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AARP Experts Answer Your Questions

Get top-notch advice on money, technology and health care

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Health

My mother has Alzheimer's disease and lives in a memory care unit. I used to take her out for lunch, but she no longer leaves the facility and doesn't talk much. What's the best way to spend time with her?

When you're there, keep in mind that it's the connection, as much as the activity, that counts. Touch her and look her in the eyes. Go through family photo albums together and tell stories about people, trips and events. Stroll around the facility, picking up leaves to smell or crunch, watching birds and getting a little exercise — which also helps brain function. Sing to her, or listen to her favorite music together. You'll find more ideas in my new AARP Memory Activity Book. And remember that you're not alone. Some 16.1 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. For support, reach out to the other families in your mom's unit and share your experiences; it may brighten your visits there. — Helen Lambert, author, AARP Memory Activity Book: Engaging Ways to Stimulate the Brain, for People Living With Memory Loss or Dementia

Mom is taking a lot more medications than she used to. Should I be concerned?

Maybe. Many older people take multiple prescription drugs, so that alone is not a cause for concern, but it's a good idea to investigate. Record all of your mom's medications and dosages, along with who prescribed them and why. Search medicine cabinets for over-the-counter medications, herbs and supplements. Casually ask her questions about her drug use. How many pills is she taking? Is each of her doctors aware of what the others are prescribing? Has she been feeling OK? Does she notice a change in her behavior? Go with her to the next appointment with her physician. Take the list and have the doctor go through it to make sure everything she is taking is necessary. If you have concerns about potential misuse, bring it up with the doctor. — Harry Haroutunian, M.D., author of AARP's Not As Prescribed: Recognizing and Facing Alcohol and Drug Misuse in Older Adults

Retirement

I'm starting to think about retiring, but I'm not ready to go cold turkey. Any advice?

Consider talking with your employer about “phased retirement.” That usually means gradually cutting back on your hours for several months. Most employers don't have a formal program, but see if you can find someone at your workplace who is phasing into retirement, or someone who did so recently. Ask for advice on how it was negotiated. Be clear about your vision. Do you want part-time rather than full-time work for a fixed period, say, scaling back to a four-day week, then maybe to a three-day week over the next six months? Which job responsibilities could you continue to meet? Use mentoring as a bargaining chip, offering to train a replacement. Assure your boss that you're trying to develop a smooth transition that will benefit the company in the long run. Pitch your proposal on a trial basis, with built-in periodic reviews, to see whether it's working for the manager and for you. — Kerry Hannon, author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills

Relationships

I'm newly single, and my social life was based on being part of a couple. How can I expand my circle?

Friendships often start through shared interests. So you might return to a sport you enjoy. Join or start a book club or meetup group that offers an activity you like. Travel with a singles group or take a cruise. Take a class at the community center or the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Join a gym, get involved in your place of worship or volunteer for a cause you are passionate about. — Jan Cullinane, author, AARP's The Single Woman's Guide to Retirement

Personal Technology

How can I keep track of my passwords? I make them long and complex but then I forget them!

Try a free or low-cost password manager that lets you maintain one secure database with all your usernames and passwords, accessible from all your devices. Then you need to remember only one username and password. The downside? Someone discovering that combination has access to all your account usernames and passwords. So if you use a password manager, change your master password periodically. Or find a password manager that uses two-factor authentication, usually a password plus a PIN texted or emailed to you. Most password managers also store credit card or other payment details associated with websites used for online shopping. — Jason R. Rich, author, AARP's My Online Privacy for Seniors

How do I stop pop-up ads on my computer?

First, from your web browser's Preferences menu, turn on “Block pop-ups” and the “Do Not Track” feature. Then download and install a free “ad blocker” extension (plug-in) for your computer's and mobile device's web browsers. To do this, search for “ad blocker” on one of these sites: for Apple SafariGoogle ChromeMicrosoft Edge; or Mozilla Firefox. — Jason R. Rich, author, AARP's My Online Privacy for Seniors

Work & Jobs

I'm looking to make some extra money on the side. Any suggestions?

You'll need to do a little soul-searching about what you're really up for in terms of hours and pay. If you have professional skills, the simplest way is often to land work as a consultant through former employers, colleagues or clients, or a local industry group. If you like to drive, limo services provide work year-round. Or try one of the ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft. If you have accounting chops, tax season help is often in demand. If you're looking for something low-key and social, stores may hire you as a clerk or greeter, especially during busy shopping seasons. — Kerry Hannon, author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills

Money

My kid is moving back home after college while he looks for a job. I'm worried that he'll think it's a free ride. How should I approach this?

This can be a time of bonding — or contention. Before he moves in, sit down together and figure out how much, if anything, he's able and willing to contribute toward household expenses. Clarify how long he anticipates staying and any other expectations. Tell him you don't want to micromanage his job search or his life, but make sure he's clear about what steps he'll be taking. And will he help out? Clean or cook or mow the lawn? Do his own laundry? Put the agreement in writing. This will help avoid misunderstandings — and quarrels. The agreement can always be changed. — Carol Levine, author of AARP's Navigating Your Later Years for Dummies

How can I save money on my cable bill?

Start by examining your bill for paid channels and services you rarely watch. Then call your cable company and see if you can switch to the lowest-price plan without the unnecessary channels. You can also ask if the cable company has any special deals, and indicate that you might switch your service to a competitor if the company won't offer a special price. If worse comes to worst, you can unsubscribe from cable completely and use an antenna to get the local channels you want over the air for free, or subscribe to a streaming TV service over the internet for $15 to $100 per month. It will be much less expensive than most cable plans. — Michael Miller, author, AARP's My TV for Seniors

Auto

My driving skills don't seem quite as sharp as they used to be. Anything I can do?

As we age, our reflexes may not be as quick, our bodies not as flexible, and our vision and distance perception not as keen—all making driving more challenging. As long as you're still a safe driver, though, you needn't give up the car keys. But consider a few options: Drive less at night, in heavy traffic or in bad weather. Slow down a bit. Check your medications. If any warn, “Do not operate heavy machinery while taking this drug,” know that a car is heavy machinery! And finally, take a driver safety course, such as the AARP Smart Driver course, which can help you hone your safety skills and be more aware of your limitations. A bonus: Many states offer insurance discounts if you complete the course. — Carol Levine, author, AARP's Navigating Your Later Years for Dummies

Send your questions to Ask Our Experts, AARP Bulletin, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049, or email askourexperts@aarp.org. We regret that volume precludes us from providing personal answers.

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