June Savvy Senior Columns

Four new “Savvy Senior” columns have been added to our website for the month of June.

You can read them below, or you can click here to visit our complete “Savvy Senior” website.

Savvy Senior – June Columns

  1. How to Find Retiree Travel Perks
  2. How to Make a Living Will
  3. Cheap Cell Phone Plans for Seldom Calling Seniors
  4. Tips for Living with Low Vision

How to Find Retiree Travel Perks

Dear Savvy Senior,
What types of travel discounts are available to older travelers? I just retired and am interested in learning about travel deals for people over 60.
Ready To Go

Dear Ready,
There are literally thousands of different travel-related discounts available to retirees that usually start anywhere between the ages 50 and 65. These discounts – typically ranging between 5 and 25 percent off – can add up to save you hundreds of dollars on your next trip. Here’s how you can find them.

Ways to Save
The first thing to know is that most businesses don’t advertise them, but many give senior discounts just for the asking, so don’t be shy.

You also need to be aware that when it comes to senior travel bargains, the “senior discount,” if available, may not always be the best deal. Hotels, resorts, airlines and cruise lines, for example, offer advanced bookings along with special deals and promotions from time to time that may be a lower rate than what the senior discount is. Before you book, always ask about the lowest possible rate and the best deal available.

Another way retirees with flexible schedules can save is to be flexible when you travel. Last minute travel deals can offer huge savings, as well as traveling during off-season or off-peak times, and avoiding holidays.

Club memberships can also garner you a wide variety of travel bargains. AARP, for example has dozens of travel discounts available on hotels, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages – see AARPadvantages.com. Annual AARP membership fees are $16 or less if you join for multiple years.

Or, if you don’t agree with AARP, there are alternative organizations you can join like the Seniors Coalition or the American Seniors Association that offer discounts on hotels and rental cars.

Types of Discounts
Here’s an abbreviated rundown of some of the different travel discounts you can expect to find.

Transportation: For airline travel, Southwest has fully refundable senior fares to passengers 65 and older, and British Airways offers AARP members $65 off economy travel and $200 off business club travel. American, United and Delta also offer senior fares in certain markets but are extremely limited.

For traveling by train, Amtrak provides a 10 percent discount to travelers 65-plus, and a 10 percent discount to passengers over age 60 on cross-border services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.

Greyhound bus lines also offers a 5 percent discount to passengers 62 and older. And most car rental companies offer 10 to 25 percent discounts to customers who belong to membership organizations like AARP or AAA.

Hotels: Many U.S. hotels offer senior discounts (at varying ages) usually ranging between 5 and 15 percent off. For example, Marriott offers a 15 percent discount to travelers 62 and older at over 4,000 locations worldwide. And Wyndham hotel group offers 60-plus guests best available rate discounts.

Restaurants: Some restaurant chains offer senior discounts, ranging from free drinks, to senior menus, to discounts off your total order. National chains that offer these deals include Burger King, Chili’s, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin Donuts, Golden Corral, IHOP and Wendy’s. Offers can vary by location.

Cruses: Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise lines offer discount rates to cruisers 55 and over.

Entertainment and Attractions: Most movie theaters, museums, zoos, aquariums, public golf courses and even ski slopes provide reduced admission to seniors over 60 or 65. If you’re 62-plus, you’re also eligible for the “Senior Pass,” which provides a lifetime entry to 2,000 national parks and recreation sites. You can obtain this pass in person at one of the federal recreation sites for $80, or online for $90 at Store.usgs.gov/senior-pass.

To look for other travel discounts on the go, download the Sciddy app at Sciddy.com. This app lets you search for senior discounts and can send you alerts when you’re at an establishment that offers them.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.
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How to Make a Living Will

Dear Savvy Senior,
What’s the best way to go about making a living will? I recently retired and would like to start getting my affairs in order, just in case.
Approaching 70

Dear Approaching,
Preparing a living will now is a smart decision that gives you say in how you want to be treated at the end of your life. Here’s what you should know, along with some resources to help you create one.

Advance Directive
To adequately spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment you need two legal documents: A “living will” which tells your doctor what kind of care you want to receive if you become incapacitated, and a “health care power of attorney” (or health care proxy), which names a person you authorize to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to.

These two documents are known as an “advance directive,” and will only be utilized if you are too ill to make medical decisions yourself. You can also change or update it whenever you please.

Do-It-Yourself
It isn’t necessary to hire a lawyer to complete an advance directive. There are free or low-cost resources available today to help you write your advance directive, and it takes only a few minutes from start to finish.

One that’s completely free to use is Caring Connections, a resource created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. They provide state-specific advance directive forms with instructions on their website (CaringInfo.org) that you can download and print for free. Or you can call 800-658-8898 and they will mail them to you and answer any questions you may have.

Or, for only $5, an even better tool is the Five Wishes living will. Created by Aging with Dignity, a nonprofit advocacy organization, Five Wishes is a simple do-it-yourself document that covers all facets of an advance directive that will help you create a more detailed customized document. It is legally valid in 42 states and the District of Columbia. To learn more or to receive a copy, visit AgingWithDignity.org or call 888-594-7437.

Want Legal Help
If you would rather use a lawyer, look for one who specializes in estate planning and health care related matters. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA.org) and the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (NAEPC.org) websites have directories to help you find someone. Costs will vary depending on the state you reside in, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $200 and $500 to get one made.

Do Not Resuscitate
You should also consider including a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR) as part of your advance directive, since advanced directives do little to protect you from unwanted emergency care like CPR. Doctors and hospitals in all states accept them. To create a DNR, ask your doctor to fill out a state appropriate form and sign it.

Another tool you should know about that will compliment your advance directive is the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). Currently endorsed in 22 states with 24 more in some phase of development, a POLST translates your end-of-life wishes into medical orders to be honored by your doctors. To learn more or set one up, see POLST.org.

Tell Your Family
To insure your final wishes are followed, be sure you tell your family members, health care proxy and doctor so they all know what you want. You should also provide copies of your advanced directive to everyone involved to help prevent stress and arguments later.

For convenience, there are even resources – like DocuBank.com and MyDirectives.com – that will let you and your family members store your advanced directive online, so you can have immediate access to them when you need them.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.
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Cheap Cell Phone Plans for Seldom Calling Seniors

Dear Savvy Senior
What are the cheapest cell phone plans available to seniors today? I’m 78-years-old and want it primarily for emergency purposes.
Infrequent Caller

Dear Infrequent,
While unlimited high-speed data, video streaming and mobile hot spot are now standard for most cell phone plans today, there are still a number of low-cost wireless plans designed with seniors in mind.

These plans offer limited talk time and text, which is ideal for seniors who want to stay connected without spending much money each month. Here are some super cheap plans to consider.

Cheapest Plans
Prepaid plans are the best deal for seniors who only want a cell phone for emergency purposes or occasional calls. The very cheapest prepaid plan available today is T-Mobile’s Pay As You Go plan, which includes any combination of 30 minutes or 30 text messages for only $3 per month. After that, additional minutes and texts cost 10 cents each.

Phone prices start at $75, but if you have a compatible device, you can use it rather than buying a new one. You will, however, need to pay for a $10 SIM Starter Kit fee, whether you bring your own phone or buy a new one. Visit T-Mobile.com or call 844-361-2792 for more information.

Two other companies that offer low-cost prepaid deals are TracFone and AT&T.

TracFone (TracFone.com, 800-867-7183) has a 30 minute talk/text plan for $10 per month, or an even cheaper a 60 minute talk/text plan for $20 for three months, which averages out to only $6.66 per month.

And AT&T (ATT.com, 800-331-0500) has two low-cost prepaid plans including the 25 cent per minute call plan, and a $2 daily plan that charges only when you place or receive a call or send a text that day. The fees are deducted from the prepaid balance on your account. But to use AT&T Prepaid, you must prepay into your account either $10 per month, $25 for three months or $100 per year.

Best Emergency Phone
If you’re interested in a senior-friendly cell phone that provides top-notched emergency assistance, consider the Jitterbug Flip (GreatCall.com, 800-918-8543).

This is a nifty flip phone that has big buttons, enhanced sound, a simplified menu, and a 5Star urgent response button that connects you to a trained agent that will know your locations, and will be able to assist you whether you need emergency services, directions, roadside assistance or a locksmith, or to contact family. GreatCall’s service runs on Verizon’s network.

The Flip phone costs $100, with monthly service plans that start at $15 for 200 minutes. Or, you can get the 5Star service with 50 minutes of monthly talk time for $25.

Free Phones
If your income is low enough, another option you should check into is the federal Lifeline program, which provides free or low-cost cell phones and plans through numerous wireless providers.

To qualify, your annual household income must at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines – which is $16,389 for one person, or $22,221 for two. Or, you must be receiving Medicaid, food stamps/SNAP, SSI, public housing assistance, veterans pension or survivor’s pension benefit, or live on federally recognized Tribal lands.

To find out if you’re eligible, or to locate wireless companies in your area that participates in the program, visit LifelineSupport.org or call 800-234-9473.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.
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Tips for Living with Low Vision

Dear Savvy Senior,
What resources can you recommend to help seniors with vision loss? My husband, who’s 76, has macular degeneration that has progressed to the point that he can’t do a lot of his routine activities anymore, and has become very discouraged.
Looking for Help

Dear Looking,
Unfortunately, there are around 15 million Americans, like your husband, living with macular degeneration today. Over time, this progressive disease can rob people of their central vision, making everyday tasks like driving a car, reading the newspaper or watching television extremely challenging. Here are some resources that can help.

Low Vision Help
The best place to get help living and coping with macular degeneration is at a vision rehabilitation agency or clinic. Typically run by state or nonprofit organizations, or private eye care clinics, there are more than 1,500 of these services scattered across the country that help people who are living with all types of uncorrectable vision impairments. Most state and nonprofit vision rehabilitation services are free or low-cost, while private clinics typically charge a fee or may accept Medicare.

While vision rehabilitation does not restore lost sight, it does help people maximize their existing sight, or, if they have no vision, it can equip them with techniques and tools to help them maintain an independent lifestyle.

Services include counseling, along with training on how to perform daily living tasks with low vision, and how to use visual and adaptive devices and assistive technologies that can help improve quality of life.

They also offer guidance for adapting your home that will make it safer and easier for your husband to maneuver, and can help him locate low-vision support groups. Some agencies will even send their specialist out to work with him in the comfort of your own home.

To find a vision rehabilitation service in your area, call the American Foundation for the Blind referral line at 800-232-5463 or visit VisionAware.org/directory. Or, if you use a smartphone or tablet, download their VisionConnect app (see AFB.org/VisionConnect), which connects you to all types of low-vision resources in your area.

But if you don’t live near a vision rehabilitation service, you can also get help from an occupational therapist (OT), who can provide low vision training in your home. Medicare, if prescribed by your eye doctor or healthcare provider, covers this.

Online Help
Another convenient place to find help for your husband is online at VisionAware.org. This free website, created by the American Foundation for the Blind and the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation, is designed to help older adults who are losing their sight.

It provides information on eye conditions, along with dozens of practical tips and instructional videos on living with vision loss, including concepts for adapting your home to make it easier to navigate, techniques for traveling safely outside the home, and various tips on how to manage things like finances, medications, and other tasks like cooking, cleaning, grooming, reading, writing and more.

It also offers a comprehensive list of low vision products and technologies that can help your husband stay active and independent, including product reviews that are published in their online magazine called AccessWorld that you can access at AFB.org/aw.

Other Resources
Some other good resources that can help include: the Hadley Institute (Hadley.edu, 800-323-4238), which offers dozens of free online instructional videos to help the blind or visually impaired live independently. Ears for Eyes (EarsForEyes.info, 800-843-6816) that provides free audio lessons that teach low-vision adaptive daily living skills. And Living Well with Low Vision (LowVision.PreventBlindness.org, 800-331-2020), which offers up-to-date information and free materials for people living with sever vision impairment.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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