Who is a “Senior Citizen”?

Who is a “Senior Citizen”?

Becoming a “senior citizen” can be as much of a choice as it is being any specific age.  It may be a life event such as retirement or age-related disabilities that trigger your self-definition.  And, there are benefits to deciding to become a senior citizen, from lower-priced menu items, to spending that which you have saved for this special time of life, to medical care that is more reasonably priced.  Being designated a “Senior Citizen” can be a pretty good deal.

Receiving Senior Benefits

Some define their status as “seniors” when they start receiving Social Security.  And, because you can take Social Security as early as 62 or as late as 70, senior status in that case is sort of self-defined.  Or, in the case of Medicare the age definition is established as 65.

AARP will take your application as early as 50 years old and many restaurants only ask that you be 55 to order from the “senior special” menu.

Withdrawing from your 401-K or IRA can be done as early as 59½ without incurring penalties.  If you wait to pull out money until you are 72, the government forces you to take withdrawals called RMD’s or Required Minimum Distributions – the government wants to tax that money at some point, after all.

None of those ages define senior citizenship, but they are sometimes used as markers.

Retirement

When you no longer are obligated to show up for work every day you may feel you have achieved “senior citizen” status.  Probably others in your life who may still be working, will feel that for you.

Now you may spend your time as you please and reflect on what you have achieved.  Perhaps you will use the time you have available to pursue a delayed passion for which you have not had time.

Age-Related Health Issues

Medical conditions such as arthritis, hypertension or hearing loss may cause you to feel you have achieved senior citizen status before you wanted to.  Needing to use more medications or medical devices on a daily basis may make you feel older than your years.  You may not feel so young as you are being fitted with a walker or arranging your pills every morning and evening.  Health situations may define “senior” status for you.

Dehydration in Seniors

Dehydration in Seniors

It might have been fun to title this article “Seniors Need to Drink More”, but that might have been slightly misleading.  The fact is that common thinking is that adults need to consume at least two quarts of liquids per day.  And, while that is a nice, simple formula, not every person’s body is the same.  Some people need more liquids on a daily basis.

Rather than depend on some random formula, there are a few tests that any person caring for an older adult can use to tell if he or she is consuming enough fluids.

Pinch Your Parent.  You can quickly check hydration levels by pinching the skin on the back of the hand. If it quickly returns to its normal position everything is probably fine.  If the skin stays elevated for a second or longer, it is a clear indication of dehydration.

Don’t Flush.  When a person is adequately hydrated, his or her urine will be almost clear or pale yellow.  As a caregiver, if you can observe the urine output of your elderly charge, it will go a long way toward telling you if there is an issue with hydration.  If the urine is a darker yellow, there may be an issue.

The Obvious: Thirst.  While it might seem apparent, if the person you are caring for expresses thirst, you may need to be more proactive in introducing fluids into the daily routine.

Possible Other Indicators.  The list of symptoms below could come from a variety of maladies, but in combination, you may be looking at dehydration.  This is actually a good thing, because it is often the easiest thing to fix.  Look for any combination of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Cotton mouth
  • Infrequent urination
  • Muscle cramps
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness

Easy Fix

Compared to the resolution of so many other maladies of older adults, dehydration is among the easiest to solve.  It is as simple as drinking a glass of water immediately upon getting up in the morning followed by a breakfast beverage of coffee, tea, or juice.   If that routine is continued throughout the day – both during and between meals – dehydration should cease to be an issue.

Also, it is not just liquids that can help.  Many tasteful snacks contain a lot of water such as cucumber slices, cubes of melon, celery sticks, citrus fruit, grapes, and tomatoes, all of which have high water content.  And many contain helpful antioxidants, too.

Scamming Seniors in Today’s World

Scamming Seniors in Today’s World

Recently retirees in Colorado Springs, CO received a mailing allegedly from the State of Colorado talking about their recent application for Unemployment Benefits.  Few of the recipients were even working at their age and none of them had applied for unemployment compensation.  The letter went on to explain that if they had not applied to go online and fill out a form to alert the department of a possible fraud.

The link took the person receiving the bogus letter to a website that showed a legitimate Colorado State form that is exactly like the real online form for reporting fraud.  Page two of the form, however, was designed by the scammers to be formatted the same and to ask for social security numbers and bank account information into which the unemployment compensation would have been deposited.

There is no assumption that this scam was limited to Colorado, but it is a prime example of taking advantage of the feeling of responsibility seniors often take for keeping things right and preventing fraud.

Isolation Creates Opportunity

Today, particularly with Covid restrictions, seniors are more and more isolated.  Social isolation is a leading factor contributing to elder financial abuse.

Much of the contact seniors have is by electronic means, whether by telephone, email or Internet.  It sets the stage for the unscrupulous to invade the space without much filtering that might be available with more live interaction with family members or friends.  This is exacerbated when a senior may have any degree of diminished cognitive capacity.  Newfound “friends” can more easily approach seniors with investment schemes and flattery that puts a lifetime of savings at risk.  This situation is potentially made worse when the senior is widowed or divorced.

Perhaps, surprisingly, unsolicited phone calls or emails are not the most dangerous – though they are still frequently used by scammers.  With seniors being more engaged in an online life, scammers have found more success with social media approaches or pop-up messages on websites.

Anyone who promises a high return with little risk is generally not telling the truth.  This is even more evident if it is important to “act fast”.  Acting fast reduces the opportunity for consultation with those who may be more skeptical of the “opportunity”.

One key way to prevent the vulnerable from being exploited is to increase contact.  Frequent phone calls or, better, video chats, go a long way toward preventing strangers with bad intentions from insinuating themselves into your loved one’s lives.

Financial abuse can happen any time during a person’s life.  Scammers, however, find their best opportunities when seniors are most vulnerable.  They often pick up clues to their opening by reading social media or online obituaries.  They even get involved in the lives of seniors by invading senior social and support groups.

Warning Signs

Counseling your senior to avoid being scammed is as simple as listening.  Be on the alert for situations where your senior talks about a new friend who suddenly appears in his or her life.  Listen closely for hints that the new “friend” tries to keep other family members from learning of the friendship or encourages a distancing from family.

More worrisome is a situation where you learn of new acquaintances who are “helping” the senior and, to do so, need financial information and passwords to accounts.

Be on the lookout for indications that your senior wants to suddenly make unexplained changes in estate planning documents or beneficiary designations.  Do not be dissuaded by sounding self-interested if these changes involve your prospective inheritance.

Preventative Measures

One of the best ways to prevent scammers from attacking an elder is to “train” the elder to make distinctions between legitimate senior advisors and new “friends” and scammers.

  1. It is never too late to learn. A good project for those who have the time is to learn all they can about finances and investments.  There are many good websites that do this but stick with the known providers of information.  The more marginal sites are where scammers lurk.
  2. Encourage conversations with family and friends or professional advisors about any prospective decisions.
  3. Learn how to do a website search to investigate “opportunities” that are offered. For those who are not as comfortable with the Internet they should be encouraged to seek help from a family member or friend to thoroughly understand as much as they can about the offer and offeror.  They should be reminded to never invest money unless they fully understand the risks and legitimacy of the individual and company involved.
  4. If you think your loved one has been defrauded, do not allow them to be too embarrassed to seek help and file an official complaint. Complaints can be filed with the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or your state securities regulators.

Education, communication and caution are the best ways to avoid senior financial abuse.  Be proactive.