Tag Archives: aging in place

21 Inexpensive Ways to Have Fun With Your Golden Girls Housemates

21 Inexpensive Ways to Have Fun With Your

When you move into a Golden Girls home, you not only save money on housing, but can find great friends as well! But moving in with one or more strangers and getting to know new people can sometimes be difficult. Here are 21 ways to have fun with your housemates that won’t break the bank, but will turn new roommates into lifelong friends!

 

  1. Binge watch a favorite TV show. Don’t waste a perfectly good rainy day by watching TV alone. Grab your housemate and a bowl of popcorn and fire up your favorite old shows or the new ones you’ve been dying to watch.

 

  1. Schedule a morning walk. Make a habit of taking a morning walk together several times a week. Fitness is more fun and more likely to happen when you have a friend exercising with you.

 

  1. Enjoy a “Grandchildren Day.” Invite everyone’s grandkids over for fun. Arts and crafts? Barbecue and slip n’ slide? Embrace your inner child and come up with fun ideas for all the housemates to celebrate each other’s grandchildren.

 

  1. Have a picnic. Eating a meal outside just seems to make it special. Cart up the house’s dinner and take it to a nearby green space, or plan an outing together and grill at a favorite park.

 

  1. Join or start a team together. Whether it’s a bowling league, a golf team or a bocce ball league, playing a sport together is a great way to encourage a team spirit among your housemates on the field and at home.

 

  1. Stay-at-home spa day. Pull out the nail polish and facial masks and enjoy a spa day at home together. Soaking feet in warm water is a great way to break the ice for new roommates.

 

  1. Introduce a new housemate to your favorite place in town. Whether it’s a coffee shop, movie theater or local bookshop, take your housemate to a place you really enjoy in your community. Ask her to do the same. It will give you both insights into what makes the other person smile.

 

  1. Host a wine tasting. Have every housemate contribute an inexpensive bottle of wine. Try them in small sips and decide which one you like best. Wine.com is a great resource for finding short descriptions and ratings of wine. Have an alcohol-free home? Have a coffee tasting or sun tea tasting!

 

  1. Create a question bowl. Write open-ended questions on slips of paper and put them in a bowl in the middle of the breakfast table. Answering questions like “What was your favorite vacation?” and “Which superpower do you wish you had?” when you’re lounging around the table is a fun way to get to know your housemates.

 

  1. Cultural day. Take advantage of the museums or other arts opportunities in your area. Research before you go – most museums offer free tours that will give you and your housemates an even richer experience.

 

  1. Cook one meal a week together. Housemates can alternate who cooks the meal or everyone can chip in.

 

  1. Plant a garden. Have a green thumb? Work together with your housemates on a garden project! Or if a full vegetable garden isn’t your thing, clear a small patch together, grab a pack of mystery seeds and see what blooms. Friendship certainly will.

 

  1. Take a fitness class together. Check your local gym or senior center for a fitness class that you can take together. Area churches many times provide space for pay-as-you-go fitness classes such as Jazzercise and Zumba that do not require a long-term commitment.

 

  1. Create a birthday tradition. Celebrate the wonderful years your housemates have been on this planet by establishing a house birthday tradition. Keep it simple so that you’ll keep the tradition going; a cupcake and a favorite cup of coffee is a great way to let each other know you care.

 

  1. Book club. Hearing your housemate’s perspective of the book you’re reading is a wonderful way to get to know them. Alternate between the latest best seller and the classics.

 

  1. Plan a daytrip. Once a month, take turns planning a fun day out of town. That day spent on a hike, at an outlet mall or exploring the next town over will create inclusive, “Remember when…” memories for your group.

 

  1. Grocery shop together. Nothing makes the mundane task of grocery shopping more fun than strolling the aisles with a friend.

 

  1. Create a house music collection. Ask every housemate to go through their albums, tapes, CDs and iPods and select favorite songs. Then compile them to create a house music collection. A great way to start a morning or end an evening is with the gentle strains of everyone’s favorite music playing through the house.

 

  1. Play cards or a board game. A little healthy competition is a great way to get fired up with your housemates. Just remember to be nice! You still have to live together when the cards are put away.

 

  1. Dessert buffet. Indulge your sweet tooth and follow up dinner with a dessert buffet! Each housemate can cook or purchase their favorite dessert to contribute. Make it even more fun and invite other friends, too!

 

  1. Be spontaneous. You can’t always plan those moments when your housemate has a little more pep in her step and is ready for some fun. If she wants to chat or go for a walk or just get out of the house, go with it. The spontaneous fun you share with her now will build trust and affection for the future.

 

How else are you bonding with your housemates? We’d love to hear about your ideas! Share with us on Facebook!

3 Innovative Options that Make Aging in Place Possible

The old standard of retiring and shuffling off to a retirement community is being re-written by baby boomers who want to enjoy their homes, embrace their communities and age in place as long as they can. By renovating their homes, engaging in the “Village” model, and finding innovative solutions like the Golden Girls Network’s Home Companion program, it’s now possible for baby boomers to stay in their homes longer.

Only 7 percent of retirees have moved into a retirement community, according to a recent study, and 85 percent of retirees hope that when the time comes for long-term care, they can receive it at home. Why is aging in place more attractive to baby boomers than seeking the kinship and services of a retirement community?

  • Two-thirds of retirees say they are living in the best home of their lives. With work and family obligations no longer weighing on them, retirees have more freedom to choose the home and location that meets their wants instead of their needs.
  • Many retirees want to use their free time to re-connect with their communities and a majority of them (67 percent) want that community to be diverse in age rather than homogenous.
  • With family members living in different parts of the country, half of retirees are keeping their larger homes instead of downsizing to make it possible to welcome family back for vacations and holidays.

And to make staying in their homes more feasible, retirees are developing creative solutions.

Home remodeling – Home modifications for aging in place is the fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry, according to the National Association of Home Builders. 55+ households account for half of all home renovation spending. Many retirees are interested in making investments in technology – such as apps that control appliances, health sensors and cleaning robots – that make their homes safer and easier to maintain. The NAHB provides a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist designation to builders who have received education on the topic, and the AARP has a HomeFit Guide to guide homeowners through the process of making their home age-in-place ready.

The “Village” Model Neighbors Network – serving Winter Park, Maitland, Eatonville and other communities north of Orlando, Florida – is one example of the “Village” model, which involves coordinating volunteers to help with the inside-and-outside of the home tasks that might become difficult as a person ages. Minor home repairs, picking up and returning library books, and friendly visits are all benefits of becoming a member of Neighbors Network. They also provide access to paid professionals for services the Network can’t provide. The first “Village” – also known as virtual retirement community – was established in Boston in 2002, and the Village-to-Village Network helps to establish and manage models of it throughout the country.

Golden Girls Network – One of our goals at Golden Girls Network has always been helping people 50+ stay in their homes by matching them with like-minded housemates who can share expenses and provide companionship. Our Home Companion program will take our assistance to those who wish to age in place a step further. Managed by our soon-to-be-established Golden Girls Foundation, this program will match older Golden Girls with housemates who, in exchange for reduced rent, will handle household duties the homeowner is no longer able to handle on her own. This is not a replacement for a home health agency, but rather a great complement that allows women (or men!) to stay in their homes longer. We’re very excited about this new offering, and will release more details soon.

$58 Billion Unclaimed. Is Some of It Yours?

Today we welcome back guest contributor, Kay H. Bransford, who developed the award-winning MemoryBanc system to organize documents, accounts, and assets. You can read her previous article on how to downsize files and keep up with important documents here.

CNNMoney reported that $58 billion was sitting with state and federal treasurers. It is money lost in a move, a personal crisis, and death. It also includes life insurance, tax refunds, bank and retirement accounts that are forgotten or sit dormant after a death because loved ones didn’t know the assets or accounts existed. If you are planning or just moving into retirement, creating a roadmap to your documents, accounts, and assets is an excellent way to ensure you can easily find information when you need it, as well as prepare for a Plan B should a crisis emerge.

Our world is more complicated than it was just 20 years ago. One home phone number has turned into home and mobile phone accounts to manage; pensions now come in all forms of retirement plan options; and many companies and government agencies are pushing us online to manage medical reimbursements as well as account options. Because we haven’t yet adapted to manage all of this new information, the cost of disorganization to American families is now more than $58 billion and growing.

To see if some of the money sitting with state and federal treasurers is yours, visit MissingMoney.com. This site conglomerates the data from all 50 states. You can search by your name and it is a free service. You should search for yourself and loved ones—especially if you have lost a spouse or other close family member. My sister is the one that told me about this site. She found $2,500 of my dad’s that was sitting in Kansas. We moved from Kansas in 1969! If you find a possible match, you will be referred to the state site that will guide you through the process of validating your identity and claiming funds. We claimed my dad’s money and received the check in about 6 weeks.

If you use the site to search for loved ones, you have the option to email a notice if you have found some money that might be theirs. The site includes unclaimed bank accounts, safe deposit box contents; stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends; uncashed checks and wages; insurance policies, CD’s, trust funds; and utility deposits and escrow accounts.

Check out these additional sites to check for a variety of other unclaimed money pools:

  • To claim S. Treasury securities, look for the section marked “Individuals” and then find a link for “Treasury Hunt.”
  • Visit the FDIC website if you had an account in a failed financial institution.
  • A pension search is offered at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Look for the option under New Visitor? marked to “Looking for an Unclaimed Pension.”
  • To search for unclaimed 401(k) plans on The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. Look for a large button to “Perform a Free Search.”

Take the first step to see if you might be able to claim some of the $58 billion. Happy Hunting!

Kay H. Bransford developed the award-winning system to organize documents, accounts, and assets. Golden Girls Network members will receive a 20% discount using the coupon code “Golden” on any order placed at MemoryBanc.com.

10 Tips for Finding a Great Golden Girls Roommate

Ready to join the movement of mature adults sharing housing? You’ll enjoy an affordable living situation and have the opportunity to make friends for life.

But like all good things, finding a great roommate takes work! But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 10 tips to help make your path toward shared housing an easy one.

  1. Join Golden Girls Network! Even if you search and don’t see anyone in your area immediately, join! If you don’t, the next woman (or man) that visits the site won’t know that you’re out there either.
  2. Create a detailed profile. Take the time to tell others what makes you a great roommate. Remember the old adage, “you only have one chance to make a first impression.” Make yours as fabulous as you are!
  3. Search! And, connect. Be proactive. Don’t wait for others to contact you. Search the network for others that fit your criteria, write to them, and get the conversation going.
  4. Respond! If you receive a message from an interested roommate, give her the courtesy of a response even if you’re in the process of talking to someone else, have already found another roommate, or aren’t interested. Be sure to respond directly to the member contacting you and double check your message is going to her – not back to Golden Girls Network. You’d hope for the same to your inquiries! Plus, you never – even if the person that contacts you isn’t the right fit, she might know someone who is.
  5. Stay engaged. Check your spam. Sometimes inquiries from members end up in your spam folder. Check there! To help inquiries land in your inbox, add info@goldengirlsnetwork.com to your email contacts.
  6. Search again. Didn’t find your match on your first day on the network? Look again! New members are joining daily so there’s always someone new that might be the right fit.
  7. Be flexible. Perhaps there isn’t a Golden Girls home right in your neighborhood. But have you considered one town over? Or a condo instead of a single-family home? We’d never recommend compromising on your non-negotiable criteria, but for other factors, be open to options and alternatives – it will greatly increase the pool of available homes and roommates and you might find something terrific you hadn’t previously considered!
  8. Take your time. Living with a stranger is a big commitment. While some homeowners offer month-to-month leases, even a few weeks can feel like an eternity if the roommate match isn’t a good fit. Spend time interviewing one another up front. Look for any red flags that might make the potential roommate simply not the right fit. There’s a home for everyone so don’t feel bad if you’re not the right lid for someone’s pot.
  9. Update your profile. Once you’ve found your match, update your profile to indicate that you’re not actively looking. You don’t have to leave the network – we love having you! Plus, should you need to move (for whatever reason!) or need to find an additional roommate, your profile will already be there and ready to go.
  10. Bottom line – make it happen! We can’t stress it enough – take an active role in finding your next home or roommate. Registering alone is not enough. You need to search, respond, and engage. By taking a few extra minutes, you’ll set yourself on a path to a great shared housing experience.

If you’re having trouble, we’re here to help! Email us at info@goldengirlsnetwork.com or call us at 301-383-1482 and our fabulous customer service manager, Regina, will be glad to help.

How Seniors Can Avoid Five Popular Online Scams

Although only 36 percent of Americans who reported that they were victims of Internet scams in 2014 were over 50, 50 percent of the recorded losses were from our age group. Americans over 50 lost $339 million last year to online scammers, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Criminals who send fraudulent emails claiming they’re a business, a government official or even a love interest target those of us over 50 because they think we’re an easy target. They think we may have a nice nest egg built up, we may be newer to the technology, or that we’re reluctant to report the crime because we don’t want to appear foolish or unable to manage our own lives. The ICCC believes only 15 percent of victims report the crimes to law enforcement and only 10 percent report them to the ICCC.

If an online criminal has stolen your money or identity, report them. It’s the only way they will be stopped. The AARP Foundation’s ElderWatch program helps individuals fight scammers.

But before it gets to that, here are five of the most reported Internet scams of last year and how to avoid them:

Government Impersonation Email Scam

Scammers sending emails posing as government officials or entities – especially Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey – were able to gain personal information costing people over 50 $6,067,072 in 2014, with an average of $1,450 lost per complaint. Fifty-eight percent of the complaints came from those over 50.

Ways to avoid:

  • Remember: government agencies do not send unsolicited emails.
  • Don’t reply, open any attachments, or click on any links. They can contain malicious code that may infect your computer or mobile phone.
  • Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages asking for personal information.
  • Forward phishing emails to spam@uce.gov and to the organization impersonated in the email. IRS emails can be sent directly to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Delete the email.

The Intimidation/Extortion Scam

The intimidation/extortion scam involves repeated and harassing emails and calls notifying the victim that a loan is due and must be paid in full. The fraudster usually knows your personal information but will give little information about the loan. Victims are threatened with legal action, arrest and personal violence if they refuse to pay. While only 36 percent of last year’s complainants were over 50, 58 percent of the money extorted — $9,492,910 – came from this age group.

Ways to avoid:

  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals located outside the country.
  • Research individuals to ensure they are legitimate before doing any type of business with them.
  • Report harassing and threatening behavior to the authorities. 

The Romance Scam

The romance scam is a particularly nefarious scam where people are contacted through a website, chat room, or social network by someone looking for companionship or love. This is a slow-moving scam, where intimacy is built up over time until the victim is emotionally attached. Then the criminal presents a convincing scenario – such as a family tragedy or emergency – and asks for money. Of the $86 million (yes, you read that right!!) stolen last year, 70 percent of that came from people over 50 and 59 percent of that — $50,987,931 – came from women over 50.

Ways to avoid:

  • Limit the amount of personal information you reveal on social networking sites.
  • Look for the following red flags if contacted by a romantic stranger online. They could be a fraudster if:
    • They claim to be originally from the United States, but are currently overseas, or going overseas, for business or family matters.
    • They immediately want to get off the web site and onto Yahoo IM or MSN IM.
    • They claim the romance was destiny or fate, and you are meant to be together.
    • Their spelling is atrocious, and their grammar is not consistent with their stated culture.
    • They are not usually around on the weekends to IM.
    • They IM at unusual hours for your time zone.
    • To learn more about romance scams, you can check out RomanceScams.org

Real Estate Fraud

If you’re reading our blog on Golden Girls Network, we know you’re concerned about affordable housing options! Unfortunately there are nasty folks out there who are targeting those of us over 50 seeking affordable housing. Sixty four percent of the $12,598,388 in financial losses to this prevalent fraud last year were by the over 50 crowd. Scammers re-post legitimate housing ads far below rental market value. They typically try to rush the transaction, request that payment be sent by wire funds through a wire transfer service, and may even ask you to fill out credit applications.

Ways to avoid:

  • Be cautious of an individual or company who only accepts wire transfers, pre-paid cards, or cash.
  • Be on alert if they e-mail stating they have to leave the area quickly due to employment or volunteer work. Some claim they left the United States for missionary or contract work in another country.
  • Pay attention to the AARP Foundation ElderWatch’s simplest red flag: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Ignore the deals and stick with legitimate, affordable housing you find on GoldenGirlsNetwork.com

 

Auto Fraud 

The auto fraud scam varies but generally it involves a car posted on a legitimate website that is far under market value. The fraudster claims they must sell the car quickly and will not meet in person, will not allow an inspection and tries to rush the sell. To make the deal appear legitimate, the criminal instructs the victim to wire full or partial payment to a third-party agent and to fax the payment receipt to the seller as proof of payment. The fraudster keeps the money but does not deliver the vehicle. This is an equal opportunity crime: in 2014, every age group over 30 was equally affected, with 16,861 victims losing an average of $3,334 per person.

Ways to avoid:

  • Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable source. Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.
  • Obtain a physical address rather than simply a post office box and a telephone number, and call the seller to see if the telephone number is correct and working.
  • Consider not purchasing from sellers who won’t provide you with proper personal and auto information.

Escape the Vacation Rut with a Volunteer Vacation

“Volunteer” and “vacation” may seem like a contradiction of terms – why work on your relaxing holiday? But some travelers over 50 are trading sunning on beaches, standing in line at crowded tourist traps, and taking tours that make you feel like you’re looking at the culture from behind a window for more of an experience. Here are five ways volunteer vacations – also known as voluntourism – can provide boomers with more than photos (and a sun burn) at the end of the adventure.

1. Experience a people, a culture, and an area more richly.

It’s possible to see the Greek island of Crete, the rural countryside of China or the lions of Kenya from the comfort of a tour bus. But with GlobalVolunteers.org, you can fully immerse yourself in the Greek culture as you travel from the coast to a mountaintop school every day for two weeks to teach English to youth and adults with special needs. Volunteer vacations range from one week to months, and depending on how much time you want to spend and how you want to serve, can give you the opportunity to authentically know a people, an area or an effort. You can explore China’s Guangzhou City and its rural outskirts while you build a house for a family with Habitat for Humanity. Or you can track lions and their prey in Kenya with the Earthwatch Institute.

2. Try out new skills or a new industry to prep for a job change.

Thinking about a late career change or finding that doing nothing in retirement isn’t your cup of tea? Skills-based volunteering is a way to learn more about specific industries, gain experience working on different types of teams and gain exposure working in different organizations, according to Mark Horoszowski, co-founder of MovingWorlds.org. Moving Worlds connects people who want to volunteer their skills with social impact organizations around the world. Human resource experts can work in Mexico City for 2-6 months helping find staff for clinics for the blind, and grant writers can work up to two years in India helping to support a wood stove company that reduces toxic fumes and wood consumption.

3. Save money and still enjoy that dream destination.

Volunteer vacations aren’t inherently cheap – many organizations use a portion of what you pay for the trip to contribute to their efforts. Habitat for Humanity uses about half of your trip’s cost to pay for their building efforts. But it is possible to find trips that are inexpensive. MovingWorlds.org offers opportunities that cover the cost of accommodations and/or meals for a one-time $125 membership fee, saving international travelers about $1,500 a week. Globe Aware charges between $700-$1100 for its 1-2 week trips, which covers accommodations, meals, on-site travel, and program expenses. Their website provides info on how to pay your costs with scholarships and other fundraising efforts. Airfare is seldom covered by volunteer vacation opportunities, but FlyforGood.com offers discounted travel for volunteers involved in international humanitarian work.

4. Bond with your Golden Girls housemates.

What better way to connect with your Golden Girls housemates than to share a life-changing experience like volunteering abroad with them? Depending on how large your house is, you may be able to sign up for one of the group or family volunteer vacations offered by many organizations. Both GlobalVolunteers.org and GVIUSA.com put together opportunities for groups. Working together as a house allows you to jointly see the impact of your service, and pooling your efforts to fundraise can help the money-raising process feel less arduous.

5. Give back.

Rather than spending your vacation relaxing on a beach, volunteer vacations can give you the opportunity to affect causes you really care about. Opportunities abound (both nationally and internationally) working with varying groups with volunteer needs. Andrew Mersmann’s blog ChangebyDoing.com highlights the latest volunteer opportunities. This article from TransitionsAbroad.com highlights senior-friendly volunteer vacations. Still can’t find a volunteer vacation you’re interested in? Consider doing it yourself. Put together a trip to an area where you’d like to chip in and call a local service organization with an offer to lend a hand.

How Do I Choose A Roommate?

 

Last month, we discussed how to find Golden Girls housemates. Now, that you have emails pouring in from people eager to create a comfortable and interesting shared-living arrangement with you, how do you choose a lucky housemate?

Consider the Kind Of Living Arrangement You Want to Have

Each Golden Girls Home develops its own culture and style, and each member makes the house feel like home. But the style of the home is always unique.

Sometimes, a Golden Girls Home is adults comfortably living together and maintaining a certain independence: cooking and eating separately, holding informal house meetings, and keeping busy schedules with an occasional dinner together, a movie, or a birthday party.

In other situations, it is a group that desires a more family-like atmosphere, often called “co-housing.” These groups share kitchen duties and plan dinners together. They hold regular house meetings, make joint decisions, and plan shared activities.

It’s important for the members of the household to have a similar vision of culture and style, so consider the style of living arrangement you’d like to have when you begin interviewing roommates.

Connecting With Your Potential Housemate

  • If you like the way the person presents herself in the email application, reply with something like this: “I am looking for a woman between the ages of X to Y who is a non-smoker with no pets. Tell me a little more about yourself.” When she replies, ask for a phone number and set up a time to call her. (Don’t give your address yet!)
  • Get to know the applicant on the phone. Cover your basic issues such as smoking or pets and then see whether you two can communicate easily and whether you like her personality. Trust your intuition. If you don’t get a good vibe over the phone, politely tell her that you don’t think this is the right match. You do not have to give a reason.
  • If all goes well, invite her for a face-to-face interview in two to three days. (If you aren’t comfortable interviewing alone, ask a friend to interview with you.)
  • During the in-person interview, have a list of questions that will help you assess her personality and circumstances. Look for any cultural or lifestyle differences that you think might be difficult. Golden Girls Network encourages diversity, but sometimes very different people can’t live easily in the same house.

Traits to Consider During the Interview

Be honest with yourself about whether you think you could get along with the potential housemate’s personality. If she’s assertive and outgoing but you’re quiet and bookish, this probably isn’t a good match.

  • Age: People in different age groups may have different lifestyles. So, as a rule, we suggest looking for roommates within 10 to 20 years of your age.
  • Neatness: Most roommates are clean and tidy. But some clean obsessively while others embrace the philosophy “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Find someone whose neat meter is close to yours.
  • Deal Breakers: Be clear about your desires concerning smoking, pets, firearms and alcohol use in the home. These are deal breakers if the potential housemate has widely different views or needs.
  • Religion: If you have a strong affiliation with a particular religion, examine how important it is to you to have someone with a similar affiliation. You can’t discriminate in housing based on religious preferences, but you have a right to choose carefully when you are living in the same spaces.
  • Cultural Differences: Think about whether your customs may seem strange to others. In some cultures, it is common to speak loudly and to sound like you are arguing (when in fact, you aren’t!), and in other cultures, people have a quieter way of talking to each other. Would your cultural habits be difficult for someone from another culture?
  • Food Choices: Eating habits should be considered in some situations. What if you are not a meat eater, and someone cooks bacon every morning? Could you tolerate the smell and the occasional bacon grease?
  • Work: What if you have a housemate whose work requires that they leave early in the morning or come home late at night? If you are retired or not employed, you might look for someone who is in the same situation and who might become a companion or a best friend.
  • Social Preferences: Consider whether you’re a good match in terms of how much you both like to socialize. Do you invite people over to the house frequently, and would it be OK for a housemate to invite people over often? Some housemates may prefer a quiet house, while for others it may feel like a tomb.

Know yourself! This is your home and your living environment, so it’s okay to take your time looking for the perfect housemate. Next month, we’ll discuss how to put your housing agreement on paper.

Excerpt from “How to Start a Golden Girls Home” by Bonnie Moore. Click here for more info or your own copy.

 

 

How Baby Boomers Can Keep Their Money and Identities Safe Online

The Internet is an incredible tool, allowing us at Golden Girls Network to connect like-minded people over 50 so that they can create homes full of potential friends who share interests. And we love that the Internet allows us to keep in touch with Golden Girls through Facebook and email.

But not everyone’s intentions on the Internet are good. Hackers and online scammers target those of us over 50 because they expect us to be less computer savvy and more trusting. They want our money and our identities. With the following know-how, we’re going to prevent those abusing the Internet from getting them!

Lock Down Your Device

  • First and foremost, make sure your computer, your iPad, your phone, or any other device you’re using to connect to the Internet is secure. Install security and operating system updates, as well as antivirus software, anti-spyware and firewall software to prevent anyone from sneaking in and stealing your information.
  • Be careful about sending personal information over public Wi-Fi. Security can vary from system to system. In fact, if you travel a lot, consider purchasing a portable router to create your own hot spot so you can safely use your devices while you’re on the road.
  • Don’t open files, click on links, or download programs emailed by strangers. They can introduce spyware or a virus into your system.
  • Keep financial information on your laptop only when necessary, and, if you do, don’t use the automatic login feature that saves your user name and password. Foil thieves by making it difficult to login if your laptop is stolen.
  • Delete all personal information from your computer and mobile devices before you dispose of them. You can use a wipe utility program to clear your computer’s hard drive and remove the SIM card from your mobile device.

Protect Your Personal Information

  • Don’t use any passwords – like your birth date or your grandchildren’s names – that would be easy for someone to guess. Use a unique combination of numbers, upper- and lowercase letters, and symbols to create passwords and change them on a regular basis. Of course, remembering all those letters, numbers and symbols is never easy, but there are a variety of good password managers to make the job easier.
  • Look for the “lock” icon in the status bar of your Internet browser before you send personal or financial information online. (You’ll see it when you go to pay for anything on Golden Girls Network!) This icon lets you know that your information will be sent safely.
  • Never respond to an email asking for you to verify your password, account number or credit card number and do not click on the links in such an email. If it’s a company you actually do business with, or you’re unsure whether you do business with that company, call their customer service department using a phone number from either an account statement or from a web search.
  • Manage the privacy settings on your social networking sites so that only people you trust can have access to information about your day-to-day personal life. Bad guys can use this info to answer “challenge” questions about you, discover when you’re out of town or, even worse, discover when your roommates are away and you’re home alone. On more open social networking sites, be judicious about the personal info you share, and never post your full name, address, phone number or account numbers.
    • Your social security number is like gold to an identity thief, so protect it like the treasure it is. Never provide it in an email or on a social networking site. If a company requests it, ask why they need it, how it will be used, how will they protect it and what will happen if you don’t provide it. We never ask for it!

Next month, we’ll blog about online scams that target older Americans and how to fight them. Stay tuned!

Three Easy Steps To Downsize Your Files Before A Move

Today we welcome a guest contributor, Kay H. Bransford, who developed the award-winning MemoryBanc system to organize documents, accounts, and assets. We know keeping up with papers and legal documents can be a challenge! Thanks, Kay, for your perspective and insights!

Before you start buying boxes, consider how much weight and clutter you can eliminate if you just streamlined your personal documents before you pack. If you’re moving into a shared home with limited storage space, this can be especially important. Every year a list all the documents you should have and how long to keep them is published on USA.gov. Before you plan your move, we recommend you follow this 3 step process to clean out your files instead of moving and paying to move information you no longer need.

To downsize your files:

  • Collect 3 boxes and label them ACTIVE, DORMANT and SHRED

ACTIVE will hold all the documents, accounts, and financial records you use on a regular basis. DORMANT will be used to store important records you should keep but don’t use regularly like appliance manuals and tax filings. SHRED will contain all the items you want to dispose. While you might not need to shred all the documents, you will want to shred cancelled checks, pay stubs already reconciled with your W-2, and bank statements, unless they are used to support a tax filing.

  • Go through your file cabinets, old boxes or piles and put each document into one of the 3 boxes—adding boxes as needed to one of the three categories.
  • Organize your ACTIVE records, inventory your DORMANT documents, and shred the rest of the papers in the SHRED box.

When you arrive in your new home, you can unpack and file the ACTIVE box and store the DORMANT files in an out of the way but accessible location. You might be able to find a spot for your DORMANT files in a shared storage closet or the attic so they don’t take up space in your room – check with your homeowner to sort out what works best for both space and security of the files. You can easily repeat the 3-step process to clean up your records annually.

USA.gov offers an online resource How Long to Keep Your Documents. There are situations where you may want to keep documents longer than recommended. A scanner is the perfect tool to capture and minimize papers you or a loved one might need in the future. Some files to consider keeping or scanning that were not included on the USA.gov site include:

  • Bank statements. You might need to produce bank statements from more than the past year. If you apply for Medicaid (or are doing so for a loved one), you will be subject to a 5-year look back period that requires bank statements from the past 5 years.
  • Driver’s license. As the adult child who has been the caregiver for a parent, I was asked to provide a copy of my dad’s driver’s license to I could claim $2,500 of his money that was sitting in Kansas.
  • Land deeds and other records. There may be other instances where land deeds and financial records are requested outside the U.S. government recommendations. In addition to a driver’s license, I was asked to produce the land deed to the last address shown for my dad and that property was sold in 1969.

You need to determine what is right for you. But before that move, we do recommend you at least streamline what you are keeping and decide to move with you.

Kay H. Bransford developed the award-winning system to organize documents, accounts, and assets. Golden Girls Network members will receive a 20% discount using the coupon code “Golden” on any order placed at MemoryBanc.com.

Boomerly Offers a New Way to Make Friends After 50

Life after 50 is a time of transitions. With our family circumstances changing, we finally have the time and resources to focus on our own passions. We are free to experience life on our terms.

At the same time, despite the freedom that we feel in our 50s and 60s, many of us find it increasingly difficult to maintain the social connections that make life worthwhile. School plays and family BBQs are a thing of the past. Work events fade from our lives.

As time passes, we realize that making friends as an adult is different. We can no longer rely on work and family to keep us connected. We need to take control. We need to reach out and build the relationships that we deserve.

But, where can we start? How can we meet people who share our interests? Social networks are a great way to stay connected with people we already know, but, they don’t offer opportunities to meet new people. Dating sites can help us to make new connections, but, only if we are looking for romance. In-person events, like dance classes and yoga offer fantastic opportunities to meet people, but, they require us to step out of our comfort zone.

We need a new way to make friends. We need Boomerly.

Boomerly Helps People Over 50 to Build Meaningful Friendships

When we reach our 50s, we don’t want more people in our lives – we want to the right people in our lives. We don’t need more surface level contacts. We need deep connections with people who share our interests.

Boomerly is a new way for people over 50 to build meaningful friendships with like-minded people. It’s not a dating site or a social network. It’s an easy-to-use messaging platform that helps older adults to build relationships with people just like them.

The service was built from the ground-up to be safe, convenient and fun. For starters, unlike most social sites, Boomerly doesn’t ask you to type a single word to set up your profile. Just click a few buttons and your profile is set up automatically. This lets you get straight to the fun part – finding people who share your interests.

Best of all, Boomerly is free to use. Unlike dating sites, which limit how many people you can see without signing up for an expensive monthly plan, Boomerly lets you start talking right away – at no cost.

If you are interested in building new friendships with people who share your interests, give Boomerly a try. Your new friends are just a few clicks away!