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.

Investments that secure you monthly income

retirement_investmentPost retirement, the need for a regular income stream becomes vital. Even if you are a pensioner, it is likely that you need to supplement it with some regular cash flow to meet your expenses. That is why it becomes imperative for you to build a portfolio of investments that generate income either monthly or quarterly. Here are a few options, with varying degrees of risk, available to you.

Post office schemes

The top choices in terms of capital safety as well as regular income are the post office senior citizen savings scheme and post office monthly income account scheme. Currently the post office senior citizen scheme (five-year tenure) offers 9.3 per cent per annum, with interests paid out every quarter. This is higher than the interest rate of 9 per cent offered by a good number of banks.

What more, the principal investment is available for deduction under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, up to Rs 1 lakh. Hence, besides attractive interest rates, the scheme is also suitable for those who are in the middle or higher tax bracket and need to reduce their tax outgo. You can invest up to Rs 15 lakh under this scheme.

The post office monthly income scheme has a less attractive 8.5 per cent per annum. Its key advantage is the monthly pay out. While you can opt for this if you are averse to non-government schemes, it may be a better option to go for senior citizen scheme first. The interest from the senior citizen scheme will be credited the post office savings account. Hence, you can also withdraw money as and when you wish to, after the quarter’s interest is credited.

Interest though is taxable under both the schemes. Tax is deducted at source if interest exceeds Rs 10,000 per annum. Ensure that you submit Form 15H if your annual income is well below the minimum tax slab.

Banks and financial institutions

Many banks and financial institutions offer monthly interest payout. But the interest rate mentioned as the annual rate will be accordingly discounted. For example, if you had an interest payout of say 9.35 per cent a year for quarterly payouts, the monthly interest rate applicable could be say 9.3 per cent a year.

Currently, Karnataka Bank, IDBI Bank, Yes Bank, to name a few, offer interest rates higher than the Post Office Senior Citizen Scheme. But if you avail the 80C tax deduction benefit available in post office senior citizen scheme, then your yield would be higher than the rates offered by banks. Do note that interest income is taxable in these cases too.

Bank deposits are relatively safe as your deposits (plus your savings account balance) are insured up to Rs 1 lakh in each branch of a bank.

Among finance institutions, you should be careful about the credit worthiness of the company. Therefore, always check for their credit rating and go for those with highest credit rating of AAA. HDFC’s Platinum deposit, for instance, offers 9.3 per cent annual rate for monthly interest payout option and 9.35 per cent for quarterly payout options. It has AAA-rating.

If you are not confident about investing in private institutions, then look for government-backed ones. Currently, National Housing Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of RBI offers 9.85 per cent a year across various maturity periods. But the interest payout is only on a half-yearly basis.

Savvier options

If you have limited- or no-source of regular income, you will do well to allocate a chunk of your savings in safe options. But if you have other sources of cash flow like pension or rental income, then a fifth or less can be parked in savvier options like debt mutual funds. We are not suggesting the universe of equity funds for reasons of high risk.

Mutual fund investors may be aware of Monthly Income Plans or MIPs that seek to offer a monthly/quarterly/half-yearly dividend payout to investors. These funds predominantly invest in short and long term fixed income instruments issued by government or corporate, in debentures and in commercial paper. MIPs however, have a 15-20 per cent exposure to equities to provide some kicker to returns.

The flip side here is that while most schemes strive to declare dividends every month, there is no guaranteed payout. The quantum can also vary based on the gains made in various interest rate cycles. Also, debt funds suffer a 13.5 per cent (including cess and surcharge) dividend distribution tax DDT). Although paid by the fund, this is adjusted in the NAV.

If you wish to avoid the uncertainty in dividend payment and the NAV erosion from DDT, then systematic withdrawal plan (SWP) is a good option. You can invest a lump sum in a short-to-medium-term debt fund or MIP. Avoid the dividend option in this case. Allow the lump sum to grow for at least 1-3 years. This will also help avoid short-term capital gains tax (mf investments less than one year suffer short-term gains taxed at your income tax slab rate) and exit load.

Opt for SWP which will allow you to withdraw a fixed amount systematically, on a monthly, quarterly or half-yearly basis. But you will suffer long-term capital gains at the time of withdrawal. That will be 10 per cent on the gains without indexation or 20 per cent with indexation. Hence, if you are among those in the high tax bracket, this would be a superior option to the traditional fixed income options.

As far as possible, have a judicious mix of the above options in line with your risk appetite.

Happy investing and have a safe 2013!

Note: Products recommended in this article are general suggestions. Investors would have to keep in mind their specific requirements and risk appetite before choosing their investments.

Author: Vidya Bala, Head, Mutual Fund Research, FundsIndia

Don’t lose your marbles

Active Ageing logo v3Active ageing defies the phrase “counting your years”, and instead repositions everyday with activity that becomes fun and enjoyable.

Senior Citizens often find themselves with too little to do after retiring or once their children grow up and move away. While many aspects of age-related decline are inevitable, scientific evidence shows that staying involved with physical, mental and social activities can help seniors maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Mental Function

Senior Citizens who remain physically active significantly reduce their risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. Physical activities include walking, yoga, gardening, housework; anything that keeps a person moving on a regular basis.

Longevity

Regular physical activity reduces incidence of premature death due to chronic diseases such as heart attack, stroke and diabetes. It also helps people maintain bone mass density, which can help prevent osteoporosis. Senior Citizens who exercise regularly are also more agile and mobile significantly improving their quality of life.

Emotional Well-being

Social activities can help keep Senior Citizens engaged and close to other people. Taking part in group activities and social events helps elderly people maintain a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

Here is a list of activities, hobbies that senior citizens can take up and enjoy themselves

  •     Form walking clubs groups, learn Yoga, crack puzzles work on word games, and play cards, chess, caroms anything that interests you.
  •     Learn to stitch or start again
  •     Build a garden
  •     Indulge your grandchildren or learn the art of long distance grand parenting
  •     Collect antiques, collect newspaper articles.
  •     Grow fishes build an aquarium
  •     Join a Senior Centre or a  club,
  •     Buy a camera, shoot everything in sight.
  •     Go to a library, read, write, blog paint
  •     Organize city history tours, temple walks.
  •     Organise a retro movie club.
  •     Join support Groups, teach slum children, counsel people.
  •     Learn new recipes, share yours with others, and write recipe books.

To share ideas send email to  involve@oldisgoldstore.com

Staying informed

eco-timesA behavioral pattern observed when it comes to senior citizens’ personal finance and investment habits is as follows:

  1. When they make investment decisions on their own, they tend to be very conservative and safety conscious. Left to themselves, they choose risk-averse, stable products which place safety above profits.
  2. However, when they are approached by product sales people from financial services with product pitches, they tend to take decisions that are completely opposite from the above – going in for the promise of high returns without taking caution or doing due diligence. Sales people often find it easiest to sell bad and ill-suited products to senior citizens just for this reason.

Why this dichotomy? How does a person who generally has a conservative outlook to finances easily fall prey to such sales talk?

Honestly, I do not know the answer to these questions, and a study about this behavior is not the objective of this article. Rather, I think we need to be aware of this pattern and recognize if we or a friend or a family member fit into it.

More importantly, we need to identify how to avoid this pattern of behavior. And for that, I believe the answer lies in staying informed.

When we are working in an office, we get a chance to interact with different people during the course of a day. It provides us with an opportunity to get to know both about genuine new opportunities as well keep away from scams and bad products.

After retirement, such opportunities are scarce, and this is one of the main reasons, I believe, that senior citizens make incorrect financial decisions.

Hence, it is especially important for our retired elders to make reading about personal finance and economics a regular part of their news intake.

This can be done quite easily actually. There are quite a few publications that recognize this and provide useful articles regularly.

For example, the Hindu Business Line had a great article by B Venkatesh a couple of weeks ago about how to save and invest in the post retirement period of one’s life:

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/features/investment-world/personal-finance/how-to-adjust-retirement-portfolio-for-inflation/article4178597.ece

I also noted another article by Dhirendra Kumar on Value Research Online a few weeks back along similar lines:

http://www.valueresearchonline.com/story/h2_storyView.asp?str=21516

Specifically, I would recommend two weekly publications that every senior citizen should at least skim through regularly:

  1. The Hindu might be staple reading for local and national politics coverage, but when it comes to personal finance, the Hindu Business Line’s Sunday edition’s Investment world takes the cake. This 3-4 page spread does admirably well in general, but more so while addressing the needs of post-retirement finances.
  2. The Economic Times might be heavy reading on a daily basis, but their Monday edition comes with a personal finance tabloid supplement that is very good and worthy of perusal.

Just by getting these two issues – Sunday issue of the Business Line and the Monday issue of ET – will keep one well informed about the happenings in the personal finance – good and bad.

Happy reading!

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.

Thinking of returning to India – A house should be your first priority

Home-Tax-BenefitThere comes a day in the lives of mid-40 year old NRIs when they realizes that their parents are getting old and can no longer fend for themselves.  To many this comes as a rude shock when during one of their trips to India, they see that their parents have significantly aged since their last visit. At this time, two primary options come to mind.

Option 1:  Take the parents back with them.  In many cases, when it is a single parent, this is a viable option, especially when the other parent has just passed on.  This helps the surviving parent to be with close family during a time of grief and the change in scene may also in some ways ease the pain.  The flip side is of course is that the parent may feel uprooted from familiar surroundings and friends and rebuilding a life half way around the world can be quite challenging. Additionally issues with insurance and medical coverage etc will need to be worked out.

Option 2:  The NRIs return to India to stay with the parents.  This would mean that the NRIs will have to give up the life they have build in the foreign country and restart from scratch in India. Again a lot of challenges involved.  Of these one big challenge is getting a house in India.

In earlier times, if you were to sell a house in the US or gulf and come back to India, you would have enough money to buy a same sized house here with lots of money to spare.  Those days are long gone.  Now a house in an Indian city costs much more than a house in most other parts of the world!  However, with some foresight and planning, a decent house or apartment could become a reality for you.

a.  Start looking for a house now.  Everyday, the real estate prices are going up, so the sooner you begin the better.
b.  Look for options outside the city with proximity to industrial zones and hospitals. Options outside the city limits are often much cheaper than those inside the city, especially when you book your apartment at the beginning of the project (when rates are at the best).
c.  Check out bank loan options.  Every bank in India provides NRIs with attractive home loan options.
d.  Many gated communities are coming up with schools and hospitals within the complex.  These could be ideal for your children and your ageing parents.

If your parents are not too old yet and you have not reached the mid-40s yet, now would be a good time to buy the house. That way, a good home will be available when you decide to come back to India.

Of passwords and ATM PINs

passwordWith more of our lives getting digital every day, one of the biggest challenges facing us is keeping track of all the passwords(email, bank account, Facebook, …) and TPINs (Telephone Personal Identification Number) and IPINs (Internet PIN) and ATM PINs that have become an intrinsic part of our lives. Writing down these passwords and PINs in a central place is a big “NO-NO” and jotting your PIN on the back of your ATM card is as good as throwing your money away!

If this is a tough challenge even for youngsters, it is problem of a much higher magnitude for senior citizens with fading memories.  However, there are some simple tricks that you can use to make up strong passwords that are easy to remember for you but tough for others to crack.  Here is one simple trick:

There are many things in our lives that are etched deeply into our long-term memory which will never fade away. Our first telephone number, the address of the house we were born in, our college ID, lines from our favorite songs, name of our first girl friend/boy friend, our first love, phrases that affected us, proverbs that hold special meaning for us, titles of books that changed the way we look at life, names of people who helped us along, birthdays of our first born, or the first grandchild, our star sign – the list of things we can never forget is a mile long.  Most of these words, phrases and numbers are very difficult to guess for others, especially if some of them are in your native language (other than English).  Choose a few of these wisely and use them for your various password needs.

Just remember to avoid some of the easily guess-able ones such as your own name, your mother’s maiden name (which you have probably been asked in many places), your birthday, or the last line of your National Anthem. Especially that last bit, as if you ever have to divulge your password to your wife, she may what to know who that “Jaya” is!!!

One piece of advice:  There may come a time when you may have to reveal your password to someone in the family, so do not keep anything nasty, embarrassing or too revealing as your password.

Don’t let passwords and PINs scare you away from using ATM cards and computers.

If you can think of other simple ways of producing strong passwords, do share those ideas through the comments section.  .

Never too late for anything…

s-NOLA-OCHS-PHOTO-largeMs. Nola Ochs at the age of 98 became the oldest person to receive a masters degree. Hailing from Kansas, USA, she earned a general studies degree with an emphasis in history, from Fort Hays University, graduating alongside her granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs, who was 21 years old at the time in 2010.

She also holds the record for being the oldest (at the age of 95) to get a Bachelors degree which she earned in 2007.

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.

Free wheelchair service during kutcheri season

FreeWheelchairservicebanner1December is the season of music and dance in Chennai and the music season has started in full earnest.  Every year, a large percentage of rasikas are older people and this year is no exception.  In order not to miss the performances of their favourite artists,  many of them even surmount their mobility issues to reach the Sabhas.

A quick glance at the facilities at the Sabhas quickly shows that most auditoriums are devoid of even the basis infrastructure necessary for the comfort of senior citizens. The aisles are narrow, the steps steep and the toilets – the less we say, the better.

In order to create an awareness about the special needs of senior citizens, Old is Gold Store is providing free wheelchair service at selected Sabhas during this music season. While this not only provides an immediate solution to one of the problems, it also highlights the poor support that public places in India provide for the senior citizens and the disabled.

We reached out to all the major Sabhas and two of them responded immediately and have welcomed us to provide this facility at their Sabha hall.  One of them is Chennai Cultural where this facility started yesterday and the other is Hamsadhwani where the facility will be available from the 16th of December.

Old is Gold Store is highly appreciative of these two Sabhas for being so sensitive to the needs of the patrons and for being so proactive and forth-coming.  We hope that soon more Sabhas join this elite group.