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A Life Half Full: Aging With Optimism

Published: March 1, 2019 by Humana

As Americans age, one element seems to be key for their mental and physical health: optimism. That’s the finding suggested by a new Humana survey, which asked Americans age 60 and over how they perceive the importance of various wellness traits.
Although the survey uncovered many perspectives, the findings about optimism suggest a possible link between a “glass half full” mentality and mental and physical health:
* Older Americans who rated themselves as very optimistic about aging tended to be the most active physically, socially and in their communities.
* They also reported a much lower number of physically unhealthy days per month on average: 2.84 for the most optimistic, compared to 12.55 physically unhealthy days for the least optimistic
* The most optimistic also felt on average 12 years younger than their actual age (those who are least optimistic felt on average 7 years older than their actual age).
The survey also asked respondents to rate how they feel about the depiction of people age 60 and over in pop culture: in film, television, commercials and so on. Overwhelmingly, the respondents perceived these media portrayals of their own demographic as inaccurate, rating the accuracy level as, on average, 5 or less on a 10-point scale. Those aging Americans who do feel that media accurately portrays them think about aging more than the average and have a higher level of fear about aging than their peers.
Humana also recently partnered with The University of Southern California (USC) to take a first-ever look into society’s views of aging in America through the lens of film. The USC studyreveals that characters aged 60 and over are underrepresented in film, and that those characters who do appear face demeaning or ageist references. Key findings from the study include:
* Just 11 percent of characters evaluated were aged 60 and over; U.S. Census data shows that 18.5 percent of the population is aged 60 and over.
* Out of 57 films that featured a leading or supporting senior character, 30 featured ageist comments — that’s more than half of the films. Quotes included characters being called “a relic,” “a frail old woman” and “a senile old man.”
* Only 29.1 percent of on-screen characters engaged with technology, whereas 84 percent of aging Americans report that they use the internet weekly.
Taken together, these findings feed into growing evidence that suggest that ageism is a social determinant of health and may negatively impact health outcomes for aging Americans. Societal views and negative media portrayals can cause aging Americans to feel invisible. These negative perceptions may dampen optimistic outlooks and impact physical and emotional health.
Humana wants to help aging Americans defy stereotypes, age with optimism and take steps to achieve their best health. To learn more about Humana’s commitment to healthy aging

Estate Planning: Your not doing anyone a favor by avoiding the subject

Published: March 1, 2019

 Do your kids realize just how much money you’re really worth once all your assets are added up?
If they’re anything like the adult offspring surveyed for Fidelity Investments’ “Family & Finance Study,” the answer is a resounding — and rather scary — “no.” In fact, seven out of 10 of them underestimated their parents’ estate by an average of $278,000.
That’s right, by more than a quarter of a million dollars.
The reason that’s scary — and why it should be a wake-up call for even those with modest estates they hope to pass on to heirs — is simple: It illustrates a breakdown in communications that Kevin Ruth, head of Fidelity’s wealth planning and personal trust, says badly needs addressing through ‘frank conversations” between parents and their adult children.
“Even in the simplest of family situations, conversations that don’t occur frequently and in detail can result in fairly substantial family disagreements and disconnects,” says Ruth. “Establishing an estate plan is your best bet to ensure your loved ones are taken care of in your absence and that your wishes are carried out the way you want.”
In fact, according to the study, the two generations apparently can’t even agree on whether they’ve already had such detailed talks.
Seventy percent of parents surveyed believe they have; more than 50 percent of their children claim they haven’t.
So what are the benefits of an estate plan? Well, among other things, it allows you to:
* Preserve and maintain control over the transfer of your assets.
* Protect your family’s privacy and possibly avoid probate.
* Provide immediate access to liquidity.
* Choose how your beneficiaries will receive assets.
* Designate who’ll execute your wishes even if you’re just incapacitated.
Plus, for those who despise the thought of the government getting any more money than legally required, having a sound estate plan in place could help your heirs avoid needlessly paying certain Federal estate taxes (not to mention state estate and inheritance taxes, depending on local laws).
Ah, but you’re stuck on that $278,000 figure, right?
Actually, given how complicated today’s lives often are — what with stepchildren’s interests to protect, say, and family businesses to pass on — most people, and not just the very wealthy, could do with some solid estate planning. Heck, even distributions from IRAs and Roth IRAs can be tricky if the aim is to “stretch” payments out to beneficiaries, tax-deferred or tax-free, for as long as decades.
Attorneys and tax advisors can help you set up an estate plan, and online resources like Fidelity’s Estate Planning Overview provide a good idea of what’s involved. Fidelity customers also have access to its new Estate Planner to more thoroughly prepare and educate themselves for a meeting, right down to details like organizing documents and choosing lawyers.
As for why parents and their children may be reluctant to discuss the subject, Ruth has an explanation: “It’s human nature to avoid thinking about one’s own mortality.”

Easing Senior Loneliness – It’s More Important Than We Think

Published: March 1, 2019

Social isolation is a little-thought-of, but growing, factor in the health and well-being of people 65 and older – and it may play a greater role than obesity as a public health hazard, according to research at Brigham Young University.But what does "social isolation" really mean? It’s how often we interact with others, and how much we enjoy those connections. In fact, social interaction is so important that it’s actually a key factor in maintaining good health.As we age, a support system is more important than ever – because often, basic life circumstances may have changed. For example, seniors may be on a fixed income, with less money to spend on eating out. Or may not see well enough to drive. Bottom line, it can become difficult to fulfill the basic human need to connect with others."Relationships really do matter when it comes to healthy aging, because there’s a strong correlation between a satisfying social life and a senior’s overall well-being," says Larry Weinstein M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Humana Behavioral Health. "If you’re feeling isolated, the first step is to talk your doctor, and it’s important to reach out to family and friends for encouragement and support. There also are lifestyle changes we can make to better nurture our emotional health, and by extension, our physical health."Humana’s Dr. Weinstein recommends five ways in which to become more active and engaged:1. Socialize on ScheduleNurture existing relationships by scheduling a weekly phone call, coffee date, or game night with friends or family.2. VolunteerIf you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. Or comforting babies at a hospital.3. Stay ActiveLocal senior and community centers offer health and wellness activities, exercise classes, walking clubs, and social programs, often at little to no cost.4. Learn Something NewJoin a book club or take a class to learn a new skill. Local libraries are a wonderful community resource, often offering seminars free of charge.5. Get a PetPets are wonderful companions. Choose a pet that suits your needs. For example, an older, trained dog is easier to care for than a puppy. Or a cat or fish might be a good fit.When it comes to maintaining good health, social interaction matters. If you – or a loved one – are struggling with social isolation, please contact your physician.And for more information on health and wellness, please visit 

A Cure for the Worst Tax Procrastination: Free Tax Extensions

Published: March 1, 2019

Now even chronic procrastinators have no excuse for giving the IRS more money than absolutely required.

Last year, more than 10 million taxpayers applied for a tax extension on filing their returns – thus, not only sparing themselves from having to fork over a monthly 5 percent penalty for missing the IRS’ dreaded deadline, but also potentially avoiding making costly mistakes in a mad dash to comply.

“Rushing can cause last-minute filers to forget necessary paperwork and miss out on claiming key tax credits and deductions,” says Elaine Smith, master tax advisor at H&R Block, the giant tax preparation firm.

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