Top 5 things to look for in a retirement community

bbcWith changing times come new challenges.  And new challenges require us to break the old rules and mindset and think differently.

It is now time that older Indians seriously start considering moving into retirement communities.  With children and family spread around the world and infrastructure and general support being poor, the thought of moving into a retirement community should not be anathema to us anymore.  However, finding a good retirement community that not only meets your needs today but will be able to take care of you as you age is not easy.  Here are 5 things you need to consider when reviewing a retirement community:

1.  Location.
Find a retirement community that is in your home state – this will eliminate a lot of language and cultural issues.  Look for homes that are not too remote, have temperate climate through out the year (warmer better than cooler as you age, so if you have to decide between a place that gets hot in summer versus one that gets cold in winter, go with the former), have good hospitals and medical facilities nearby, in proximity to a city and well connected by road, rail and air.

2. Real estate vs. real service
Many real estate companies position their new properties as retirement communities as a way of finding new customers.  These companies are neither geared to build apartments that are suitable for senior citizens not are they capable of running retirement homes efficiently.  Once you have bought your home, they will leave you to fend for yourself.

When looking for a retirement community choose an organization that has a track record in running retirement homes. Find out what plans they have in terms of continued operations.  Preferably choose one that is already operational so that you can see them in action before committing.  The services that they offer should include general maintenance, house keeping, laundry services, food and kitchen services, medical attention and services, and completed assisted living services (even if you don’t need many of these services yet).

3.  Privacy and activities
Where budgets allow, always choose homes that balance your privacy and social activity nicely.  Neither secluded apartments nor dormitory style accommodation is suitable.  Ideally singles should have studio apartments and couple should have a 1 or 2-bedroom apartment with a functional kitchen.  This way, you can choose solitude when you want.

Additionally, the retirement community should provide sufficient social activity so that residents can be active, make new friends and enjoy each others’ company.  In later years, loneliness is the biggest enemy.

4.  Price point and models
Many retirement communities provide options to outright purchase apartments, lease long and short term as well as rental options.  Each of these have their pros and cons and you should consider each of these options carefully before deciding what is right for you. Also remember, there is one other cost component which is the monthly maintenance cost.  Depending on the services you take on, this could be anywhere between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 1,00,000.  Typical services include general maintenance, house keeping, laundry services, kitchen services, medical assistance and complete assisted living and there is cost associated with each of these services.

5. Services.
It is actually quite amazing how many different services we need to lead a normal life.  And since you are likely to be in a gated community, it is important that all these services are available to you when you need them. More of the services a retirement community provides, the better for you.  A typical list of services provided should include all or most of the following:

In the apartment
Studio Apartment/One Bedroom Apartment/Two Bedroom Apartment
Airconditioning
Emergency Call System
Full Kitchen
Keep pets

Care
Ambulation support
Assisted Living
Incontinence Management
Diabetes Care
Independent Living
Medication Management
Memory Care

Amenities
Fitness Room
Outside Patio
Parking Provided
Private Dining Room
TV and Media Room

Services
24 Hour Staffing
Beauty/Barber Shop
Dedicated Concierge
Fitness Program
Full-Time Activity Director
Guest Meals
Housekeeping
Personal Laundry
Linen Services
Personal Transportation Provided
Restaurant-style Dining
Spiritual Services
Three Meals Daily
Transportation to Medical Appointments

Others
Cable/DTH
Internet
Library
Physical therapy, Occupational therapy, and Speech therapy
Billiards room
Guest/visitor stay facilities

On top of it all, you should have all the freedom you deserve.  You should be able to order and eat what you want (within your own dietary limitations), have access to non-vegetarian dishes (if you are non-veg), have the ability to travel out without restrictions, leave on extended vacations if you so wish (while your apartment is taken care of), have access to a bar/alcohol if you wish, have people visit you without restriction and so on.

Moving into a retirement community is the second best thing to having your family around you all the time. Retirement communities can help you lead a productive and active life and your children will know you have access to all the care that you need.

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A little understanding…

From AARP Site‎

understanding“My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me.
Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way… remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day… the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don’t feel sad… just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you… my darling daughter. ”

Original Text in Spanish and Photo by Guillermo Peña.
Translation to English by Sergio Cadena.

Foot care and diabetes

Activ - For Men

Activ – For Men

Diabetes is the name given to several diseases that prevent the body from fully breaking down sugar, leading to higher concentrations of glucose in the blood. High blood glucose levels over long periods results in damage to the nerves, kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels. In addition, diabetes also decreases the immunity of people and reduces their ability to fight infection.

While this can lead to many different problems, one common area that is most often affected are the feet.

Due to nerve damage, diabetics can develop a condition called peripheral neuropathy which results in reduced sensitivity around the feet. Effectively, what this means is that diabetics are less aware of injuries they sustain to their feet and so may delay appropriate remedial action. Due to reduced immunity, these injuries are more prone to infections and due to reduced healing capacity, the wounds take longer to heal. Due to blood vessel damage, blood flow to the extremities is also reduced leading to reduced supply of antibiotics which in turn will delay the healing process.

In addition, diabetics are also prone to bone deforming conditions such as heel spurs and plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot which connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot. A heel spur is a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone (calcaneus).

What this means is that foot care is of paramount importance and injury prevention must be one of the top goals. As a diabetic, the first thing to learn is the VSE technique. VSE stands for Visual Surveillance of Extremities. Everyday, as soon as one gets up, and just before going to bed, do a visual inspection of the legs to see that there are no unnoticed injuries and bruises.

The second thing to do is to get appropriate footwear. Thankfully, there are a lot of manufacturers now providing good quality footwear specifically made for diabetics. The attributes to look for in footwear for diabetics are:

  1. MCR or MCP insoles. MCR is Multicellular rubber and MCP is Multicellular polyurethane. MCP is usually lighter than MCR and hence the footwear will also be light. MCP and MCR both provide a lot of cushioning that can help reduce foot pain.
  2. Soft uppers and material – Rough material can lead to chaffing which can lead to further complications and hence the foot wear, especially the insides, should be made of soft material.
  3. Removable insoles. Removable insoles help in quick customization of the footwear, especially if there are any ulcers on the foot. The MCP/MCR material can be cut as required and the pressure on the ulcers can be reduced.
  4. Weight. Ideal diabetic footwear should be as light as possible.
  5. Style and appearance. Just because it is MCR/MCP footwear does not mean it has to be ugly. There are quite a few manufacturers of very elegant footwear. All this apart, if you are diabetic and you hurt yourself or walking becomes painful, consult a doctor immediately.

You can see a few different kinds of footwear for diabetics here.

Senior friendly railway stations

At Old is Gold Store, wherever we go, we make it a habit to look at all public places such as railway stations, resorts, hotels and restaurants through the eyes of a senior citizen so that we can highlight all the senior friendly places to our customers.  Given our record in India, we can safely state that it is easier to document and list all senior/disabled friendly places (a very short list) than enumerate all the places which are not senior friendly (a very long list indeed).

Recently, on a trip to Varkala in Kerala, we were pleasantly surprised to find the railway station had ramps for entry to the station, ramps for entry to the canteen, free stretcher and wheelchair service and an easily accessible and readily available wheelchair at the station.

I could not spot the toilet though in the short time that we were there, so I cannot state whether the toilets were senior safe.  Also we did not find an elevator to help people cross over to the other track (we had to climb a flight of stairs to get on to the over-bridge and climb down on the other side).  Nevertheless, we appreciate the builders of Varkala station and hope that more public places take the cue from Varkala.

If you have noticed places that have taken special care to make all areas accessible, please write to us at involve@oldisgoldstore.com with photos.

Most of our elderly parents live in denial

protecting elderlyMost of our parents, even though they have become older and have lost some of their balance, still believe that they are completely capable of living unaided.  Genuine inability to notice the gradual deterioration of faculties along with not wanting to “burden” their children with their difficulties plus pride leads to this deadly state of denial.  And sometimes as children, we are also lulled into a false sense of belief that all is well, especially when we are living away from them – until there is some unfortunate accident that leads us to re-look at the situation with new eyes.

A few incidents involving our customers can help illustrate this problem as well as enable you to identify such situations and take necessary measures to ensure that your parents lead a safe and secure life.

I will narrate below one such incident involving one of my favorite customers.  An elderly lady, she walked into our showroom one bright sunny day to take a look at what we had on offer.  “Saw your advertisement and was curious to know what you have for us oldies…”, she said with an impish grin.  I showed her the different products we had and she clucked at each of them as though to say, “maybe for other older people… I don’t need these now”.  Finally we came to the walking sticks section and she picked up one of them, checked the price, paused a bit, chuckled and said, “I might be needing this one of these days”.  She then put the stick down and added “just not yet” and left the shop.

She came again a couple of days later saying she was just passing by and wanted to drop in and say hello.  I noticed a slight stutter in her steps and her hand against the wall, but pretended that I hadn’t noticed anything.  Her eyes wandered around the shop and I caught her glancing at the walking sticks.  “Not for another six months at least”, she half muttered to herself. She then shook her head, made small talk with me and went away.

A week later she was back.  This time she said “I keep coming to your shop and going away empty handed.  The least I can do by way of encouragement is to buy something. This time I am determined to buy something from your shop just to show you that I appreciate what you are doing and for all the times you have patiently listened to my chatter”.  Then she looked around and said, “what can I get for Rs. 500?” and then she looked at one of the walking sticks she had spied during her previous visits.  She grabbed at one and pretended to be surprised that it was priced exactly at Rs. 500.  “Humph, might as well buy this then, even though God know I don’t need it now.  I only rarely feel dizzy when walking anyway” she said and bought the stick.  She unwrapped it then and there and declared, “Now that I have bought it, I may as well use it whether I need it or not”!  Now, every time she visits us, she has her trusted walking stick firmly in her hand.

It took this tough lady 3 visits to convince herself to buy a walking stick, something she needed quite desperately.  Most of our customers are like that when they come by themselves – reluctant to accept that they are no longer as sprightly as before.  Some times, one of their children or a younger relative accompanies them and in that case there is usually a lot of argument before the young person says “I will buy this now.  You can use it when you want”.  Invariable, whatever they buy gets used from that day forwards.

When you are living away from your parents, it is usually not possible to find out exactly how they are getting on.  You end up going by their word, which is not always as objective as we would like it to be.  So remember, you need to be a lot more proactive when it comes to ensuring that your parents have all the protection and safe guards they need to lead an accident-free and safe live.

Elegant footwear for diabetics

buynow

Old is Gold Store is now dealing with a range of elegant footwear for people with diabetes or those suffering from arthritis, spurs, heel pain, flat feet, foot ulcers, etc.  Manufactured by a company called Dyna, these sandals are elegant, soft, comfortable and easy to slip on and slip off.

They look good and keep your feet protected from getting hurt.  Men sizes range from 6 – 13 and ladies sizes from 2 – 9.  To check out the footwear, click here.

Heel Pain Footwear
Designed with silicone padding at the heel to absorb shock and sheer forces
Specially designed foot bed redistributes plantar pressure

Flat Feet Footwear
Biomechanically designed
Total contact Insole with medial arch support which takes the shape of the foot
Improves the natural alignment and function of the foot and ankle
Moulded insole with thermoplastic reinforcement for rigidity and support
Prevents excess pronation

Arthritic Footwear
Made of total contact MCR insole with built in soft arch support
Increases the surface area of contact and redistributes plantar pressure
Reduce the excess pressure at the leggy prominences
Improves the natural alignment and function of foot and ankle

Toilet raiser – Easy way to spare your knees

Aside

TR13FR_finalThe Western Closet can be of different heights. For many senior citizens, sitting down and getting up from a low toilet seat can be difficult. Instead of replacing the toilet bowl, which can be expensive and time consuming, you can use this toilet raiser to raise the height of the toilet bowl ensuring ease of use.

This toilet raiser adds 8 cms or 13 cms to your toilet seat, is made of durable plastic, and comes with metal clamps that keep it firmly in place. Click here to buy.

Question related to Company FDs

Q: Can you throw some light on the pros and cons of investing in company FDs ?  Also please let me know what you think about the following companies in terms of ratings and other service attributes
1. Shriram Transport Finance
2. Deewan Housing
3. JP Associates

Ans:  Thanks for the question. Before we answer it, a quick primer on the subject matter of your query – company fixed deposits – for the uninitiated.

companyfdMost people are very familiar with fixed deposit products offered by banks – both private and public. These FDs are secured by RBI up to Rs 1 lakh per deposit per bank branch, which means that to a certain extent the investor money is protected in such cases.

Company fixed deposits, on the other hand, are offered by Non-banking finance companies or by public limited companies, and not by banks. These too offer a fixed rate of return depending on the tenure of the deposit. However, they are not secured by RBI or any other regulatory body. Due to this inherent risk in the product, such deposits are offered at a higher rate of return compared to bank FDs – typically 1-3% higher.

As an investor, we need to be prudent and choosy in picking the company deposits that we invest in – one cannot sacrifice security in search for higher interests nor can we ignore better returns by being completely risk averse.

And that brings us to the question – as the questioner correctly points out, we need to look at the ratings of a company and other service attributes before choosing where to invest.

When it comes to ratings, we should note one important thing – there are different kinds of companies offering deposits and not all of them are rated. There are NBFCs, government entities, and manufacturing companies (publicly listed companies) offering deposits. Of these, ratings firms such as CARE and CRISIL provide ratings only for NBFCs and government entities. Publicly listed manufacturing companies’ deposit products are not rated.

One can see the ratings of these companies and more at MoneyControl’s Company FD page:

http://www.moneycontrol.com/fixed-income/company-deposits/

As you can see, Shriram Transport Finance and Deewan Housing (DHFL) are rated. JP Associates (manufacturing conglomerate) is not. Shriram has a rating of CRISIL FAA+ and ICRA MAA+, while DHFL’s rating is CRISIL AA+ and Brickworks FAAA.

(Explanation of ratings here – http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/fixed-income/credit-ratings-ratingsdebt-instruments_653221.html)

Regarding service quality:

At FundsIndia.com, we offer all three of these deposit products although JP Associates has been a rather recent entry into the fold. So, we have a bit of experience to comment on the service quality offered by these firms.

In our experience, Shriram’s service has an excellent track record. We have rarely, if ever, received customer complaints in this regard, and even when we did, we have been able to sort out the issue with their staff easily.

We do not have as much of a track record with DHFL or JP to comment confidently.

My advice would be to go with a good service provider such as Shriram even if their interest rates are marginally lower than the other two.

This question has been answered by Srikanth Meenakshi of our financial advisory team.  Write to advice@oldisgoldstore.com if you would like us to answer your question.