cardboard boxes in a moving truck
Nov 8, 2019 |

6 Downsizing Myths

You know it. Your kids and friends now respond with the mantra, “This place is too big for just you.” You admit to yourself there are entire rooms in your home you’ve not even entered for more than a month. But your home houses a lifetime of treasures, memories, books, and papers. How can you possibly release them?  How can you downsize? 

I still chuckle when I read this 2016 Wall Street Journal article, “Lock the door: Your boomer parents have decided to downsize” and think you might enjoy reading it too. 

Sorting through your treasures overwhelms you. It seems impossible to find a place to start. And when you finally do, you discover you’re simply putting everything you touch right back to where it was. This experience fuels a sense of defeat.

I know. I’ve been there. It is a big job.

Let’s break through feeling paralyzed. When you do, you may discover a sense of relief, a lightened feeling, a new freedom. I did!

Let’s start by busting a half dozen myths about what to do with some of your treasures:

1.  My kids will want this!

Invite your children, nieces, and nephews to join you for the explicit reason of identifying items they want. Contain your shock when they disclose, they have absolutely no desire for their baby bed, their artwork displayed on the refrigerator when they were 8 years old or even the chair they sit in when they visit. Their home already is filled with their own furniture and stuff.

And, if there is something they may want, insist they take it with them that day…before they change their minds!

2.  It’s still good and must be worth something!

Then, sell it. Check-out digital outlets such as Marketplace on Facebook,, or Ask someone to teach you how to sell using these apps.

Better yet, invite your kids to handle these transactions and keep the proceeds.

Not everything will sell, but if you were willing to part with a treasure and no one wants to buy it, it still has a future destination: Donate it to a charitable organization with resale shops that help fund their operations including Goodwill, Salvation Army, Red Cross, and WINGS Program, Inc.

3.  Memories are embedded in so many treasures!

A baby bed or a favorite toy can instigate a tsunami of sweet memories. But they are just the stimulus.

To savor those memories, take photos of these special items. Download them or have them developed by a nearby store. Then, create a short story of your memories tied to these items and save them in an album. Perhaps make two: one for yourself and one for someone in your family. You’ve now shared a memory rather than stuff.

And, please remember to give away those items too!

4.  I’ll use it again someday!

Will you? Really?

Here is a good way to test that theory. Pack these items in boxes. Label it. Seal it tight. Add a label with an “open date” date six months away. If the next time you see the box is past the “open date,” do not open it. Just discard it.

5.  Documents are important!

Everything from tax returns, mortgage papers, and bank records to A+ term papers, Christmas cards, and letters seem too important to discard.

How do you keep history without taking up space? Try this. Scan these papers and save them electronically. Then, shred the paper to make lots of room. This way, you can share scanned files with family members so everyone can see those ugly Christmas sweaters!

6.  Books are too valuable to toss!

I love my hardbound books too! Share them. Used bookstores, school libraries, senior centers, public libraries, and even the Little Free Library boxes are a great way to share your love of books with others.

Before you start stacking, look for first editions and signed books that may have more value and can be sold to collectors. Set a goal and pace yourself by sorting through one bookshelf at a time. Keep the most precious. Share the rest.

If you’re ready to give downsizing a try, select a closet or room you seldom use and take things out of that space or room with a plan they will never return. Commit to finding a new home for each. Take a picture, if you want. Then, give it away, sell it or dispose of it. But never put it back.

Set a goal. Measure your progress. Without a destination, your journey will wander aimlessly. Set a date for completing a room or closet. Post that date on the door. Each day check your progress. Stay on task.

Celebrate your success when you reach your goal. Choosing ice cream helps clean out your freezer too!

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Key on fishing hook over keyboard
Oct 19, 2019 |
lessons learned

Avoid getting trapped in a phishing net

Phishing, one of the most common internet scams, occurs when someone you do not know sends an email using a familiar name or a fictitious email address, hoping to entice a response. The email looks like it is from a friend, but it is not.

Because  the email appears to be from someone you know, it is tempting to open it. In reality, your friend’s email has been hacked and the  links in what you receive, when activated with a click, can install malware on your device. Clicking on one of these links opens a door to your computer— allowing someone to spy on your online activities, to slow or lock down your computer, and/or to wreak havoc on your hard drive.

People from all walks of life can become victims of phishing but often older adults are targeted. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid becoming a “live one” on a phishing line.

To avoid a phishing attempt, look critically at incoming emails:

  1.  If you know the senders and have received previous emails from them, is the email address displayed on the ”from” line their real address? If not, do not reply.

  2.  Do you normally do business with the company that appears to be sending you the email? If not, do not respond by email.

  3. Does the email use incorrect spelling, grammar, punctuation or poor English? Check for these details and really obvious mistakes because many phishing attempts start overseas.

  4.  Does the message use several different fonts? This is a common practice in writing messages for phishing.

If you suspect a phishing attempt may be in your inbox:

  1.  Do NOT click any links in the body of the email.

  2.  If you know the person whose name is used in a suspicious email, call him or her to report what you received. That person may be unaware his or her email address has been hacked and will want to take action.

  3.  If it appears to be from a company you know but the email seems dubious, call and report this incident so the company can ameliorate a negative situation.

  4.  Delete these emails likely sent by scammers from your system.

  5.  Do not reach out to contact the sender of errant emails.

  6.  Share these tips with your friends and family so they know how to watch for phishing attempts and know how to avoid being “caught.”

If you believe you have been ‘caught’ by phishing:

We recommend you ask a consultant to help you evaluate your exposure and to install anti-virus software and anti-malware software on your computer. There also are many free anti-malware programs that can protect your computer, but, unless you are an expert, it is safer to get professional help.

  1.  Do not ignore the issue because doing so could allow perpetrators, through virus software, to access to your personal and financial information.

  2.  Change your passwords, particularly on accounts with sensitive financial information.

  3.  Consider changing your email address to a free Gmail account for your personal email.

  4.  Research malware vendors to learn which are better for filtering spam and emails from scammers.

Phishing schemes are common. Do not be embarrassed if you receive them. But do be savvy about how to handle them. Talk about them. All of us can help each other avoid threats like phishing.


Deborah Hart, the President and CEO of Montgomery Place,  a  community in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood for residents who are 62 and older, shares practical steps on how to protect yourself from online scammers.  

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glasses on medicare form
Oct 9, 2019 |

Medicare Changes and Its Effects on Healthcare Providers

Medicare has made significant changes starting in October 2019. As a benefit recipient, you may not see much difference, It is important, however, to know how some of these changes are affecting providers of healthcare services.

Medicare and Advantage programs have shifted away from 3-day qualifying hospital stays. This move can put at risk Part A coverage for skilled rehab services for elderly individuals. Many hospitals are sending patients directly home, sometimes with home health care, or into a Part B service network. Patients are generally expected to pay as much as 20 percent for co-insurance or deductibles.

Many hospitals are more frequently using the 72-hour observation window without adequately informing patients about the consequences of this practice. With observation status, you may be in a hospital’s building, but you might not have ever been admitted. This practice does not meet the 3-day hospitalization-stay to qualify for Medicare coverage in rehab or skilled nursing care center.

The new Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM) will change how skilled rehab centers deliver services. The PDPM concept—reimburse centers for treating more medically complex patients instead of reimbursing for minutes in rehab—is great. The harsh reality? Decreased payments to providers of rehab services. This fact may lead to rehab centers increasing their rates.

While measuring outcomes for the whole person is good. How quickly you must achieve those outcomes in rehab may accelerate.

Providers, again are caught in the middle by Medicare design changes, are

  • Expected to do more with less compensation

  • Achieve better outcomes

Of course, Medicare knows providers will adapt and adjust their services to accommodate this new payment model. So in the end, smaller payments will likely mean reduced services.

These changes will not happen overnight. Although you may never experience their impact, you can expect a different experience since, for instance, you had your knee replaced last year. And, now when you’re ready for surgery on your other knee you may notice several changes in your rehab regime.

Medicare Advantage programs generally have not yet adopted PDPM. They are waiting for the pioneers to navigate new territory before evaluating how to incorporate these same savings into their programs.

Just remember, savings for third-party payors is the holy grail!

No matter the circumstances, Medicare aims to reduce its overall spending on healthcare costs. It must be because the continuing escalation of costs is untenable and must be addressed.

Medicare has changed payment design models before and will do so again in the future. Let’s be thankful that nearly all healthcare systems in the USA are still focused on quality patient care and outcomes. We will find a way to absorb these compensation changes and sustain our commitment to quality healthcare.

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two people lonely in circles
Aug 12, 2019 |

The Impact of Loneliness & Isolation

Impact of loneliness on our brain and body

Strong social connections are fundamental to physical and mental well-being… negative health consequences of chronic isolation and loneliness, while harmful at any age, are especially so for older adults. According to a 2015 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, the health effects of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

AARP December 17, 2016

Wow! There is a difference between being alone by choice and experiencing chronic loneliness. With no sense of connection, a person can be lonely even in a crowded room. On the other hand, a person can feel quite content being alone with herself or himself.

Do you wonder if individuals who isolate themselves do so because they truly want to be alone? Or do they actually feel disconnected?

Living at Montgomery Place can bring you closer to others who share common interests, economic and social status, and goals of living healthy. But simply residing here is not a tonic for loneliness. For some, initiating conversations can be challenging, especially if a person suffers from the anxiety of loneliness.

One study on interventions for loneliness found increased opportunities for social interactions had a positive impact on someone feeling lonely. While social opportunities here are plentiful, they still require effort.

So, if you find yourself feeling isolated, step out and join one of the many groups, meetings or social events at Montgomery Place. Keep trying!

And, if you notice someone, who typically doesn’t attend a gathering, extend a warm welcome. Invite them into the conversation. I joyfully witness residents doing just that every single day.

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