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Independent Living for Senior Citizens

Raise Your Hand to Health

Simply put, growing old is a part of life. If you’re looking out for your parents’ health and well-being, you’re reading the right piece. This stage in their life usually means time for a change of living, and there are choices coming from every direction. If you or your loved one has decent health, independent living can be a great option. Independent living is for seniors who need some help with everyday tasks. It’s a great choice for someone who doesn’t need around-the-clock care, but would benefit from having certain conveniences. During assisted living, you can expect a variety of services. This can mean anything from dressing help, to bathing assistance, to walking help. You can often get more services – like cooking, laundry, etc. for an additional charge. It’s important to understand that once an elder loses their ability to perform basic tasks, they will no longer be allowed to stay at an assisted living community.

Most elders won’t want to give up the freedom they have when living alone. It’s important to choose a place that will have the right balance between what you know is best for your parent, and what they think they need. Looks past some of the jazz that places offer, and save that until you find a place that offers the right assistance. The process resembles a college tour – look around at how people are interacting. Do people seem happy? How is food served? How are emergencies handled? Once you have a few places in mind that suit your needs, look into the added amenities. And once you’ve found a place, remember to stay calm and help where needed through the whole process. Don’t strip your parents’ independence away during the move.

Once settled in, one of the most important things elders can do is keep an active social group. It will keep their mind fresh, more alert, and happier. Usually, seniors can find groups who play the usual games (yes, bingo) but it’s important to branch out into different activities if possible. This can mean taking day trips, volunteering, and continuing to learn new things, like art. Habitat for Humanity is an excellent nationwide organization that often has elders volunteering with the easier parts of home building. Making a network – even if its just a few people to be able to call and talk to, or see in person, will improve an older person’s quality of life significantly. It’ll truly come in handy in case of an emergency, as well.

It’s important to keep in contact with your parents throughout their time at an an independent living community. Make an effort to get to know their supervisors, and you’ll be much more stress-free throughout the whole process.  Good luck!

Felicia Walkins is a freelance writer for Jackson Twenty-one. Connect with her on .

Top Reasons to Live in New Jersey

Some people love the state of New Jersey while others feel the opposite, but regardless of your feelings towards New Jersey, it’s hard to deny all of the many reasons why it’s such a spectacular place to live. Aside from the chatter around the lack of green and the high amounts of pollution, New Jersey is actually very beautiful. Here are some of the top reasons why you should consider living in the great state of New Jersey!

Garden State Parkway trailblazerTransportation

While New Jersey is really one of the smallest states, the population is huge. With such a large population, it’s critical that they have top notch transportation, and that’s exactly what they’ve created.

From jumping right on the highway to being a connection between two major metropolitan centers, it’s pretty easy to get to where you’re looking to go without much of a headache.

Diversity2011 Diversity Conference

While a lot of people tend to think that Italians make up most of the population in New Jersey, this isn’t entirely true. Sure, those of Italian descent make up about 25 percent of the state, but African Americans and Latinos also make up a big chunk of the population.

From different races to religions, New Jersey actually has the second largest Jewish and Muslim populations in the country. If you’re looking for a diverse place to live, you can count on it living in New Jersey.

Jersey Shore 7amClose to water

It’s not often that you have the opportunity to be so close to a vacation spot on a beach and so close to a big city within such a small demographic. New Jersey has a number of vacation destinations throughout the state, with picturesque spots like Cape May or fun and exciting spots like Atlantic City.

And get this – New Jersey has over 50 resort cities and towns, which is pretty exceptional for a small state.

Full service gas stations$2.79!  Screech!  Get in Line!

Hate having to get out of your car in the rain or freezing cold to pump your gas? Well in New Jersey, you don’t have to.

That’s right – in fact, it’s against the law to pump your own gas. The state of New Jersey is full of full service gas stations where you don’t have to do anything besides pull up, turn the car off and pay the attendant to pump your gas.

In reality, it’s a win-win for you and the folks that live in New Jersey. This is because it’s obviously much easier for you, and it creates a slew of jobs for people in the state.

Shopping galore

Outlet Shopping Center "The Walk" in Atlantic City, NJ.

Love to shop? Then New Jersey is the place for you. New Jersey is well known for their variety of awesome shopping centers and outlet shopping, great for people looking for a good deal and who love to shop.

There are more shopping malls per square mile in New Jersey than any other location in the United States. How about them apples?

Paramus, a borough of NJ, generates $5 billion in annual sales alone. Yes, this means you truly can just shop until you drop when you live in New Jersey!

Close to the big cityNYC view

Finally, New Jersey is a great alternative to living in the very busy and expensive New York City. New Jersey has so many areas that are relatively inexpensive, close to transportation and great for raising families and more. The perk? The big city is just a bus, train or subway ride away.

Felicia Walkins is a freelance writer for Jackson Twenty-one. Connect with her on .

4 Tips For First-Time Homebuyers

House keys on MoneyAre you in the market for your first home? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Actually, many people spend years working and saving before making their first home purchase. Buying a home is a huge decision that comes with many financial commitments. Therefore, when it comes time to purchase your first home, you want to be absolutely sure it’s right for you! Here are four important tips for first-time homebuyers.

Set a budget

It may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many buyers don’t start by figuring out how much money they actually have to spend on their first home. First things first, figure out how much money you are able to spend on your house. Most banks will suggest spending up to 28 percent of your gross monthly income (GMI) on your mortgage, taxes and homeowners’ insurance. If you ake out a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, then you can spend up to 42 percent of your GMI. Also, pay attention to your savings and calculate how long it will take you to come up with a substantial down payment.

Save for down payment

The most critical step for first-time homebuyers is saving for a down payment. Depending on your income and monthly expenses, this could take some time. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you begin saving now. Most mortgage brokers require that you have at minimum, 20 percent down to even qualify for a mortgage. However, if you qualify for the FHA loan (first-time homebuyers only) you will still need at least 3.5 percent down payment. To give you an idea, for a $250,000 mortgage you will need at least $8,500 (3.5 percent) for a down payment. Just as a heads up, that doesn’t include all the other costs associated with buying a home.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage

In today’s market, many deals fall through the cracks because first-time buyers can’t find a bank to give them a loan. Be proactive and get pre-approved for your mortgage. The first thing you need to do is shop around for the right lender. This includes talking to at least three different types of lenders, including national banks, local banks and mortgage brokers. Some lenders will charge you for pre-approval, so ask about these costs upfront. Once you’ve compared a few lenders, it’s time to pick the one that’s right for you. Typically, the bank will issue a letter that tells you and the sellers how much it’s willing to lend you.

Start looking

Now that you have a realistic budget and pre-approval on a mortgage, it’s time to start looking for your dream home. You can do this by browsing the real estate section of your local paper to find open houses within your area. Thanks to the Internet, there are more options than ever before to search for a home. Popular real estate websites include Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. Or, you could consider hiring a realtor. Because finding the right house can be quite time consuming, hiring a realtor might not be a terrible idea. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of prospective homes, it’s time to begin hunting!

Felicia Walkins is a freelance writer for Jackson Twenty-one. Connect with her on .

Benefits of Living in a Townhome

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While the idea of owning a home with a white picket fence and a huge, private yard is ideal, it’s unrealistic for a lot of people. This is where townhome living comes into play. Townhomes are practically everywhere now, and many people are seeing the advantages and snatching them up in the real estate market while they can. For others, however, it might take a little more convincing to help them understand how great living in a townhome really can be. Here are some of the many benefits of living in a townhome!

Exterior maintenance

You better believe that when you live in a townhome as opposed to owning your own property, your personal responsibility for exterior maintenance decreases. This means that when it comes to taking care of the bushes or raking leaves or even shoveling snow in the winter, these burdens wouldn’t be on you. The less responsibility you have for exterior maintenance, the more time and effort you have to put into the interior of your home.

Better security

Since neighbors are in such close proximity, it’s pretty obvious that it would be heard loud and clear if someones home was being broken into. Living very close to others also allows you to form bonds with them so if there were ever an emergency or even if you just locked yourself out of your home, your neighbors could have a spare key in case you need to be let back in.

Community amenities

In many townhome communities, you’ll find community amenities that are offered to community members who pay home owner association (HOA) fees. These amenities can include anything from tennis courts and pools to fitness centers and more! When it comes down to it, this could save you from spending monthly fees with the gym as well as additional entertainments.

No neighbors above or below you

As opposed to the difficulties of living in a normal apartment building, when you’re living in a townhome you don’t have to deal with anyone living below or above you. Traditionally this means you’ll have multiple levels in your townhome as well as higher ceilings. Just think – you won’t have to tip toe around at night anymore or even worse, listen to people stomping around above you.

More space

When you are living in a townhome, most times the square footage is going to be much more worth your money than it is in a regular apartment or home. Since townhomes are three to four stories tall, builders are able to fit much more available living space between the walls, giving you the most square footage as possible. This can result in a more enjoyable, open and spacious living area.

Felicia Walkins is a freelance writer for Jackson Twenty-one. Connect with her on .

How to Be a Good Neighbor

Chocolate chips cookiesHaving neighbors can lead you to great friendships or enemies, depending on whether or not you take the appropriate steps towards being a good neighbor. If this is a new concept for you, make sure you pay close attention to what’s next. Here are some easy tips to follow in order to be a good neighbor!

Bake cookies

What’s more welcoming than receiving a batch of freshly baked cookies from your new neighbors? Just as nice as you think that is, remember how important it is to pay it forward. When you have new neighbors move in next door to you, give them a warm welcome with baked goods. It shows that you care and you’re making an effort to be friendly and will ultimately leave a great impression with your new neighbors.

Be polite and say hello

When you first notice your new neighbors moving in, introduce yourself and offer to help. Chances are they won’t accept your offer, but it’s the thought that counts, right? It’s a great ice-breaker as well, and will create an opportunity to chat a little bit about who they are, where they’re coming from and you’ll learn more about them! You could even make this an opportunity to exchange numbers for future plans.

Don’t gossip

Most apartment buildings have fairly thin walls, but once you get to know your neighbors, don’t waste your time and energy gossiping. Not only can gossip turn into something much worse than just talking but it is also immature and can destroy relationships. The biggest no-no is gossiping to neighbors about other neighbors. Remember – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all!

Be conscientious

If your neighbors work different schedules than you or don’t follow the same lifestyle as you, it’s important to be conscientious of this. Whether it’s the morning or evening, just consider how you would feel if you were trying to sleep and your neighbor was being noisy. As long as you’re treating your neighbor the way you would want to be treated, you should have no problems.

Be open about any issues

If you do find yourself having issues with your neighbor, it’s better to clear the air earlier rather than later. Confront the issue in a kind and mature manner and express your concerns. This is a much better way to handle the situation as opposed to sending angry letters or getting your landlords involved. Most of the time, issues can be resolved with just a little bit of communication before anything escalates.

Felicia Walkins is a freelance writer for Jackson Twenty-one. Connect with her on .

5 Easy Ways to Go Green on a Budget

Go Green!
Imagine what kind of world we would live in if everyone recycled and took care of the environment. Going green is easy. You can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint just by purchasing products and services that are locally owned and produced. It all begins with you. Here are five inexpensive ways to go green:

Support Green Business

A “green” business is one that strives to have a positive impact on the environment and community. Supporting a green business may be a little more costly upfront, but in the long run is much better for you and the environment. For instance, a lot of products you use may be toxic. Switching to green products can reduce the incidents of cancer, allergic reactions, asthma, and major organ damage. Each time you buy a green product you are increasing the demand for safer products.

Recycle

Simply put, recycling is good for the environment. It can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and promote the sustainable use of our natural resources such as timber, water and minerals. Plus, recycling is easy. Most items that can be recycled have the recycle icon on them. Some of the easiest items to recycle include aluminum cans, water bottles, plastic bags, milk containers, and cardboard boxes.

Purchase Reusable bags

Did you know that it takes 1,000 years for a single plastic bag to disintegrate? Plastic bags can wreak havoc on the environment. Instead, purchase cloth or canvas bags at your local grocery store. These stores will offer incentives just for using the bags. And reusable bags are not just for groceries either! Bring one to work or use it to carry kid’s items.

Buy a Houseplant

While many people choose to buy art or posters to decorate their houses and apartments, consider buying a plant. Not only will it look beautiful, but it has plenty of health benefits too. Plants can improve air quality by removing harmful pollutants from the air. They can also help you breathe and feel better by stabilizing humidity levels and improving air circulation. Best of all, plants are affordable and come in many shapes and sizes!

Look Into Carpooling

Driving can limit your budget and time. Look into carpooling—seriously! Your green commute will save you money. Carpooling can also reduce congestion on the roads and highways, thus reducing air pollution. It can also minimize the stress of your daily commute, allowing you to read or relax on your way to work. Save the extra miles on your car and ask a friend or co-worker to start carpooling to work.

Going green isn’t as difficult as you may think. Choosing paper over plastic, for example, is one easy way to help the environment. Do what is most convenient for you, and remember that every little bit makes a difference!

Felicia Walkins is a freelance writer for Jackson Twenty-one. Connect with her on .