Savvy Senior — June 2021 Columns

Savvy Senior – June Columns

  1. How to Downsize Your Home for a Move
  2. Helping Seniors Find Discounted High-Speed Internet Services
  3. Golf Gadgets That Can Help Older Golfers
  4. Coping with COVID Exacerbated Tinnitus

How to Downsize Your Home for a Move

Dear Savvy Senior,
What tips can you offer for downsizing? My husband and I would like to relocate from our house into a retirement community condo near our daughter but need to get rid of a lot of personal possessions before we can move.
Overwhelmed Willa

Dear Willa,
The process of weeding through a house full of stuff and parting with old possessions is difficult and overwhelming for most people. A good place to start is to see if your kids, grandkids or other family members would like any of your unused possessions. Whatever they don’t want, here are a few tips and services that may help you downsize.

Sell It
Selling your stuff is one way to get rid of your possessions and pad your pocketbook at the same time. Selling options may include consignment shops, a garage sale, estate sale and selling online.

Consignment shops are good for selling old clothing, household furnishings and decorative items – they typically get 30 to 40 percent of the sale price. A good old-fashion garage sale is another option, or for large-scale downsizing you could hire an estate sale company to come in and sell your items. See EstateSales.netand EstateSales.orgto locate options in your area. Some estate companies will even pick up your stuff and sell it at their own location – they typically take about 35 percent of the profits.

Selling online is also a great option and opens you up to a wider audience. The OfferUp app (OfferUp.com), Facebook Marketplace (Facebook.com/marketplace), Craigslist (Craigslist.org) and the CPlus for Craigslist app (Yanflex.com) are great options for selling locally, which can eliminate the packing and shipping costs and hassle. These websites and apps also don’t take a cut of your sales, but you’re responsible for connecting with your buyer and making the exchange of money and goods.

Donate It
If you itemize on your tax returns, donating your belongings to charitable organizations is another way to downsize and get a tax deduction. The Salvation Army (SAtruck.org, 800-728-7825) will actually come to your house and pick up a variety of household items, including furnishings and clothing. Goodwill (Goodwill.org) is another good option to donate to but they don’t offer pickup services.

If your deductions exceed $500, you’ll need to file Form 8283, “Noncash Charitable Contributions” (IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8283.pdf). You’ll also need a receipt from the organization for every batch of items you donate and will need to create an itemized list of the items donated. To calculate fair market value for your stuff, use the Salvation Army’s donation guide atSAtruck.org/home/donationvalueguide.

Toss It
If you have a lot of junk you want to get rid of, contact your municipal trash service to see if they provide bulk curbside pickup services. Or, depending on where you live, you could hire a company like 1-800-Got-Junk (1800gotjunk.com, 800-468-5865) or Junk-King (Junk-King.com, 888-888-5865) to come in and haul it off for a moderate fee.

Another disposal option is Bagster (TheBagster.com, 877-789-2247) by Waste Management. This is a dumpster bag that you purchase for around $30, fill it to a limit of 3,300 pounds and schedule a pickup, which costs anywhere between $100 and $300 depending on your area.

Get Help
If you want or need some help, consider hiring a senior move manager. These are professional organizers who help older adults and their families with the daunting process of downsizing and moving to a new residence. To locate one in your area, visit the National Association of Senior Move Managers at NASMM.orgor call 877-606-2766. You can also search at Caring Transitions (CaringTransitions.com), which is a large senior relocation and transition services franchise company that has more than 200 franchises nationwide.

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 NBCToday show and author of “The Savvy Senior”book.
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Helping Seniors Find Discounted High-Speed Internet Services

Dear Savvy Senior,
Do you know where I can find cheaper high-speed internet services for my home? I’m 70-years old and live strictly on my Social Security and would like to find something faster and less expensive than I currently have.
Surfing Susan

Dear Susan,
There are actually two new resources available today that can help you save money on your home internet services, but what’s available to you will depend on your income level and where you live. Here’s where to begin.

Internet Discounts
Depending on your financial situation, a good first step to reducing your home internet costs is through the new Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program. This is a temporary federal benefit that provides a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands.

Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10 to $50 toward the purchase price.

To qualify, you’ll need to show that your annual household income is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is $17,388 for one person or $23,517 for two. Or, if you’re receiving certain types of government benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), SSI, public housing assistance, veterans’ pension or survivors pension benefit, or live on federally recognized tribal lands.

Households that experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020 due to job loss or furlough can also qualify for the EBB program, as long as their household income for 2020 was at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.

To apply, go to GetEmergencyBroadband.orgwhere you can apply online or print out an application and mail it in.

If you’re already receiving assistance through the federal Lifeline benefit (see LifelineSupport.org), which is a $9.25 monthly subsidy for phone or internet costs, you automatically qualify for the EBB program, and you can receive both benefits at the same time. You can apply your EBB and your Lifeline benefit to the same or separate services.

Or, if your broadband provider already has its own low-income or COVID-19 relief program, you may be able to qualify through this program as well. Talk to your broadband provider for more information.

Low-Cost Internet
If you’re not eligible fr the EBB program, another resource for locating cheaper high-speed internet is Aging Connected, which has a higher income qualification.

Created by Older Adults Technology Services from AARP (OATS) and the Humana Foundation, Aging Connected is a nationwide campaign created to help lower-income seniors find low-cost, in-home broadband options in their area.

Partnering with telecommunications companies, nonprofits and public entities, Aging Connected will help you search for services in your area that provide high-speed internet at a very low cost. Most participating companies charge around $10 to $15 per month, with no contract and no equipment fee.

Aging Connected also provides referrals to affordable desktop and laptop computers for under $160.

To qualify, you’ll need to show that your annual household income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is $23,800 for one person or $32,200 for two. Or, if you’re receiving certain types of government benefits similar to the EBB program.

To search, go to AgingConnected.organd type in your ZIP code, name and email address, or you can call 877-745-1930.

Other Search Options
If you find that you’re not eligible for either of the previously listed resources, you may still be able to save on your internet by shopping and comparing. The best way to do this is at websites like InMyArea.comand BroadbandNow.com, both of which provide a list of internet providers in your area, along with pricing and download speeds.

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 NBCToday show and author of“The Savvy Senior”book
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Golf Gadgets That Can Help Older Golfers

Dear Savvy Senior,
Do you know of any golfing equipment that can help older golfers? My dad, who’s 76, loves to play golf, but arthritis in his hands has made griping the club challenging, and his fragile lower back makes stooping over to tee-up or retrieve the ball a problem too. Is there anything out there that can help?
Golfing Buddy

Dear Buddy,
There are actually a wide variety of adaptive golf equipment that can help older golfers who struggle with injuries, arthritis or loss of mobility. Here are several golfing products that may help with different needs.

Gripping Solutions
Gripping a golf club is a very common problem for seniors with hand arthritis or those who have hand or elbow injuries. To help alleviate this problem there are specially designed golf gloves and grips that can make a big difference.

Two of my favorite gloves are the Bionic Golf Gloves (BionicGloves.com) that have extra padding in the palm and finger joints to improve grip. And the Power Glove (PowerGlove.com) that has a small strap attached to the glove that loops around the club grip to secure it in your hand. These run between $20 and $30.

Another option is to get oversized grips installed on your dad’s clubs. These can make gripping the club easier and more comfortable and are also very good at absorbing shock. Oversized grips are usually either one-sixteenth-inch or one-eighth-inch larger in diameter than a standard grip, and cost around $10 per grip. You can find these grips and have them installed at your local golf store or pro shop.

Or, for a grip-and-glove combination fix, check out Quantum Grip (QuantumGrip.com), which incorporates Velcro material recessed in the golf club grip and a companion golf glove that has mating Velcro material in the palm. Cost: $25 per grip, and $40 a glove.

Upright Tools
For golfers with back, hip or knee problems, there are a number of different tools that can eliminate the repetitive bending and stooping that comes with playing golf. For example, for teeing up the ball without bending over, consider the Tee-Up Foldaway by Zero Bend Golf. This is a 34-inch long-handled tool that has a trigger-style handgrip and a jaw that holds the ball and tee for easy placement. It costs $70 at ZeroBendGolf.com.

For other stoop-proof tee-up solutions, see the Tee Pal Pro ($70, TeePalLLC.com) and Joe’s Original Backtee ($25, UprightGolf.com).

ZeroBendGolf.comand UprightGolf.comalso offer ball pickup tools and magnetic ball marker products that cost under $15.

Or, if you just want a great all-around golf picker-upper, consider the Graball GrabAll Jaw – sold through Amazon.comfor $10 for a package of two. It attaches to the handle end of your putter and chipper and is designed to pick up golf balls, flagsticks, putters and green side chippers.

Reflective Golf Balls
If diminished vision makes locating the ball challenging, Chromax golf balls (ChromaxGolf.com) can help. These are reflective colored golf balls that make them appear larger and brighter. Cost: $10 for a three-pack.

Easy Carts
There are also ergonomically designed golf carts that can help older golfers tote their clubs around the course. If you like to walk, CaddyTek (CaddyTek.com) and Clicgear (Clicgearusa.com) has a variety of three and four-wheeled push/pull carts that are highly rated for function and foldability. Costs typically range between $150 and $300.

Or, for severe mobility loss, the SoloRider specialized electric golf cart (SoloRider.com) provides the ability to play from a seated or standing-but-supported position. Retailing for $10,500, plus a $600 shipping fee, this cart is lightweight and precisely balanced so it can be driven on tee boxes and greens without causing any damage. Federal ADA laws require that all public golf courses allow 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 NBCToday show and author of“The Savvy Senior”book.
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Coping with COVID Exacerbated Tinnitus

Dear Savvy Senior,
I’ve had mild tinnitus – ringing in my ears – for years, but when I got COVID in January it got worse. Are there any treatments you know of or can recommend that can help?
Almost 60

Dear Almost 60,
Unfortunately, new research indicates that tinnitus, a common hearing problem that affects around 50 million Americans, may be worsened by COVID-19 or possibly even triggered by it. Here’s what you should know along with some tips and treatments that may help.

What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus (pronounced tin-NIGHT-us or TIN-a-tus) is the sensation of hearing a ringing, buzzing, roaring, hissing or whistling sound in one or both ears when no external sound is present.

The sounds, which can vary in pitch and loudness, are usually worse when background noise is low, so you may be more aware of it at night when you’re trying to fall asleep in a quiet room. For most people tinnitus is merely annoying, but for many others it can be extremely disturbing.

Tinnitus itself is not a disease, but rather a symptom of some other underlying health condition. The best way to find out what’s causing your tinnitus is to see an audiologist, or an otolaryngologist – a doctor who specializes in ear, nose and throat diseases (commonly called an ENT). The various things that can cause tinnitus are:

  • Hearing loss, which is the most common cause.
  • Middle ear obstructions usually caused by a build-up of earwax deep in the ear canal.
  • The side effects of many different prescription and nonprescription medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, certain blood pressure medicines and diuretics, some antidepressants, cancer medicines and antibiotics.
  • Various medical conditions such as high blood pressure, vascular disease, diabetes, allergies, thyroid problems, ear or sinus infections, Meniere’s disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, otosclerosis, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, a tumor, an injury to the head or neck, traumatic brain injury, depression, stress and more.

Treatments
While there’s no cure for tinnitus there are many ways to treat it depending on the cause. For example, if your tinnitus is caused by a wax build-up in your ears or a medical condition like high blood pressure or a thyroid problem, treating the problem may reduce or eliminate the noise. Or, if you think a medication you’re taking may be causing the problem, switching to a different drug, or lowering the dosage may provide some relief. Or if you have hearing loss, getting a hearing aid can help mask your tinnitus by improving your ability to hear actual sounds.

Another good treatment option for tinnitus that can help suppress or mask the sound so it’s less bothersome are “sound therapies.” These can be as simple as a fan or a white noise machine, listening to music or podcasts, or leaving the television on.

There are also apps created by hearing aid companies, like ReSound Relief (ReSound.com) or Relax by Starkey (Starkey.com), which allow you to stream customize sounds directly to your hearing aids, or (if you don’t use hearing aids) through Bluetooth audio devices like headphones or speakers to help you manage your symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychological counseling can also be helpful. Your audiologist or ENT can help you figure out the best treatment options.

There are also certain medications that may help. While currently there’s no FDA approved drugs specifically designed to treat tinnitus, some antianxiety drugs and antidepressants have been effective in relieving symptoms.

Other things you can do to help quiet the noise is to avoid things that can aggravate the problem like salt, artificial sweeteners, sugar, alcohol, tonic water, tobacco and caffeine. And protect yourself from loud noises by wearing earplugs.

For more information on tinnitus treatments, visit the American Tinnitus Association at ATA.org.

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 NBCToday show and author of“The Savvy Senior”book.

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