AAUW 2023-25 public policy priorities underscore its mission to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy. Please visit aauw.org. for more information.
A Senior Woman’s Road Map
[Prepared by the Southeast Harris County Branch–2 August 2023–and will be updated as needed]
Introduction Recreation & Hobbies Home Care
Civic Duty Senior Dating Services Nursing Facilities
Continuing Learning Transportation Senior Abuse
Consumer Protection Senior Discounts Wills & Other Documents
Age Discrimination Social Security Hospice Services
Joining Associations Health Care + Exercise Burial or something else?
Volunteer Opportunities Senior Housing Legacies
The Branch feels this is a worthy project, considering that a majority of senior citizens are women. We live longer–but tend to be poorer than men, not from our considerable efforts, but more because of long-defeating gender discrimination.
Trust all senior women–no matter their economic situation–will find something useful here.
At the outset, we recommend joining AARP. Not only does the member receive a wide-range of relevant, useful information in their recurring publications and on their website, but also AARP is an effective political-lobbying organization for people over 50. The organization has a jobs board, an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, and a number of other services. And there are many local AARP groups around the state that individuals can join up and meet up on a regular basis. Webster Area chapter is one group in our area–the chapter meets at the Bay Area Community Center off Nasa Parkway.
We are certainly aware of the importance of voting–as well as doing the research to know what the candidates stand for. Communicating with one legislative representatives–at the federal, state, and county-city levels–informs the representatives of what is important to their constituents. While seniors may have similar concerns as other population groups, there are specific issues seniors may wish to bring to the attention of their political representatives, such as Social Security and Medicare. And why not consider running for office yourself–you have the time and wisdom!
Some useful websites include: https://senate.texas.gov and https://house.texas.gov. Texas’s current senators are Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz. Find your U.S. House of Representative on the House’s website. Other useful websites are www.harrisvotes.com and the Texas Secretary of State’s www.votetexas.gov.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that supports democracy. Their Houston website is https://lwvhouston.org. This organization offers valuable voter information, including voter guides for individual elections. One can join a local group, or simply make donations in support of their work.
One can join a local political group not only for easy access to voter and candidate information, but also for socializing with like-minded people. Some Democratic Party groups include Area 5 Democrats in Pasadena, BAADWomen in Clear Lake, ROADwomen in Houston. Volunteering at voting sites, or becoming a voter registrar, can be a rewarding experience. Unfortunately, Texas is passing stricter laws relating to voting.
Members should take advantage of their public libraries, where they can obtain answers to questions, as well as having access to a large variety of books and other publications. See the current Harris County Public Library’s “Resource Guide” (in English, Spanish & Vietnamese). Most libraries also have free computer services. Many offer courses on a variety of topics. The Clayton Library in Houston has genealogy services.
AARP online courses: See www.seniorplanet.org.
TV/computer online learning: The Great Courses series and Wondrium.
Zooniverse.org enables everyone to take part in cutting edge research in many fields across the sciences, humanities, and more. Sign in and register on their website.
There are online University degree programs from an array of universities. When choosing an online degree program, it is important to ensure the university is accredited by an organization recognized by either the U.S. Department of Education, or the non-profit Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Universities also offer non-degree courses, such as Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes’ online and in-person courses. The courses are offered at a hundred university campuses around the country. One is the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston–see olli.utexas.edu/512-471-3124. Also see Texas Extended Campus at extendedcampus.utexas.edu. If you wish to venture farther afield, check out online adult learning with the University of Oxford–www.ox.ac.uk.
While we can recommend AARP without hesitation, we cannot completely vouch for all resources listed–and urge members to always check companies offering services or products with the Better Business Bureau and other relevant agencies.
The AARP Foundation litigation team pursues a wide range of cases addressing the rights of people 50 and older.
The Texas Attorney General’s Consumer Protection section also may be able to assist with problems. If the problem-company is headquartered in another state, you can file a complaint with that state’s Attorney General.
The Department of Insurance offers assistance with various insurance questions, as well as a platform for filing a complaint against an insurance company.
In addition to filing a police report, identity theft can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission, as well as the Texas Attorney General’s office. It is important to obtain your credit reports, on an annual basis, from the three major credit bureaus–Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion–to check if there is unlawful activity on it. Visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (www.consumerfinance.gov) for more information. Annual reports are free. One can put a security freeze on each of these bureaus’ accounts on you. This prevents criminals from opening a credit card account, for example, in your name. If a company needs to check your credit–for buying a car, etc.–you will have to unfreeze–and then refreeze after your credit record is checked.
There are a number of companies who offer identity theft prevention, e.g., Aura Review, Identity Guard, Lifelock.
Fraud and scams also can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission, as well as the Texas Attorney General’s office, in addition to filing a police report.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau handles complaints regarding banks and other financial institutions. Mortgage companies also are covered. Also see the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgages Lending.
Consumer Reports (CR) says there is a difference between brokers and financial advisers. Brokers typically help with buying and selling investments. Brokers have been criticized for not putting clients’ interests before theirs. If you want help beyond buying and selling investments, such as advice on retirement planning, CR says you may do best working with a financial planner, rather than a broker. CR recommends proceeding by first focusing on fee-only advisers. To find fee-only advisers, use the search tools on the websites of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and the Garrett Planning Network. One should also check for misconduct. For brokers, use BrokerCheck–a searchable database maintained by FINRA, the self-regulatory agency for brokerages. For registered financial/investment advisers, see the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure database, run by the SEC. Also obtain a fiduciary commitment from the adviser.
To find charities and/or evaluate charities, visit the websites of CharityNavigator.org, Give.org, Charitywatch.org.
Do not forgot about the Small Claims courts where one can file a claim in a county justice of the peace court. You can represent yourself, or hire an attorney, in this more informal setting. The amount that a person can sue for in small claims courts is not more than $20,000.
The National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) is the only national organization accredited by the American Bar Association to certify practitioners of elder and special needs law. Also see the Houston-based Disability and Elder Law Attorney Association for information.
The State Bar of Texas also has legal information for the public. Furthermore, one can file a complaint with the Bar against a bad-behaving attorney.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 is a federal law. The affected employee must be 40 years or older and work for an employer with 20 or more employees. In addition, under Texas Labor Code Chapter 21, discrimination against an employee over 40 years or older is forbidden. Proving legal age discrimination, however, can be quite difficult.
One should hire an attorney who is qualified to handle age discrimination cases. The Houston Bar Association (HBA) has an attorney referral service. The HBA will provide free legal advice to those meeting their qualifications. Their number is 713-759-1133.
ACLU deals with, among other issues, age discrimination.
Joining associations, like AAUW, and book clubs, offers one a positive experience–all the way around. Some associations offer member discounts for seniors.
There are too many volunteer opportunities to mention. One should chose those activities best suited to their interests and physicality. Seniors are usually retired and have the time to volunteer–not to mention that their efforts contribute to society and, at the same time, allow for socializing.
Recreation & Hobbies
It is up to you. The choices are endless. If you like the outdoors and are in fairly good shape, go hiking. Better, yet, join a group of hikers. Many enjoy bird watching, fishing, soft-impact sports. If you are the indoors type, try crafts or painting. It is easy to find and take a course to improve your skills.
Many religious institutions, senior housing complexes, various associations, offer low-cost field trips for seniors.
Senior Dating Services
Google “senior dating” to locate services. Two senior dating services for age 50+ people are Silver Singles and OurTime.
In addition to local metro transportation services and commercial taxi services, Gogo Grandparent is a national service that can connect you with more local transportation services. See their website www.gogograndparent.com. Their phone number is 855-464-6872. Findhelp.org is a national non-profit dedicated to helping people find free and reduced-cost local services, including transportation.
Many businesses and museums offer senior discounts. Always ask.
AARP members receive discounts, including travel discounts.
For information, one should visit the Social Security Administration’s website www.ssa.gov. Their national phone number is 800-772-1213. One also can visit one of their offices located throughout the Houston area. It is best to obtain information directly from the SSA.
It is recommended that you not carry your social security card with you, unless you know that you will need it for some particular purpose. One should resist divulging your SS number if asked for it–even at a doctor’s and dentist’s office. Question why they want the number, and if they really need it. The trend now seems to be the corporation’s gobbling up as much personal information from the consumer as possible. While this helps the corporation’s bottom line, it puts the consumer more at risk for identity theft.
Health Care + Exercise
We all know the importance of getting regular health check-ups.
You are eligible for Medicare at age 65. There are Medicare Parts A, B, C and D. Original Medicare is Medicare Parts A and B–which covers hospital, medical, and provider expenses. Medicare Part C known as Medicare Advantage plan is another way of receiving your Medicare benefits. Part D is Medicare Prescription Drug plan. One must do the homework to decide which is best. Better to check directly with Medicare. Another source of advice is email@example.com
Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) helps those on Medicare learn how to detect fraud and abuse. To report Medicare fraud or abuse call the nationwide SMP toll-free number 877-808-2468, or visit website www.smpresource.org to locate the closest SMP office in the state where you live.
There are various long-term care options, e.g., traditional long-term care, life and annuity policies, aid and attendance benefits, and Medicaid. Re the traditional, the younger you are the lower the premiums will be. Re life and annuity, many life/annuity policies have a provision, or rider, for long-term care. Re aid and attendance benefits, the VA can help veterans (and spouses) with long-term care needs. Re Medicaid, one must “spend down” one’s assets to qualify. There is a five-year income/assets look back period, and the state can place a lien on the beneficiary’s estate for the amount of money the state paid for nursing home and medical care.
In many communities, especially large cities, there are free medical clinics, or ones where you pay a minimal charge, even for x-rays and other tests. Some provide dental care. In Houston, Ben Taub is a public hospital–owned and operated by the Harris Health System.
If your medical insurance does not cover medications, there are discount programs, such as GoodRx.
Are you interested in considering a medical trial. Check with your doctors.
Everyone knows the importance of exercise. Before beginning an exercise program, however, it is a good idea to check with your doctor–because the level of your exercise program will depend on your personal health situation. Silver Sneakers–for those 65 and older–is just one of many nation-wide fitness programs that have partnerships with Medicare insurance companies. Silver Sneakers is designed for all levels of abilities, and provides access to online and in-person classes, at over 150,000 fitness locations, and health and wellness sites. These fitness programs vary in benefits, including gym memberships, exercise classes, personal training, diet programs, and a variety of online resources. Check your eligibility with Medicare.
Many municipalities have community centers with exercise and yoga classes, as well as swimming facilities.
We are told that just walking every day and doing some exercising at home is helpful. Better to establish a routine. Again, be sure to check with your doctor first. Even young people can harm themselves exercising.
The Centers for Disease Control has resources to ensure your home is as safe as possible as you age. The National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modifications can connect you with a provider for home modifications. See their website www.homemods.org. Use a Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) professional to help you transform your space into a safe and supporting home.
For senior housing communities and apartment complexes, google for information for your area. A real estate agent also will be able to assist.
Overseas retirement communities also can be located on an Internet search engine, or through a real estate agent. Do thorough research, checking, for example, for the health care system in the area, crime rates, transportation.
Do you suffer from wanderlust? Check out buying a permanent cabin on a cruise ship, and sail the world during your retirement. Better ask what happens if the ship is decommissioned–or sinks!
Assisted-living facilities: The difference between assisted-living facilities (ALFs) and nursing homes is that the former is for people who can live independently, but need help with cooking, cleaning, and other routine activities. There are different levels of care offered in ALFs, so it is important to choose the one that is best for you. According to the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, there are currently almost 29,000 assisted-living communities in the U.S. Each state has its own ALF regulatory agency. Costs can vary widely–with $4,500 to $6,500 being a common range. Medicare does not pay for assisted living.
The Texas Health and Human Services website offers information on assisted-living facilities.
The Family Caregiver Alliance offers national resources that provides state-by-state information, caregiving educational materials, and information on caregiver compensation. See their website www.caregiver.org. The phone number is 800-445-8106.
There are numerous home healthcare companies–that must be checked out before hiring one.
The National Association of Home Care suggests choosing a agency/company that is “Medicare certified.” Questions to be answered are: is the agency licensed by the state; what are the credentials of agency’s caregivers; are the caregivers employees or contractors.
For Medicare to pay, there must be a medical need for the services provided by a home healthcare company–a doctor must order home healthcare and sign the plan.
Please note there is a difference between home healthcare–and home custodial care–with the latter providing services such as help with bathing, dressing, etc.
Many pharmacies will deliver your medications to your home.
Food delivery is a service offered by many grocery stores. And, of course, a number of restaurants will deliver food directly to you. DoorDash also will pickup and deliver food from restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores. Meals on Wheels is a program you can sign up for–temporarily or permanently. Price of meals is based on need.
To explore AARP’s collection of news articles and advice columns on nursing homes in the U.S., see website www.aarp.org/nursinghomes.
The Texas Health and Human Services website offers information on nursing facilities.
Nursing homes in Texas are ranked low compared to others in the country–so it is very important to do your research–and monitor your loved one as much as possible. Anecdotally, there seems to be a difference between those facilities that are for-profit and the better-run non-profits.
The Department of justice established an Elder Justice Initiative–which supports and coordinates the Department’s enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect, and financial fraud and scams that target older adults. Visit their website for more information: www.justice.gov.
The Attorney General of Texas’s website states that senior abuse includes involuntary seclusion, intimidation, humiliation, harassment, threats of punishment, deprivation, hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking, any type of corporal punishment, sexual assault, sexual coercion, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, or any oral, written, or gestured language that includes disparaging or derogatory terms, regardless of the person’s ability to hear or comprehend. Neglect means the failure of a caretaker to provide the goods or services, including medical services, which are necessary to avoid physical or emotional harm or pain. Exploitation includes a caretaker’s illegal use of a senior’s resources for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain.
If one is being abused, or suspect that someone else is being abused, do not remain silent. If one is aware of a specific act of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, you are required by law to report it. One, of course, should promptly report physical and sexual assault, as well as suspected financial crimes, to the police.
Additionally, if the victim is in an assisted-living facility, nursing home, or is in his/her home and relies on a home health provider, call the Texas Department of State Health Services at 800-458-9858. If the victim is a resident of a long-care facility that receives Medicaid funding, report the criminal abuse, neglect, or exploitation to the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit at 800-252-8011. Abuse of a senior who is not in a health care facility can be reported to Adult Protective Service (APS) at 800-252-5400. APS investigates reports of abuse, and provides services, as well as educates the public about prevention of elder abuse.
Wills & Other Documents
Passing without a will means the state will distribute your estate in accordance with Texas’s laws, not necessarily your wishes. It is recommended that you prepare a will. Also recommended are the following documents: durable power of attorney (which expires on death), advance directive to physicians and family and surrogates, medical power of attorney, HIPAA release, and declaration of guardian in the event of later incapacity or need of guardian. You also may want to consider a trust.
Hiring an attorney who deals with wills and trusts is best. Again, the Houston Bar Association (713-759-1133) has an attorney-referral service.
If you opt to not hire an attorney, there are online companies, such as LegalZoom, that will help you prepare a will.
If you wish to create your will on your own, there are online templates you can access–from such companies as Law Depot. You may be able to locate free templates here and there, or buy a how-to-make-a-will book.
There are various advice resources, such as Ronald Lipman of the law firm Lipman & Associates–who answers questions on estate planning and probate law in his column in the Houston Chronicle. Ask a question at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Houston Bar Association holds periodic wills assistance seminars for the public at various locations around the Houston area. You can come in and have a volunteer attorney help you with your will.
A doctor who orders hospice care must certify that a patient is terminally ill and has six months or less to live. Hospice can be re-certified every six months by a hospice medical director or hospice doctor. A hospice patient agrees to comfort care–instead of treatment to cure the illness.
The “Medicare & You” handbook explains what hospice is in Medicare terms, and what Medicare covers for hospice under Part A of Medicare.
Burial or Something Else?
Burial insurance is available from insurance companies, as well as directly from a selected funeral home. Obtaining burial insurance allows one to pay over time..
Cremation services–which also can be prepaid–are mainly provided by funeral companies. Cremation services are about the half the cost of a burial. Check for any regulations, in the relevant state/body of water, regarding the scattering of ashes.
Burial at sea is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency–check their website.
There is always the option of leaving your body to science. No funeral expenses!
Cryonics is the “science” of having one’s body frozen after death–and is expensive–not to mention the reliability of the process and outcome.
If you have children, you have the best legacy! Or have you mentored a relative or some other young person–then that also qualifies as a great legacy.,
Many careers are noble, like teaching and nursing, and those careers are indeed solid legacies. (The fact that these professionals are not properly paid is one of the reason we support the AAUW mission.)
Volunteering for, and supporting, any number of good causes, is indeed a well-earned legacy.
Inventing/producing something useful, writing a book, or creating art, certainly leaves behind a meaningful legacy.
Just leading a good life is a significant legacy. Remember–you made your mark on planet Earth–in a solar system that contains no other obvious life than our own!
Why not compose your own eulogy. And you can write your obituaries, and have someone submit them to your alumni magazines and newspapers–after you pass. Remember to update these over the years as needed.