Home Alarms, Medical Alerts with no landline required – UPDATE


I received an email from a reader saying that she was 76 years of age and needed a medical alert while at home but that she had no landline, just a cell phone. I had also been wondering about something similar, as I have a home alarm system and wanted to cancel my home phone. I thought I could not because of my ADT system. I did some research and made some calls and found out that yes, you can have both medical /emergency alert and home alarm even when you have no landline.

HOWEVER, in the case of the home alarm, replacing the alarm with the wireless option is not always cost-effective. I am 2.5 years into a three year contract with ADT, so I called them first.  The cost for its CellGuard wireless system, despite my already having an ADT system, is $239, and then the monthly fee increases by $10 forever. Since I have already cut my home phone back to just the basic local service, my landline is now a mere $19 a month, with a Century Link promise not to raise that for five years. I therefore would only save $9 a month, and incur an upfront cost of $239. It would take me more than two years to recoup my money doing this. I have decided to keep my landline, at least until my ADT contract expires in February.

There is at least one other wireless option, however, and while I haven’t tried it and don’t know anyone who has, it is surely less costly. SimpliSafe is a wireless system that talks to local cell towers. It is so easy to install that they send it and you do it yourself – so there’s no install fee. The hardware itself is $169-$269 depending on whether you want the version that allows you to work it remotely from your smart phone, and also have it check for fire, flood and carbon monoxide. Then the price starts at $14.99 a month. If you want to add services such as email and SMS alerts the price is $19.99 a month.  The full package, the SimpliSafe 2 with the fire and carbon monoxide warnings as well as freezing alert, is due out this fall , and will add about $5 a month to the cost.  So you’ll pay several hundred less  upfront compared with ADT, about half what you pay to ADT each month, and you will have no contract to sign. Again, I caution, I have not tried this system and have no personal testimonials I can trust either. Here are the details and some media coverage.

For medical alerts there are some nice options however. LifeAlert has what it calls a 911 mobile phone, which is basically a one-button 911 wireless device that you can carry anywhere. It works anywhere within the U.S. and its battery is supposed to last at least seven years. Additionally, LifeAlert offers an emergency system that ties into your own mobile phone. All it takes is the touch of one key and you’re on the phone with a LifeAlert responder, to report an intruder, a fall while hiking, someone following you back to your car or any other emergency. What I don’t like about Life Alert is that its site keeps pricing a deep dark secret and when you phone the 800 number splashed everywhere you get a call center rep whose sole job it is to get your address to send out a free printed brochure. I found no evidence of any Facebook page, or other social media presence. The company just seems really out of touch with today’s boomers and seniors, and for a firm that is clearly targeting a younger audience with its emergency mobility, its product marketing is dismally out of date.

Alert1, a competitor, posted this pricing comparison (see graphic below) between it and LifeAlert, and assuming accuracy, here’s a brief glance at LifeAlert pricing for its standard products. What is not made clear, however, is that not all Alert1 differentiating products and services are available when you choose the monthly and quarterly billing option it touts. Alert1 does not seem to have a wireless option.

Another wireless medical alert option, which I’ve been impressed with for a long time, is the Jitterbug cell phone.  Yes, it might be bigger than something you want to carry around with you from one room to the next, but if you need both a mobile phone and a medical alert system that is wireless this would fit the bill. The phone is well-suited for those who are elderly, hearing impaired or suffering from cataracts or other sight difficulties. The keys are very large, and the phone works well with hearing aids. But it also can be programmed as a medical responder. It’s 5 Star Urgent Response, for $14.99 a month, brings emergency help with the touch of one key. No contract is required for either the phone service or the 5 Star add-on. Jitterbug also has a 24/7 Nurse line app as well as one for medication information. Keep in mind, however, this is NOT a smart phone. If, like me, you want to be able to check your email, send a text,  get directions, use your calculator, make notes, and take a picture via your mobile device, the Jitterbug is not for you. At least not as your only mobile device.

UPDATE – Since I first posted this, I’ve learned of another medical alert product that can work without a landline phone. MyPersonalResponse.com offers a choice of two landline systems that vary by range and a cellular system. The most costly, the cellular is $29.95 a month, with no contract and free shipping. There’s an offer on its site for a free first month. You install it yourself.

Comfy Remote Workplaces with Free Wifi


Whether you’re self-employed, employed, traveling or just wanting to check email or get online without paying the tab for doing so, here are a few places you can, and in comfort. Of course there are telework centers and co-working spaces too, but at the following you can get fed, have access to clean restrooms and sit in pleasant surroundings, for at least 1.5 hours, without getting asked to vacate. Of course, not everything we do for work, even with our tablet or laptop, requires web access. If you’re like me there are times when all I need is Word and /or Excel to get hours of work completed.

McDonalds – One of the best free public wifis anywhere – fast, and reliable. Get a meal for $5 or less, or even a snack and large drink and unless you come in at rush hour where seats are at a premium you can sit here in a nice roomy booth for 2 hours undisturbed and work away. I know. I do it at least once a week.  I come in for breakfast about 10am or late lunch/early dinner 3-4pm and the place is just about empty.

BurgerKing – I’m not positive every location has free wifi, but in Phoenix they do. You have to ask for the code, though try Whopper99. That’s what works locally. Again, no one is going to throw you out if you hang out and don’t make a pest of yourself or take up a booth when it’s crowded with folks waiting for seating.

Denny’s – Check the location for wifi before you go. In Phoenix some have it and some don’t. But there are also great deals for seniors. Every Denny’s offers 20 percent off your entire meal every day after 4pm if you show your AARP card. And the local franchise has a 55+ card. You get it stamped each time you eat and every sixth entree is free. Again, if it’s not crowded,no one will give you dirty looks for hanging out until you’ve been there about 90 minutes. Make sure you tip well, and I always start out by saying, “I plan on dawdling over my coffee to get some work done. I hope you don’t mind. If you start to get busy I’ll leave.” Everyone is very nice about it.

Village Inn – Sign up on their website and they’ll start emailing you specials. Again, if you’re considerate and go when they’re not busy you can work here with their free wifi for up to 90 minutes.

The local library – generally all it takes is a library card and you can work here as long as you like via their free wifi. Of course, you can’t use your cell phone but you have the added advantage of having plug ins to keep your phone and laptop charged while you work. And many have private business rooms you can use, though some might require a pre-registration by phone or web. Most don’t ask for payment. And while they’ll say otherwise, who’s going to know if you sneak a drink from your bottle of water or eat your granola bar while you’re in there with the door closed? Just don’t make a mess.

The local airport – most major airports have free wifi, though some have a day charge. Check before you go. There’s plenty of seating, though you might be hard-pressed to find a good workspace with desk area. But there’s always a restroom, someplace to eat, no restriction on bringing in your own food or drink, or using your smartphone. And they’re open 24/7 365 days. Not only that, if you really need a break to stretch your legs you have plenty of space to get up and take a walk and then come back to work refreshed. Travelers are fun to watch if you’re into people watching, too.


The local hospita
l – While I wouldn’t venture into the emergency room to try and hang out there are plenty of waiting spaces at the local hospital and virtually no one is going to ask what you’re doing there. Some have wifi, some don’t. Do check before you go.  But if you’re there for awhile, they’re sure to assume you’re waiting out a friend or family member’s surgery or emergency care. You might also spend some time in the cafeteria, generally one of the cheapest places in town to get a well-balanced, nutritionally-sound meal. The biggest caution is that this is a facility for sick people. Germs abound.

Barnes & Noble – great wifi, great coffee, and very pleasant surroundings. You can sit at one of the cafe tables, or find an easy chair among the books – and no one is going to say a thing about your carrying your food and drink in the store. Best of all, if you need to do some research via book or magazine, everything on the shelf is there for you to use at no charge, without any commitment to buy it. Just don’t spill on the merchandise.

Starbucks or other coffee houses – I’ve hung out at Starbucks for a couple of hours with just a cup of coffee and not been hassled, even when it got crowded. They’re just far too busy to notice, and it’s what they’re all about. HOWEVER, unless you get one of the easy chairs that get grabbed up quickly, you’re generally sitting at a table with a chair that is simply not designed to encourage long stays. That said, I’ve done it  – and then was grateful for the comfy cushioning of my car’s seat. Of course, I have quite a bit of my own cushioning too.

Wednesday’s live events


This is an issue of immense importance to U.S. seniors and boomers, of course. Comments welcome, as you hear more. I’ll share what I learn as well. Let’s keep each other well informed.

This Just In

The Supreme Court may soon rule on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law.  Once a ruling is issued, CNN.com Live will be there for all the reaction and fallout.

Today’s programming highlights…

9:30 am ET — IPO process hearing — The Facebook IPO fallout has made some wonder whether initial public offerings are worth it for ordinary investors.  A Senate banking subcommittee looks at the issue.

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RetirementJobs.com: Firms that Seek 50+ Folks


courtesy, RetirementJobs.com

While there are several recruitment websites devoted to, or including some search specifics on, jobs for seniors, not all do a great job at this. RetirementJobs.com, however, has actually reviewed and certified employers who clearly welcome boomers and senior job candidates with open arms. Additionally, through collaboration with CareerBuilder, RetirementJobs sorts CareerBuilder ads into senior friendly and unfriendly (or unverifiable as friendly) , bringing to its pages a feed of the former.

On any given day,RecruitmentJobs has at least 20,000 job openings from 5000 employers in its database. Of these 5000 only 100 are certified. That doesn’t mean they’re not senior-friendly. It may simply mean that they didn’t take the time to apply. After all, most of these advertisers came to the site specifically to lure its market of 50+ candidates, so one must assume they’re not ruling them out as prospective employees. One million site members deliver 150,000 unique visitors each month.

“Most of those firms who apply for certification are approved,”  Retirement Jobs CEO Tim Driver told me by phone. “The process is pretty self-selecting – those who wouldn’t be approved tend not to apply. Those who aren’t approved usually come up short when we do external reviews in the actual marketplace. We make it part of the agreement with the certified employers if things come up they investigate the problem and rectify it if appropriate. That has happened numerous times. People terminated have been reinstated and managers have been let go.”

While job seekers who use the site at no charge can search jobs by location, industry and keyword, and post their resumes, a paid Premium job seeker could conduct a search that indicated which employers are certified. She or he could conduct a certified-only search, have her resume critiqued and register for instructional job search Webinars.

While some functions and features such as mobile apps and telecommute alerts are still on the drawing board, RecruitmentJobs.com is a handy, easy to navigate,  mobile- optimized job site for seniors.

How Your Income Effects Your Social Security Check


I just got some good news from the Social Security office via phone. My full retirement age is 66, and while I think I might write part time until I take my last breath, I’d sure like to stop putting in these 80 hour weeks as soon as possible. I read about it online, but didn’t quite get it. So I called, and a very helpful, patient social security rep clarified the following:

  • The calendar year I turn 66, even though the day I turn 66 is not January 1,  I can make up to $38,880 without any reduction in my social security check. I knew that once I turn 66,  I could make as much as I wanted, but the good news here is that even though my birthday is May 28, I don’t have to wait to retire until May. If the money I make January through April is not more than 1/3  (4/12th’s) of $38,880 my social security checks will not be reduced. The calculations: $38,880 divided by 12 works out to $3240 a month. So I can make up to $3240 each month from January through April and still draw a full social security check. If I were to earn more than that anytime prior to May, my social security would be reduced $1 for every $3 over that amount. In May I can make as much as I want. Great news, as I don’t expect to be making more than $3000 a month at that point, anyway.
  • The year prior – the year I turn 65, and the year in which I hope to retire – the earnings ceiling (unless it changes from what it is now) will be $14,640. If I decide to start taking my social security in June, the month after I turn 65, what I’ve earned up until June of that calendar year won’t factor into any reduction of my social security check, but as of June it will. For whatever I make each month starting with June that exceeds 1/12th of $14,640 ($1220 per month) my social security would be reduced $1 for every $2 of that overage. While that’s a hefty price to pay, I’m still going to be money ahead each month by taking the social security. What I probably would do (as I’m self-employed and get no vacation pay if I don’t work) is take a month or two off and travel.)  I would actually make money doing that, as my income overage would be reduced. Additionally, the extra earnings would positively effect how much I get from social security down the road. (I’ll have more on the latter topic in a later post.)

Obviously, every person has to make her or his own decision about taking Social Security before full retirement age. We all know that Continue reading “How Your Income Effects Your Social Security Check”

Veterans’ senior-living benefits, Medicaid qualifiers


Belmont Village

I attended a delicious and informative lunch-and-learn event yesterday at the brand new Belmont Village Senior Living in Scottsdale. Don Smith, chartered financial consultant with Emerald Capital Preservation focused on the help that the VA offers war-time veterans who are no longer equipped to accomplish some of the activities of daily living.

Following the event I toured the assisted living and memory care facility with Millie Oakeson, community relations manager.

Don Smith specializes in assisted living financial planning, not only for veterans but for those who might qualify for Medicaid and anyone who needs to do estate planning and set up healthcare and financial powers of attorney. He’s a long-time member of the National Ethics Association.

He told us about the VA Aid and Attendance Program. Continue reading “Veterans’ senior-living benefits, Medicaid qualifiers”

Deep Discounts from Daily Deals Sites


If you’re a bargain hunter, you must sign up for your local Daily Deals sites. Online Deals platforms offer merchant discounts that typically start at a LOW 50 percent off and might just offer as much as a 90 percent discount. One in Canada, the new TikTok, only publishes FREE offers.

While many of these offers are entertainment-focused – and perhaps not always for those of you strapped for cash – cheap prices on every day basic needs are starting to pop up everywhere on these sites. You could get your carpets cleaned for at least half off, and have your home inspected for termites or its air conditioning system assessed. You might well find a special on auto detailing or oil change, or a really nice deal on a shampoo and cut. I’ve twice had the carpets cleaned throughout my entire home for less than $50, by signing up for the Phoenix-based DealRadar Daily Deals aggregator. DealRadar goes out and scouts the various local Daily Deals sites, organizes them into categories and emails me every day with the latest local bargains.

The best known Daily Deals site, Groupon, lets you “deal personalize.” That means that you tell Groupon a little about yourself including what kinds of Deals you want to hear about, and you’ll get just those categories of discounts emailed to you.

Some other interesting Deals sites:  Continue reading “Deep Discounts from Daily Deals Sites”