National Preparedness Month: Planning Ahead for Disaster…And Staying Safe Because of It!

September 13th, 2018

As the last days of a warm and sticky New Jersey summer fade into a cooler fall, we are reminded of all the lovely seasonal changes—the bright green leaves turn to flame-like colors before browning and falling, the lighter summer clothes are changed out for warmer seasonal wear (aka “sweater weather”) and we finally turn off our air-conditioners and hope for a few weeks of respite before we turn on our heaters. We also, however, remember the less happily anticipated changes—the leaves to rake and the gutters to clean, the coming chillier months, and, of course, hurricane season followed by blizzards, ice, and sub-freezing temperatures.

While New Jerseyans across the state deal with rain and flooding from tropical storm Gordon and wait to see what Hurricane Florence will bring, now is the perfect time to think about our disaster preparedness. All too often we put off thinking about disaster preparedness until the danger is at our doorstep in the form of a storm, fire or flood. But don’t wait until the next hurricane warning to be prepared! September is National Preparedness Month and it’s the perfect time to make sure you’re ready for disasters big and small that can happen now or any time of year.

 

Displacement

Do you know where you’ll go? During a disaster you may have to leave your home and find temporary shelter. Whether there’s a mandatory evacuation or you’ve just lost power or heat, you may be temporarily forced out of your home. Regardless of why, there will inevitably be lots of stress and chaos going on surrounding a forced relocation even if temporary, so it’s best to have a few planned locations in place.

Do you have local family or friends you could stay with for a short time? For some people this may be an easy solution for some emergencies (e.g., losing heating or power in your home), but may not be suitable for wide-ranging disasters like hurricanes and intense blizzards. If you do elect to stay with family or friends come up with a plan together to ensure you’re all ready for what your disaster preparedness plan looks like, including how you will get to your temporary lodgings, where you will sleep, and whether there are any accommodations that need to be made for you (e.g., keeping animals away or giving yours a place to stay, clearing enough space for you to easily move about the space, and access to bathrooms for people with mobility issues).

If staying with family or friends is not an option, does your community have shelter for emergency situations? Although this may not be available for an emergency such as a house flood, learn about your community’s emergency shelter plan for natural disasters and follow the directions given to you by emergency and rescue personnel. If you don’t know your local shelter or evacuation shelter during an emergency call 2-1-1 or visit www.nj211.org or www.211.org. While local services may be down or you may not know the phone number for local emergency services, you can always call 2-1-1, free of charge, to connect to a person who will help you find help or shelter in an emergency or disaster.

 

Evacuation

What will be your evacuation plan in case of a disaster? Learn your area’s evacuation route and plan with family and friends how you will evacuate if you need to. Coordinate and plan to carpool if possible. If you or someone you know has mobility issues plan with this in mind. Anyone who has or cares for someone with a disability or mobility issue should register at the “Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters” here at NJ Register Ready. Registering will help alert residents or caregivers when an evacuation has been ordered and will inform emergency personnel of your needs so they can better serve you during a disaster or other emergency. Please note the website and state still urge citizens to make their own plans for emergencies and disasters and to rely on those plans first and foremost.

In case of a natural disaster prediction like a hurricane or blizzard, don’t wait until the last minute to leave the evacuation area. The longer your wait the more difficult it may be to leave the area as more people evacuate and transportation services and public transit shut down. If you have a car you should plan to have at least three-quarters of a tank of gas in your vehicle before a storm—don’t wait until the lines are long and gas is scarce to fill up your car.

If you have pets make sure to take them with you when you evacuate. If possible, plan in advance where your pets will go if you need to leave your home suddenly. Also, practice evacuating your animals so you’ll be able to move them more easily in a true emergency. Evacuate your pet with leashes/harnesses and/or carriers. Do not bring your pets unleashed and/or uncontained, even if they aren’t at home. And again, always listen to emergency and rescue personnel and follow their directions—in an emergency, following directions helps keep you and emergency personnel safe.

 

Food

During a disaster stores may be closed and you should plan accordingly. The minimum recommended emergency food supplies by FEMA is 3 days worth of food per person. If you can, however, it may be better to keep roughly a week’s worth of food in your home in the event of a major storm or disaster.

Canned and jarred non-perishable goods are particularly good for emergencies. In general, canned foods and many jarred foods take several years (or longer) to be considered inedible and don’t require electricity to stay good, unlike refrigerated or frozen items. Foods to consider might be canned beans, vegetables, fruits, and meats, peanut and other nut butters, nuts, and dried fruit. Don’t stock foods that require cooking as part of your emergency food, because you may be unable to cook during an emergency. Also keep a non-electric can opener handy so you’ll be able to open cans during a power outage.

For those who may find it difficult to purchase a larger quantity of emergency food all at once, start early and build slowly. Add one or two cans of emergency food at a time—this will add cents onto each grocery bill rather than a larger amount of money all at once.

If you’ll be bringing pets with you during an evacuation, make sure to bring your pet’s food with you (as many days’ worth of food as you’ll need for yourself) as well as any leashes/harnesses, medications, carriers, and maybe a toy or two for comfort.

 

Gathering Your Essentials

In the event of an approaching natural disaster things will be chaotic and it will be easy to get lost in the preparations of trying to have everything done. Before a storm hits and things gets too chaotic, make sure you have a suitcase or backpack ready in one location in case of evacuation, filled with everything you’ll need for at least a few days. Put a luggage tag with your name and phone number on everything you take with you.

Keep any medications or other daily needs (glasses, mobility assistance aids, shoes, etc.) in the same area of your house, preferably by your packed luggage. Make sure the clothes you pack are comfortable and weather appropriate. Keep your medications filled and check with your pharmacist if you’re eligible for an emergency refill before a major storm.

Keep at least 2 flashlights in easily accessible areas (not down in the basement or hidden at the back of a dark closet). Regularly check that each flashlight is working and has fresh or working batteries with backup batteries available. In addition to a flashlight, consider keeping a battery or crank-powered radio on hand. Having a portable radio that doesn’t require an external electrical source is extremely useful to listen to important weather bulletins and updates when you don’t have power (a list of frequencies for NJ can be found at www.nws.noaa.gov).

 

 

Home Safety

Being prepared and ready for disaster isn’t just about natural disasters occurring outside the home. It’s equally important to be prepared for disasters that may occur in the home, such as fire, gas leaks, and flooding.

To help prevent fire, make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarms for each floor of your home. Test each alarm once a month to make sure the batteries and alarms are both working. Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and learn how to use it. Also make sure your fire extinguisher is charged and up-to-date. Be sure to have it recharged after each use or by the date on the extinguisher—check your fire extinguisher’s gauge (located at the top by the trigger) at least once a month to see if your extinguisher is optimally charged. If your home uses gas for heat or cooking, learn how to turn off your gas in an emergency. If you suspect a gas leak in your home, exit immediately and call the proper services.

To alarm you in case of flooding, consider purchasing a flood detector that will emit a loud beeping noise when it comes into contact with moisture. Remember, flooding and water damage can occur in any home from a burst pipe, leaky roof or just oversaturated ground after a storm, not just those near water!

Power outages and downed electrical lines are another concern and are common after big storms and natural disasters. For many of us this is an inconvenience, but for others who use electrical medical equipment this can be dangerous or even deadly. If you or someone in your home uses electrical medical equipment, contact your power supple company. You may be eligible for priority reconnection in the event of a power outage. In addition, remember to be careful of reduced visibility both outside and in the home during a power outage, and use flashlights instead of candles to minimize risk of fire. Remember to never walk or drive over downed electrical lines and to be careful not to walk or drive through any puddles where an electrical line has fallen.

 

Important Documents

If possible, take any important documents that could be destroyed in a disaster, such as your driver’s license or other photo identification, passport, Social Security card(s), birth and/or marriage certificate(s), insurance, important photographs (both personal and those for insurance purposes), and any other important papers.

In addition to physical copies, take photos or scan your documents and save them to a flash drive or portable hard drive. It’s also a good idea to make a copy and give it to your partner or a trusted family member or friend. Remember to treat your electronic copies just as securely as you would your original documents. Keep your flash drive in an easy-to-find location so you can quickly get it in the event of an emergency.

 

Financial

A disaster can mean a financial hit. Beyond the risk of damaged or lost property, there’s also the risk of interrupted income through disruptions in mail service. But there are ways to prevent financial straits through either damage or an interruption in funds.

To prevent financial repercussions from property damage make sure you know your insurance policies. Check your insurance policies to be familiar with what your policy may or may not cover. This may be insurance for your home, car, or items. Even if you rent and don’t have a car, purchasing insurance for your personal property through renter’s insurance may protect you in the event of a disaster. Know your insurance companies, their phone numbers and your policy numbers.

In the event of a natural disaster mail service may be delayed or interrupted. Even in the event of a personal disaster, such as a house flood or fire, you may have difficulty receiving your mail if you need to temporarily relocate. For those relying on mailed income, such as a pay check or Social Security check, this can cause difficulty in affording immediate daily necessities, with potentially disastrous consequences. Instead of relying on paper checks, consider switching to direct deposit to avoid the risk of being temporarily without funds. Direct deposit is much less likely to be affected by a natural disaster than mail service.

If you have any additional income at the end of the month make sure to put some into an “emergency fund.”  Plan to have some cash or coins ready in the event of a natural disaster, when ATMs and credit card machines may be down. If a disaster occurs you’ll be more secure and less anxious with some emergency funds readily accessible for the immediate and longer term future.

 

Create a Plan & Communicate

You know where you’ll go and what you’ll do. You’ve stocked your pantry with emergency food supplies, your medications and documents are in a safe and accessible place, your detectors are working and your flashlights are hanging in an easy-to-find location. What’s next? Letting everyone else know your plan!

Talk with the members of your household, or family and friends, about what you’ll need to do and what you’ll need help with during a disaster. Remember—if you don’t communicate the plan, no one knows the plan!

Coordinate your plan with the rest of your household, family, or friends. Make sure everyone has a written copy of the plan and knows where it is. Know who will be involved, where you’ll go ifyou need to evacuate and who’s responsible for what. Make sure your plan has basic information for every person, such as full name, phone number, address, and any medical conditions you may need to be aware of. Also keep the phone numbers for emergency services in your plan and the number of someone outside the disaster area you can keep up-to-date with your location and any problems you may have. Make sure your plan has a protocol you can follow in a disaster and alternative options in case something goes wrong. Revisit your disaster plan every 6 months to keep it up-to-date.

 

Now you’re ready to go!

We all hope to never need our emergency plan, but don’t wait until you need a plan to make one! Remember, the key to staying safe is being prepared and the key to being prepared is creating a plan and sharing that plan with others. Now go share your plan with your friends and ask them to create their own! By asking others to be prepared we help our friends and our communities in times of disaster.

To learn more about National Preparedness Month, look at Ready.gov’s website at www.ready.gov/september  (available in 13 languages).

 

Important Websites and Phone Numbers

“Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters” homepage and registry link: NJ Register Ready

National Preparedness Month homepage: www.ready.gov/september

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, NJ frequencies: www.nws.noaa.gov

New Jersey’s 2-1-1 website: www.nj211.org

National 2-1-1 website: www.211.org

Free and confidential 2-1-1 phoneline, accessible 24/7, 365 days: 2-1-1 (phone number)

Cybersecurity: Where does it begin? Where does it end?

May 31st, 2018

Mitchell Feather, Vice-President, Creative Associates

 

It seems like every day brings news of more cyber threats and breaches, which seems to leave you with more questions than answers. Has my information been stolen? How should I respond? What can I do to protect myself? What can I do to detect and avoid threats?

Companies may take measures to protect – or share – your information. Regardless of new technologies, tools, patches, laws, and regulations, there is one unwavering fact: Cybersecurity begins with you – and ends with you. What you do or don’t do is critical and that cannot be overemphasized. When it comes down to it, you control what you do or don’t do to protect yourself, your money, and your information. And you cannot delegate that responsibility.

Protect Your Tools and Toys: The first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is to ensure that you have installed the appropriate software and that the appropriate settings have been enabled (or disabled) to protect your computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.

You should have antivirus/antimalware software/apps installed on all of your devices. There are a number of very good products to choose from such as Sophos, McAfee, and Malwarebytes. Even though it might be tempting to install just free versions of some of these, you should look at the paid versions. They generally offer more features that can enhance your security and peace of mind.  

One thing that you must NOT do is respond to pop-up alerts that warn you that your device has been infected and recommending that you click on a link or button to install software to protect your computer or device. If you click on that link or button, you will probably achieve just the opposite and infect your device. More about this later.

Sometimes, while browsing websites, you may end up on a malicious web page that that results in your computer or device becoming infected. This is why a utility like McAfee’s WebAdvisor can be very helpful, and it is a free download which offers a number of protections. If you are looking for similar utilities, be careful with what you find in your search results. Some malicious threat actors have paid ads for product names that sound very legitimate but, in reality, are carefully thought-out schemes that are designed to trick you into installing malicious software.

Plan For the Worst: Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, bad things still seem to happen such as lost or stolen smart phones or computers or ransomware infections. This is one of the reasons you should always make backups of your devices – and keep the backups current. Procedures vary depending on the type of device. For Windows and Apple computers, you can backup hard drives you have physically connected to your computer or you can back up to a number of cloud services. For Android and Apple devices, there are settings on the devices to allow for automatic backups to Google or iCloud, respectively. Whether you are backing up to a USB-connected hard drive or to a cloud storage service, you want to make a practice of disconnecting it from the computer after you make the backup. Some variants of ransomware are “smart” enough to not only access all of your computer’s files, but they will also seek out any backups you may have and gain access to those as well.

Now, Assume the Worst: It is not unrealistic to assume that your personal and/or financial information has already been compromised by one or more of the many breaches that have occurred last year or prior. This means that you should be monitoring your financial assets.

You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion every 12 months. Nobody says that you have to take them all at once. Spread them out so you are getting a copy of your credit report every 4 months and review them carefully for signs of unusual activity or identity theft. You can order the free reports from annualcreditreport.com. That same website can also help explain what you should be looking for when you review your credit report. And do not think somebody is too young or too old to bother with this task. If somebody has a social security number, then their credit reports should be monitored.

Also, many banks now offer free credit score monitoring for their credit card customers. Depending on the bank, the information they offer will vary. But, generally, they will tell you if your credit score has moved up or down and provide some insight as to why it changed.

Talking About Credit Cards and Banks, most banks offer notification options, so you can be kept informed regarding any activity. Some banks will allow you to set an alert so that you can be notified if there is any credit card charge activity, even as small as a few cents. This may seem a little extreme but some fraudsters will run extremely small charges to test if credit card numbers are still valid while maintaining a low profile.

If you have not already, you should take other steps to secure your credit card and online banking accounts. Specifically, you should seek out if your online banking websites offer two factor authentication. If they offer two factor authentication, also known as 2FA, I strongly recommend you implement it. This advice extends beyond just online banking. You should implement 2FA for any of your online services that offer it: banks, brokerage accounts, telephone company, gas/water/electric utilities, email, Google, Facebook, etc. What if your bank does not offer two factor authentication? You may want to consider changing banks. You can find a list of banks, as well as other business and services, which support 2FA at https://twofactorauth.org.

Two factor authentication is based on two pieces of information rather than just a password. These factors can be various combinations of things like something you know (e.g., passwords or PINs), something you have (e.g., ATM card, smartphone), or something you are (e.g., fingerprint, voice print, or facial recognition). For greater security, we sometimes use more than 2 factors. This is referred to as Multi-factor authentication, or MFA. This is an area that is always changing in an effort to try to create more secure but also easier for you to use. Currently, the most common 2FA implementations you will find include sending you a security code by text message (SMS), by telephone call, or by email. Be careful if you are access any of your online sites from a smartphone and you have the security code sent to the same smartphone. If your smartphone gets lost or stolen, you may find yourself or your accounts a little vulnerable.

Many online websites also take advantage of security questions (e.g., In what town was your elementary school?, where did you meet your spouse?, etc.). I strongly advise you to lie when you answer these questions. Use answers that are totally irrelevant (e.g., What is your favorite color? Answer: “Outer Mongolia”) and meaningless to you or somebody else. Nobody says you have to tell the truth. All you have to do is remember your answers. And do not use the same questions or answers among different websites.

Let’s Pass on Passwords: Probably as far back as you can remember, you’ve been saddled with the task of creating and remembering passwords to access all sorts of information. Some of you used easily-remembered personal details like your anniversary date, your spouse’s name, your pet’s name, your mother’s maiden name, etc. Some of you may have just used easily remembered words such as your favorite food or flower. Some of you still use “password12345” or “qwerty” as your password. Even worse, many of you use the same password for many of your online login passwords.

There are serious security risks associated with these practices: If you use personal information as a password, a threat actor can figure out that password just by researching your personally identifiable information. Common words as passwords are also easily determined by threat actors by use of tools called password crackers, which use large dictionaries.

You are better protected by using complicated collections of letters, numbers and symbols, such as “P^MP2F7~HRnZ)LU”. You can also better protect yourself by using passphrases instead of passwords, complete with spaces when allowed. Additionally, replace some letters with numbers and symbols. You can go with lyrics to a song, poetry lines, etc. As an example, consider the lyrics of Over the Rainbow: Start with “Somewhere over the rainbow Way up high.” Replacing letters with numbers and/or symbols, this can become “50meWh3r3ov3rther@!nb0w#wAyupHi!”. Or you can take just the initial characters of each word and put those together and similarly swap out some letters. This can become: “50TrWuH!” Just use your imagination: the more complicated it is, the safer you are.

Remember not to use the same password or passphrase with more than one account. And change your passwords regularly. Also, if you get notified or read that any service that you use has been breached or compromised in any way, immediately change that password/passphrase.

Also, it is very important to remember to change the default passwords on any software service to which you subscribe or any hardware that you purchase. This is especially true for any internet routers, switches, wireless cameras, televisions, appliances, etc. The FBI and other agencies have released alerts warning about the threat actors from foreign countries that are trying to penetrate these devices.

You Expect Me To Remember This?: You have no decided to follow all of my advice about passwords. Remembering all of these passwords may prove to be more than challenging. Fortunately, there are some very good password managers available to you. Some are available for free, some you have to pay for. Two of the better password managers are Dashlane and LastPass.

Reign In Your Privacy: Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s turn attention to keeping your information more private and less at risk. You should review and adjust some of your web browser settings. Additionally, you should review and adjust your privacy settings on your social media sites and other online accounts.

Check your web browser settings for privacy and security settings. There, you will find a number of options that would be useful to you. With Chrome, for example, you will find settings like “Protect you and your device from dangerous sites” and “Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request…”. I recommend enabling both of them. You will also find settings like “Automatically send usage statistics…” I recommend that you seriously consider whether or not you want to share this private information with Google.

You will also find a section to enable or disable the capability to Autofill information when you need to fill out online forms. I strongly recommend that you disable this functionality. Among the many reasons is the possibility that a threat actor can setup a web page to secretly retrieve all the fields of information that you have stored in the autofill feature. You should also NEVER store credit card information in a web browser’s autofill feature.

With your online accounts like Google and Facebook, you will see features like privacy checkup and security checkup. You should perform these checkups and appropriately limit which features are enabled and what information you are allowing to be tracked. In the case of Google, as an example, this may include actual recording of your voice. You can – and should – purge any of this tracking information that you do not wish to be shared and/or stored. Also check your social media settings such that you only share information and files as you desire.

Time To Be Diligent: Now that you have addressed many of your hardware, software, and account settings tasks, you now come to the never-ending task: Be Diligent! The greatest risk to you is social engineering. Threat actors are always trying to take advantage of you by getting you to lower your guard, cause you to panic, take advantage of your trusting nature, etc. All it takes is one click on a link or opening one attachment to cause all kinds of problems for yourself and possibly others. These social engineering attempts, also known as phishing, can appear as very legitimate-looking emails or websites. It might appear as a PDF attachment in an email, or a Docusign email, a link to a dropbox document, an alleged invoice, or a multitude of others.

The rule is a simple one: if you are sent an attachment or an email telling you to click on a link and you do not recognize the source, do NOT open it nor click on the link. If you recognize the sender of the email but you are not expecting the attachment, call the sender by telephone and ask him/her if he/she really sent you the attachment or link. Do NOT just reply to the email and ask if it is legitimate because you may not be sending the email to the individual that you think you are sending it to.

There are a many websites that you can visit to learn more about phishing or where you can take phishing quizzes. A good starting point is www.phishing.org.

Don’t Be Proud or Shy: Some phishing attacks are so realistic and so well done that trained professionals can sometimes be fooled. So do not be embarrassed if you are not sure what to do or you are afraid your device or your information may have been compromised. As someone you trust for help. Or file complaint with agencies like The Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) or the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov). If you really don’t know where to turn, you can always reach out to your local police department for assistance. If they cannot help you, they can help steer you to appropriate individuals for help.

 

©2018 by The LBC Group, Inc. All rights reserved

Learning About Your Rights: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Understanding Disability

May 18th, 2018

Learning About Your Rights: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Understanding Disability

Joe Zesski

Program Manager, Northeast ADA Center

 

For some people, disability is a word that has negative connotations. To them, disability is something to be avoided, a weakness, a stigma. They think someone who has a disability cannot make do for him or her self. But disability does not mean these things. Disability is part of the human experience. Disability can be a part of the aging process. According to the 2016 American Community Survey, In New Jersey 31 percent of people 65 and older has some type of a disability. And for those 75 and older, that figure rises to 45.8 percent.

Legally, the word disability can also have several different definitions depending on the context. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.” Congress intended this to be a broad definition that applies to a wide range of individuals. It is quite different from the meaning of disability in Social Security, for example, where someone must not be able to engage in substantial work activity in order to receive benefits. Unlike Social Security, he ADA is a civil rights law; not a benefit or agency. It is designed to protect the rights of individuals who have a condition or circumstance that falls within its definition of disability. The ADA is intended to create an equal opportunity for people with disabilities in employment, in access to state and local government and its programs, and in access to public accommodations such as businesses and nonprofits open to the public.

At the upcoming 2018 New Jersey Foundation on Aging Conference, Mary Ciccone of Disability Rights New Jersey and I will share information about the legal rights of the disabled, including those covered by the ADA and NJ State laws. I will talk about the ADA’s impact and coverage, and its importance to older Americans. Many people are not familiar with the ADA and do not even realize that they have rights under the law. If someone can no longer see well enough to read, she may not know that she can ask the waiter at the diner to read the menu for her. Perhaps a gentleman who can no longer climb stairs must go to his town’s public works office located on the second floor of a building without an elevator. He may not realize that he can request to have someone meet him on the ground floor level. Or if that same gentleman goes to a senior center that is planning a trip to Atlantic City, the bus provider should have a vehicle with a lift available, as long as they are given notice for the need of one ahead of time. In these ways and others, people with disabilities have rights under the ADA, as well as some other laws. The presentation will discuss what disability means, how common it is, and the misconceptions surrounding the word. It will give an overview of the rights under the ADA as well as those in housing. It will provide resources for attendees to refer to when they want to find out more. And it will give an opportunity to ask questions of and to connect with two professionals who have years of experience in the disability rights field.

 

Excited about the session!? Register now!

http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07ef660enjb3d2f50d&llr=5r7gyn7ab

The Village Movement

April 16th, 2018

The Village Movement
By Julie Dalton, Executive Director Gramatan Village, Bronxville, NY

The Village Movement is a nationwide trend of grassroots organizations that develop creative strategies to address local needs. The Village Movement started with Beacon Hill Village in Boston in 2002, and today there are 200 villages operating in 45 states and the District of Columbia serving 40,000 individuals and their families. Currently, another 150 villages are in the development phase. The village model arose out of community members’ desire to reside in their own homes while being able to access services that address their changing lifestyles. 

The village model is based on giving back, healthy lifestyles and staying connected to the community.
Villages are self-governing, self-supporting, grassroots membership-based organizations that provide options and choices. They are a single point of contact for access to referrals and volunteers.
Villages run on social capital and foster “neighbor helping neighbor”. Many programs employ a “volunteer first” model relying on the generosity of community volunteers to provide services such as transportation, running errands, and assistance with minor household chores.

Villages promote intergenerational connections bringing community members of all ages together. Community volunteers, many of whom are village members themselves

Rather than moving to an institutional setting, the preferred choice of older Americans is to live at home with support and affordable services. Villages consolidate and coordinate and create innovative strategic partnerships that leverage existing community resources.

Many villages refer to their preferred provider network when professional expertise is required to meet a member’s needs.

Villages recognize the importance of engaging members and provide a variety of social, educational and volunteer opportunities. Members choose which services and activities they desire.

Finding one’s purpose becomes even more important at later stages of life. Villages enable individuals to live a healthy and meaningful life.

The National Village Network was established in 2010 to support communities in establishing villages. This peer to peer network provides invaluable resources that enable villages to thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The session at NJFA’s 20th Annual Conference will address the various village movement program models, highlight the key steps to establishing a village and will present the lessons learned from nearly 10 years of village operation.

 

Let’s Talk About It

April 13th, 2018

On Tuesday, June 12th NJFA will host it’s 20th Annual Conference. This year’s conference title is Models, Policies and Prescriptions for Healthy Aging. We have an agenda full of great presenters and topics, you can learn more by visiting our website.

NJFA is honored that our Luncheon Keynote will be presented by Dr. Alison Thomas-Cottingham. Please see the article below (click on the image for full article) written by Dr. Thomas-Cottingham from the Fall 2017 issue of Renaissance magazine. We hope that you can join us for this informative discussion and much more on June 12th.

 

Recent Developments in D.C. To Combat Financial Abuse of the Elderly

March 15th, 2018

Recent Developments in D.C. To Combat Financial Abuse of the Elderly

by Robert M. Jaworski, Esq.

Financial abuse of the elderly is getting some attention in Washington these days, and, some say, it’s about time.  On February 22, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and law enforcement partners announced[1] the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.  In addition, it was reported[2] on March 13, 2018, that an elder fraud bill sponsored by Senate Aging Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) was recently folded into the banking regulation bill (S. 2155) that is expected to be approved by the Senate in the near future.  Details concerning both of these developments are set forth below.

Nationwide Elder Fraud Sweep Coordinated by the Department of Justice

The cases, which include criminal, civil and forfeiture actions, involve more than 250 defendants from around the globe. They are charged with victimizing more than a million Americans, most of whom are elderly.  Of the defendants, more than 200 have been charged criminally.

The actions charged a variety of fraud schemes, including large scale mass mailing, telemarketing and investment frauds, as well as individual instances of identity theft and theft by guardians.  One case alone concerned a scheme that operated from 14 foreign countries and resulted in losses to American victims totaling more than $30 million.

Mass mailing schemes.  In each of the mass mailing schemes, fraudsters sent direct-mail letters to individuals falsely promising them that they had won cash or other valuable prizes.  All they had to do to claim their prizes was to send back a payment for what was represented as processing fees or taxes. The letters appeared to come from legitimate sources, typically on official-looking letterhead, and to have been personally addressed to each recipient. When an individual took the bait and sent the requested fee, the fraudsters simply kept the money.  No victim ever received a promised prize.  Worse yet, when people showed a susceptibility to these scams, the fraudsters repeatedly targeted and victimized them with other scams.

Other Schemes.  Other examples of elder financial exploitation schemes prosecuted by the Department of Justice include:

  • “Lottery phone scams,” in which callers convince seniors that a large fee or taxes must be paid before one can receive lottery winnings;
  • “Grandparent scams,” which convince seniors that their grandchildren have been arrested and need bail money;
  • “Romance scams,” which lull victims to believe that their online paramour needs funds for a U.S. visit or some other purpose;
  • “IRS imposter schemes,” which defraud victims by posing as IRS agents and claiming that victims owe back taxes; and
  • “Guardianship schemes,” which siphon seniors’ financial resources into the bank accounts of deceitful relatives or guardians;

The Department of Justice indicates that it has partnered with Senior Corps to educate seniors about these types of scams and prevent further victimization.  Senior Corps is a national service program administered by an independent federal agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).  You can access information on Senior Corps’ efforts to reduce elder fraud by clicking here.  If you suspect that you are a victim of a scam, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission by clicking here.  Finally, remember that the best way to avoid becoming a victim of a scam is to be skeptical of anything that sounds too good to be true.  It probably is too good to be true!  Check it out first.

Senator Collins Elder Fraud Bill

This bill, Senate Bill S-223[3], which is called the “Senior$afe Act of 2017,” strives to prevent elder financial abuse by encouraging financial institutions (including credit unions, insurance agencies, banks, investment advisers, and broker-dealers) and their employees to sound an alarm bell whenever they suspect that an elderly person is being financially exploited.  The bill seeks to accomplish this objective by immunizing these institutions and employees from potential liability in any civil or administrative proceeding for disclosing such suspicions.

This immunity, however, is subject to the following conditions:

  • The disclosure is made only to a State or Federal banking or securities regulator, a State insurance regulator, a law enforcement agency, and/or a State or local adult protective services agency.
  • The disclosing employee must be a supervisor or compliance officer employed by the financial institution at the time of the disclosure and have made the disclosure in good faith and with reasonable care.
  • The disclosing employee must have previously received training from the financial institution, appropriate to the employee’s job responsibilities, concerning (1) how to identify and report suspected exploitation of a senior citizen internally and, as appropriate, to government officials or law enforcement authorities, including common signs that indicate the financial exploitation of a senior citizen, and (2) the need to protect the privacy and respect the integrity of each individual customer of the financial institution.

Interestingly, New Jersey already has a similar law on the books, which dates back to 1998.  The New Jersey Foundation for Aging helped to educate concerned individuals and agencies about that law following its enactment.

 

Mr. Jaworski is a member of the NJFA Board of Trustees and an attorney with the law firm Reed Smith, LLP.  He specializes in providing banks and other financial institutions with advice and assistance concerning their responsibilities to comply with applicable federal and state laws and regulations, including, in particular, consumer protection laws and regulations.

 

 

 

MEDICARE — 2018 and Beyond

February 27th, 2018

MEDICARE — 2018 and Beyond

By Charles Clarkson, Esq. Project Director/VP, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County

New Medicare Cards

Starting in April 2018, new Medicare cards will be issued. These new cards will remove the Social Security numbers from the cards. This is a significant change for Medicare and it holds the promise of substantially reducing fraud, both in Medicare and in general. The cards will look similar to the current ones with some style changes (See photo).

When beneficiaries get their new cards, they should start using them. Not all beneficiaries will receive their new cards at the same time. A year has been allocated to issuing approximately 57 million new cards, through April 2019. There will be a transition period (through December 2019) when both the old and new Medicare cards can be used. Of course, beneficiaries will still have to protect their new cards.

The card will now contain a new Medicare number (called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier) selected at random and made up of letters and numbers. This card allows access to Medicare services and should be protected at all times. Beneficiaries should leave their Medicare cards at home whenever possible and take them with them only when they need medical services.

The SMP of New Jersey is very concerned about fraud involving the new Medicare cards. We have already heard of cases when beneficiaries have been scammed into paying for the new Medicare cards. Remember, the new Medicare cards will be FREE. You do not have to do anything to receive the new card. Make sure that the Social Security Administration has your current address to ensure that the card is mailed to the correct address. Medicare or Social Security will not call you on the telephone. Do not give any callers any personal information if they call you about the new Medicare card, especially your checking account information to pay for the card. If you receive a suspicious call, just hang up.

Medicare beneficiaries will receive written explanations in the mail from the appropriate government agencies about the new cards. We can also expect an education campaign on television and radio to explain about the new cards.

For more information visit SMP online at http://seniormedicarepatrolnj.org/ or contact Medicare directly at www.medicare.gov

#GivingTuesday

November 20th, 2017

#GivingTuesday

The NJ Foundation for Aging has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.

Help the NJ Foundation for Aging (NJFA) to continue it’s mission of enabling older adults to age in the community with independence and dignity. Your support allows NJFA to continue to bring information and resources to seniors, boomers and caregivers via Renaissance magazine, Aging Insights (TV Program) and through our website and social media platforms. Additionally, your donations assist NJFA in creating learning opportunities for professionals serving older adults and caregivers with our Annual Conference and other educational forums.

Occurring this year on November 28, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the US) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick off the holiday giving season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.

Won’t you join the movement and support NJFA on #GivingTuesday?

Thank you for your support and have a VERY Happy Thanksgiving!

MEDICARE OPEN ENROLLMENT

October 25th, 2017

MEDICARE OPEN ENROLLMENT

ARE YOU AWARE OF YOUR CHOICES?

Charles Clarkson, Esq. Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County, Project Director/VP, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey

 

Every year between October 15 and December 7, during a period known as “Open Enrollment,” Medicare beneficiaries can make changes in their Medicare coverage. The Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey (SMP), a Federally funded program of the U.S. Administration for Aging, believes that if you know your options you can avoid being scammed and make the right choices giving you the best coverage at the least cost.

Why make a change?  Whether you have Original Medicare (Part A and/or B), Part D (prescription drug plan), or a Part C Medicare Advantage Plan, your plan can change.  Premiums, deductibles  and coverages can all change.  Even if they remain the same, your health or finances may have changed. SMP encourages all beneficiaries to re-visit their coverage and decide whether or not to change during Open Enrollment.

Beneficiaries have these choices:

  1. If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, you can change to a Medicare Advantage plan with or without drug coverage. These plans are private companies approved by Medicare and give you the services of Original Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you do not need (and are not permitted) to have a Medicare supplement insurance plan (also known as a Medigap policy) and if your Medicare Advantage plan has drug coverage, you will not need a Part D plan.

 

  1. If you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or drop your Medicare Advantage Plan.  If you decide to drop a plan and not switch to another plan, you will be enrolled in Original Medicare.  You should then consider enrolling in a Medicare supplement insurance plan to cover the costs that Original Medicare does not pay for and enroll in a Part D plan for drug coverage.

 

  1. If you are in Original Medicare with a Part D plan, you can stay in Original Medicare and switch your Part D plan.

 

  1. If you are in Original Medicare and do not have a Part D plan, you can enroll in a Part D plan.  If you join a Part D plan because you did not do so when you were first eligible for Part D and you did not have other coverage that was, on average, at least as good as standard Medicare drug coverage (known as creditable coverage), your premium cost will be penalized 1% for every month that you did not enroll in Part D.  You will have to pay this penalty for as long as you have a drug plan.  The penalty is based on the national average of monthly premiums multiplied by the number of months you are without coverage and this amount can increase every year.  If you qualify for extra help (low income subsidy), you won’t be charged a penalty.

Why change Part D plans?

Beneficiaries may want to change Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs) for a number of reasons:  (i) the PDP has notified the beneficiary that it plans to drop one or more of their drugs from their formulary (list of available medications); (ii) the beneficiary is reaching the coverage gap (donut hole) sooner than anticipated and may want to purchase a PDP with coverage through the coverage gap, if one is available; (iii) the PDP has notified the beneficiary that it will no longer participate in the Medicare Part D program;  (iv) the PDP will increase its premium or co-pays higher than the beneficiary wants to pay and a less expensive plan may be available and (v) a beneficiary is not happy with the PDP’s quality of service or the plan has received low rankings for a number of years.  For 2018 beneficiaries in New Jersey can expect to choose from a number of  PDPs. The plans are announced in late September or early October, 2017.

Compare plans each year.

Beneficiaries should remember that PDPs change every year and it is recommended that beneficiaries compare plans to insure that they are in the plan that best suits their needs.  When comparing plans, keep in mind to look at the estimated annual drug costs, i.e. what it will cost you out of pocket for the entire year, from January 1 through December 31 of each year.  Plans can be compared at the Medicare web site:  www.medicare.gov.  If you do not have access to a computer, call Medicare at 1-800-Medicare to assist in researching and enrolling in a new plan. Medicare can enroll a beneficiary over the telephone.  When you call, make sure you have a list of all your medications, including dosages.  Another resource for Medicare beneficiaries is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (known as SHIP), telephone 1-800-792-8820.  SHIP is federally funded and can provide beneficiaries with unbiased advice.  Call SHIP to make an appointment with a counselor. You do not need to use a broker or agent who may not be looking out for your best interest. Brokers and agents are usually being paid to enroll you in certain plans.  Beneficiaries can also call the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey at 732-777-1940.

Medicare Open Enrollment can also be a time of fraudulent schemes that can cost you money. The SMP wants you to be on the alert for scams involving new Medicare cards.  Back in the spring of 2015, Congress passed the “Doc Fix” bill which mainly dealt with the long standing problem of the Physician Fee Schedule.  At the same time, Congress sought to remedy the problem caused by having Social Security numbers on the red, white and blue Medicare ID cards.

 

The new cards will be rolled out starting in April of  2018.  Since it will take a period of time to mail new Medicare cards to all Medicare beneficiaries, there will be a transition period through December 31, 2018 when beneficiaries will be able to use either card.  All cards should be issued by April of 2019.  You should start using the new Medicare card once you receive it.  Make sure that the Social Security Administration and Medicare have your current address to insure that you get your new card.

 

This card change is both a blessing and a curse for Medicare beneficiaries.  By removing Social Security numbers, the change greatly decreases the financial havoc that a stolen Medicare card can cause, but it opens the door to scammers  presenting a golden opportunity to take advantage of Medicare beneficiaries.  Remember, there is never a charge for the new Medicare card.  Scammers already are calling  and scaring seniors into paying $300 or more for a new Medicare card and asking for their checking account information to pay for the new card’s fee.

What do you do when you realize that a scammer is calling?  Just hang up.  Do not be polite and just hang up.  Also, do not open any emails about the new Medicare cards even if they appear to be coming from a legitimate source, such as Medicare.  They are most likely scams.  Any questions about the new Medicare cards, call the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey at 732-777-1940.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Season- Be Prepared

August 17th, 2017

Hurricane Season- Be Prepared

 

Hey, the tree is down, the power is out; are you ready? The August episode of Aging Insights addresses that question. On this program NJFA’s Executive Director, Grace Egan speaks with Melissa Acree Executive Director of NJ 211and Mike Weber, Emergency Preparedness Manager – Electric from PSEG. Register Ready is a program hosted by NJ 2-1-1 that enables people to self-identify and register that they may have difficulty in an emergency evacuating their home to safe place or to a shelter. Caregivers may also register their loved ones who have a physical or cognitive impairment. This information is then shared annually with the County Office of Emergency Management Office.

PSEG partners with NJ 2-1-1, Mr. Weber joined the interview and explained how PSEG prioritizes repairs in a storm. He highlighted the many first responders that PSEG regularly works with before, during and after a storm.

It’s now the peak of hurricane season. With that comes the threat of an active

September and the possibility of activity in October and beyond, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

Hurricane season officially begins June 1, and generally, the peak is from mid-August to the end of September. During this time, conditions are ideal for strong and quick-moving tropical storms, hurricanes and depressions.

Check on the latest Aging Insights episode about emergency preparedness. Are you prepared? Does your utility company know your needs?