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Health Practicalities of Living

Forest Bathing – Why You Need to do This

June 17, 2019
forest bathing

I have never been a very athletic person. My favorite P.E. classes were folk dancing and badminton. I once almost brained my P.E. teacher with a golf club that I lost a grip on.

My brother and sister, on the other hand, have always been very physically active. The only small place where our lives may have a chance to connect in this area is the art of hiking, a special love of my sister’s. I have to say that the one hike that I went on with her I also enjoyed a lot, so there is hope for change there.

The biggest challenge I face right now is how to hike with a walker. My goal after my next surgery to fix the aneurysm in my brain is to ditch the walker and learn to hike. In case you are unable to ditch the walker, check out these action track chairs! and terrain hoppers

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Which is why the concept of forest bathing is so compelling to me. Why do I want to shower in the woods? Well, that is not quite what forest bathing is.

Wikipedia refers to it as this: “Nature therapy, sometimes referred to as ecotherapy, describes a broad group of techniques or treatments with the intention of improving an individual’s mental or physical health, specifically with an individual’s presence within nature or outdoor surroundings. One example of a nature therapy is forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, a practice that combines a range of exercises and tasks in an outdoor environment. Garden therapy, horticultural therapy, Kneipp therapy or even ocean therapy may also be viewed as forms of nature therapy. “

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

WebMD has this to say, “Critics often scoff that research about the practice is lacking, but there is growing scientific evidence that getting outside in a natural setting is good for mind-body health. And this back-to-nature movement isn’t confined to forest therapy. Some medical doctors have trained to become forest therapy guides. Other health care providers are connecting their patients to nature in other ways. An Ohio cardiologist, frustrated that he couldn’t convince his patients to exercise, founded Walk with a Doc in 2005, which now has 500 chapters. A Washington, D.C., pediatrician writes prescriptions for his patients to go to the park — as do the more than 300 doctors and other health care providers who have signed on to his Park Rx America program.”

Forest Bathing
Photo by Marc Pell on Unsplash

Here are some benefits to forest bathing: it reduces your stress, improves your mood, frees up your creativity, boosts your immune system, reduces your high blood pressure and accelerates your recovery from illness. Sounds like an all around win-win to me!

If you would like to read more about it, you can check out this Kindle book on Amazon: (yes, I do get a small fee if you buy it from this link!)

I hope this motivates you to get out and do a little forest bathing one way or another in the woods, at the beach or in your garden and don’t forget to TURN YOUR PHONE OFF!

Practicalities of Living

Veterans, Charity and Innovation

November 6, 2018
Panther Button Lamp Charity

This is what I love about having a site that allows me to write about interesting things that I find. I was searching press releases for another site I have and I ran across this one from Panther Vision:

Panther Vision and Innovation

LED lighting innovator, Panther Vision, is providing its unique, versatile lighting solutions to assist in disaster relief efforts. Panther Vision believes in supporting both communities in need as well that those who’ve served; that’s why they’re partnering with Team Rubicon. As such, the company will donate a portion of Button Lamps purchases up to $10,000 to Team Rubicon over the next three months. (Note that this is for Button Lamp purchases only.)

“Everyone should be able to enjoy the safety of well-lit spaces… even after a disaster,” said Panther Vision Founder and Chief Inventor Michael Waters. “That’s why I made the Button Lamp, a LED light that could be used literally anywhere.”

Veterans and Team Rubicon

Members of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron and Team Rubicon work together to set up a tent, Sunday, July 15, 2018, during the PATRIOT North 18 Exercise, at Volk Field Air National Guard Base, Wis. The tent was used as a dining facility during the exercise. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tamara R. Dabney)

Members of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron and Team Rubicon work together to set up a tent, Sunday, July 15, 2018, during the PATRIOT North 18 Exercise, at Volk Field Air National Guard Base, Wis. The tent was used as a dining facility during the exercise. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Tamara R. Dabney)

Panther Vision supports Team Rubicon’s mission of restoring communities building by building, room by room. That belief is at the core of its creation, the Button Lamp. The Button Lamp is an adhesive LED lamp about the size of a quarter yet boasts a light output of 13 Lumens. It is a versatile, wireless lighting solution for both indoor and outdoor use, making it the perfect lighting tool to use during disaster relief efforts.

As of October, 2018, Panther Vision has donated over $17,000 worth of products to members of Team Rubicon. Panther Vision would like to build on this support by raising donations at a grassroots level.

If you would like to donate $1 of your Button Lamps purchase to Team Rubicon, visit and use the TEAMRUBICON promo code at checkout.

About Panther Vision

Panther Vision is an Illinois based company that designs, manufactures and distributes advanced engineered LED lighting solutions. Our more than 25 patented designs offer consumers unparalleled performance and provide them uncommon solutions to common everyday problems. Panther Vision products are sold all over the world but can be found in the U.S. in selected Home Depots, Lowes, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Gander Outdoors stores.

About Team Rubicon

Director’s Cut – “Meet Team Rubicon” / The American Veteran from Mel Soria on Vimeo.

I went to Panther Vision’s website to see what they had going on and was impressed with their products. Then I decided to Google Team Rubicon since I didn’t know who they were. I was even more impressed. According to Wikipedia “Team Rubicon is an International non-government organization founded by U.S. Marines William McNulty and Jacob “Jake” Wood. Team Rubicon identifies itself as a veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help reintegrate veterans back into civilian life.” Now I was really interested.

There is so much negative news everywhere that it is nice to run across people who are doing things that are positive and innovative. We should celebrate these things all the time! Check out both companies and see if you are as impressed as I am.

Life Practicalities of Living

So You Won The Lotto. Now What?

October 9, 2018
Driving and Lotto Dreaming

Yesterday I was driving home from one of my chillax trips to Ventura and letting my thoughts tumble all over the place in my head. I started thinking about what I would do if I won the Lotto, which would be a total miracle since I don’t even but the tickets. I realized that I didn’t have even the haziest idea of what I would do if money were no object. That worried me because it seemed to me that showed a lamentable lack of imagination! How could I focus on getting what I want if I don’t know what that is?

Can you see why I don’t spend a lot of time driving? A loosed brain is a scary brain! Just kidding. I actually love my driving time between here and Ventura because I do think of wild things that I don’t have time to think of while I am working.

Hitting the Lotto Target


The Wonders of Creative Lotto Thinking

Back to the topic. Do you know what you would do if you won the lotto? Besides buy a bunch of toys? When you think about winning does it make you happy? I know these sound like silly questions especially when you don’t buy a lotto ticket but to me, they went to the heart of what I want to do with my life in the next 25 years. If I can’t see the target clearly how do I get what I want?

Creative Lotto Thinking

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I really believe that clearly defining what you want can enable you to plan how to get there, whether you win the lotto or not. This is a technique that I have used in my own life many times. It helps me focus, plan and then nimbly side-step all of the above if something else terrific opens up along the way.

Perfect Lotto Home


What Do You Dream Of?

The good news for me on my drive home was that what I am doing on the work front still made sense and made me happy even with the lotto win. The bad news is the personal stuff was a lot murkier. First instinct, buy a house. But where and do I want to live alone or drag my roommate along with me? Do I move closer to my family? But they are in flux as well. Where DO I want to live? What does that look like? Big house, small house? Beach, forest or city? Maybe a Hobbit House would be the perfect place. Ha! I just realized that I need more than one place to live and I can do that since I WON the lotto 🙂

Lotto Journey

Photo by Miss Zhang on Unsplash

Who Do You Dream Of?

Who will be with you on your Lotto journey through life? Do you have friends around you? Family? A travel companion? A lover, husband, significant other? And if you have a limited number of the above what do you do to expand that?

Tasting Life

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

What Does Your Life Taste Like?

What do you do every day in your new life? Do you travel? Remember you are free to do whatever you want now. What is that? What is the flavor to your days? Do you work? Do you lay on the beach and get burned, oops I mean tanned?

Lotto Living

Photo by Bruno Wolff on Unsplash

Completely Crazed (Thanks Lotto!)

Have I made you completely crazy yet? Welcome to my brain on drive! But there is a method to my madness. I really believe that life can open up wonderful adventures for us if we take the time to look for them. If we find some idea that is wild and wacky that makes us smile and sigh, we can have those things, even without winning the lotto. Dream, taste, feel the things you want and then look for them by putting one foot in front of the other!

Health Life Practicalities of Living

Are You Age Caged?

October 2, 2018
Bird in a cage. Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Sometimes we put birds and animals in cages for their own safety. Have you been doing the same thing to yourself?

Life & Death

I was talking to a neighbor of mine the other day. She is a fun-loving lady in her 70’s who has had three boyfriends since I moved here. She loved to go out with them and dance and socialize.

She also loves to drive and would get in the car with them and drive them all over the place, to Northern California, Idaho, Palm Springs, whatever place took their fancy.

She had a great time with each of them, the only problem is that they were all in their late 80s and 90s and they all died on her.

After the last gentleman passed away, I noticed that she was kind of depressed and not going out as she used to, so I asked her when she was going to find another boyfriend.

She was emphatic when she said, “Never!” Now, I’m not stupid and I understand that she liked these men and was sad when they died, but I told her the problem is that she is caging herself in to save herself from suffering and in the meantime, she is still not a happy camper. I have watched while she not only suffers but her health has declined as well.

Safe cage or prison?

Photo by Jose Fontano on Unsplash

Engagement or Safety

My question is, don’t you think it’s better to keep engaging and having fun where you can instead of dying slowly and carefully alone and “safe” in your apartment?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a horrible example of someone who is emotionally connected. I enjoy my own company a lot and I work like a demon for not much money. So I am not a social butterfly or even a social caterpillar.

All excuses I know, since living life to the fullest requires effort and extension. And I am tired and without patience.

However, I am also older and I feel the cage closing in on me. Things I used to be fearless about now cause me anxiety and I know if I don’t challenge those things it will only get worse.

Age Caged on the beach

Photo by James & Carol Lee on Unsplash

Challenging the Cage

How do we go about challenging the cage? I think it is different for everyone. But you can start by picking one thing that you are afraid of and then DO IT!  Or do something that is a baby step up to doing it. If you can’t set up an online dating profile maybe you can start by looking a man or woman in the eye and saying, “Hello!”

If you can’t drive on the freeway in rush hour traffic, go somewhere where the freeways are less crowded and try it there.

Or if you really want to go balls to the walls do what this lady did:  Jane Stern wrote this book, Ambulance Girl: How I Saved Myself by Becoming an EMT to share how becoming a volunteer EMT saved her from  being “virtually immobilized by fear and anxiety.” I have not read the book yet since I just purchased it yesterday and from the book blurb I think this option is not for everyone, but I expect to learn some good things from the reading it!

Out of the cage, free as a bird.

Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash

The Bottom Line

This is probably what I should have named my blog! But the bottom line is that there really is a large, exciting world out there and all of us, myself included, need to make the effort to join in, to be part of something that makes us smile, touches our heart or just gets our pulses racing. Use it or lose it, folks!

Life Practicalities of Living

New Motherhood at Any Age

September 26, 2018
Relaxed Baby

I bet you didn’t think you were going to find an article about new motherhood on an indulgent aging site, but how could I not write about this after reading about Brigette Nielsen becoming a mom at 54 after ten years of trying?

Brigette Nielson and Mattia Dessi

Brigette Nielson and Mattia Dessi

First of all, she looks fabulous and her husband is fifteen years younger than her. She’s my hero! Secondly, where did she get the patience for motherhood at 54? Now granted, she has money (and that younger husband) which means she can afford help if he is not so inclined. She is obviously in great shape but I still think it takes a special kind of person to want to have a baby at this age.

Motherhood and Dadhood

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

Desire and Relevance

Does that mean that you shouldn’t do it if you don’t have the advantages that she has? I don’t know. I do know that desire doesn’t end at 50 or 80, desire for many things including sex, love, family and being relevant.

I was talking to one of my tenants the other day. He is a good-looking, charming man who has obviously had a good time in his life. His conversation with me though was about how he felt like he had missed the boat. His voice was filled with wistfulness and humor and he said that he watched others in the building visiting with their children and grandchildren and he wondered why he had never had any of his own.

Motherhood and Fatherhood

Photo by Fernando Pelaez Cubas on Unsplash

I told him that there were still women out there who would be interested in providing him with children and he said, “Good God, no!” but the wistfulness was still there.

Motherhood and Grandparenting

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Lawful Parenting Age

There is no law that I know of that limits the age of when you can start (or re-start) a family. As a matter of fact, even if you are too old or physically incapable of carrying a baby you can participate in parenting through adoption and foster parenting.

When I started doing some research for this article, I found this fascinating. You can foster a child in most places as long as you are at least 21 years of age. Some states allow it as young as 18. But there is no upper age range.  One article I read said that people in their 80’s sometimes make the best foster parents, nor do you have to be part of a couple to foster kids. You can even foster kids from the US while living in other countries. Wow! Who knew?

You also do not need to be wealthy or a stay-at-home Mom/Dad. There are options for help with childcare costs if you need to work. There is a particular need for foster parents for special needs children.

Motherhood and Passion

Photo by Ian Schneider on UnsplashPhoto

Passion and Needs

Being older does not mean being less passionate or less relevant. If you have a passion for family, if you have a passion to help others, don’t be afraid to explore your options. You may find that there is a new life just waiting for you to discover it!

Health News Practicalities of Living

Naproxen, Sodium and Weight Gain

June 27, 2018
Juggling Naproxen and sodium intake

NSAIDS, especially in the form of naproxen, are both the bane and boon of my life. For many years when I was younger, I took one naproxen in the morning and one in the evening to alleviate the pain in my knees from arthritis. I still remember how upset I was when I found out that studies were showing that taking it on a regular basis led to an increase in the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Juggling Risks

Now that I am reaching my “golden years” I am finding that I need to play an interesting game called “juggle your risks” in order to maintain my quality of life.

On the one hand, I have heart issues including AFIB and possibly other wonderful things like congestive heart failure, three words you don’t really want to hear from your doctor. The other hand juggles the ball labeled arthritis, along with other assorted balls such as exercise, reduce sodium intake and lose weight.

Being a Nerdy Type

I now weigh myself every day and because I am a nerdy type and like to research all kinds of things, I make regular notes of my blood pressure, blood sugar and anything that is going on in my life that might have an impact on those things. I use this awesome site to log my notes and keep track of exercise and food intake. It has really been helpful to me in losing weight and discovering interesting patterns in my body, especially about salt intake.

Unconcious Food Faux Pas

The last couple of days I was trying to finish up a package of sliced deli turkey that I had in the fridge and was making myself a tasty sandwich with two slices of the turkey, a slice of provolone cheese and half an avocado. The calories were well within those allowed for my day and I didn’t think too much about it and didn’t log my food for two days because I was really busy.

Over those 2 days, I gained three pounds! When I went back and input my food intake and exercise, I was slightly over in calories on one day and under on the other, so the old counting calories thing had obviously gone off the rails somewhere.

However, much to my dismay my salt intake was almost three times what it should have been. Most blah, blah, blah experts say that we should limit sodium intake to between 1,500 mg. and 2,300 mg. daily. I can tell you that if you eat out at all, you will not be hitting anywhere near this mark. You will most likely be well over 3,000 mg. before you can say, “Bob’s your uncle!”

Naproxen and Salt Intake

Like most Americans, I have enjoyed eating out for years and never paid a lick of attention to my salt intake. Now it kicks my butt, especially if I combine it with taking naproxen.

According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, “Inhibition of renal prostaglandin synthesis by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) causes various electrolyte and acid-base disturbances including sodium retention (edema, hypertension), hyponatremia, hyperkalemia, and decreased renal function. Decreased sodium excretion can result in weight gain, peripheral edema, attenuation of the effects of antihypertensive agents, and rarely aggravation of congestive heart failure.”

Do You See the Juggling Act Here?

Egyptian jugglers

I feel much, much better than I did at the beginning of the year and I know that has to do with some changes in my prescribed medications and herbal/vitamin meds, paying attention to my diet and being able to exercise more but it is an interesting study in balance.

Sometimes I have no other options but to take the naproxen in order to be able to move, but if I do, I have to be more strict with my salt intake.

I am exploring other avenues of pain alleviation, including herbal remedies and medical marijuana but those are topics for another day. In the meantime, I am off to exercise!

Life News Practicalities of Living Technology

91 Percent of Adults 50+ Use Personal Technology To Stay Connected

June 25, 2018
Personal technology

91 percent of tech owners 50-plus say they use personal technology to keep in touch with family and friends, according to a new AARP survey aimed at measuring and identifying technology use and attitudes among adults 50-plus. The research found that mobile and computing devices are the primary technology for Americans 50-plus with subtle differences between age groups. Adults in their 50s and 60s are texting more than emailing on smartphones, while people 70-plus are more likely to use desktop computers and cellphones to keep in touch. Among people who own computers, tablets and smartphones, each device has different uses: computers are used for more practical tasks, tablets for entertainment and smartphones for social and on-the-go activities.

Key findings from the latest AARP Survey on Technology Use and Attitudes Among Mid-Life and Older Americans are:

Seventy percent of adults 50-plus own a smartphone and an equal percentage are on social media. Among those ages 50-69, text messaging has overtaken email as the tech tool most used to stay connected.

Adults in their sixties are more likely to use their devices to manage medical care than those in their 50s or 70s, particularly among tablet and smartphone owners.

The survey additionally reported that over three-quarters (77 percent) reported using their smartphone for directions or traffic information.

Other top activities include purchasing apps, surfing the internet, getting news and accessing social media. Another key finding was that privacy and security are a concern for most older adults but many are not taking proactive steps to protect themselves online.

This AARP Survey on Technology Use and Attitudes can be found here.

Survey Methodology
The survey on Technology Use and Attitudes was fielded from November 16-27, 2017. Data were collected using GfK’s KnowlegePanel, an online probability-based panel. The final, nationally representative sample included 1,520 adults age 50 and older. The margin of error for the general population is ± 2.7 percentage points.

Health Life Practicalities of Living

Swimsuits For All: The New Power Suit

June 19, 2018
Swimsuits-for-all models

Leading swimwear brand Swimsuits For All, a FULLBEAUTY brand, released a show stopping campaign entitled ‘Power Suit’ featuring women from all walks of life. Each has her own story and claim to fame including 52-year-old actress and model Brooke Shields, 30-year old supermodel Ashley Graham, 30-year-old mom and reality star Angela Simmons, 67-year-old professional swimmer Pat Gallant Charette and 37-year-old nurse practitioner Katie Duke.

In aiming to empower all women to take off their everyday clothing and stand proud in a swimsuit – the new ‘power suit’ – the campaign seeks to inspire all women to feel just as confident as they would in their professional wardrobe. Women typically feel insecure or oversexualized in a swimsuit and this campaign showcases how women of all ages, races, and sizes can feel just as powerful in their swimsuit as they do in their professional attire.

The imagery from this campaign portrays the women donning bold styles from Swimsuits For All’s summer collection. Each brings a different point-of-view and prowess that stem from different backgrounds and experiences. Coming together to inspire each other and their fans by celebrating their strength in all aspects of their lives, each exemplifies an infectious confidence regardless of age, size or circumstance.

“Working on this campaign with Swimsuits For All was inspiring to me because each one of these women is remarkable,” said Brooke. “Growing up under such scrutiny led me to feel insecure about my looks. Over time, I was able to find confidence in myself through my work, my passions, my network of strong female role models and my journey through motherhood. And now, after 50 years in the spotlight, I can confidently say that my ‘Power Suit’ is being in my own skin, showing my body and not hiding it. I loved being able to share that with these women who have also come to that realization.”

Each of the swimsuits worn in the campaign is available starting in sizes 4 to 24 and available to purchase online now at

About Swimsuits For All
Swimsuits For All believes that summer is more than a season; it’s a feeling. Embodying a 74-degree state of mind all year long, they provide beautiful swimsuits in sizes 4-34 for every swim adventure. As the online swimwear leader since 2005, Swimsuits For All is known for swimsuits with superior construction, expert fit and innovative designs. Additionally, they carry a line of chlorine resistant swimsuits and workout wear that retains its shape and fabric quality for extra pool time. Through perfect-fitting swimwear catered to every body, Swimsuits For All inspires women of all ages, shapes and sizes to be confident and carefree in the swim they’re in. For more information, visit

FULLBEAUTY Brands Inc. is the fashion authority for plus size women and men seeking fashion inspiration, style advice, and clothing tailored to their individual needs. Proprietary brands under the FULLBEAUTY Brands Inc. umbrella include: Woman Within®, Roaman’s®, Jessica London®, Swimsuits For All®, KingSize®, BrylaneHome®, and®, an online marketplace that offers a curated collection of countless brands and thousands of products, serving as the premier fashion and lifestyle destination for women in sizes 12 +.

News Practicalities of Living

Lifton Home Elevator: Too Cool for School!

May 18, 2018

101 Mobility, a one-stop shop for mobility and accessibility solutions, selling, installing, and servicing top-quality equipment from the nation’s leading manufacturers, announces the installation of the first Lifton Home Elevator in New Jersey.

See a time-lapse video installation of a 101 Mobility Home Elevator here:

This unique, modern alternative to stair lifts and old-fashioned residential elevators recently had its first New Jersey installation in Hopatcong, New Jersey.

While available in other states, the Lifton Home Elevator has only just been approved in New Jersey, due to New Jersey’s particularly rigid requirements for the installation of home elevators.

Different than the old-fashioned residential elevator, which is bigger, difficult to install, and requires a substantial amount of space (which most homeowners don’t have), and the stair lift which many see as unattractive and “un-cool,” the Lifton is the perfect solution for two widely divergent demographics: 1) today’s senior citizens, sometimes referred to as the “Rock and Roll Generation,” and 2) a much younger, hip and trendy generation, always on the lookout for the latest thing.

What these two generations have in common is their love of style.

The active, vibrant seniors who grew up in the Rock and Roll era, now in their 70s – 80s, like to think of themselves as the first really cool generation of seniors – discerning about fashion, music, food, and entertainment – and passionately pro-active about aging in place. This means they are good at finding solutions to protect their lifestyles – even before they need them.

According to Dave Muti, president of 101 Mobility, “Most of our clientele are senior citizens. The home staircase can become Mt. Everest. I’ve seen people literally go up and down on their hands and knees. Couple this with the determination of this generation of seniors to stay in their own homes, the Lifton is a perfect solution. It’s different than anything else on the market. It’s modern and cool. Owners are the envy of the bridge club. The grandkids love it. And it makes homes more marketable.”

The Lifton Home Elevator is a game changer:

It’s for the Rock and Roll Generation of seniors who don’t want products associated with getting old, like stairlifts
It is relatively easy to install usually one or two days. Traditional elevators are difficult to install and can take a week or longer.
Its design is sleek, modern, and reflective of the way the Rock and Roll Generation perceive themselves
It gives owners peace of mind that they can freely go from one floor to another without fear of falling or any other hesitations
It adds value to a house, making it more saleable and opening it up to a senior market
As an added benefit, the Lifton is a perfect dumbwaiter and can reduce injuries caused by carrying heavy items up and down stairs – like suitcases and vacuum cleaners.

The Lifton is the perfect solution for the Rock and Roll Generation as well as anybody who loves high quality, contemporary products combined with functional craftsmanship. And while the reason for installation may not be fun – the Lifton Home Elevator is undeniably cool – which is exactly how today’s seniors see themselves.

About 101 Mobility
101 Mobility North New Jersey is your one-stop-shop for all things that provide mobility and accessibility. From stair lifts, wheelchair ramps to platform lifts and beyond, our goal at 101 Mobility is to assist residents with their specific mobility and physical needs through quality products and exceptional service. In short, we help people, safely and effortlessly, get up and down stairs, and in and out of their homes and businesses.

Please visit our website at

Finances News Practicalities of Living

Financial Impact on Seniors From Recent Changes in Social Security and Medicare

May 3, 2018

Bad news from HealthView Services highlights the combined financial impact of recent changes to Social Security and Medicare that will increase future health care costs and reduce retiree benefits in a new white paper. The paper shows that an average healthy 55-year-old couple earning a combined $140,000 today will, at retirement in 10 years, see a projected total impact of $158,000 in today’s dollars, the result of $122,000 in higher surcharges and the loss of over $36,000 in potential lifetime Social Security benefits.

The new HealthView Services report, “Why Recent Updates to Medicare and Social Security Matter“, details the bottom-line implications for retirees of seven changes to Medicare Means Testing, Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs), and Social Security claiming strategies, the most recent of which were implemented in January and announced in February 2018.

“Taken on their own, each of these relatively low-profile changes to Social Security and Medicare have not generally been considered particularly significant or were only believed to impact wealthy Americans,” said Ron Mastrogiovanni, Founder & CEO of HealthView Services. “In this report, we show their collective financial impact on individual retirees’ budgets, and why retirees should anticipate the continued reduction in the value of benefits and increases in their costs.”

Among the changes that have quietly passed under the radar are those to income thresholds at which Americans will be subject to Medicare surcharges. As of February 2018, in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, a new sixth means testing bracket was added to the existing surcharge brackets. This increases the surcharges for those earning more than $500,000 in Modified Adjusted Gross Income.

Although this will impact very few retirees, a more fundamental change introduced at the same time was a delay in the implementation of indexing these brackets to inflation from 2020 to 2028. By postponing indexing for eight more years, as income grows over time more Americans will have to pay surcharges which will increase Medicare Part B and Part D premiums by an average of 36 to 203 percent. This will impact many future retirees. The paper shows a 38-year-old couple each earning $45,000 will have to pay an additional $218,000 (in today’s dollars) in lifetime Medicare surcharges in retirement. If the brackets were to have been indexed as planned in 2020, the couple would have faced no surcharges.

The February changes follow the lowering of Medicare surcharge brackets three to five, which took effect on January 1, 2018. These changes were part of the 2015 “Doc Fix” legislation passed by Congress. As a result, some individuals moved from the third into the fourth bracket, and all fourth bracket beneficiaries moved into the fifth bracket, increasing the surcharges they would have to pay.

For a 40-year-old man currently earning $93,000 today, who receives an average annual salary increase of 3% until retirement at 65, the change in brackets will lead to an additional 55% surcharge on Parts B and D. This will amount to an increase in projected surcharges of $57,000 in today’s dollars ($173,000 in future value). This assumes surcharges will never be indexed to inflation. What’s more, with a two-year look-back policy, for those currently impacted by the changes to income brackets, they will be assessed on 2016 income, rather than 2018 income.

The report also outlines the financial implications of changes over the last three years to Social Security COLAs and the impact of the “hold harmless rule”. With a zero COLA in 2015 and 0.3% increase in 2016, it notes the limited benefit to retirees from the 2% COLA increase in October 2017. Although many retirees had previously been held harmless from the rise in Medicare Part B premiums, the increase in COLA meant they are now subject to these higher costs.

Putting this in context, an average 68-year-old couple receiving their first significant Social Security increase in two years in 2018 will spend 96% of their additional COLA benefit (over $510 in 2018) on readjusted Part B premiums.

The report notes that the effective elimination of the “File & Suspend” and “File Restricted” Social Security strategies in 2016, will cost an average 58-year-old American couple $37,000 in today’s dollars ($72,000 future value) in lost potential benefits.

“Given the pressure on the Medicare and Social Security Trust Funds from increased longevity and greater numbers of retirees, we can expect on-going adjustments to these programs,” added Mastrogiovanni. “Retirees should expect to see more incremental changes to reduce the value of benefits and increase costs. As this paper reveals, in combination, these small changes will have a big financial impact.”

HealthView Services draws upon 70 million health care cases, actuarial, government and economic data to project retirement health care costs. The firm’s rigorous bottom-up approach integrates specific variables – including health status, age, gender, income, and state of residence – that will drive future health care costs. The final calculations draw upon and are consistent with, government health care inflation forecasts.

HealthView Services ( is the leading provider of retirement health care cost data, Social Security optimization, and long-term care retirement planning tools for financial advisors. HealthWealthLink, the company’s signature service, is an integrated retirement planning tool that assists financial advisors in preparing personalized estimates of retirement health care costs and associated strategies designed to achieve clients’ retirement goals.