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MAXIMIZING SENIOR OPTIONS: Getting More, often for Less


Reigning in unnecessary expenses is only the first step in learning how to live large on a fixed income. The real fun is shifting the focus to discovering a world of budget-friendly opportunities to learn new things, enjoy new experiences, and establish new friendships. Consider sharing some or all of these ideas with your clients.

 

Healthier Eating Choices

It’s hard to enjoy anything when health issues arise, which means prevention should always be a top priority. Encourage yourself to expand your nutritional horizons by supporting local farmers and improving your own eating and cooking options.

 

Avoid fast food – As life slows down, there is often more time to shop for, prepare and consume healthy homemade meals. Eliminating fast food can lead to huge improvements in weight, health, mood, and budgets! It also opens up the opportunity to actually enjoy the cooking process. Many people say they “love to cook” but never have the time—until now.

 

Investigate what’s new – Improvements in cooking technologies are making home cooking quicker and easier. Energy-efficient induction burners speed up the cooking process, while combination pressure-cooker/slow cooker devices make it easy to add ingredients, program a meal, and serve it up with less effort and mess than traditional meals.

 

Cooking meals as a social event – Consider sharing cooking chores with a friend to assemble a week (or even a month!) of meals to freeze, while enjoying some social time. This may also be a great time to take a cooking class and meet new people while learning some new recipes.

 

Discover local resources – Enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables? Want higher quality eggs and meat? Discover and shop at your local farmer’s market, consider a “share” in a farm-based subscription service, or visit local farms that sell directly to the public. Try LocalHarvest.org to find suppliers in your area.

 

Dig in the dirt – Perhaps you have always wanted to garden, but never had time. Even if your current home doesn’t offer a large yard, you can investigate container gardening, terraced gardening, or even a plot in a nearby community garden. Check out CommunityGarden.org. Outside of larger cities, local agriculture extension agents can help identify additional resources to share with clients on community garden options, local produce venues and individual farmers who offer meat, eggs, cheese, milk, fruit, and vegetables for sale to the public.

 

Music Magic

The health benefits of music are scientifically documented and dramatic—especially for older people and those suffering from heart, circulatory,stroke, memory and sleep issues. In addition to improving your quality of life by adding an enjoyable ambiance to your home, music has also been shown to:

• Ease pain (especially in geriatric care, intensive care and palliative care)

• Improve the quality of sleep

• Cause individuals to eat less

• Enhance circulation

• Reduce stress and anxiety

• Elevate mood and relieve depression

Listening to music also improves cognitive performance and the ability of dementia patients to interact (see MusicandMemory.org), in addition to easing recovery in stroke, heart and cancer patients.

 

Keep Learning, Keep Moving

Have you always wanted to learn to paint? To write a novel? To do yoga? To ballroom dance? To take a music appreciation class or learn to play an instrument? Now is their opportunity. Local colleges and universities often provide lowcost or free classes to seniors. Who says maturity doesn’t have its benefits? Being a lifetime learner has been shown to help improve memory and can slow or even eliminate the onset of ailments like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Explore community education offerings and check with your local senior citizen center for educational and social options to share with your senior clients. Classes are also an opportunity to be social. What better way to meet interesting people than at an interesting event?

 

See More Places, Do More Things

Travel is one of the best ways to have new experiences. It offers a more active lifestyle than sitting at home, it’s more educational, and it helps to avoid the negative stress of loneliness that impacts many seniors. Plus, travel doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive.

Budget-friendly options – Take advantage of off-season prices at resorts, on cruise lines, and even at campgrounds with an RV. Seniors may also want to select a credit card that accumulates airline miles and travel points while buying groceries and other necessities. As long as credit cards are paid off each month, this can be a good economic move to help finance travel.

Group travel – Look into group travel options, especially those designed for older adventurers. Start by contacting local travel agencies, local senior citizens centers and resources offered through AARP. Also investigate offerings through the Road Scholar organization (originally Elderhostel), the leader in the lifelong learning movement. (RoadScholar.org)

Save on meals – In addition to taking advantage of any senior discounts, go to the nicer restaurants for lunch, rather than more expensive evening meals. Visit local markets for fresh dinner options. Pack food for daily jaunts and have an impromptu picnic when a wonderful spot is discovered.

 

Online travel discounts – There are also many online resources for individuals willing to research lower prices. Consider Expedia.com, Kayak.com, Orbitz.com, Priceline.com, CheapAir.com, CheapOair.com and similar sites. Smartphone apps like Google Trips, Hopper, and Airbnb arealso good options for spotting travel discounts.

Stay flexible – Many online reservation systems help travelers find cheaper flights if they aren’t locked into particular dates. Typically, flights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are less expensive than weekend travel or Monday mornings. Also consider volunteering to be bumped for overbooked flights, which often results in free future tickets!

Plan in advance – Airline ticket prices usually climb as the date nears. Domestic flights are typically cheapest when booked 47 days in advance (except for travel over major holidays). Book much earlier for overseas trips—276 days in advance, if possible.

Eliminate expensive hotel bills – For several additional ideas for trimming costs for accommodations, give your clients a copy of thenew consumer one-sheet on the following page.

 

Closer to Home

Seeing new sights and enjoying new experiences shouldn’t be reserved for out-of-town trips. Find out when local entertainment venues offer discounts or “free days” for seniors, including the zoo, art galleries and museums, theatre productions, and matinee showings. Finally, don’t forget to schedule some “me time”to be alone and enjoy your own company, which can do as much for your outlook as travel and socializing. Consider meditation, journaling, reading, yoga, or even curling up with a blanket and a bowl of popcorn to watch a movie solo.