Your Medicine Cabinet and Drug Safety

Expiration Date vs. Shelf Life

Shelf life usually refers to the time between a medication’s manufacture date and its expiration date. But a drug’s shelf life can be altered by storage conditions—temperature, humidity, light, and even whether or not the medication is stored in its original container.

While the expiration date indicates how long a manufacturer guarantees safety and full potency of a medication, some drugs are more stable than others. Ask your pharmacist before using any medicine past its listed expiration date. Some medications lose potency, while others can become dangerous or even toxic past the expiration date.

Good Safety Habits

Keep a list of all of your medications, along with potential side effects and drug interactions. (Let your doctor know if you are experiencing any side effects.) This should include any over-the-counter (OTC) medications as well as vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements.

Take this list with you on doctor visits and to your pharmacist so it can be reviewed any time you are prescribed any additional medications or supplements. Also be sure to ask about any potential food interactions with any new or existing medications.

Always check to be sure the medication the doctor ordered is the Rx you received. Use the alarm on your phone to remind you to take your medications on schedule, or use a pill box that organizes your medicines along with a time schedule taped to the back of the organizer.

Disposing Old Medications

It’s important to carefully and properly discard any old medications, both prescribed and OTC varieties. Never “flush” medications (unless specifically directed to do so) to prevent them from entering the general water supply.

Many communities offer a “take back” program, where you can safely drop off any unused medications. This is the best option. Call your local law enforcement agency and ask if they sponsor or can direct you to such a program. Your local waste management organization may also have this information.

If your only option is to dispose of medicines in regular household trash, you should add pills (left whole) to unseemly waste, such as kitchen slop, used cat litter, used coffee grounds, etc.

When disposing of empty medicine bottles, be sure to eliminate your personal information, as well as the type of medication, to prevent bottles from being used to obtain medication illegally.

Universal Design Principles Pay Off

Figuring out how to spend your limited home renovation dollars is always a challenge. Should I make just cosmetic changes? Should I try to make the house appeal to a certain generation? What will provide the best return on investment?

Look to the 2017 Remodeling Cost vs. Value report ( for answers.

Remodeling magazine’s annual report estimates the cost of 29 home improvement projects and how much homeowners could anticipate recouping on a renovation when they sell.

This year, realizing that more homeowners are focused on aging and multi-generational households, the report added a new category and looked at the value of incorporating universal design features in a renovated bathroom.

The $15,730 project included:

  • Widening the doorway for wheelchair accessibility
  • Reinforcing walls to support grab bars
  • Installing a zero-threshold shower with a fold-down seat
  • Putting in a comfort-height toilet
  • Installing a sink with space to allow someone to sit at it

It’s a project that could help you both age more comfortably and stay longer in your house. You also can anticipate recouping $10,766–68.4 percent of the project cost–when you sell.

Walkability Drives Seniors’ Housing Decisions

Though a desire for walkable neighborhoods is most associated with the millennial generation, walkability and good public transit also are high on boomers’ and seniors’ wish-lists.

A recent survey ( by A Place for Mom, illustrates just how important those neighborhood characteristics are to those looking at senior housing.

Though things like quality of care services, affordability, and a facility’s cleanliness topped people’s must-have lists, walkability and access to transit also were tremendously important to survey respondents.

Among consumers considering their housing options, walkability was described as mandatory or very important to those seeking senior apartments (53%), independent living (38%), and assisted living (26%). Public transit options were also crucial to these groups.

As you look at your retirement housing options, especially if you’re a boomer with no physical limitations today, consider the longer term—a time when you may have difficulty getting around and you may no longer have access to a car.

Roam around a prospective neighborhood to assess your options for getting around.

Some questions to consider:

  • What places are within a 10-minute walk of your prospective home? Could you reach all the necessities of daily life–the grocery store, parks, hair salons, banks, and so forth—on foot or by public transit?
  • Are sidewalks and paths accessible, safe, and well-lighted?
  • Could you maneuver those sidewalks with a walker or a wheelchair?
  • Are crosswalks well marked and do you have enough time to get across the street?
  • Are there places to sit and rest? Are there water fountains and public restrooms?

For more details on measuring a community’s walkability, see:

Fido Influences Home Purchases

If your house or condo is pet-friendly, be certain to play up such features when selling your property, especially if your buyers are millennials.

According to a recent Harris Poll survey done on behalf of SunTrust Mortgage, a home’s dog-friendliness can be an asset in attracting millennial buyers.

A third of millennial Americans (aged 18 to 36) who bought a first home said the desire to have a better space or a yard for a dog influenced their decision to buy a home. And among millennials who have never purchased a home, 42 percent said that their dog or the desire to have a dog would be a key factor in their decision to buy a home in the future.

So fenced yards, nearby dog-friendly beaches and parks, and walkability are all worth promoting.

And if your condo building is among those that have made dog-friendliness a priority by adding things like on-site dog parks, doggy daycare, pet spas, and bathing stations, be sure the real estate practitioner marketing your place is aware of them.

Get Your Retirement House in Order

Start by addressing the money issue, especially if you’re a pre-retiree with angst about your financial future.

If you need some motivation to start saving – and to know that you’re not alone in possibly getting a late start – see a study, “Retirement Readiness: Canadians 50+” (, released earlier this year.

Admittedly, the stats are a bit discouraging.

For example, compared to their standard of living today, 40% of pre-retirees over the age of 50 believe they will be worse off in retirement.

It’s not surprising, given that 22% of pre-retirees in that age group haven’t started to save for retirement and (38%) have no idea of how much money they’ll need to save to help fund their retirement. Some – 18% — are relying on rising real estate values to save the day and will have to postpone retirement if real estate takes a dive.

Running out of money in retirement is a common fear (42% worry about it) and it’s felt more acutely by women (47%) than by men (37%).

If you’re looking for advice and education, Get Smarter About Money ( is a good place to start. The site, founded by the Ontario Securities Commission, provides unbiased and independent financial tools to help you better understand finances and make smart decisions.

 Hacks for Seniors

When you’re scanning the house with an eye to aging in place, you look at the big things like lighting, mobility, bathroom safety, and fall hazards.

But many small things – not being able to function day-to-day – also can send people to assisted living or nursing care.

That’s where hacks come in – those simple, low-tech solutions using common household items — to deal with seemingly minor daily inconveniences and troubles that seniors face.

Here are 6 creative hacks to try:

  1. Sugru ( Slippery doorknobs can be difficult to operate if you have hand and wrist problems. Wrap Sugru (the product feels like Play-Doh and sticks to glass, wood, metal, and plastic and becomes a durable silicone rubber after 24 hours) around a door knob to create more grip.
  2. Rope lights: Place rope lights under cabinets in bathrooms and kitchens to light the way and make it safer to get around at night.
  3. Sponge hair rollers: If you have arthritis, slide sponge hair rollers or cylindrical foam around hard-to-grip items like utensils and toothbrushes.
  4. Frozen sponge: Put a soaked kitchen sponge into a Ziploc bag and then into the freezer. It turns into an icepack that won’t leak as it thaws. It’s also reusable.
  5. Pizza cutter: Use a pizza roller to cut up lettuce for a salad.
  6. String: Use pieces of string or a key ring to create zipper pulls that are easier to reach and operate. ( Sugru works well too.


 Kittens Helping Seniors

And here’s a sweet story ( that involves seniors getting a sense of purpose by caring for needy kittens.

What’s not to love?