to financial abuse or exploitation.

The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) says all too often, people misuse or take assets belonging to a vulnerable adult for his or her own benefit.

The victim rarely realizes that it is happening, or gives consent in response to deception, coercion, and even threats.

One of the most common forms of elder financial abuse is carried out by a caregiver or family member. Other times, a vulnerable adult falls victim to the smooth pitch of an accomplished scam artist.

Technologies can help

Two new reports from the World Economic Forum (WEF) suggest that new technologies can help protect older adults from fraud, and that financial services companies can do a lot more to protect their aging customers.

The reports say these potentially helpful technologies include wearable devices that make transactions more secure and can identifythe consumer using biometrics, like voice and facial recognition.

Greater use of geolocation information can improve detection and prevention of fraud by identifying consumers' locations.

The reports also recommend the use of bank cards with directional arrows, high-contrast colors, and chip-and-signature security features, making it unnecessary for consumers to remember passwords.

"Many of these technologies will help make financial transactions more secure for all consumers, but it is especially important that we protect older adults who may be experiencing cognitive decline," said Derek Yach, an author of both reports.

It's important to move now, he says, because as the world's population ages, the problem of cognitive decline will become more of a threat.

Systemic risk

A study earlier this year suggested banks and financial institutions should play a greater role in identifying and stopping elder financial abuse. It suggested that the threat not only poseda dangerto the individuals, but because of their great numbers, posed systemic risk as well.

"The problem is complex, but it is also a problem that unquestionably exists and is assuming remarkably large personal, monetary, and social dimensions," the authors wrote. "Elder financial abuse involves millions of individuals and billions of dollars. It damages health, harms wellbeing, and arguably costs lives."

Just how much money is at risk? U.S. household wealth was estimated at $53 trillion in 2009. Older adults held more than a third of it.

Besides financial services companies, health care professionals are also in a unique position to protect seniors from financial fraud. The WEF reports say doctors should be trained to spot and discuss cognitive decline with their patients, informing them of the potential risks to their financial and personal affairs.

Expectations you have for old age determine which age you want to live to, study finds

Sat, 07 Oct 2017 21:31:39 +0000

Those who have fewer positive associations with old age prefer to pass away at a younger age

By Christopher Maynard of ConsumerAffairs
August 25, 2016

(image) They say that growing old is a part of life, a saying that nevertheless surprises people when they wake up to find a gray hair. But although you cant stop time from marching ever onwards, there are more than a few consumers out there who dont much care for the prospect of meeting old age.

A new study shows that one out of every six young and middle-aged adults would prefer not to live past the age of 80. According to the researchers, this shocking preference may be due to preconceived notions about what life is like when you become old.

Having rather bleak expectations of what life will be like in old age seems to undermine the desire to live up to and beyond current levels of average life expectancy. People who embrace the better to die young attitude may underestimate their ability to cope with negative age-related life experiences as well as to find new sources of well-being in old age, said first author Dr. Catherine Bowen.

Varied results

The study relied on data from 1,600 adults who took part in a telephone survey. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 64 years old, with the average age coming in at 42. The genders of participants were equally divided, and 33% had graduated from college.

We were particularly interested in whether how long people want to live would be related to their expectations about what their life in old age will be like, said Dr. Begard Skirbekk, a researcher at the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center.

The findings of the survey suggest that consumers have varied opinions when it comes to which age they want to live to. While around 16.6% of respondents said that they would prefer to die before the age of 80, roughly one third of participants said that they would like to become an octogenarian. One quarter of participants said they wouldnt mind living into their nineties, with the remaining respondents stating that they wanted to live past 100.

Fear of old age

The researchers say that the study results mirror expectations that respondents had about growing old. Those who had fewer positive old age expectations tended to want to pass away earlier, while those with more positive old age expectations wanted to live longer.

For many, it seems the fear of becoming old may outweigh the fear of dying, said Skirbekk. Woody Allen perhaps summed up this view when he said, "I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens."

The full study has been published in Ageing and Society.

Good attitudes towards aging help seniors cope with stress

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:32:14 +0000

Having negative attitudes may even increase health risks, researchers say By Christopher Maynard of ConsumerAffairs August 3, 2016 Whether youve yet to find that first gray hair or dont have many left to speak of, a new study shows that having a positive outlook on aging can be beneficial to your health. Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that having a positive attitude towards aging can make older adults more resilient when they encounter a stressful situation. Initially, the researchers wanted to conduct their study to see why responses to stress in older adults were so varied. There has been a lot of research on how older adults respond to stress, but the findings have been mixed: some studies have found that older adults are less resilient than younger adults at resonding to stress; some have found that theyre more resilient; and some have found no difference. We wanted to see whether attitudes toward aging could account for this disparity in research findings, said Dr. Jennifer Bellingtier, lead author of the study. Responding to stress In order to test their theory, the researchers analyzed the results of a questionnaire that was given on eight consecutive days to 43 participants between the ages of 60 and 96. After each questionnaire was taken, the volunteers were asked questions that measured their attitudes on aging. Questions at the beginning of the study ranged from issues of usefulness such as asking if participants felt as useful as they were when they were younger to whether or not they were happier in their younger days. Other questions addressed daily stresses that participants faced on a day-to-day basis. Negative emotions,such as anger, fear, irritability, and distress, were also measured. After analyzing the results, the researchers found that participants who had more positive attitudes towards aging had better responses to the stresses they faced in daily life. We found that people in the study who had more positive attitudes toward aging were more resilient in response to stress meaning that there wasnt a significant increase in negative emotions. Meanwhile, study participants with more negative attitudes toward aging showed a sharp increase in negative emotional affect on stressful days, said Bellingtier. Health risks The findings of the study indicate that quality of life for older individuals can be tied to their attitudes, which could have consequences on their health. This tells us that the way we think about aging has very real consequences for how we respond to difficult situations when were older. That affects our quality of life and may also have health ramifications. For example, more adverse emotional responses to stress have been associated with increased cardiovascular health risks, said senior author Shevaun Neupert. While their work has the potential to apply to a wide range of people around the world, Bellingtier and her colleagues believe that more work must be done in order to prove additional connections. Attitudes toward aging vary widely across cultures, and more work woud need to be done to determine the importance of aging attitudes in other settings, she said. The full study has been published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences. [...]

Study shows many community-dwelling seniors use prescriptions improperly

Wed, 10 May 2017 21:38:47 +0000

Over half of all seniors misuse or underuse their medications

By Christopher Maynard of ConsumerAffairs
July 18, 2016

(image) As we age, the number of medical issues that we become susceptible to tends to increase. As a result, seniors often have to take several prescription medications in order to stay healthy but are those medications being taken properly?

Maybe not, one study proposes. New research suggeststhat the majority of seniors who live independently do not take their prescriptions properly. The findings show that this can go both ways: some seniors take too many prescriptions at once, while still more underuse their prescriptions, which can put them at serious risk.

Taking too many medications or unsafe medications are known to cause adverse health outcomes; however, we have shown that not taking essential, beneficial medications is more frequent and can be strongly associated with negative outcomes, said researcher Maarten Wauters.

Misuse and underuse

The study analyzed 503 community-dwelling seniors over the age of 80 for a period of 18 months. Over that time period, researchers monitored prescription drug habits, including the number of medications taken and any incidents of misuse.

After 18 months, Wauters and his colleagues found that 58% of the participants took five or more chronic medications on a daily basis. They note that taking this number of medications, without careful and proper administration, could be dangerous since seniors are more sensitive to prescriptions than younger people.

Prescribing medications to older persons should be done after careful thought, balancing the benefits and risk of every medication at regular intervals, said Wauters.

Additionally, the researchers found that 56% of patients misused their prescription medications, while 67% underused them. When all was said and done, only 17% of participants were not affected by any kind of misuse or underuse.

Expert opinions

The researchers point out that having a dedicated clinical pharmacologist for senior communities could go a long way towards curbing abuse and improving health outcomes.

Clinical pharmacologists can help prescribers to clearly assess misuse and underuse of medications in full knowledge of the patient, their comorbidities, and their medications. They can help to build electronic systems for constant monitoring of the quality of prescribing, using evidence-based criteria of potentially inappropriate prescribing, said Wauters.

The full study has been published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Why seniors should limit alcohol consumption

Thu, 03 Aug 2017 02:15:24 +0000

Researchers say alcohol damages already dysfunctional immune system

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
June 28, 2016

(image) In recent years there has been plenty of research suggesting that there arehealth benefits that come withmoderate alcohol consumption. Here's a study suggesting older consumers, in particular, should avoid it or at least limit their consumption.

Brenda J. Curtis, Ph.D., a research assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Denver, says as people age their immune system becomes less functional and infections are more severe and harder to cure.

Drinking alcohol, she says, damages the immune system and organs. The effects can be worsened by some prescription and over-the-counter medications, which seniors tend to take. As a result, seniors often are vulnerable to infections like pneumonia much more than their younger peers.

Our laboratory has been studying inflammatory and immune responses in the aged for well over a decade, said Curtis. We know that even healthy elderly individuals have an elevated basal inflammatory state, known as inflamm-aging.

It's hard enough for the body to recover from inflammation when you are old, she says. Adding alcohol just compounds the problem.

Our research suggests that alcohol intoxication perturbs the immune system of the aged both throughout the body and in local regions, like the lung, said fellow researcher Elizabeth J. Kovacs. Aged individuals also have decreased lung function and cough strength, which further escalates the risk for developing pneumonia.

Seniors are drinking more

The research may take on added significance in light of recent research which showsthat alcohol consumption has increased among the older population. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) produced the video below to highlight the rise in older Americans with alcohol dependency.

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NIH warns that drinking too much alcohol can make some existing health problems worse, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver problems, and memory problems.

Health officials in New York call alcohol abuse among the elderly a hidden epidemic. The New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse reports that about 10% of the population abuses alcohol, but that as many as 17% of Americans over 65 have an alcohol problem.

Study highlights importance of exercising as we age

Sat, 08 Jul 2017 23:02:13 +0000

Findings show that seniors who exercise are able to recover more quickly from injury

By Christopher Maynard of ConsumerAffairs
June 21, 2016

(image) As people age, many have a tendency to write off exercise as something meant for younger people. After all, if youve made it to your senior years relatively intact, then you must have been doing something right.

But a new study shows that regular exercise is still very important as we grow older especially for seniors who may be at greater risk of injury. Researchers have found a connection between physical exercise and the amount of time it takes for muscles to repair themselves in the elderly. Those who exercised more were able to recover much more quickly and regained more muscle mass compared with those who didnt.

Pre-conditioning the body

The study, which was conducted in part by researchers from McMaster University in Canada, found that exercise provided a level of pre-conditioning that was very important for older bodies. This is especially important because older people can tend to be more sedentary.

Exercise pre-conditioning may improve the muscle repair response in older adults to stimuli such as acute periods of atrophy/inactivity and/or damage. . . Exercise-conditioning rescues delayed skeletal muscle regeneration observed in advanced age, said Dr. Gianni Parise.

The researchers observed these benefits by conducting an experiment on three groups of mice. The groups were made up of old mice who were not exercise-trained, old mice who were exercise-trained, and young mice who were not exercise-trained. After injecting the mice with venom meant to induce muscle injury, the researchers observed the recovery periods for each group.

Faster muscle recovery

The researchers found that the speed of muscle recovery was higher in the group of mice that had been exercise-trained. They posit that the recovery speed was directly linked to the health of muscle satellite cells, which are responsible for healing.

This is a clean demonstration that the physiological and metabolic benefits of exercise radiate to skeletal muscle satellite cells, the adult stem cells responsible for repair after injury, even in senescent animals. . . Strikingly, even as the contractile elements of muscle tissue wane with age, the capacity of the satellite cells to respond to exercise cues is maintained. This aging-resistant retentive property could be added to the list of features that define adult stem cells, said Dr. Thoru Pederson.

The full study has been published in The FASEB Journal.

Falling down a primary health risk for seniors

Mon, 03 Jul 2017 21:40:41 +0000

Here are some tips for keeping older adults on their feet

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
May 2, 2016

(image) Falling down seems to be part of being a child. They take numerous tumbles as part of daily play, and often appear none the worse for it.

Not so for older adults. The American Trauma Society says falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors. Bones are more brittle and balance can often be an issue.

Each year emergency rooms treat more than 2.5 million fall-related injuries, with 734,000 patients requiring a hospital stay and nearly 22,000 resulting in death.

Dr. James Vosswinkel, of Stony Brook University Hospital, says older adults who suffer a fall should always get treatment, even if they think they weren't injured.

Older adults who suffer a serious fall have much better chances of survival and overall better health outcomes if they are treated at a trauma center where specialized surgeons are available, he said in a statement.

Advice for avoiding falls

While falls are a risk for the older population, Vosswinkel says they aren't inevitable. Here are some ways older adults can prevent them:

  • Discuss the risk with your doctor and get his or her advice.
  • Get involved in exercise programs that promote balance and strength.
  • Ask your doctor and pharmacist to review your medication. Some drugs have side effects that can make falling a bigger risk.
  • Get your eyes checked every year. Just seeing better might prevent a dangerous fall.
  • Make sure your home is as fall-proof as possible. Get rid of unnecessary furniture that make a room feel small or cramped.

Sodium deficiency

A proper diet may also help keep seniors on their feet. A 2010 study by Dutch researchers found older adults who had only slightly decreased levels of sodium in their blood - a condition known as hyponatremia had higher rates of fractures and falls. The subjects in the study with hyponatremia had a 21% increased risk of death during the follow-up period.

An occasional glass of red wine or grape juice might also provide some benefit. A 2012 study found resveratrol, a substance found in the skin of grapes, was associated with fewer falls by older adults.

Granny Pod: the high-tech, backyard 'nursing home for one'

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:32:06 +0000

This tiny home sits right in a caregiver's backyard and features an abundance of medical extras By Sarah D. Young of ConsumerAffairs March 11, 2016 Move over, Mother-In-Law suites -- theres a new backyard dwelling for the family matriarch.Granny Pods are the latest in multi-generational living, and some say these backyard tiny homes are an ideal solution for caregivers. If youre one of the estimated 40 millionAmericans who take care of an elderly relative, maybe you would rest a little easier knowing theyre close by instead of in a nursing home. Granny Pods -- also known as the MEDCottage -- can allow grandma or grandpa to live just outside a familys main residence in a high-tech nursing home for one. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> Medical amenities The 300-square-foot backyard cottages are adorable on the outsideand well-stocked with medical amenities and cozy comforts on the inside. Thoughit might seem small, MEDCottage says the layout provides for optimal comfort and space-efficiency. The home is broken up into sleeping, living, and bathing areas and boasts all the medical extras you might find in a nursing home. Granny Pods hook up to the main home's plumbing and electricalanduse smart robotic features to monitor vital signs, filtercontaminants, and communicate with the outside world. The pre-fabricated homes are equipped with sensors that can alert caregivers to problems and give reminders to administer medication. They also feature hand railings, first aid supplies, lighted floorboards, defibrillators, and a soft floor to minimize damage from falls. Mixed reviews The backyard residences -- which come in three sizes and cost between $40,000 to $60,000 (plus the cost ofinstallation)-- have been met with mixed reviews. Some say the cottages' modestsizeis akin to putting aging relatives in storage. "Is it a good idea to throw people into a storage container and put them in your backyard?" Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee) told the Washington Post. "This is the granny pod. What's next? The college dropout pod?" McKay also pointed out the long-term implications of legalizing secondary backyard residences. In urban areas, especially,the legalization of backyard dwellings such as the MEDCottage could lead tozoning problems in the future. Others, however, are taken by the luxury of having their aging parents living semi-independently,just outside their backdoor. [...]

Keeping your senses intact may improve the aging experience

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 21:45:28 +0000

Quality of life worsens when more than one sense declines

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
February 23, 2016

(image) Age can take a toll on the senses.Eyesight may worsen. Hearing starts to go. Even the senses of smell and taste may be diminished.

Health researchers have studied the effects when someone loses one of the senses, but there has been little research of what happens when a person loses multiple senses.

For example, existing studies have found that when a person loses the sense of smell, vision, or hearing, he or she is at greater risk of cognitive decline and poor mental health.

Losing the sense of taste can lead to poor nutrition and even death in certain instances.

Rapid decline

Now, a new study has looked at what happens when older adults lose two or more senses. It found that decline is often more rapid.

Writing up their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, University of Chicago researchers studied data collected by the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), a population-based study of adults aged57-85.

In particular, the study collected information about the subjects' senses of vision, touch, smell, hearing, and taste. The participants were also asked to rate their physical health.

The researchers found that 94% experienced loss in at least one of their senses; 67% had two or more sensory losses. Nearly 20% of those who suffered correctable deficiencies such as hearing and vision rated the corrections as only fair or poor.

Link to quality of life

The researchers concluded that quality of life in old age is, in many ways, contingent upon keeping the five senses functioning satisfactorily. They also said that losing more than one sense might explain why older adults report having a poorer quality of life and face challenges in interacting with other people and the world around them.

But how can we use this data?For one thing, the study authors say there should be additional research into multi-sensory lossbecause it might help doctors design better programs to prevent or treat loss and to ease the suffering such losses cause.

Seniors taking prescription sleeping aids may be highway risk

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:32:05 +0000

Adults over 80 taking zolpidem 146% more likely to get in accident

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
February 19, 2016

(image) Health officials in recent years have expressed concern about the medication prescribed for older adults, particularly opioid painkillers.

But two researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) also worry that the growing use of prescription sleep medicines containing zolpidem among older drivers is a hazard, leading to more car accidents.

Due to the side effects of such drugs, including drowsiness upon waking and impaired coordination, current zolpidem users age 80 and older, as well as those who are female, experienced higher rates of accidents than nonusers, study co-author John Booth III said in a release.

Booth and fellow researcher Gerald McGwin are recommending health care practitioners take a new look at zolpidem prescribing guidelines, particularly for older patients.

Troubling trends

Booth and McGwin studied the unadjusted five-year motor vehicle collision rate for North Central Alabama. They found it was 46% higher for people taking zolpidem. The trend among women was more troubling.

They say the collision rate was 65% higher for females while just 23% higher for males who used zolpidem.

More troubling still was the data on Zolpidem users who were 80 years of age and older. Their unadjusted five-year motor vehicle collision rate was 124% higher for zolpidem users compared with nonusers.

Sleep aid alternatives

For older adults who drive, the researchers point to alternative sleep aids, recommended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They include relaxation techniques, melatonin supplements, and mind and body approaches such as meditation, as well as stimulus control such as consistent sleep schedules, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.

A late 2015 study also raised an alarm over the amount of powerful prescription drugs prescribed for seniors.

In an analysis of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data, researchers at found that drugs paid for by taxpayers under Medicare Part D include barbiturates and benzos, two types of drugs the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) warns should not be given to people age 65 and older.

Both drug types are on the Beers List, a catalog of drugs seniors should avoid because of their potential for causing dependence and other negative side effects.

Banks could play greater role in stopping elder abuse

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 21:45:06 +0000

Report says financial institutions should do more to protect elderly clients By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs February 5, 2016 A new study of elder abuse in the U.S. says banks and other financial institutions have a greater role to play in preventing the financial exploitation of their older clients. The study, published in Public Policy & Aging Report (PP&AR), finds financial exploitation of older adults and diminished financial capacity resulting from age-related cognitive impairments both pose major economic threats. "The problem is complex, but it is also a problem that unquestionably exists and is assuming remarkably large personal, monetary, and social dimensions," the authors write. "Elder financial abuse involves millions of individuals and billions of dollars. It damages health, harms wellbeing, and arguably costs lives." In 2009, U.S. household wealth was estimated to be $53.1 trillion. Older adults held approximately $18.1 trillion of it. The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse estimates elder abuse cost older Americans at least $2.9 billion in 2010. Wealth at risk "In a very real sense, a huge portion of U.S. wealth is at risk due to the progressive decline of financial skills of the older adult age group," writes Daniel Marson, in one of the PP&ARarticles. "Thus ironically, the age group that has amassed the most wealth over the longest period of accumulation is simultaneously at the greatest risk of financial self-impoverishment and exploitation by others." Older adults can be exploited by scammers, who contact them by telephone, email, or sometimes by simply knocking on their doors. More often than not, they may be exploited by a family member. And they aren't always cognitively impaired. A study cited by the National Institute of Justice found that out of 472 victims of financial exploitation, those living independently were 66% more likely to be exploited financially. Those not experiencing dementia or confusion were 29% more likely to be exploited. Technology solution The report suggests scientists may be able to develop predictive models and algorithms for the detection of diminished financial capacity in older adults. When a warning signal flashes, a protective institution could step in. That, the authors contend, should enable the banking industry to improve its interactions with older adults by creating proactive planning programs, recognizing signs of cognitive impairment, dementia, and financial exploitation, and by learning new methods of assessing financial decision-making abilities. Creating a system of real-time assessments and interventions, the report concludes, would help curb financial exploitation, as well as poor financial decisions by aging adults who are beginning to lose cognitive ability. [...]

Seniors want robots that take orders, not give them

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 21:42:45 +0000

Older Americans comfortable with mechanical caregivers in limited roles By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs February 2, 2016 Senior citizens have seen plenty of science fiction movies over the years, so it might not be surprising they are just a little leery of inviting a robot into their home to help with household chores. After all, Hal, the computer/robot in "2001, A Space Odyssey," made an indelible impression. Hal might have blindsided Dave, the astronaut, but we're all the wiser now. And those mental models seniors have formed over the years very much shape their comfort level with machines, researchers say. "When interfaces are designed to be almost human-like in their autonomy, seniors may react to them with fear, skepticism and other negative emotions," S. Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State, said in a release. "But, with those considerations in mind, there are actually several areas where older people would accept robot help." Cheap help With a large population of aging Americans, robots are seen as a cost-effective way to provide older people with in-home support. But Sundar says the research makes clear that seniors may accept mechanical helpers in some roles more than others. In a study, seniors felt most comfortable with robots as helpers and butlers, when they were following the user's instructions. What appears to make them uncomfortable, however, is when robots are autonomous. They don't want a robot that can make its own decisions and may not need to wait for a senior's commands to engage in a task. "It is clear senior citizens want robots to play passive and non-confrontational roles," said Sundar. "Seniors do not mind having robots as companions, but they worry about the potential loss of control over social order to robots." Filling a need Like it or not, robots are likely to take on a greater care-giving role in the future. Some 8,000 Americans turn 65 years old -- the typical retirement age for workers -- each day, according to the researchers. Even if they seem a little creepy, these robots might prove to be very useful. The concept of robot caregivers got an early start in Japan, which has a large aging population. Last March the Riken Institiute and Sumitomo Riko company highlighted efforts to develop a new robot nurse with a human-like touch. It doesn't talk but it does listen. And it's powerful enough to carry about 176 pounds, meaning it could help a patient move from a bed to a wheelchair. "We really hope that this robot will lead to advances in nursing care, relieving the burden on care-givers today, Toshiharu Mukai, leader of the Robot Sensor Systems Research Team, said in a release. We intend to continue with research toward more practical robots capable of providing powerful yet gentle care to elderly people." Just as long as it doesn't get any ideas about world domination. [...]

The best and worst states to live in retirement

Sun, 26 Mar 2017 21:41:28 +0000

Sunshine isn't the only thing attracting seniors to Florida

By Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs
January 25, 2016

(image) A lot of factors go into choosing a place to live out your golden years. Climate is a big onebut so are amenities;thenthere'sthe cost of living --including taxes.

Florida gets a huge share of retirees moving south, but it isn't just for the sunshine and orange juice. It turns out Florida tops the list, compiled by personal finance website WalletHub, of best places in the U.S. to live in retirement.

WalletHub has ranked the 50 states and District of Columbia and givenFlorida the top honorbased on how it placed in three important categories. It ranked second in affordability, third in quality of life, and 15th in quality of healthcare.

Most affordable

Wyoming came in second, largely on the strength of its first place finish in the affordability category. Wyoming ranked 28th in quality of life and 16th in Healthcare.

South Dakota about as far from Florida's sunny climate as you can get placed third in the rankings. It, according to WalletHub, is ranked number one in health care, but 14th in affordability and 29th in quality of life.

At the bottom of the list is Rhode Island. The tiny state has the distinction of being the least affordable retirement spot in America, according to WalletHub.

Washington, DC is just above it, coming in dead last in terms of quality of life. It ranks fifth, however, in quality of healthcare.

Oddly, Hawaii the island paradise is third from the bottom. It was dragged down by its high cost of living. The authors also didn't care much for Hawaii's quality of life, though surfers might beg to differ, ranking it only 42nd in the nation.

What matters most?

Some criteria are more important to some retirees than others. People in excellent health, for example, might not care that much about health care at leastnot yet.

For budget-minded retirees concerned mostly with the cost of living, WalletHub suggests considering Mississippi, Indiana, Alabama, Tennessee, and Idaho. They might want to avoid California, Alaska, New York, Washington, DC, and Hawaii.

Looking for the best tax treatment? Consider Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Wyoming, and Nevada. Avoid Connecticut, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Illinois.

If you plan to keep working after retirement, Alaska is the state with the highest percentage of working people 65 and older. Washington, DC is second though most are probably in Congress.