2

Extend Joint Care For Dogs: Puts Pep In Rover’s Step [A Review]

Let me make a disclosure here:  I have never used this product.  It is a beef – flavored powder and I personally like the taste and texture of the chicken-flavored chewy tablets.  Just kidding.  Actually, the reason I have never used it is that if it is really true that All Dogs Go To Heaven, that’s where my Beagle King is.  He doesn’t need it.  So, since I don’t use it, am I qualified to review it?  Yep.  Sure am.  As Zak and Smoke’s “uncle,” I still have a vested interest in the health and welfare of canine family members.  Besides, I am a retired journalist.  I know how to seperate the wheat from the chaff.

Why This One?

I didn’t just pull Extend Joint Care For Dogs out of a hat.  It is the result of a comprehensive search for the best medication for your dog’s joint pain I could find.  In an earlier post, I wrote about senior dogs health problems.  The logical next step is to recommend something that will help.  There’s a whole bunch of joint pain meds out there.  Many of them you could switch the labels and never know the difference.  That’s because the ingredients are pretty much the same across the board.  What separated this product from the crowd for me was the huge number of positive reviews from users.  I was particularly moved by the number of them that slammed a vet that said it (or any of them for that matter) was only “snake oil.”  According to them, if it was snake oil, it was damn good snake oil.

I didn’t just take their word for it, however.  I researched objective reviews from veteranary professionals.  I didn’t put too much stock in the few reviews that said this product didn’t work for their dog.  Heck, there are some over-the-counter meds that my friends swear by that does absolutely nothing for me.  Dogs, like people, are not “one size fits all” when it comes to medication.  That’s why it’s important that your vet has the last say about your dog’s medication regimen. 

If you’re reading this, you are probably not looking for a whole lot of rhetoric about the myriad of joint pain medications out there.  You just want to know how to stop your dog’s pain.  Is Extend Joint Care For Dogs the best medication for the job?  Depends on who you ask.  Will it get the job done?  Yes.  It will.  The “best” can be an arbitrary term anyhow.  Let’s have a look at the ingredients:

What’s In It

 

Extend Joint Care For Dogs is an over-the-counter medication that will help maintain and improve joint health in your dog.  The active ingredients are:

  1. Glucosamine – a natural compound found in cartilage, which is the tough tissue that cushions joints – yours, mine, Smoke’s and Zak’s too.  It helps to form and repair cartilage.  As your dog ages (and us too, for that matter), the natural production of glucosamine slows down, which leads to joint pain and stiffness and eventually Osteoarthritis.  Supplements of glucosamine can help rebuild cartilage and restore your dog’s joint function and activity levels, and reduce or eliminate the use of NSAIDS (nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs), which relieve pain, but does not repair the joint.  Extend Joint Care For Dogs claims to have developed a faster-acting form of glucosamine.  This seems to be borne out by the fact that users report a faster-than-average recovery time for their ailing dog. 
  2. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) – a naturally occuring sulfur compound found in plants, animals and humans.  It helps to reduce joint pain and inflammation.  It also works to heal and elasticize connective tissue for greater mobility and resiliance.  MSM helps your dog to make better use of the nutrients in his food, and it is essential for maintaining and supporting healthy cells (ours too!).  It also helps clean the blood stream and flush toxins from the cells.
  3. Type II Chicken Collagen – a protein that is part of cartilage, bone and other tissues in animals and humans.  Also known as UCII, Type II Chicken collagen is used to treat joint pain associated with many types of arthritis.  It works with the immune system to reduce inflammation and restore cartilage.
  4. Ascorbic Acid – another name for vitamin C.  Unlike the human body, which does not naturally produce vitamin C, dogs do naturally produce some vitamin C.  Ascorbic acid boosts their level of vitamin C, which provides immune system support and helps to relieve pain and discomfort associated with muscular-skeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis.

Teacup Yorkie

The remaining ingredients are: beef liver meal, maltodextrin ( a flavor additive ), and oat fiber.  The dosage of this product is

Teacup Poodle

somewhat ambigious.  According to the company, “one packet per day should suffice for most dog sizes.”  What that means is that a very small breed dog (have you ever seen a teacup Yorkie? a teacup Poodle?) would require less, and a very large breed will probably need more.  Other than that, one packet a day is the recommended dose.  Since it is an all-natural supplement, it is perfectly safe to try different dosages.  

“An Ounce Of Prevention…

is worth a pound of cure.”  In other words, you don’t have to wait until your beloved canine family member begins to experience joint pain to start giving him joint care medication.  You can start right now.  Regardless of your dog’s age.  Joint care medication not only helps senior dogs suffering from joint pain, it helps to maintain healthy joints in younger dogs.  Depending on the breed of your dog, some vets recommend starting your dog on a joint care medication as early as 12 months old.  Breeds that experience early and more severe symptoms of arthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia (abnormal growth or development ), and general joint inflammation include: 

  • Dachshunds
  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Pit Bulls
  • Saint Bernards

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Check with your vet to see if your dog is on this list and if he is, start him on Extend Joint Care for Dogs right away.  After all, an ounce of prevention…

 

Don’t Play Vet

It’s not a good idea to try to be your own doctor.  It is also not a good idea to try to be your dog’s doctor.  If you have taken him for a checkup and know that like you, he’s just suffering from the attendent manifestations of growing old, an over-the-counter joint care medication should make life easier for the both of you.  However, there are some symptoms, that if displayed, require the immediate attention of a veteranarian.  These symptoms include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Odd eating habits – It’s not unusual for your dog to skip a meal or two, especially in the summer, but any more than that is cause for concern.  Conversely, if all of a sudden he starts raiding the pantry and/or snatching food off the table, this is also a sign that something is wrong.
  • Excessive thirst – You know about how much water your dog usually drinks in a day, so if the amount increases dramatically, check with the vet.
  • Scooting or dragging rear – This could be a sign of worms, a blocked or infected anal gland, a urinary tract infection, or diarrhea
  • Cloudy or red eyes – If your dog is squinting, or there is excessive discharge coming from his eyes, this could indicate an infection or an injury.  Diseases affecting the eyes can get really bad in a hurry, and lead to blindness.
  • Unusual stool – Your dog’s poop can tell you a lot about his overall health.  A healthy dog should have small, firm, moist stools (or that “t” word).  Nobody likes to look at dog poop, but every now and then you should check it for worms, blood, or anything that looks unusual.
  • Vomiting – Dogs will puke from time to time to get rid of something that doesn’t agree with them.  Or when they’ve had too much to drink.  Oh, wait, that’s humans.  Anyway, if he vomits frequently, or several times in a row, or if he vomits blood, call the vet right away.

Don’t assume that any ailment that your dog might have can be cured with an over-the-counter medication.  Some of your senior dogs health problems (and the whippersnapper’s too) will require prescription medication.  You know your dog.  Check with your vet about any behavior that you deem out of the ordinary.  

Your Personal Experience

If you have used Extend Joint care For Dogs, I would love to hear from you.  If you are just starting to use the product, I would love to chart your dog’s progress.  Share your experiences with me in the comment section below.

 

 

6

Senior Dogs Health Problems: You’re Not The Only One Getting Old

If you were to call either of my sisters, as you talked you would swear that there was a rambunctious child wreaking havoc on the place: “Get down from there!” “No! Can’t you see I’m on the phone?” “What do you want?!” Well, my baby sister is #!% years old, and my oldest sister will be *#! in a couple of weeks. At best, you could contribute all the commotion to great grand kids, but that is not the case. They each have a dog.

My oldest sister’s 11 year-old Yorkie is a spoiled brat. Lawnmowers are his nemesis. I don’t know how he makes it through the summer. Smoke, my baby sister’s Lab/Boxer mix, is also 11 years old. Storms get him all bent out of shape . He’s a lot more laid back than Zak, but still manages to get into his share of “devilment.”

They may act like kids, but Zak and Smoke, like their “mothers,” are in their twilight years. Figuring out a dog’s age in human years can get complicated. They age pretty quick the first couple of years of their life, and then slow down according to their size, but still age much faster than humans. Zak’s 11 years at his small size, equates to around 60 human years, and Smoke’s 11 years, seeing as how he’s a big ol’ fella, puts him around 72. Just as it is with us, with advanced age comes health issues. Senior dogs health problems are a lot like senior people’s health problems. Remarkably similar, in fact.

Dogs Are People Too

Okay, maybe not really, but tell that to either of my sisters. When it comes to loving them or caring for them, Zak and Smoke get the “full Monty.” I’m sure you can relate if you have a canine member in your family. In an article in Psychology Today, bioethicist Jessica Pierce, Ph.D., says that living with a dog is much the same as living with a human being. A bioethicist is someone who “studies the application of ethics to the field of medicine and healthcare.” So if bioethicists include dogs in their studies, this elevates their status (the dog’s, that is) considerably.

Pierce goes on to say that the relationship between dogs and humans can be “wonderful, loving and enriching, but it can also be emotionally complex, draining and stressful.” In the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Marie Doan and Sirkke Sarenbo assert that the quality of your dog’s life is directly related to the quality of your life. In other words, “As goes the master, so goes the dog.” I just made that up.

The point is, your behavior directly impacts your dog’s health and behavior. For instance, if you are a “loner”, your dog is forced to be a “loner”, which means your dog will lack “adequate mental and social stimulation,” which can lead to problems such as separation anxiety, excitability, and fear. Another great example is, if you are obese as a result of bad eating habits, chances are your dog is probably overweight too.

Common Ailments

The most common ailment we share with our canine family members is a visit from Arthur; arthur-itis, that is. As they age, many dogs develop arthritis just like we do, with the same consequences. The most common form of the disease befalling aging dogs is Osteoarthritis, which affects weight-bearing joints. This results in pain, stiffness, decreased range in motion, and it gets worse as time goes by. There is no cure for it, but treatment can slow the disease and ease the pain. We’ll talk medication a little later.

Kidney disease is also pretty high on the list of senior dogs health problems. Like arthritis, it cannot be cured, but there is medication available that can treat it and prolong the quality and quantity of your dog’s life. Signs of kidney disease in your dog include increased thirst and peeing, loss of appetite, vomiting and lack of energy. Other ailments shared by dog and man (generically speaking) are:

  • cancer
  • deafness
  • blindness
  • growths and tumors – should be checked by vet to make sure they are not cancerous
  • incontinence

Our senior canine family member can also develop a disease that is similar to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in humans. The signs are subtle in the beginning but can get pretty bad, pretty quick. According to Jenna Stregowski, Registered Veterinary Technician, the symptoms include, but are not limited to: disorientation, confusion, pacing/wandering, not interacting with the family as much, restlessness, and going to the wrong side of an opening door. Many of these symptoms overlap with other illnesses, so check with your vet if you observe any of these signs.

Medications That Improve Quality of Life

It was not too long ago that if your dog got sick, he either got better or he died. Thankfully that is no longer the case. Today, there is medication to treat whatever ails your dog. Some of the most common ones are:

  • pain relievers – used to alleviate chronic pain associated with arthritis and joint pain
  • antibiotics – used to treat bacterial infections
  • antiparasitics – for treating parasites
  • antifungals – eliminates fungal infections
  • steroids – can relieve symptoms associated with inflammation and cancer

Although some medications that we use can be used to treat similar conditions in our senior dog, it is important to check with your vet before administering them. “We have to remember the size of our dog compared to us,” says Dr. Cathy Meeks, Group Medical Director at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa Florida. “Even with the medications that are safe, the dosages are drastically different,” she added. These medications include:

  • MiraLax – helps reduce constipation
  • Pepto Bismol – used to treat diarrhea
  • Benadryl – for allergies, motion sickness and travel anxiety
  • Gas-X – treats gas
  • Prednisone – for treating inflammation from arthritis

Before you run to the medicine cabinet to share your medication with your dog, check with the vet. These medications can do more harm than good depending on other health issues. Some human medications can be downright dangerous for your dog. It is always best to give your dog medication prescribed by the vet. 

Regular Doctor Visits For Your Dog 

Regular visits to the doctor are just as important for your dog as they are for you. Senior dogs with health problems won’t just get better, they need professional help. Just like you have a primary care physician, they need a primary care vet who is familiar with their condition and can provide continuity in their treatment for whatever ails them. Insurance is available to help cover the cost of vet bills. The cost of the insurance depends on the amount of coverage you want, your dog’s size and weight, and where you live, among other things. It can mean the difference between treating your dog’s health issues and euthanizing a beloved family member.

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

You need your dog at least as much as your dog needs you. Psychologist Penny B. Donnefield says that having a dog will help you focus on “something other than your physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.” Your canine companion will also help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase your physical activity, (just walking your dog gives you a great cardiovascular workout) and offer protection for seniors who live alone. And, as age and technology combine to isolate seniors from the rest of the world, dogs can be that bond with nature that we all long for.

It is definitely a two-way street. As a beloved family member, most seniors’ dogs live the “life of Riley.” According to the Washington University School of Law, it is not unusual for owners to leave sizable inheritances to their dogs. The internet is replete with stories of dogs who were left millions. Many seniors adopt shelter dogs who literally go from “wags to riches.” They get regular meals, vet care, and constant love and attention. It is sometimes difficult to determine who benefits the most, the dog or the senior. But one thing is sure: the relationship is reciprocal.

Growing Old Together

Some dogs will grow old in good health, but unfortunately, many will not. Just as it is with us, with age comes health issues. There is comfort in sharing the twilight years with one who has been so faithful for so long. The bond can eclipse that of a human companion. Since they age so much faster than us, we will probably outlive them, so it is up to us to make sure that they transition as peacefully as possible. We should afford them the same care in their senior years that we expect in ours. I leave you with my favorite dog quote:

“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.” – Samuel Butler

 

2

Medical Alert Companies: Peace of Mind (At The Push of a Button)

As we move on down the road toward whatever we believe awaits us, as senior citizens living alone, we love the independence, but in the recesses of our mind hibernates a nagging query: “What if something happens?” This is a legitimate concern. It’s even more of a concern if we have health problems. Sure, we know people who will come a’running when we call, but what if we can’t call? What if we really do fall and really can’t get up? It’s not an ever-present thought, but it does put a damper on our independence. There is, however, a resource that can help relieve this anxiety: a medical alert system.

What Is A Medical Alert System?

According to Wikipedia (not to be confused with Wikileaks), an online encyclopedia, a medical alert system is “an alarm system designed to signal the presence of a hazard requiring urgent attention and to summon emergency medical personnel.” These systems generally have a wireless pendant or transmitter that when activated will transmit a signal to an alarm monitoring company that will dispatch emergency medical help to the location where the alarm was activated.

Anybody 50 years old or better remembers the classic 1987 television commercial where Mrs. Fletcher cried out in desperation: “I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” That pretty much put medical alert systems on the map in the United States. Mrs. Fletcher became the butt of many a joke, but the medical alert system proved to be no laughing matter. Sure, it was funny lo those many years ago, but today, not so much. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists deaths from unintentional injuries as the seventh leading cause of death among seniors, and the overwhelming majority of those unintentional deaths are falls.  According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), every 11 seconds a senior is treated in the emergency room for a fall, and every 19 minutes one of us die as the result of a fall. Today, any one of us could find ourselves in Mrs. Fletcher’s predicament.

Falls Are Not Our Only Problem

More sobering news from the NCOA: About 92% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77% have at least two. These chronic diseases include, but are not limited to:

  • heart disease – the leading cause of death for adults over 65
  • arthritis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • osteoporosis – a major contributor to falls
  • diabetes
  • depression

All of these diseases can present a life or death situation for seniors living alone. If not personally, certainly for a parent or loved one. We like to think that it won’t happen to us, but the reality is, it happens to “us” every day.

All of the aforementioned infirmities aside, let’s say you’re the picture of health. There’s still a bunch of stuff that can happen to you if you’re home alone (I was hoping I could work that in somewhere). A medical alert system is not just something that’s good to have, if you live alone – and it really doesn’t matter how old you are – it’s a necessity.

Get Over The Stigma

It’s pretty easy to conjure up the vision of Mrs. Fletcher lying there on the floor, eyes wide with fear, helplessly reaching out for anybody. Therein lies the problem. That image has cast a shadow on the industry from which it has yet to emerge: To get one is to admit that you are old and alone. Au contraire, mon ami, to get one is to know you have back-up in the event of an unforeseen emergency – medical or otherwise. Hey. Poo poo happens.

Choosing The Right System

Medical alert systems are like smart phones; you can pay a little, or you can pay a lot, depending on how many bells and whistles you want. However, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information division, when evaluating medical alert companies, there are some very important questions to ask:

  • Is the monitoring center open 24/7? What kind of training do staff receive?
  • What’s the average response time, and who gets alerted?
  • Will I be able to use the same system with other response centers if I move? What if I move to another city or state?
  • What’s your repair policy? What happens if I need a replacement?
  • What are the initial costs? What costs are ongoing? What kind of services and features will I get?

If you’re thinking that your phone is good enough, it isn’t. If you’re thinking that Alexa, Echo, or any other of the digital assistants on the market is good enough, they aren’t. You don’t always have your phone with you and you may not have the opportunity to go get it, and Alexa and the like can’t dial 911. Consumer Reports cites three factors that will determine how much system you need and how much money you will pay for it:

  1. Do you want a home-based system, a mobile system, or both?
  2. Should your system be monitored or not? (Unmonitored systems will dial a pre-programmed number when you hit the call button.)
  3. Should you add a fall-protection feature? This feature will add about $15 to your monthly service charge, but the statistics above make it well worth the cost.

Common Mistakes When Purchasing a System

Although medical alert systems have been around for a few decades, they have sort of been in the closet. Few of us have experience in purchasing them. Consequently, since for most of us this will be our first time buying one, I think it’s appropriate to list some mistakes to avoid:

  • Don’t buy a system based on price alone. Prices range from the sublime to the ridiculous and is not a good measure of the quality of the device or the service.
  • Avoid long-term contracts. There are some unscrupulous companies out there that know you’re probably buying it because you’re scared, either for yourself or for someone you love. Don’t get tied up in a multi-year contract. You or a family member may end up paying for it long after you no longer need it. Year-to-year is plenty. Some medical alert companies offer month-to-month contracts and some offer month-to-month service with no contract.
  • Don’t assume that medical alert systems are only for people who live alone. This is definitely the target audience, but if you have elderly or disabled parents or family members living with you, you’re not going to be around them 24/7. You’ve got to take a nap, you’ve got to go to the bathroom, you might have to run next door, or to the store. Precious minutes lost in any of these situations could mean the difference between life and death.
  • Don’t wait for something to happen before you invest in a system. This is not the time to “cross that bridge when you get to it.” If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance that you, or someone you care about, need a medical alert system.

A Great Return on Your Investment

The average response time for emergency medical treatment can vary greatly depending on where you live. We have all heard horror stories about the ambulance, police, or firetruck not getting there in time. Many of us have first-hand experience with the consequences of help arriving too late. In an emergency, every second counts. Your investment in a medical alert system could turn out to be the best dollar you ever spent. To quiet that little voice asking “What if something happens?” click here and put your mind at ease.

4

CBD Oil: The Way of the Future (What It Is, Is Not)

Let me make one thing perfectly clear up front: Although they come from the same hemp plant, CBD oil and medical marijuana are two completely different things. However, the difference in medical marijuana and the weed sold by the friendly neighborhood dealer is – nothing. Medical marijuana is just regular ol’ weed, but in the states where it is legal, you need a valid medical reason to buy and/or smoke it.

The most common reasons for medical marijuana use are pain and nausea. There have also been claims made that it is also effective in treating anxiety disorders, Chron’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and Glaucoma. We can explore the validity of these claims at a later date, but for now we will concentrate on CBD oil.

The property in medical and recreational marijuana that gives you the buzz is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Both THC and cannabidiol, or CBD, are among a host of compounds, known as cannabinoids, found in the cannabis plant. The CBD compound, usually mixed with Sunflower oil or Olive oil, is commonly referred to as CBD oil. THC is psychoactive. CBD oil is not. Simply put, THC will get you high. CBD oil will not

How It Works

Just as your brain produces natural pain and stress-fighting chemicals called endorphins, it also produces natural cannabinoids. Researchers believe that CBD facilitates the use of more of these natural cannabinoids, which produces the benefits of medical marijuana without the buzz-producing effects of the THC. Although there is still much research to be done, CBD oil appears to have a lot of medical potential. In addition to the above-mentioned uses for medical marijuana, CBD oil also shows potential for treatment of:

  • pain
  • inflammation
  • epilepsy
  • psychiatric diseases
  • cancer – researchers note that CBD oil tends to suppress the growth of cancer cells and promote their destruction
  • acne
  • PTSD

This is pretty impressive, but it gets even better. Researchers noted that CBD oil reduced physical and psychological symptoms of substance abuse such as anxiety, mood-related symptoms, and insomnia. It also eliminates the craving for nicotine, and people who used an inhaler with CBD oil in it smoked fewer cigarettes.  

 

What’s Not To Like?

At this point, there’s not a lot known about the long-term effects of CBD oil. Although it is all over the news these days, it is still just a few years on the market. A World Health Organization (WHO) review came to the conclusion that there is no evidence of any public health-related problems associated with the use of CBD oil. Presently, much of the concern centers around the quality of the products offered.

Having said that, there are a couple of things to be concerned about. First off, CBD oil has been approved by the FDA to treat only one of the conditions that I have listed above: epilepsy. There is a mountain of credible evidence that documents its effectiveness in all the other situations, but no FDA approval. Due to the lack of oversight and regulation by the FDA, the quality of CBD oils can vary widely.

In fact, according to adjunct assistant professor of psychology Marcel Bonn-Miller, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 43% of CBD oil products contain too little CBD, and about 26% contain too much. Bonn-Miller and his colleagues also found that approximately one in five CBD oil products contained enough THC to get you high and cause you to flunk a drug test.  However, when properly produced, CBD oil contains no THC, that is why it is important to get it from a reputable source.

 

Consult Your Physician

Since the study of CBD oil is still in its infancy stage, there is always the possibility of a negative reaction with other drugs that you are taking. For example, if you are taking drugs for epilepsy, there could be increases in the blood levels of those drugs if you are also taking CBD oil. Your doctor might have to decrease the dosage of those drugs to prevent any side effects.

CBD oil could also be bad on your liver. About 10% of people in CBD oil studies had increases in liver enzymes, which could indicate possible liver damage. If you are considering using CBD oil, talk to your primary care physician. If he or she is not thoroughly familiar with the pros and cons of CBD oil, find someone who is. “My bottom line advice is people really need to be under the care of a health care provider who understands CBD,” says Timothy Welty, chair of the Department of Clinical Sciences, Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “They need to be monitored and managed by that individual, and not just go out and buy CBD thinking it’s going to be the answer,” he added.

 

Legal Issues

Although CBD oil is the most popular vehicle to administer CBD, there are other methods of delivery:

  • spray
  • gummies
  • vape
  • ointments

Since CBD is not listed in the Controlled Substance Act, There are no federal laws prohibiting its use. So, that makes it legal, right? Well, yes and no. It depends on where you live and who you ask. It’s actually the reverse of the medical marijuana legal situation. Since marijuana is listed in the Controlled Substance Act, it is against federal law to smoke, sell or possess it even in the states where it is legal. By contrast, even though it is legal from a federal standpoint, CBD is not legal in all 50 states.

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Even in the states where it is legal, laws governing the use and sale of it differ. The best way to CYA is to check out the rules in your state. Some companies that sell CBD products assume that since it is legal by federal law, it is legal everywhere. Again, it is not. Do your homework.

Investigation Is Worth The Effort

By all accounts, CBD is the way of the future. It is only a matter of time before it gets FDA approval.  Once only available in head shops, you can now find it in natural food stores, beauty aisles, cafes and even doctors’ offices. This past December, Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, legalizing the production of industrial hemp. Industrial hemp contains less than .3 percent of THC, which makes for pretty lousy weed, but a great source for CBD products. This paves the way for more comprehensive research and production of CBD-related products.

According to the Brightfield Group, cannabis industry analysts, the CBD market will hit $22 billion by 2022. Now that the waters are clearing somewhat, major pharmaceutical companies are looking to get a piece of the action. However, as it stands now, most CBD products will be available as over-the-counter medications. Although many of its uses are not yet approved by the FDA, credible medical professionals attest to its potential. If you have symptoms or conditions that fall within the purview of CBD products, it will certainly be worth your while to consult your physician to determine whether it will be beneficial for you to add any of them to your medical regimen.

P.S. Thank you, Baby Sis.

2

Robin Diangelo: “To Be Racist Is Not To Be Inherently Bad”

“White Fragility,” Robin Diangelo

When James Alex Fields, Jr plowed into a crowd of people in Charlottesville, VA, on August 12, 2017, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 40 others, President Donald Trump declared that “there are some very fine people on both sides” of the conflict that precipitated Ms. Heyer’s death.  Needless to say, a whole bunch of people took issue with that statement.  Some more than others.  I mean, did he know who he was talking about?

A Who’s Who of Hate Mongers

On that fateful day that turned out to be the last day of Ms. Heyer’s life, Unite The Right, a right-wing extremist group, gathered together a bunch of pretty unsavory characters.  I’m talking gun-toting neo-Nazis, neo-confederates, neo-fascists, white nationalists and everybody’s favorite hate group – the KKK.  Notables in attendance were: National Policy Institute Chairman and white supremacist Richard Spencer, Former Imperial Wizard of the KKK David Duke, and a whole bunch of other hate-mongers whose names you probably wouldn’t recognize.  I won’t burden you with the names of these “leaders” and their organizations because it’s really not relevant.  Just know that there were a whole bunch of white folks there that had been harboring grudges – to put it mildly – against people of color, Jews, Muslims, et al, for a long time.  Many of them, for their entire life.

And….?

Well, I’ll spare you the ugly details of the conflicts and confrontations that ensued.  I’m sure you are well aware of them.  As I am sure you are well aware of the President’s seemingly absurd declaration that there were “very fine people on both sides.”  His statement was interpreted by many as being sympathetic to white supremacists.  Not just people of color, mind you, but pretty much everybody but his base was aghast at what came across as a callous attitude to some, and to still others, downright racist.  Is this guy completely out of touch with reality?

Well, Yes, and No

It’s complicated.  According to Robin Diangelo, author of White Fragility, amongst that maddening crowd there were indeed some very fine people.  That may be stretching it a bit.  Let’s say that there were some who were not inherently bad, and had the potential to be very fine people.  The sub-title of Diangelo’s book is: “Why it’s so hard for White People to talk about racism.”  Her epiphany is: White people, the whole lot of them, just cannot digest the fact that racism is not the sole property of bad people. Let that sink in.  Good people can be racist.  Let that sink in.

What We’ve Got Here…

Now that there is something to ponder.  Good people can be racist.  Kinda throws a monkey wrench into the game, doesn’t it?  According to Diangelo, racism has been woven into the very fabric of American life and the entire majority population is infected to some degree. She says that white people – not some white people, not most white people, but white people period – are convinced that all racists are bad people and therefore they are unwilling to internalize any serious debate about the subject, since to acknowledge any racist attributes would be to acknowledge that they are a bad person. That is simply not true, she says.  She contends that racism as we know it today is born out of cultural ignorance.  Contrary to current political and social rhetoric, Diangelo believes that rather than focusing on what we have in common, we should be focusing on our differences.

Is A Failure To Communicate

It actually makes perfect sense. Most conflicts between black and white people that are considered rooted in racism revolve around how one or the other “took it.” What appears to be an innocuous action or statement by a white person can be extremely offensive to a Black person. How I “take it” means everything. And how I “took it” is rooted in my experiences, both actual and vicarious.  According to Diangelo, the inability and/or unwillingness to recognize this is born of hundreds of years of racism that has invaded the very psyche of every white person in America.

All Is Not Lost

Yep. The good ones and the bad ones. Diangelo makes a compelling case that until white people can purge themselves of the conviction that all racists are bad people, no meaningful progress on race relations in America will be made. To avoid serious discussions about these “differences” is akin to avoiding the fact that your hair is on fire. I have deliberately avoided going into these differences because I want you to read the book. If you are white,
this book is a must read. That is, if you are really serious about racial reconciliation. If you are a person of color, I strongly suggest you give it a read as well. It will give you some insight into why your white friend or co-worker “reacted like that” when you “took it like that.” The good news, according to Diangelo, is that the barriers to racial reconciliation are not insurmountable, but two things will have to occur: White people must realize and accept the fact that all racists are not bad people, and we all must be willing to embrace our differences.  It can happen, but the question is: Are white people willing to put in the work?

P.S: Fields got life for killing Ms. Heyer and the jury recommended 419 years in prison for a series of other charges related to the incident.

 

0

Affordable Hybrid Cars: Coming To A Dealership Near You (A Look Back And Ahead)

It won’t be long before a charging station for your car will be just as common as a gas station. Hybrid cars are definitely the way of the future. There used to be some pretty good reasons for not liking hybrid cars: They were thought to be too slow, too small, not very attractive, and personally, I had a hard time seeing them as “real cars.” Well, they’ve come a long way. Oftentimes these days, the only way you can tell a hybrid car from a gasoline-powered vehicle is you can’t hear the hybrid vehicle running. Although many people think of hybrid cars as a relatively new invention, it might surprise you to know that hybrid cars have been around for nearly as long as gasoline-powered vehicles.

What Exactly Is A Hybrid Car?

Glad you asked. Simply put, a hybrid vehicle is one with two different power sources: gasoline and electricity. There are engines powered by other types of fuel (diesel, natural gas, etc.), but we’re going to stick with good old ‘tane (as in “pumped a lot of ‘tane down in New Orleans”)-powered vehicles. Hybrid vehicles come in a multiplicity of variations, but there are two basic types. I don’t want to overload you with TMI, but I think the differences are important enough to share with you. It could make a difference when choosing your hybrid vehicle:

  1. Parallel Hybrid: In this type of hybrid, the gasoline (or whatever) engine and the electric motor work together to power the vehicle. When the car is accelerating quickly or driving up a steep hill, the electric motor will kick in to boost the overall power of the vehicle and take some of the load off the engine. When you let off the gas or coast down the hill, the electric motor bows out and its all gasoline engine. This arrangement allow these cars to get better mileage in the city than they do on the highway. Over 50 mpg in the city is not unusual.
  2. Series Hybrid: The electric motor does all the work in the series hybrid.  The only thing the engine does is power the generator that charges the battery.  This means that the battery has to be considerably bigger than the battery in a parallel hybrid car, which means you’re going to have to reach a little deeper in your pocket for the series hybrid.

Some Hybrid History

Ferdinand Porsche’s 1901 ‘Semper Vivus,’ the world’s first hybrid automobile. Photos courtesy Porsche AG.

The Lohner-Porsche is considered to be the first hybrid car. It was developed by Jacob Lohner, a coach builder, and Ferdinand Porsche, an engineer and founder of the Porsche Car Company. It was introduced at the 1900 Paris Auto Show. Initially designed as an electric vehicle, it was converted to a hybrid because of issues with sustaining adequate battery capacity. In 1902, the Krieger Electric Car Company also in Paris, manufactured thousands of hybrid cars, but the assembly line at Ford Motor Company and the invention of the self-starting gasoline engine relegated the hybrid vehicles to the far corners of the industry.

The Long Road Back

For nearly fifty years hybrid cars were pretty much forgotten about. Gas prices were low, and the big family sedans ruled the day. But by 1966, pollution in America had gotten so bad that Congress insisted that the automobile industry take a look at alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles. So, scientists started tinkering with hybrid cars again.

The 1973 oil embargo proved to be a blessing in disguise for the resurgence of hybrid vehicles. As gas prices went through the roof, Uncle Sam became more involved in promoting the manufacture of hybrid vehicles. But the less-than-enthusiastic reception by car dealers and consumers alike continued throughout the ’80s. There were a couple of other milestones in the ’70s that facilitated the resurgence of the hybrid vehicle:

  • 1975 – the Energy Research and Development Administration started a program to encourage the development of hybrid tecnnology
  • 1976 – Congress enacted the Electric and Hybrid Vehile Research, Development, and Demonstration Act

Environmental concerns have forced hybrid cars back onto the front burner, but they still have a way to go to gain an appreciable share of the market. They got considerable help from the Clinton Administration in 1993.  The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles was created, and billions of dollars were invested in the development of hybrid vehicles. The investment has definitely paid off. Although the major U.S. car companies got into the hybrid vehicles market rather late, their share of the market is growing as fast as the grandkids.

Advantages of Hybrid Vehicles

Apart from the obvious environmental impact, there are some advantages to driving a hybrid car, including:

  • they run quieter and cleaner
  • exceptional gas mileage – up to 58mpg
  • tax breaks
  • higher resale value
  • excellent for city driving – better gas mileage in the city than on the highwa
  • emission tests may not be required

The Other Side of the Coin

The advantages of driving a hybrid car makes a pretty good case for its purchase. However, there are some drawbacks:

  • they can get pricey
  • increased maintenance costs – because of technology involved
  • less power than gasoline-powered vehicle
  • less responsive handling – designed for efficiency rather than performance

The disadvantages notwithstanding, it is hard to argue against owning a hybrid car. They are no longer the step-children of the auto industry.  In fact, it might be time to start thinking about getting one.  Hybrid car prices average four to five thousand dollars more than a comparable gasoline model, but they will save you about three thousand dollars a year on gas!  That’s something to think about.

Do Your Homework

In addition to the efficient hybrid cars produced by Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, and those guys, Mercedes Benz, Lexus, and BMW offer high-end luxury models. It is important to note that hybrid car dealers are not necessarily equipped to work on them. Before you purchase a vehicle, make sure the dealership has technicians who specialize in hybrid cars. As America steps up its efforts to “go green,” hybrid cars will continue to grow in sales and popularity, and they are a great way to make breathing just a little bit easier.

6

Senior Fitness Challenge: It’s Never Too Late To Start

If I told you that I know something that will make you look better, feel better, reduce your blood pressure, relieve your anxiety and add years to your life, to name but a few of the benefits, would you be interested? Of course you would, and I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. But therein lies the problem. Most of us know we need to get off our butts and start a regular exercise program, but we just sit and atrophy. Here’s another thing: Most of us know that exercise is very good for us, indeed, the key to a better life, but I don’t think we realize just how very good it is for us. Hey, we’re talking life and death.

Better Late Than Never

Donna is a work-out fanatic. I’m pretty sure she can kick my butt.

I am not exaggerating. According to Help Guide, a recent Swedish study has determined that physical activity is the number one contributor to adding extra years to your life – even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. Medical professionals agree across the board that as you grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health. More benefits of regular exercise are:

  • helps control joint swelling and pain associated with Arthritis
  • helps maintain and lose weight
  • gives you a greater sense of well-being
  • reduces the risk of dying of coronary heart disease

Another major benefit of regular exercise is it helps us to maintain the ability to live independently. This is a biggie. We all want to go out in style.

What Seems To Be The Holdup?

Sure, most of us know that we should be exercising, but according to a report by Mandy Oaklander in time magazine, despite the “remarkable health benefits of exercise,” more than half of Baby Boomers don’t do any at all. The reasons for this gross inactivity vary greatly, but some of the most common ones are:

  • poor body image
  • chronic illness
  • joint pain
  • procrastination
  • just plain lazy

The gym? Really?

What’s ironic is all three of these reasons not to exercise can be positively impacted by a regular exercise program. Conversely, not exercising can exacerbate these conditions. The most prominent cause of loss of strength and stamina in seniors is reduced physical activity. We don’t necessarily have to hit the gym 3 or 4 times a week, but it is imperative that we do something.

Nation’s Best Known Program For Seniors

Indeed, you don’t have to go to a gym to exercise, but it makes it a heck of a lot easier and a heck of a lot more fun. A great benefit of the gym environment is the social support we get from our peers. This can go a long way toward getting us to exercise when we just ain’t feeling it.

Depending on who you ask, the average gym membership for seniors can cost anywhere from $25 to $60. Planet Fitness offers a no-contract $10 a month membership, but it’s basically just meat and bread. You can only use it at the gym where you signed up; can’t bring a guest; can’t use the massage chairs; no free wifi, and you don’t get a T-shirt.

Call your insurance provider to see if they offer the Silver Sneakers Program.

What you can get, if you are eligible for Medicare, is a free gym membership in the Silver Sneakers Program. It was founded in 1912 by Mary Swanson, to improve the physical, mental and emotional health of older Americans. It is the best known senior exercise program in the country; and for good reason. The program subsidizes gym memberships for seniors at most of the major fitness centers in the country, including Planet Fitness.  As a member of the Silver Sneakers Program, seniors can get for free all the stuff they would not give you with the $10 membership.

In addition to the free gym memberships, the Silver Sneakers Program has some pretty attractive alternatives for members who want to work out at home or for whatever reason can’t get to a gym. These include:

  • Walking Kit – pedometer that also measures distance traveled and calories, Quick-Start Guide
  • Strength Kit – exercise resistance band w/over-the-door attachment, Quick-Start Guide
  • Stress Kit – Meditation For Beginners DVD, resistance flat band, Quick-Start Guide
  • online video library

Silver Sneakers also offers classes in dance, Tai Chi, and a Work-Out of the Week online.

Take Advantage Of a Good Thing

So, if the Silver Sneakers program offers us free access to all of these opportunities to improve the quality of our lives and gives us access to more than 16,000 state-of-the-art gyms all over the country, why are we not taking advantage of it? According to Steve Warner, of the United Health Care Medicare Advantage Product Team, “Over 90% of policyholders eligible for the program never step foot in a gym.” This, taken in conjunction with the other aforementioned dismal stats, means that between the two of us, probably neither one of us is hitting the gym.

But, hey, lots of seniors are “getting their work in.” A lot of them are health nuts, but many of them go for the fellowship. Studies show a direct relationship between physical exercise and social interaction: Exercising makes you feel good about yourself and the better you feel about yourself, the more you socially interact with other people. So, if you want a life, hit the gym.

Check Your Policy

The Silver Sneakers Program is not a part of Medicare. However, the program is offered by most of the major insurance companies that provide Medicare Advantage Programs, also known as Medicare Part C. Many seniors with the plans are not even aware that the program is part of their coverage. It is automatically included. You can’t add it or remove it. It is absolutely free. It does not add one cent to the cost of your policy. You can check your coverage at the Silver Sneakers website.

You’ll Thank Yourself Later

There really is no downside to participating in a regular exercise program. You can taylor a program to accommodate practically any physical restrictions. Plenty of ups, though: long life, more self-esteem, new friends, a real life.  Again, researchers say the important thing is that you begin exercising.  You are not too old.  That dog won’t hunt.  I’ll give you the rest of the day, but tomorrow, it’s up and at it.  Click on the book below for some easy, effective exercises to get started.


 
2

Direct To Consumer DNA Tests: Science Or Scam?

In a commercial for one of the companies that does home DNA tests, a young, obviously middle-class, Black man gushes over having discovered some pretty cool ancestors. “I wish I could go back 100 years and just talk with them,” he sighs wistfully. No, son, you don’t want to do that. The culture shock would be too much for you. But I do understand your sentiment.

This sentiment is the reason why in 2018, almost 30 million home DNA tests were sold; more than in all previous years combined. According to MIT Technology Review, that number is expected to reach 100 million in the next two years. Whether direct to consumer DNA tests are a science or scam depends on who you ask. While I have not found a reputable geneticist who would call the tests an outright scam, many express doubts about their validity and accuracy, and some call them outright dangerous. If you have not already, there’s a good chance that you will avail yourself of this service at some time in the reasonably near future. So, let’s look at both sides of the coin:

Pros

The skepticism of the geneticists notwithstanding, there are some benefits to the home DNA tests kits:

  • entertainment value
  • clues to ancestry
  • discovering unknown siblings
  • early warning about health issues

You have to admit, it’s a lot of fun to explore your past. Many people make it a family affair to fill out the branches on the family tree. Discovering that you are a relative of a historical figure can be pretty exciting. The discoveries made on this journey can also have a positive impact on your self-esteem. Wouldn’t you hold your head a little higher if you knew that Albert Einstein was an uncle on your mother’s side 10 times removed? No wonder you’re so smart!

And finding long lost relatives can be great, too!  I have yet to watch a reunion or first time meeting between siblings and not at least choke up. Usually I bawl. Direct to consumer home DNA test results have put extra plates on many a Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner table.

The last benefit in the above list is by far the most important. Until very recently, DTC home DNA tests were pretty much limited to tracing your roots. For the most part, they still are- with one major exception. Last year, 23andMe became the first home DNA test kit to receive FDA approval to “market genetic risk information for certain conditions.” In layman’s terms that means that the FDA has given 23andMe permission to perform tests that will tell you if you are at risk for 10 different diseases, including:

  • certain types of breast cancer
  • late-onset Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

To 23andMe’s credit, their focus has always been providing consumers with useful health-related information. CEO Anne Wojcicki says that the company is “determined to make inexpensive genetic information available without medical professionals getting in the way.” I understand what she’s saying, I’m just not crazy about the way she said it. Like any profession, the medical field has its issues. But to say that they “get in the way” of a company that does home DNA tests is, well, a bit much. The health information you can now get from 23andMe used to be available only from a doctor. It is a very good idea to get any results verified by one of the medical professionals that Ms. Wojcicki seems to hold in low regard.

Cons

On the other side of the coin, there are some significant drawbacks to direct to consumer home DNA tests. Apart from the obvious “You are not the father,” Professor Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University says: “Make sure you are prepared for surprises, whether it’s a correct one or an incorrect one.” Drawbacks to the tests include:

  • privacy issues
  • tests can impact people who never purchased a test
  • false positive rate can be as high as 40 percent

Yep. That’s right. Up to four out of every 10 of them is just flat out wrong. That’s pretty high. And of the 60 percent or so that are correct, geneticist Adam Rutherford doesn’t have much faith in them: “Humankind is closely related and DNA will tell you little about your culture, history and identity.”

But there’s a lot more to be concerned about here than whether Queen Elizabeth was your great-great-great- great aunt. Like do you really have breast cancer. Or are you really going to get Parkinson’s disease. False negatives can have serious consequences as well. A big one is giving you a false sense of security. Since the rest of the big boys are surely going to want to get a piece of 23andMe’s “testing for health markers” pie, We can only expect the problem to get worse.

Another potential hazard of these tests is finding out information that you really didn’t want to know. In their privacy 'You are who?!'statement, Ancestry.com, who bills themselves as “the world’s largest online family history resource,” says in their privacy statement: “Once discoveries are made, we can’t undo them.” You can’t unknow that your mother is actually your grandmother, and your sister is actually your mother. It happened. Viral Thread’s advice: “Play it safe and leave the past in the past.”

Buyer Beware

If you are thinking about unraveling your DNA, your first consideration should be: What do you want to get out of the test? The answer to this question will depend on if you are interested in genealogy and genetics or present and future health risks. According to Tufts University, there are about 40 “commercial” direct to consumer home DNA testing companies. Ancestry and 23andMe are consistently ranked at the top of the list. So far, 23andMe is the only one that has FDA permission to look for health problems. There are other companies out there that can provide this information, but they are run by the medical professionals that Wojcicki seems to have issues with. According to Consumer Advocates, the top five are:

  1. Ancestry DNA
  2. My Heritage
  3. 23andMe
  4. VitaGene
  5. Orig3n

This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best five, but they are certainly the most popular. It is difficult to find an objective rating of the companies, so although they are not completely objective, I’m going to follow Consumer Advocate’s lead. I guess the best one for you depends on what you want to get out of the test.  According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are some questions you should keep in mind when making your decision on which company to choose:

  • who own the DNA?
  • who gets to see the information (without your name attached)?
  • how is identifyable data used?
  • can you opt out of giving genetic information to research partners?
  • can you wipe the information after the test?

Lets Talk Prices

Direct to consumer home DNA test kits run pretty much the same. Most of them have a basic kit and a premium kit. The price range is $49.95 to $99.95 with a few exceptions here and there. The Health and Ancestry kit from 23andMe clocks in at $199. Most of the companies offer online deals from time to time. There are less popular companies that offer better deals and in this particular industry, you don’t necessarily “get what you pay for.” By that I mean just because it cost more, doesn’t mean it’s better.

Be “Verwy, Verwy Careful”

If I may elaborate on Professor Kimsky’s admonition; Be sure to prepare yourself for what you might find out. The news can be just as bad as it is good. Think about what you do want to find out and weigh it against the possibility of stumbling upon something that you don’t want to find out.

And let me reiterate: If you purchase a kit for health information, verify the results with a medical professional. Home DNA testing is by no means an exact science at this point. Even the tests for your roots should not be accepted without question. Family History Daily encourages us to do our homework: “While your results may certainly contain truths, accepting your ancestry report without additional interpretation will often lead you to confusion and inaccurate assumptions about your family’s history.” 

2

Retirement: Can You Live On Social Security Alone?

If I ask you to say the first thing that comes to your mind when I say “social security,” you will probably say “retirement.” Wrong answer. But, it is the first thing that comes to most of our minds. You see, many of us expect to be able to live on social security when our working days are over. Not necessarily. The fact is, Social Security was never meant to be relied upon as a primary source of income during retirement. It was created as a “safety net” for retirees and the disabled.

The truth is, when you retire, and we all will at some point, it will be very difficult to live on social security alone. But unless you can find ways to boost retirement income, you might just have to.  According to the National Public Pension Coalition, at one time 88 percent of the private sector working population had a pension. As of 2016, that number was down to 33 percent.

Today, Bureau of Labor Statistics figures indicate that of 135 million full and part-time workers, only 54 percent of them participate in a workplace retirement plan, and only 23 percent of them participate in a workplace pension plan. Because of the dramatic decline in workplace retirement and pension plans, for many, Social Security may be the only income they have upon retirement. And, for many, it probably won’t be enough.

Before Social Security

Huey Long, Louisiana Governor and U.S. Senator; organized “Share the Wealth” program in 1930

Prior to the Social Security Act, there were many attempts to address the needs of Americans who were either too old, or too infirm, to work. Who would, these days, probably be forced to live on Social Security alone. Huey Long, Governor of Louisiana, U.S. Senator, and radical populist, proposed what he called the “Share the Wealth” program in 1930. This program mandated that the Federal Government guarantee every family in the nation an annual income of $5000 so that they could have the necessities of life, including “a home, a job, a radio and an automobile.”

And then there was Francis E. Townsend, a doctor from Long Beach, California. In 1933, he found himself unemployed at age 66 with no savings and no way to financially support himself. As a result of this experience, he devised the “Townsend Old Age Revolving Pension Plan,” or “Townsend Plan” for short. It required that the government provide a pension of $200 a month to every citizen age 60 and over. There were only three requirements:

  • the person had to be retired
  • their past life is free from habitual criminality
  • the money had to be spent in the U.S. by the pensioner within 30 days of receipt

There were others: the “Ham and Eggs” movement proposed that the state of California issue a special currency to give every unemployed Californian over fifty $30 every Thursday; the Bigelow Plan in Ohio sought to guarantee every unemployed Ohio resident over sixty $50 a month ($80 if you were living with a spouse). Life after gainful employment was the common denominator for all the programs. Few contested the need for relief for retirees, the elderly, and the disabled, but how to accomplish this objective produced a plethora of suggested resolutions.

The pre-Social Security Act programs had two things in common:

  • most were state-level programs
  • none of them ever became law

Here Comes the Feds

In the “good ol’ days” family was all the social security we needed. Between the community and the church, the elderly and the disabled had their essential needs met. But as the country grew, and industry exploded, it became more and more difficult for communities to take care of their own. In his “Message of the President to Congress” in June 1934, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The complexities of great communities and of organized industry make less real these simple means of security.” Something had to be done.

That “something” turned out to be the Social Security Act, part of FDR’s New Deal, enacted August 14, 1935. According to Wikipedia, FDR never meant for retirees to live on Social Security alone. The Act was “an attempt to limit what was seen as dangers in modern American life, including old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of women and fatherless children.”

As lofty an ideal as that was, the initial Act had some serious problems. Workers in agricultural labor, domestic service, teachers, nurses and librarians were excluded from coverage. Since these were jobs held primarily by women and minorities, most of them were not eligible for Social Security benefits. While credible arguments can be made about this being – or not being – intentional, the fact remains that nearly two-thirds of all African Americans, and just over half of all women, were employed in jobs that did not meet program requirements.

That being said, the Social Security Act did have a wide range of programs designed to provide socioeconomic support to those at the bottom of the totem pole. In addition to retirement benefits, it included unemployment insurance, old-age assistance, aid to dependent children, and state grants for medical care. The program has been forced to evolve with the nation. It has been tweaked constantly to keep it relevant. Some notable changes over the years include:

  • 1939 – survivors’ benefits; increased benefit amount
  • 1954 – disability insurance
  • 1965 – Medicare
  • 1972 – automatic cost of living adjustment (COLA)
  • 1974 – Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • 1996 – no longer eligible for disability if drugs or alcohol a factor

Let’s Run the Numbers

Most economics pundits agree that to retire comfortably you need at least 1.5 million bucks in the bank or 10 to 12 times your current salary. The actual amount will depend on how healthy you are, where you live, how long you live, and how good you want to live. Carolyn O’Hara, AARP, says that we will need 100 percent of our pre-retirement income for at least 10 years after retirement and after that, our monthly retirement income should be at least 80 percent of our monthly pre-retirement income.

Obviously, this cannot be accomplished with Social Security alone. But for many, Social Security will indeed be their only source of retirement income. According to Investopedia, a leading source of financial content on the web, 21 percent of married couples and 43 percent of single individuals over 65 depend on Social Security for 90 percent of their nest egg. And that’s the good news.

The bad news is: due to changing demographics, the number of retiring baby-boomers, and the decrease in money paid into the system, Forbes predicts that by 2034 Social Security recipients will see their benefits cut by 25 percent. Consequently, it is no surprise that according to a new Gallup report, 46 percent of the people on the cusp of retirement say they will not have enough money.

What to Do, What to Do?

Although I may have painted a pretty gloomy picture so far, it’s really not as bad as it may seem. That’s because there are some things we can do to dramatically improve the situation. It’s all about being proactive. According to USA Today, the three best ways to increase the amount of money available at retirement is:

  • work longer
  • increase retirement plan contributions
  • monetize your hobbies

Working longer is the least attractive – yet most productive – of these options. If you retire at 66 instead of 62, your Social Security check will be 25 percent higher. If you wait until you’re 70, it will be 32 percent higher. However, for many, working longer is not an option.

Door number two is not an option for many, either. The Aspen Institute reports that 55 million American workers have no retirement plan contributions to increase. The third option has worlds of potential. Whatever you like to do, with good planning and hard work, you can make some money doing it. It will take time, and it will take money.

The best time to start working enjoying life after retirement is now. If you wait until you retire, you’ll have the time but you probably won’t have the money. If you have already retired, it’s not too late, but you’ve got to step your game up. A few hundred extra bucks a month can mean the difference between surviving and living.

What Not to Do

Don’t believe the hype! The internet is replete with offers to show you how to make millions from home in a week. Those that offer the most money in the least amount of time are to be avoided at all costs. And speaking of costs, hold on to your money. According to the BBB, legitimate employers do not require fees or investments as a condition of employment, while most work-at-home scams do.

Typical work-at-home scams include:

  • online surveys
  • envelope stuffing
  • medical billing
  • data entry

There are some legitimate work-at-home opportunities out there, but you must be diligent in your efforts to find them.

Take Matters Into Your Own Hands

In the final analysis, regardless of where you are on the road to retirement (including being already there), you have more control over the quality of your retirement than you may realize. Commit yourself to beefing up that nest egg. That Social Security check is only going to stretch so far.

0

Good Audio Books: Listening (As Well As Reading) Is Fundamental Too!

There’s nothing like holding a book in your hand. Even if you have no intentions of reading it! They make great props. Books just make you look smarter. For this reason alone, I do not expect books to meet the heart-breaking fate that befell vinyl records. Any significant literary work will always be available in book form. Having said all that, let me make a case for adding good audio books to your library:

First, a Little History…

For us “Babyboomers”, audiobooks are a relatively new medium. “Gen Xers” and “Millenials” grew up with them. Audiobooks grew out of several programs created to produce written material in a form that the blind and visually impaired could digest. The first such “book” was produced in America in 1934 on vinyl records that were limited to only 15 minutes of recorded material on each side. They were called “talking books.”

Things began to pick up for the upstart medium, slowly but surely. Poet and writer Dylan Thomas’s 1952 recording of poetry by Cademon Records is credited with launching the audiobook industry in the United States. By this time, the “talking books” were produced on vinyl LPs that could hold 45 minutes of material. This was an improvement, but not by much. The minimal recording time restricted material to mostly poetry and instructional material. Good audio books would require a prohibitive number of LPs.

By 1969, The medium of choice for “talking books” was tape. Cassette tapes to be exact. This held true until the ’80s, when CDs became the industry standard for recording pretty much everything. However, they still had the same problem that the LPs had, albeit to a lesser degree: recording space. It just took too many cassettes or CDs to produce an unabridged literary work. Consequently, “talking books” were limited primarily to an abridged version of the work, and instructional and educational material.

Hmm… this looks like a job for… technology! Enter the very first digital media player, circa 1997. It could hold up to two hours of material and sold for around $200. That lit the fuse. All printed material – abridged and unabridged – became fair game. “Talking books” (deemed “audiobooks” by the Audio Publishers Association in 1994) began to outstrip the print medium. Public awareness was greatly increased when audiobooks became available in 2003 on ITunes. Today’s smart phones and tablets can hold hundreds of hours of material and with an obscene number of good audiobook titles available these days, the industry is pulling in more than three billion dollars a year.

 

Audiobook Pros:

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Let’s say that like most people, you just don’t feel that listening to a book is actually “reading.” Well, it isn’t. However, listening does have some advantages over reading. One of the biggest ones is that you can multitask while you enjoy a good audio book. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) at how much you can get done while listening to Michael Wolff dissect the Trump administration in “Fire and Fury.”

Audiobooks also allow you to really use your imagination to put yourself “on location.” Sure you can do that with conventional books, but you can’t close your eyes. Other pros:

  • more durable than paper books
  • they can actually help you with speaking
  • a good narrator can really add to your enjoyment of the book
  • audio books cost less than hardbacks

Audiobook Cons:

Well, the biggest one is, it ain’t a book. And, as Alex Clark of “The Guardian” newspaper so eloquently puts it, we are “held hostage to someone else’s interpretation.” They are also dependent on technology. If you have trouble with your listening device, it’s a wrap. And, you must have a bank card! You can only order and download audiobooks on the internet. More potential tech issues. You can get books on CDs from the bookstore, but the internet is the sole distributor of audiobooks. Other cons:

  • you may not like the voice of the reader
  • they can discourage reading
  • mind tends to wander more than when reading

Are Audiobooks For You?

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Although some more than others, everybody can enjoy a good audio book at some point. After all, all of the best sellers are on audio books. There are a couple of demographics, however, that audiobooks are ideally suited for: chronic multitaskers and people really into DIY and self help.  Hey, I know a guy who built a house while listening to an audiobook on how to build a house!  Not really, but it could happen!  If you travel a lot, audiobooks make a great traveling companion. Obviously if you have vision problems, audiobooks are the way to go. Or if your eyes just get tired easily, go audio.  If you 

If you get distracted easily, you might have a problem sticking with an audiobook. Unlike a conventional book, you can’t just go back a couple of pages. Doing something else while you listen is not necessarily distracting. That’s the aforementioned multitasking. Getting distracted is when your mind goes to a different place and you realize several minutes later that you were supposed to be listening to a book.

Another pretty cool thing about audiobooks is that they are available immediately. You don’t have to go to the bookstore, or wait for it to come through the mail. Just click on the button, and “whoop! Dere it is!”

It Doesn’t Have to be One or the Other

There is indeed a place for audiobooks in everybody’s library. However, they will take some getting used to. I’ve been listening to audiobooks for several years now, but I still feel like I’m cheating on the book. As I mentioned before, I am not alone in my perceived infidelity. I have not talked to a single person who listens to audiobooks regularly who does not share this feeling. Not to worry, though, the future of books is pretty secure.

That’s because we all enjoy curling up by the fire with a good book. Few of us have ever done it, but we’re all “gonna do it one day,” and this collective

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“gonna do it” will keep books around for quite some time. Besides, whoever heard of an “audioworm”?

In the final analysis, audiobooks were never meant to compete with conventional books. They were initially created to serve a population that could not be reached with books. While that is still a critical audience, today convenience plays a big part in the decision to go audio. Die hard fans of books tend to view audiobooks as somehow inferior to their physical counterpart,

but it’s the same book, just a different medium.  So, granted us “Babyboomers” and “GenX”ers grew up being admonished that “reading is fundamental,” when it comes to good audio books, listening can be fundamental too!