Financial Tips for Retiring Abroad


What are some financial factors to consider when retiring abroad? My husband and I will be retiring in a few years and are interested in saving money by moving to a foreign country.

Retiring abroad has become a growing trend for millions of U.S. retirees who are looking to stretch their retirement savings. Here are some tips and resources for you to consider and to help you prepare.

Researching Tools

For starters, you can find information and articles on the countries and cities you are interested in at websites like and

Another good idea is to talk with retirees who have already made the move that you are considering. They can give you tips and suggestions, explain the advantages and disadvantages and provide you with the day-to-day reality of living in a particular country. Visit and for additional information and resources.

Before committing to a particular location, most experts recommend that you visit the location multiple times during different seasons to see whether you can envision yourself living there, rather than simply exploring the location as a tourist.

It is also important to consider these financial factors:

Cost of living: Retiring abroad was once seen as a surefire way to live beyond your means and, for some countries, it still is. However, the U.S. dollar is not what it used to be, so your money may not stretch as far as you think. See for a country-by-country cost of living comparison.

Taxes: No matter what foreign country you decide to retire to, as long as you are a U.S. citizen, you must file an annual tax return and report all income above certain minimums. This is true regardless of where the income is earned. For details see the IRS Publication 54, "Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad" at

Health care: Medicare and most U.S. health insurance companies do not provide coverage outside the U.S. Check with the U.S. embassy (see in your destination country to see how to receive coverage as a foreign resident. Many countries provide government-sponsored health care that is inexpensive, accessible and just as good as what you would receive in the States. Another option is to buy a policy through Medibroker ( or Bupa Global (

Be aware that most people who retire abroad eventually return to the U.S. As such, you should consider paying your Medicare Part B premiums. If you drop and resume Part B, or delay initial enrollment, you will pay a 10% premium penalty for every 12-month period in which you could have been enrolled.

Banking: Opening or maintaining a bank account abroad has become more difficult because of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, a U.S. law designed to prevent Americans from hiding assets abroad. So, you may have to establish a savings and checking account with an institution that has international reach, like Citibank. Another option is to consider maintaining your bank account so that you can access your account online and get U.S. credit and debit cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees.

Housing: Buying a home in a foreign country can be complicated. Therefore, it is usually less expensive and simpler to rent, unless you know you are going to live there for a long time.

Social Security: You can receive your monthly Social Security benefits almost anywhere around the world (see Your benefits can be deposited into a bank account in the U.S. or in your new home country with some exceptions.

The U.S. State Department offers a handy checklist that can help you think through all the issues on retiring abroad. To access it, visit and search for "retirement abroad."

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published January 19, 2018
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The Wall That Heals

The Wall That Heals, a scaled replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, along with a mobile Education Center, is scheduled to visit Washington County May 17-May 20, 2018 at the YMCA/Community Learning Center/Senior Citizen Center complex in Salem.

TWTH1 300“2018 is the 25th anniversary for the Washington County Community Foundation,” explained Judy Johnson, Executive Director of the Foundation. “Because of this, we are calling 2018 the year of our Superheroes to honor all of our donors who have been so generous to our community by giving through the Foundation these past 25 years. We will also have events to honor other local superheroes, such as our veterans. We are so thankful to the people at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for selecting us as one of the 39 sites throughout the country to be honored with the opportunity to host The Wall That Heals.”

The Wall That Heals honors the more than three million Americans who served in the U.S. Armed forces during the Vietnam War and it bears the names of the more than 58,000 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.

Hosting The Wall That Heals provides a community with a multi-day experience of reflection that includes an educational experience for local schools and organizations on the history of the Vietnam era and The Wall.

The exhibit includes The Wall replica and a mobile Education Center that comprises digital displays of photos of service members whose names are on The Wall; letters and memorabilia left at The Wall by visitors; a map of Vietnam; and a chronological overview of the Vietnam War.

The exhibits tell the story of the Vietnam War, The Wall, and the era surrounding the conflict, and are designed to place American experiences in Vietnam in an historical and cultural context.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most visited memorials in our nation’s capital, with more than 5.6 million visitors each year. However, many Americans have not been able to visit what has become known to many as “The Wall.” The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), the organization that built The Wall in 1982, wants to provide all veterans, their family members, and the general public across America an opportunity to visit the memorial.

“Taking The Wall That Heals on the road gives thousands more veterans and their family members an opportunity to see The Wall and honor those who have served and sacrificed so much,” said Jim Knotts, president and CEO of VVMF. “It helps veterans from all of America’s conflicts to find healing and a powerful connection through their common military experiences.”

More than 200,000 people visited The Wall That Heals in 2016. Since its debut in 1996, the exhibit has been on display in nearly 500 U.S. communities, as well as internationally during an April 1999 tour of the Four Provinces of Ireland, and a visit to Canada in 2005.

VVMF coordinates local stops of The Wall That Heals and the accompanying mobile Education Center. The current schedule and more information can be found at:

About the scaled replica of the memorial  

The replica Wall is a scaled replica, and like the original memorial is erected in a chevron-shape. The replica is constructed of powder-coated aluminum, supported by an aluminum frame, and is made up of 24 individual panels, each containing six columns of names.

The names on The Wall That Heals replicate the names on The Wall in Washington, D.C. As on The Wall, the names are listed alphabetically by day of casualty. Beginning at the center/apex, the names start on the East Wall (right-hand side) working their way out to the end of that wing, picking up again at the far end of the West Wall (left-hand side) and working their way back to the center/apex. Thus, the beginning and ending of the conflict are joined at the center, signifying an epoch in American history.

About VVMF and the Education Center at The Wall

VVMF is the nonprofit organization that built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall) in Washington, D.C. in 1982. VVMF is dedicated to honoring and preserving the legacy of service in America and educating all generations about the impact of the Vietnam War and its associated era through programs, ceremonies and education materials.

Three decades after building The Wall, the mission continues as VVMF raises funds to build the Education Center at The Wall in Washington, D.C. The Center will be an interactive learning facility on the National Mall where our military heroes' stories and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

The Education Center will feature the faces and stories of the more than 58,000 men and women on The Wall and honor America's legacy of service, including those serving in our nation's Armed Forces today. Time Warner is the Lead Gift Benefactor in the campaign to build the Education Center at The Wall. To learn more about VVMF and the future Education Center at The Wall, visit or call 202-393-0090. Or, email Johns Creek Community Relations Manager Grant Hickey or call him at 678-512-3351.

Schedule of events

May 16th - May 20th

Click Here to View Schedule >
Click Here to View Program >

Get Involved

Click Here to Donate

For more information, contact Tanya Dustin at:

Play Game of Phones for a Chance to Win $500.00

During the month of June, Washington County nonprofits will be recognized through a 25 day contest: Game of Phones. This contest will highlight some of the nonprofit organizations that WCCF, because of its fantastic donors, has granted money to.

The contest is open to contestants aged 18 or older. All contestants must be a registered Facebook user and “like” the Washington County Community Foundation Facebook page. The contest starts on June 1st and runs through June 25th. The grand prize is a $500.00 gift card, second prize is a $150.00 gift card, and third prize is a $75.00 gift card. Clues to determine the 21 different nonprofits will be given through under the “25th Anniversary” logo. Once a contestant determines the answer to the clue, go to the organization, and then snap a selfie that will clearly indicate the organization (outside signage, building, or easily recognizable landmark). Upload the picture to the Washington County Community Foundation Facebook page and use #WCCF25 as your caption. One selfie from each location may be entered per contestant. If a contestant takes a selfie at all 21 locations and posts with the hashtag, the contestant will receive an additional 25 entries. Washington County Community Foundation Board of Directors and staff, as well as their immediate family, are not eligible to win prizes in the contest. Board Members and staff, as well as their immediate family, are still eligible to post pictures on Facebook still using #WCCF25, but are not eligible to win prizes. For more information, contact WCCF at 812-883-7334.

Be sure to read the rules.

Don't Eat This if You're Taking That


If a prescription label says "take with meals," does it matter what you eat? I currently take eight different medications for various health problems and would like to know if there are any foods I need to avoid.

It depends on the medication. Many meds should be taken with food — any food — to increase their absorption and reduce the risk of side effects. But some foods and medications can interact, reducing the medications' effectiveness or increasing the risk of harmful side effects.

To stay safe, you should always talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your prescriptions, along with what foods and beverages to avoid while you are taking them. In the meantime, here are some foods you should avoid when taking some commonly prescribed drugs.

Cholesterol Medications: If you take a certain statin drug to control high cholesterol such as Lipitor, Zocor, Altoprev, Mevacor, or generics atorvastatin, simvastatin or lovastatin, you should avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice. Grapefruit can augment the amount of the drug in your bloodstream and increase the risk of side effects, especially leg pain.

Blood Pressure Medicine: If you take an ACE inhibitor drug including Capoten, Vasotec, Monopril, or Zestril to lower your blood pressure, you should limit foods that contain potassium, like bananas, oranges, tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes and salt substitutes that contain potassium. ACE inhibitors raise the body's potassium levels. Eating too many potassium rich-foods while taking an ACE inhibitor can cause an irregular heartbeat and heart palpitations.

Blood Thinning Medications: If you are taking Coumadin, Jantoven, or the generic warfarin, you should limit kale and other greens, including broccoli, cabbage, spinach and brussel sprouts. These foods can block the effects of blood-thinning medications, which could put you at risk for developing blood clots. You also need to watch out for garlic, ginger, vitamin E and fish oil supplements because they can increase the medication's blood-thinning abilities, which could put you at risk for excessive bleeding.

Antidepressants: If you take a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) antidepressant like Marplan, Nardil, Emsam, Parnate, or generics isocarboxazid, phenelzine, selegiline or tranylcypromine, you should avoid aged cheeses, chocolate, cured meats and alcoholic drinks. These contain tyramine, which can raise blood pressure. Normally, the body controls tyramine levels with an enzyme called monoamine oxidase, but MAOI antidepressants block that enzyme.

Thyroid Medications: If you take a medication for hypothyroidism like Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid or generic levothyroxine, you should avoid tofu, walnuts and soymilk because these can prevent your body from absorbing your thyroid medication.

Anti-Anxiety Medications: If you take medication for anxiety like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, or generics alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam or lorazepam, you should avoid alcohol. These medications act as sedatives, binding with the brain's natural tranquilizers to calm you down. If you mix these drugs with alcohol, the side effects intensify and can cause you to feel lightheaded, sleepy or forgetful.

Antibiotics: If you are taking an antibiotic like Sumycin, Dynacin, Monodox, or generic tetracycline, doxycycline or minocycline, you should avoid dairy and calcium supplements for a couple hours before and after taking the medicine. This includes milk, yogurt and cheese. The calcium in dairy products binds to the antibiotic, which can prevent your body from absorbing it and may make the medication ineffective.

To find more dietary guidance on the drugs you take, see reliable health websites like or Also consider the excellent new AARP book "Don't Eat This If You're Taking That: The Hidden Risks of Mixing Food and Medicine" available at and for $13.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published January 5, 2018

How to Make Your Kitchen Safer and Easier to Use

What can you recommend that will make a kitchen safer and easier to use? My wife, who loves to cook, has had several kitchen-related accidents over the past year. We would like to modify the space to make it safer and more practical.

There are a number of simple modifications and inexpensive add-ons that can transform your kitchen into a safer environment. Depending on your wife's needs, here are some suggestions for each aspect of the kitchen.

Floors: Replace kitchen throw rugs with non-skid or gel floor mats to reduce tripping or slipping. Gel mats are comfortable to stand on for long periods of time. and offer a nice selection of floor mats.

Lights: Replace dim overhead lighting with bright new ceiling lights. Also consider adding under-cabinet task lighting to brighten up kitchen countertops.

Cabinets and Drawers: Reduce bending or reaching by organizing your kitchen cabinets and drawers so that the items you use most frequently are within comfortable reach. In addition, you can make your cabinets and pantry easier to access by installing pullout shelves or Lazy Susans. Finally, consider installing D-shaped pull-handles on cabinets and drawers. These handles are more comfortable for arthritic hands than traditional knobs.

Faucet: If you have a twist-handle kitchen faucet, replace it with an ADA compliant single handle faucet. They are easier to use, especially for people with arthritis or limited hand strength. There are also kitchen faucets on the market today (like the Delta Touch20 faucet and Moen MotionSense) that will turn themselves on and off by simply touching the base or moving your hand over a motion sensor. For safety purposes, set your hot water tank to 120 degrees to prevent possible water burns.

Microwave and Stove: If your microwave is mounted above the stove, consider moving it to a countertop. This makes it safer and easier to reach. If you are concerned about your wife remembering to turn the stove off, there are automatic stove shut-off devices you can purchase and install to prevent a fire. See, and for some different options.

If you are looking to upgrade some of your appliances, here are some different features you should look for when shopping.

Refrigerator and Freezer: Side-by-side doors are convenient because frequently used items can be placed at mid-shelf range for easy access. Also, look for refrigerators that feature pullout adjustable height shelves and water/ice dispensers on the outside of the refrigerator door for added convenience.

Stove or Cooktop: Look for a stove that features controls in the front of the stove so that you won't have to reach over hot burners to turn it off. Also, ask about automatic shut-off burners. Make sure the controls on the stove are easy to see. Flat surface electric or induction burners are great for sliding heavy pots and pans from one burner to the next. For gas stoves, continuous grates are good for this purpose as well.

Oven: For an oven that is easier to maintain, consider purchasing a self-cleaning oven. Ovens that feature a side-swing door are easier to use because you do not have to lean over a hot swing-down door. Also consider a wall-mounted oven, installed at your wife's preferred height, so that she does not have to bend over.

Dishwasher: Consider a dishwasher drawer that slides in and out and is installed on a 6 to 10-inch raised platform. These require less bending to load and unload.

Washer and Dryer: Front-load washers and dryers with pedestals that raise the height 10 to 15 inches are also back-savers and easy to access.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published December 29, 2017

How to Divvy Up Your Family Belongings Peacefully and Sensibly


What is the best way to distribute my personal possessions to my children after I pass away without causing hard feelings or conflict? I own valuable jewelry, art, family heirlooms and antique furniture and, unfortunately, my three adult children do not always see eye-to-eye.

Divvying up personal possessions among adult children or other loved ones can often be a difficult task. Deciding who should get what without showing favoritism, hurting someone's feelings or causing a feud can be difficult. This is true even for close-knit families who enter the process with the best of intentions. Here are a few tips to consider that may help you decide the best way to divide your possessions with minimal conflict. 

Problem Areas

First, you need to be aware that often it is the small, simple items of little monetary value that may cause the most conflict. This is because the value we attach to small personal possessions is usually sentimental or emotional, and because the simple items are the things that most families fail to talk about.

Family battles can also escalate over whether things are being divided fairly based on the items' monetary value. To assure fair distribution, you may want to consider getting an appraisal for items of higher value like your jewelry, antiques and art. To locate an appraiser, see or

Ways to Divvy

The best solution for passing along your personal possessions is for you to go through your house with your children either separately or all together. Open up cabinets, drawers, closets and boxes to find out which items they would like to inherit and why. You may be unaware of certain emotional attachments that your children have with items in your home. If more than one child wants the same thing, you will have the ultimate say.

You will need to make a signed and dated list describing who will receive which items. Then you will want to reference this list in your will. You can revise this list at any time. You may want to consider writing a letter or creating an audio or video recording that further explains your intentions.

You can also specify a strategy for divvying up the rest of your property. Here are some methods that are fair and reasonable:

  • Take turns choosing: Use a round-robin process where your children take turns choosing the items they would like to have. If who goes first becomes an issue, they can always flip a coin, draw straws or roll dice. Also, to help simplify things, break down the dividing process room-by-room, versus tackling the entire house. To keep track of who gets what, either make a list or use adhesive dots with a color assigned to each person to tag the item.
  • Have a family auction: Give each person involved the same amount of play money, or they can use virtual points or poker chips to bid on the items they want.
For more ideas, see "Who Gets Grandma's Yellow Pie Plate?" at This is a resource created by the University of Minnesota Extension Service that gives pointers to help families discuss property distribution and lists important factors to keep in mind that can help avoid conflict. You can also purchase a detailed workbook, interactive CD or DVD on the University of Minnesota Extension Service's website.

It is very important that you discuss your plans in advance with your children so they know what to expect. You may even want to start giving them some of these items now, instead of distributing everything through your will or trust.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published December 22, 2017

Recognizing and Treating Depression in Retirement


Since retiring a few years ago, my husband has become increasingly irritable and apathetic. I'm concerned that he may be depressed, even though he may not realize it. Where can we turn to get help with this and what, if anything, does Medicare pay for?

Unfortunately, depression is a widespread problem that affects approximately 15% of the 65-and-older population. Here is what you need to know about identifying depression, treating depression and Medicare coverage.

Identifying Depression

Everyone feels sad or gets the blues now and then, but when these feelings linger more than a few weeks it may be depression. Depression is a real illness that affects moods, feelings, behavior and physical health. Contrary to what many people believe, it is not a normal part of aging or a personal weakness and is very treatable.

It is also important to know that depression is not just sadness. For many individuals, it can manifest as apathy or irritability. Individuals may also experience problems with memory or concentration.

To help assess the seriousness of your husband's problem, he may want to start by taking an online depression screening test. Mental Health America, a national nonprofit organization, offers a variety of free online mental health screening tools at He can also visit, which is offered by Screening for Mental Health, Inc.

Both of these websites' tests are anonymous and confidential. The tests take less than 10 minutes to complete and can help you determine the severity of your husband's problem.

Get Help

If you find that he is suffering from symptoms of depression, he should visit his doctor for a medical evaluation to rule out possible medical causes. Some medications, for example, can produce side effects that mimic symptoms of depression. It is also important to distinguish between depression and dementia, which can share some of the same symptoms.

If he is diagnosed with depression, there are a variety of treatment options, including talk therapy, antidepressant medications or a combination of both.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a particularly effective type of talk therapy. CBT helps patients recognize and change destructive thinking patterns that can lead to negative feelings.

For help finding a therapist who is trained in CBT, ask your doctor for a referral, check your local yellow pages under "counseling" or "psychologist" or use an online search engine to locate a CBT therapist in your area. You can also check with the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies ( or the Academy of Cognitive Therapy (

To search for therapists that accept Medicare, use Medicare's Physician Compare tool. Go to and type in your zip code or city and state, then type in the type of profession you want locate, like "psychiatry" or "clinical psychologist" in the "What are you searching for?" box.

Medicare Coverage

You will be happy to know that Medicare currently covers 100% of the costs for annual depression screenings that are done in a doctor's office or other primary care clinic. It also pays for 80% of its approved amount for outpatient mental health services like counseling and therapy services, and will cover almost all medications used to treat depression under the Part D prescription drug benefit.

If you and your husband get your Medicare benefits through a private Medicare Advantage plan, then the same services must be covered as original Medicare, but your husband will likely be required to see an in-network provider. You will need to contact your plan administrator directly for the details.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published December 15, 2017

Financial Help for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Are there any financial assistance programs that can help grandparents who are raising their grandkids? I'm raising two grandchildren and could use some help.

Money is often an issue for the millions of U.S. grandparents who are raising their grandchildren today. To help with day-to-day expenses, there are a variety of government programs and tax benefits that can make a big difference in stretching your budget. Here's where to look for help.

Financial Assistance Programs

For starters, find out whether your family qualifies for your state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which may include cash assistance, food stamps and free or low-cost daycare. If your household income is too high to qualify as a family, ask about the "child-only grant" for just the grandchild's support alone. You should also find out if your state offers any additional programs like guardianship subsidies, non-parent grants or kinship care.

Contact your state's TANF program (see for contact information) or call your county's social services office for more information about these programs.

You should also determine if your grandkids are eligible for Social Security benefits, including benefits for children, survivor benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You can find this out by visiting your local Social Security office or by calling 800-772-1213 or visit

Also, check out, a comprehensive website that allows you to search for additional financial assistance programs or discounts that you may be eligible for, such as discounts on energy bills and prescription medications.

Tax Benefits

In addition to the financial assistance programs, there are also a number of tax benefits that may help. For example, the Dependency Exemption allows you to deduct $4,050 for each qualifying grandchild in 2017.

There is also the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is available in 2017 to those with moderate to low incomes. The Child Tax Credit is also available in 2017 for those who earn too much money to qualify for the EITC.

If you are employed and are incurring childcare expenses, the Child and Dependent Care Credit may save you money on your 2017 return. Also, if you choose to legally adopt your grandkids, there is an Adoption Credit that provides a federal tax credit of up to $13,570 in 2017.

There are also education-related tax credits available if your grandchildren attended college in 2017. These credits include the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit.

To learn more about these tax benefits, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or visit You can also call the IRS publication line at 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you the publications that further explain the aforementioned benefits for your 2017 tax return. Ask for publications 501, 503, 596, 970, 972. Also be aware that these credits and benefits could change in 2018 pending any tax law changes.

Health Insurance

If your grandchildren need health insurance, depending on your income level, you may be eligible for free or low-cost health insurance through your state's Medicaid Program and the Children's Health Insurance Program. See or call 877-543-7669 for more information.

Legal Aid

You also should consider speaking to a family law attorney to discuss the pros and cons of obtaining legal guardianship, custody or adoption. Without some sort of legal custody, you may not be eligible for many of the previously listed financial assistance programs. You may also face problems with basic things like enrolling your grandchildren in school or giving a doctor permission to provide medical assistance. For help locating affordable or free legal assistance, visit or call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 for referrals.

For more information and resources, see the Grandfamilies State Law and Policy Resource Center at

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published December 8, 2017

Simple Home Modifications for Seniors Living at Home

What tips or recommendations do you have to help make a home safer for seniors who want to remain living at home? My 76-year-old mother wants to stay living in her own home for as long as possible but she doesn't have the money for big renovations.

There are dozens of small adjustments and simple modifications to help make your mom's home safer for little to no cost. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Eliminate Trip and Slip Hazards

Since falls are the leading cause of home injury among seniors, a good place to start is by arranging or moving your mom's furniture to create clear walking pathways throughout her home. Position any electrical and phone cords along the wall so they will not be tripping hazards. If she has throw rugs, remove them or use carpet tacks or double-sided tape to secure them. Don't forget to pick up items on the floor that could cause her to trip, like papers, shoes or clothes.

In the bathroom, buy some non-skid rugs for the floors and a rubber mat or adhesive nonslip strips for the floor of the tub or shower. Also consider hiring a carpenter to install grab bars in and around the tub/shower and near the toilet for support.

Improve Lighting

Good lighting is a very important safety consideration. As such, make sure to check the wattage ratings on your mom's lamps and light fixtures and install the brightest bulbs allowed. Purchase some nightlights for bathrooms and hallways that are used after dark. Also consider adding under-cabinet task lighting in the kitchen and motion sensor lights outside near her driveway and by the home's front and back doors.

Hand Helpers

If your mom has hand arthritis or problems gripping, install lever-style door handles or doorknob lever adapters, which are easier to use than traditional doorknobs. If her kitchen and bathroom faucets have twist knobs, consider replacing them with single lever, touch or sensor-style faucets. Also consider replacing knobs on cabinets and drawers with easier to grip D-shaped handles.

Easier Living

To help make your mom's kitchen easier to use, organize her cabinets so the things she uses most often are within reach and at eye-level so that she does not need to crouch down or use a step-stool. Also, consider installing pull-out shelves beneath the counter and Lazy Susans in corner cabinets for easier access.

For easier and safer bathing, consider purchasing a shower chair and install a hand-held shower so your mom can bathe from a seated position, if necessary.

Accessibility Solutions

If your mom uses a walker or wheelchair, you can modify her house by installing ramps on entrance steps and mini-ramps to go over high thresholds. You can also install "swing-away" or "swing-clear" hinges on her doors to add two inches of width for easier access. 

Safety Improvements

To keep your mom safe, set her hot water heater no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in order to prevent scalding water. If she has stairs, put handrails on both sides. Also, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of her house and place a lightweight, easy-to-use ABC-rated fire extinguisher in an easily accessible location in the kitchen.

For more tips, obtain a copy of AARP's "HomeFit Guide," which is filled with great recommendations. You can access it at or call 888-687-2277 and request a free copy by mail.

Also note that all the previously mentioned products can be purchased either in local retail stores, home improvement stores, pharmacies, medical supply stores or online.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published December 1, 2017

WCCF to sponsor FAFSA day January 9th

Washington County Community Foundation is sponsoring the National Center for College Costs FAFSA Day on January 9th from 1-7 pm at the Community Learning Center.  The National Center for College Costs will be available to assist Washington County students and families file a Free Application for Student Aid  (FAFSA) for the 2018-2019 college academic year, then interpret the results.  This service is free to all Washington County students and families thanks to funding from the Washington County Community Foundation.

The FAFSA Day may be helpful to families who are intimidated by the process and others who had questions.  Families will know instantly which colleges are apt to work best financially and which ones may not work out so well.

For more information about the January 9th FAFSA day, please contact Judy or Lindsey at (812) 883-7334.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever


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Washington County
Community Foundation

1707 North Shelby Street
Salem, Indiana 47167
Phone: 812-883-7334

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