As you go about your day-to-day caregiving responsibilities, you’ve probably wondered whether there’s an easier way to get things done. Maybe you’re sitting in traffic to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy during rush hour for the second time that week. Or maybe one of your paid caregivers needs to reschedule and you find yourself texting with three different people, trying to coordinate a solution on the fly.  

Is there an easier way? Yes, often there is. Consider this article a cheat sheet on how today’s tech solutions can help you manage all of the twists and turns in your caregiving journey and take at least some of the tasks off your to-do list. We also provide a short list of some of the vetted resources we send our NeverStop and AgeAssured members in the righthand column.

Widen their social circle

It can be a heavy burden when an older adult relies almost exclusively upon you for all of their social needs, especially if they make it known that they feel lonely. And even though they may want to rely solely on you, it’s not an ideal situation for the older adult, either. Diverse relationships, including ones where they are not always on the receiving end, form a much stronger social foundation.

Going online can open up new worlds for older adults, particularly if they are housebound. Any adult with reliable high-speed internet and basic digital literacy can explore online classes, interest-based and/or identity-based communities, games, and social media. Online volunteering and virtual participation in local events from the comfort of their living room can also lead to in-real-life meetings with people in their community.

An active social life helps to protect mental and physical health by boosting the immune system, protecting against chronic illness, and reducing cognitive decline. Knowing that your older adult can rely upon, interact with, and be entertained by other people besides you is a priceless comfort that can reduce your stress level as a caregiver, too.

Offload routine tasks

There are many apps and services that can help you delegate routine caregiving tasks like grocery shopping, preparing meals, and driving to and from errands and appointments. Groceries and meals can be ordered online and delivered. Ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft or researching free or low-cost local transportation services can take care of some of the driving you do to doctor appointments and errands. 

For adults who are unable to go online, Gogo Grandparent is a wonderful option. It’s a phone-based service that can interface with all of our recommended apps and more. Get started on their website or call 855-464-6872.

Recommended resources

For getting connected online:

  • American Association of Retired Persons (AARP): Over 100 free online games including solitaire, mahjongg, sudoku, and 10×10.
  • Academic Earth: Thousands of pre-recorded university lectures and courses across a variety of subjects.
  • Senior Planet Free live courses on wellness, fitness, technology, and more offered via Zoom video conferencing platform.
  • Volunteer Match: Find virtual or local volunteering opportunities that suit your schedule, skills, and interest.

For transportation help:


For restaurant delivery:

Uber Eats

For grocery delivery:

Costco Grocery
Whole Foods

For care coordination:

Caring Village

Manage a team of caregivers

If you’ve been coordinating help with friends and family and paid caregivers over the phone with a paper and pencil, you might be delighted to learn how online tools can make your life a whole lot easier. Common features of care coordination apps include shared calendars to track activities and appointments, task requests and individual assignments, and organized group messaging. Having everything in one place not only provides an invaluable track record of your caregiving but often provides more emotional support for caregivers, too.

Manage medications

Refilling, reminding, checking, and re-checking multiple medications is challenging for anyone, let alone for the caregiver of an older adult who has cognitive issues. 

Apps and technology are immensely helpful here. Medication management apps and smart pillboxes can help with maintaining medication logs, medication scheduling and reminders, drug interaction detection, and refill or appointment notifications. For caregivers, many apps and devices have medication management features built in that can help caregivers coordinate communication among themselves and establish caregiving duties.

Setting up prescriptions to be refilled and delivered from a local or online pharmacy pays dividends for months and years to come. If getting to the pharmacy to pick up medications is difficult for someone, they can access online and app-based services to have medications delivered to their homes through the mail or directly from a retail pharmacy. The following flow might help you figure out the best solution for your situation.

If you are already using a local or retail pharmacy: Call them and ask if they offer home delivery. Many retail pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, do. Also ask If they can pre-sort your medications for you.

Consider an online pharmacy:  Amazon Pharmacy (855-745-5725) is a great option, especially for ongoing prescriptions. They can ship 90-day supplies to you. They can also pre-sort your medications: Ask about their “Pillpack by Amazon” service. 

Still having trouble? Contact your health plan. Many health plans contract with pharmacies to provide mail-order services. Call your health plan’s member services phone number to see what they offer.

For our annual holiday gift blog this year, we are handing the mic to two of our most experienced Allies, experts on aging who are an integral part of the teams that help thousands of our members thrive into their third acts and beyond. Our Allies know firsthand which devices are most popular, enhance members’ lives, and brighten their days year-round. Without further ado, let’s hear it from them!

Thrive-at-Home Gifts

By Morgan Pichel. With a background in case management and gerontology, Morgan is an Ally in our AgeAssured service, which helps long-term care insurance policyholders aged 65-85+ to live independently wherever they call home. 

What I love most about my job is that I get to wake up every day and make a difference in people’s lives, no matter how big or small. I’m happy to spread the news about some of the most popular items we send to our members, which mean so much to them. All make great gift ideas for the older adult in your life, and they’re all fairly low-cost, too!

Long-handled reacher: When members have difficulty bending or reaching, I send them one of these. Members have told me the reacher is a “godsend,” especially for picking things up off the floor. One member even reported that he had one in every room of his house, and stopped worrying about falling as a result. $30 for two on Amazon

Nightlights: Whether battery-operated or plug-in, motion-activated nightlights make a huge difference in our members’ lives. Members report that they feel much more safe getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom now that dark hallways and passages are automatically illuminated. $29.99 for 4-pack on Amazon

Lightweight vacuum: For older adults who have been lugging around a heavy, clunky vacuum for years, a lightweight vacuum is a huge upgrade. The Eureka we send our members is economical, weighs under three pounds, and maneuvers easily into hard-to-reach areas like couches and corners. Members report they actually look forward to doing their housework because their new vacuum is so easy and convenient to use. $39.99 for the Eureka on Amazon

Adjustable long-handled shoehorn: Members who have difficulty dressing their lower body and/or balance concerns love this adjustable shoe horn. They can continue to wear the shoes they love and put them on easily. $17.99 on Amazon

Pillbox: This easy-to-open seven-day pill organizer is a big hit for our members, allowing them to easily manage and track their medications. A few members have told me that they loved it so much they purchased additional ones! $10.39 on Amazon

Long-handled sponge/brush: Members who have difficulty reaching parts of their body when bathing really appreciate how this device helps them stay clean and fresh. Both the sponge and the brush feel good and stimulate the skin (the bristles are neither too soft nor too abrasive) and the curved handle is easy to hold and maneuver. $9.99 on Amazon

NeverStop Wellness Gifts

By Kasaundra Bennett, Kasaundra is an Ally in NeverStop, a wellness rewards program carried by select financial institutions to help their clients aged 55-75 prepare for a long and healthy life beyond retirement.

I love using my coaching skills and expertise to support our members on their wellness journeys. Here at NeverStop, it’s very rewarding to see our members reach their goals and discover the potential they have to age successfully long past retirement. Here are some gift ideas that our members really love, devices and apps that help them go further than they ever imagined! 

Fitbit Charge 5: Our members love using this top-of-the-line non-smartwatch, which they receive as a complimentary welcome gift in our NeverStop Wellness program. Members use their Fitbit to track their activity, heart rate, sleep patterns, and more. It’s a great choice to support a loved one in your life with the gift of good health. You can also purchase a Fitbit premium subscription to go with the watch; our members get a two-year subscription. It provides access to several online workout videos, nutrition information, recipes, and more. $149.95 on Amazon

Calm app: Our member’s favorite Fitbit premium app is Calm, which helps with stress management and improved sleep. They love the app’s guided meditations, sleep stories, and relaxing soundscapes. Calm can be purchased separately; you don’t need a Fitbit watch. $69.99/year for a Calm gift subscription

Apple Watch: Many members use the Apple Watch to support their health and wellness goals. Like Fitbit, Apple Watch allows you to track your steps, activity, heart rate, and sleep.  Some Apple watches also come with fall detection capabilities. from $399 on

Hello Fresh: this popular meal delivery service takes the stress out of meal planning and preparation and saves you time. Fresh ingredients are delivered right to your door with instructions on how to prepare a delicious dish. This is a great way to get started on your health and wellness goals in this busy world we live in! Members have also found that this service helps with their weight loss goals. Gift cards from $75 and up at Hello Fresh

Our exclusive series of interviews on women leaders in the ILTC industry ends with our own Hila Zadka-Schuldiner, Head of Data Research, Analysis and Reporting at Assured Allies. Hila is dedicated to data-based decision-making and that is a big part of why she mentors and encourages future women leaders in the field: they make a proven difference! Find out why and more in this brief interview.

How long have you been in the LTC space and what attracted you to pursue this career path?

I started working in the LTC space when I joined AssuredAllies four years ago. However, I have long been interested in the health of older adults and preventative medicine. Previously, as a researcher in the public healthcare system in Israel, I explored how we can help the aging population live more independently and maintain a high quality of life. 

Did you have any female role models? How did they support your career growth?

My mom is one of my main female role models. In her own career path, she was always a true feminist — not only pursuing and achieving senior management roles herself but breaking glass ceilings and opening doors for other smart and talented women.

Have you been a mentor? How have you helped an aspiring female professional pursue a career in long-term care insurance?

In most of my roles as a researcher, I was a mentor to more junior researchers, many of whom were women. Some women find it challenging to express their professional views assertively. I made sure they felt comfortable offering their opinion and made it clear that their views were valued. 

Can you share any memorable experiences or instances where your influence has brought about positive change in the industry?

I am a strong advocate for data-driven decision-making, even though it can sometimes cause friction when I need to delay a decision in order to make full use of the unique data at our disposal and translate it into actionable insights. I am happy to work at a company that is deeply committed to a data-driven approach in its culture and day-to-day practice.

How do you envision the future of female representation in the industry, and what steps do you believe should be taken to further promote gender equality and inclusivity?

I believe that having the right female role models within the company is crucial, especially, in management and leadership roles. Based on my experience, I can say that in general women act differently during interviews than men. For example, they might take some time to think about their answer, and it is important to give them enough time in an interview to allow them to shine. From my point of view as a manager, this lets me reliably test their fit for the role. I am proud and happy to manage a diverse team: five awesome researchers, three of whom are women (definitely the best team ever). We already know (based on research!) that diverse voices in strategic discussions raise diverse considerations that otherwise might have been overlooked, and therefore that diversity leads to better decisions overall.

I think it is also important to stress that a female point of view in our company is critical as we are working with an aging population and therefore the majority of our members are women. Women have different interests and inclinations when it comes to their physical and mental health, and so having women on my research team, as well as in key positions at Assured Allies as a whole, is very important for our success as a company.

Julie Belknap, Assistant COO at Continental General, is passionate both about her innovative work in LTCI and how she can open doors for future female leaders in the field. There is much to learn in this brief interview, and we are grateful to Julie for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts.

How long have you been in the LTC space and what attracted you to pursuing this career path?

I have worked in the long-term care industry for almost 17 years in many different roles. My pursuit of a career in actuarial led me to the insurance industry initially, and it just happened to be with a company that had long-term care. In 2013, I became an Associate in the Society of Actuaries, but in 2016, I took my learnings from actuarial and started applying them in non-traditional ways. I’ve had the opportunity to develop and lead initiatives related to rate increase implementation, internal controls, enterprise risk management, claims, and wellness.  

A deep appreciation and respect for this industry has kept me here. I love that it’s a smaller, interconnected industry. If you don’t know someone, there’s a good chance you know someone who knows that person.

It’s rewarding to hear firsthand from our insureds and their families about the impact this product has on their lives. I feel the industry is stepping up to the challenge and finding innovative products and programs to help people age more successfully. I want to be a part of that solution.  

Did you have any female role models? How did they support your career growth?

When I transitioned into my role leading the claims department, the team I was leading grew from about 10 to 50 people in an instant. I was nervous, to say the least, but my sister, an inspiring leader in her industry, provided encouragement and sent me books that shaped some of her leadership views. That was my first introduction to Brenè Brown. Her research on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy has influenced my leadership style.  

The phrase “Strong back and soft front” has been around for some time, and there are many variations to it, but Brenè Brown adds the “wild heart” concept to it. She explains that this is holding the tension between two opposing feelings – fierce and kind, tough and tender, grit and grace. Often, leadership is a combination of conflicting emotions. It means showing vulnerability even when you are being tough. It means challenging the status quo. This mantra expands beyond leadership and into life.  

I’m a big believer that there is something to learn from everyone you meet, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing women during my career growth. These women have accomplished so much in their careers and are willing to provide guidance on a professional and personal basis. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn and grow through these connections and be one of those females for the next generation.         

Have you been a mentor? How have you helped an aspiring female professional pursue a career in long-term care insurance?

Mentoring professionals is very important to me. The insurance industry isn’t typically on someone’s dream job list. However, it’s something that many people find rewarding once they get here, especially if they have had a personal experience with someone they care about needing or receiving long-term care services. Passing on the knowledge of where the industry has been to get to where we are today is important to help us continue evolving.  

I’ve had the opportunity to mentor several aspiring female professionals pursuing long-term care careers. It’s essential to identify their growth and leadership potential, no matter what their current role is within the company, and to give them opportunities to try new things. Providing opportunities to grow and sometimes even fail in a safe environment is invaluable.     

It’s also been important to me to pay it forward and introduce mentees to other females within the industry to help build up their personal network. Even if they decide to move on to a new company in the future, having that professional stay within the long-term care industry is a win.

Can you share any memorable experiences or instances where your influence has brought about positive change in the industry?

The long-term care insurance industry has faced its share of challenges and has persevered through innovation and new perspectives. Since some of these policies were originally contemplated, there have been evolutions in the care settings from home health care agencies, assisted living facilities, dedicated memory care facilities, continued care retirement communities, and now, to the idea of robotics and technology in the home. 

There have been new features like cash benefits or an alternate plan of care to allow for more flexibility and new insurance offerings like hybrid products to fit the aging population’s needs. The long-term care industry is also trying to learn from other industries how to better support the aging population through wellness initiatives. There is no one solution to ensuring that long-term care insurance stays relevant as care needs evolve. It takes new perspectives coming in and a willingness to learn from others.

With my actuarial background, I have provided a unique perspective by leading non-traditional actuarial areas like claims. My analytical approach introduced new ways of looking at processes and data. I improved communication across departments and helped remove biases in how people thought the processes worked. I’ve shared these insights by presenting at industry meetings and having discussions with other leaders in the long-term care industry. Our industry has some truly inspiring leaders, and I am excited to see its continued growth and evolution.

What do you believe is the key to empowering more women to pursue leadership roles and become influencers in the long-term care insurance sector?

Empowering women to pursue leadership roles is key to our industry; it takes dedication and support to get there. Leaders within their companies need to identify these individuals with leadership potential early on and create opportunities for them to enhance those skills further. That might be through training, mentorships, projects, meetings, conferences, etc. It also means that companies have a responsibility to create internal opportunities to encourage these individuals to stay and grow within the organization.  

Similarly, having more industry-wide opportunities — conferences, industry meetings, panels, or networking events — for women to connect with each other would be highly beneficial. It cultivates an inclusive environment and empowers them to feel more confident about sharing their knowledge and experiences.

How do you envision the future of female representation in the industry, and what steps do you believe should be taken to further promote gender equality and inclusivity?

​​I’ve been encouraged by the growth of female representation in leadership roles within the industry since I started. There has been a greater emphasis on the need for companies to ask tough questions and have uncomfortable conversations to determine how they are doing regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. When an organization invests in fostering a diverse, equal, and inclusive environment, it creates a sense of belonging, which then fuels new perspectives and innovation.

Creating awareness of gender inequality and promoting inclusivity can positively impact an organization. In many cases, individuals aren’t even aware of their personal beliefs and biases. Providing educational opportunities for employees to analyze and understand these views can help shed light on possible solutions.  

Consideration should be given to work policies that accommodate professional and personal responsibilities. Flexibility in work policies is an area that has become increasingly important to many employees and often has a more significant impact on working females. 

Developing formal or informal mentorship programs for females entering the industry can positively impact both employees and the organization as a whole. It provides a better support system for the mentee and often creates a stronger sense of belonging for the mentor. Promoting gender equality and inclusivity is important and allows organizations to capitalize on untapped potential.   

Heather Kane, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Equitrust Life Insurance, was happy to share with us the many ways that she is intentional about mentoring young women to become LTCI leaders of tomorrow. In this brief interview, one of our exclusive series in honor of International Day of the Girl 2023, we hope you’ll enjoy her many tips and insights about how to grow diversity at the leadership level.

How long have you been in the LTC space and what attracted you to pursuing this career path?

Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve touched all facets of the insurance business, including sales, marketing, contracting, and operations, and have even sold products as an independent producer. Location played a significant role in my career path. Des Moines, Iowa, is the number two state in the country for annuity and life insurance companies, which has provided me with exciting growth opportunities. 

My LTC chapter began two years ago when EquiTrust partnered with Assured Allies to develop Bridge, a new hybrid annuity product with an LTC rider and the NeverStop wellness program. It’s been rewarding to use my health license and be on the front lines of developing an innovative product that goes beyond providing financial coverage and helps policyholders live healthier and better in retirement. I’ve enjoyed dipping my toes into technology and being the driving force behind building an interactive agent portal.  

Did you have any female role models? How did they support your career growth? 

I’ve been very fortunate. At my first job in banking, the branch vice president was an excellent role model. Her support sparked my curiosity to learn new things, which gave me confidence in my ability to grow. Within the insurance industry, I’ve benefitted from several leaders who took me under their wing, honored an open-door policy, and provided valuable guidance on building a strong business presence. They helped me develop my leadership style and insisted that I never apologize for not knowing something and instead embrace it as a learning opportunity. That has always stuck with me. There are many female leaders at EquiTrust. It’s a positive environment supporting women’s career development and growth. I have colleagues who are trusted sounding boards. 

Have you been a mentor? How have you helped an aspiring female professional pursue a career in long-term care insurance?

I certainly make an effort to support and encourage the women around me. Inspired by my early career days, I encourage them to be curious, learn about different aspects of the business, and seek out growth areas. Being a mentor is often about helping people see their strengths. After meetings, I acknowledge each person’s valuable contributions. It’s a small way to create a positive learning environment with open feedback. 

I’ve also supported aspiring colleagues to take additional training courses to expand their knowledge. Overall, I encourage women to find something they are passionate about doing. There is no point in just going through the motions. I’m a big believer in feeling like you make a difference. Make what you do matter! 

Can you share any memorable experiences or instances where your influence has brought about positive change in the industry?

Developing and launching Bridge is an example of making a positive change in the industry. It’s a unique product that makes aging better in retirement accessible to everyone. The fact that it has a 100% guaranteed acceptance rate and provides LTC coverage benefits to people who typically would be denied is a game-changer. Women are usually caregivers, and this new product’s wellness program provides them with support and tools to take care of themselves, too. 

What do you believe is the key to empowering more women to pursue leadership roles and become influencers in the long-term care insurance sector? 

We are seeing more female leadership in our industry. I was encouraged by the strong female representation at last month’s CLTC (Certification for Long-Term Care) Summit. Working for a company that supports professional development and career growth is very important. EquiTrust is a member of Tero International and offers two different nine-month corporate training programs for executives and managers. I’ve nominated female members of my team to attend. 

How do you envision the future of female representation in the industry, and what steps do you believe should be taken to further promote gender equality and inclusivity?

One of the best ways to promote equality and inclusivity is to nominate women for leadership roles at industry associations. There’s an opportunity to embrace the competition and create a more united front across all carriers. We can build a stronger voice together by getting involved in influential organizations.

Currently, I’m a board member of the National Association for Fixed Annuities (NAFA) and served on the Executive Committee for four years. Years ago, I admired another female board member and knew I would learn from her by getting involved, so I joined her committee. Several years later, I was nominated to be on the board. It has been a productive way to use my voice and help shape the industry and future female leaders. 

Linda Thalheimer, a Long Term Care Specialist, author, and public speaker, was delighted to chat for a few moments in honor of International Day of the Girl 2023 for our exclusive series of interviews on women leaders in LTC. Linda’s passion and dedication are evident in all she does to help people plan for successful aging. Enjoy!

How long have you been in the LTC space and what attracted you to pursue this career path?  

I have been in the LTC insurance space for 23 years. However, I spent 16 years in health care, so in total, my career has spanned 39 years.

Did you have any female role models? How did they support your career growth?  

My mom was a great role model. She always worked part-time so that she could focus on the family. As soon as we were grown, my mother returned to school, got her master’s degree, and became the town’s first female director in the Special Needs Program. Having her as a unique role model enabled me to be patient with my career goals. My children were my priority. 

I planned accordingly, got my master’s degree, was published in the American Association of Occupational Therapy Magazine, and was recognized as a National Speaker by Harvard’s Division on Aging before the birth of my first child. This preparation gave me a greater chance of quality part-time employment until I could turn on my career full-time. When my children went off to college, I jumped in with both feet and enjoyed the success of being an independent business owner. Becoming an LTC insurance specialist was a perfect career choice. It was a natural transition from health care and allowed for unending growth based on my commitment, education, and initiative. When I began my career, the financial world was primarily men. I enjoyed bringing a unique perspective to LTC planning.

Have you been a mentor?  

I believe education, ethics, and compassion are the keys to success in any career. I love being a mentor to other LTC professionals. I am a regular presenter for the Buddyins Team, which provides ongoing education to other insurance and financial professionals. I am also on the CLTC (Certification for Long-Term Care) board of advisors and co-wrote the LTC Claims brochure to reinforce the importance of setting accurate expectations at the sale and how to guide an insured through the claims process to ensure the promises sold are kept. Teamwork is a critical part of ongoing learning. I have been fortunate throughout my career to have a team of LTC professionals who are always available to discuss complex cases or update each other on changes in the industry.

How have you helped an aspiring female professional pursue a career in long-term care insurance? 

I met Maureen at a networking group and recognized that she was always prepared, well-spoken, and committed to excellence, ethics, and compassion. When I learned she had lost her job during COVID, I offered to hire and train her as a LTC specialist, so she would never depend on an employer and feel confident about being a self-employed business owner.

Can you share any memorable experiences or instances where your influence has brought about positive change in the industry? 

Every time I present, I aid in influencing ethical sales behavior by identifying details of contracts, educating the importance of setting expectations and focusing on the client’s needs. I have always been quick to address change with insurance companies when I feel they are not fulfilling their promises to their clients.

What do you believe is the key to empowering more women to pursue leadership roles and become influencers in the long-term care insurance sector? 

Many people who are looking into LTC have had or are in the process of caring for a parent or spouse. They are very vulnerable and could easily be taken advantage of. Women are especially good at supporting, patiently educating, and helping other women to take control of their financial futures. LTC insurance is a tree in the forest of financials. Therefore, women LTC specialists effectively empower women to take control of their financial forest as they plant the tree of LTC insurance.

How do you envision the future of female representation in the industry, and what steps do you believe should be taken to further promote gender equality and inclusivity?  

I have already seen a significant increase in women in this industry. Cultivating a relationship is at the forefront of creating the trust to accept education and guidance through the LTC planning process. I expect more women to engage in this industry as women are uniquely poised to help other women. 

Nkenge (Kenge) Blue, Head of Actuarial at Assured Allies, was delighted to chat for a few moments in honor of International Day of the Girl 2023 about why she was drawn to a career in the insurance industry and why she encourages other young women in the field to hone their leadership skills.

How long have you been in the LTC space and what attracted you to pursue this career path?

I’ve been in the LTC space for about two years and the life insurance industry more broadly for about ten years. What attracted me to LTC in recent years was my interest in products that provide living benefits and the direct impact LTC has on policyholders during their later years.

Did you have any female role models? How did they support your career growth?

The role models that most significantly impacted my career took the time to get to know me on a personal level and encouraged me to bring my authentic self to work. This was invaluable for me early in my career because, as a Black woman, I rarely saw myself represented in the industry and admittedly was reticent based on preconceived notions of what an insurance professional looks like or how one should act. These role models instilled confidence in me to be boldly me, despite the lack of representation in the field, which has propelled me to be more influential as a leader.

Have you been a mentor? How have you helped an aspiring female professional pursue a career in long-term care insurance?

I try to help female professionals in a similar way as those who helped me, by empowering them to be vocal and share their opinions – beyond simply developing the knowledge and skill sets required for a career in LTCi. For example, I recently encouraged someone to take more of a  leadership role in projects we do as a team rather than the backseat.

Can you share any memorable experiences or instances where your influence has brought about positive change in the industry?

What we’ve done recently at Assured Allies in our collaboration with EquiTrust to bring the Bridge Annuity to market is a great example. We were able to bring an LTC product to market that has a true 100% guaranteed acceptance rate, which expands the market to those that historically can not receive coverage. As the Head of Actuarial, my team was heavily involved in the product development and the digital underwriting experience that make the guaranteed acceptance possible.

How do you envision the future of female representation in the industry, and what steps do you believe should be taken to further promote gender equality and inclusivity?

I envision a future where representation is not simply done to check a box but instead is viewed as a strategic advantage and is a key part of the industry’s value proposition. That mindset will inherently amplify female voices, ensure women have a seat at the table when it comes to decision-making, and encourage more women to join the profession and improve our offerings to the end consumer. As for steps, investing in women will promote equity and inclusion. This investment can be in hiring, mentoring, and increasing awareness of unconscious biases.


Discover how Kenge and her team are infusing traditional actuarial science with clinical research, technology, and data science at Assured Allies.

I am not a movie reviewer. So why am I commenting on this buzzed-about Netflix show about people who muscle past 100?

Because as a licensed social worker with a bachelor’s degree in gerontology, I’m captivated by everything aging-related: movies, articles, TV shows, and books. I have an undeniable weakness for viral videos of golden agers living their best life, celebrating special moments, and showcasing impressive Jitterbug dance moves. However, seeing older adults portrayed as stereotypes is one of my biggest pet peeves. We need more accurate and inspiring representations in the media.

That’s why I was drawn to the new Netflix series Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones. Watching it put a big smile on my face and gave me hope for the future. At least most of the time, as you will discover.

What’s the show about?

The four-part documentary series chronicles the work of longevity researcher Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer: Lessons From the Healthiest Places on Earth. He has spent his career researching Blue Zones, communities with high concentrations of those living to 100 or more, and identifying trends to help us understand the keys to longevity – physical and emotional. 

The series explores the Blue Zones in Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California. I did not validate his research, but he presents four major themes that contribute to healthy aging, which resonate based on the literature and my work with older adults:

1. Having a positive outlook on life

2. Moving naturally

3. Eating wisely

4. Connecting with others

The importance of purpose, community, and wellness

The centenarians in Okinawa, Japan, are marked by a positive outlook on life by maintaining purpose well into their later years. This behavior reflects flow and continuity. Interestingly, they don’t have the concept of retirement and, therefore, continue contributing to their society in some way as they get older. Purpose inspires them to connect with others and plays an essential part of their daily life. The series also introduces us in the West to some cultural practices and behaviors we were probably unaware of, including the concept of a moais. This community group provides its members financial and social support, often for decades.  

Also important to the Okinawans is the way they literally move through life. They don’t use chairs, so they stand up and sit down on the floor throughout the day, which helps them maintain core strength and balance. Many older adults in this region continue to grow their own food and maintain a garden. They “eat wisely” by being mindful and have a saying, hara hachi bu, which reminds them to stop eating when they’re 80% full. Their diets are primarily plant-based and nutrient-dense; purple sweet potatoes are a staple in the Okinawa diet.

Would the Blue Zones be this “blue” if technology grabbed hold of them?

Throughout the series, I was struck and inspired by the vitality, happiness, and sharpness of those portrayed in the show. However, the cautionary words at the end of the third episode (“The End of the Blue Zones?”) were disheartening, although unsurprising. We all know that our society’s modernization is making it more challenging to engage in healthy practices naturally. Inactivity and longevity are enemies, and many everyday tasks, from housekeeping to commuting to work, are being replaced by technology.

Processed foods are also a threat, as the new book Ultra-processed People has made categorically and calorically clear. The industrial food system, which is inevitably invading the Blue Zones, makes eating healthy vastly more challenging when processed foods are cheaper and much more readily available than unprocessed ones.

Buettner has a don’t-blame-the-victim point of view. He believes that people who engage in unhealthy habits aren’t to blame. It is their environment and the manipulative forces they are subject to, over which they often have little control.

The Blue Zones Vitality Project

The documentary makes clear that healthy living requires a cooperative environment in more than one way. In fact, in many ways. If healthy living is easy, everyone benefits–individuals, their families, and society. Tragically, for the most part, the environment is foe, not friend, and positive individual choices require too much effort.

Buettner reached an insightful conclusion, a bitter reality that led to his work with AARP to create the Blue Zones Vitality Project. This effort aims to extend Blue Zones concepts to communities across the U.S. to make their environments more conducive to healthy aging. His team works with cities to make them more walkable and accessible, create more opportunities for meaningful engagement, and provide better access to healthy foods. 

Albert Lea, Minnesota was the first Blue Zones Project pilot in 2009. The community’s commitment to well-being resulted in the following measurable impact:

  • $8.6 million—savings in annual health care costs for employers as a result of a decline in smokers
  • 34th place—in the Minnesota County Health Rankings (up from 68 out of 87 counties)
  • 2.9 years—added to lifespans (projected) within one year of participating in the Blue Zones Project

Going strong, The Blue Zones Project has cracked the code for transforming health outcomes for large populations. The website features impressive results in multiple communities as well as these overall outcomes:  

  • Double-digit drops in obesity, smoking, and BMI (body mass index)
  • Millions of dollars of savings in healthcare costs
  • Measurable decreases in employee absenteeism

Policies put hope into practice

The series concludes by focusing on Singapore, a modern nation whose policies prioritize successful aging and longevity. These can be controversial. For example, they intentionally make cars more expensive for individuals to own and use that revenue to invest in a beautiful, walkable city with an efficient public transportation system. They also provide tax credits to caregivers who live close to their elderly loved ones, subsidize healthy foods, and tax unhealthy ones.

Seeing the creative use of policy that has become a practice in Singapore was incredibly inspiring. As a social worker specializing in gerontology, it gave me hope that if we as a country and the macro level – and as thousands of communities on the micro level – committed to prioritizing healthspan through our policies, it can change the aging trajectory. Yes, it requires a mind shift, but we’ve successfully shifted the cultural tectonic plates. Just look at how the approval of gay marriage changed. Pew notes, “The rise in support for same-sex marriage over the past decade is among the largest changes in opinion on any policy issue over this period.”

Policy change can be slow but don’t need to wait. We can start by applying the learnings from the Blue Zones in our everyday life–incorporating daily movement, having a positive outlook (whether that’s through finding purpose or finding ways to unwind), eating wisely, and investing in connections with others (whether that be family members, friends, or our partners).

Key takeaways to incorporate into your lifestyle

Buettner sums up longevity with this wheel. In other words, we must reinvent the wheel of aging. Aspects of each of the four categories must collaborate in a symbiotic way. We all want a magic pill for longevity. But the series’ most honest and important takeaway is that there is none. But – and this stuck with me, and I hope with you–”the same things that help us live a long, healthy life are the things that make life worth living.”

Here’s a summary of the 12 habits that can add years to your life: How to Live to 100, Wherever You Are in the World. That’s more than eight years for each!

Image: Netflix, 2023

Marissa Badler, LICSW, C-ASWCM, CCM
Marissa Badler is a licensed master’s level social worker with a bachelor’s degree in gerontology. She has spent her career working with older adults in a variety of community and facility-based settings, primarily doing different types of case management. She has been at Assured Allies for five years and currently serves as the Senior Manager of Ally Success, ensuring that our Allies have the tools they need to be successful at helping our members.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are often used interchangeably. Dementia is the umbrella term for all progressive conditions with cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.

Over the years, one of the statements I have frequently heard from people living with dementia and their families is, ‘We are OK with what we have now, as long as it does not change and get any worse.’ There are two interesting facts about this:

  1. People say it about every stage, from prediagnosis to end-of-life support.
  2. It always gets ‘worse’ if this means the cognitive deterioration continues.

Understanding some of the key questions about supporting a person with dementia has become more crucial. According to the Alzheimer Society, there are currently 6.7 million Americans living with dementia, and one in three people over 80 will die with some type of dementia. However, the impact of the condition is much broader. For each person living with dementia, there are two to three people who report that supporting that person has a direct impact on their daily lives, including financially, as the dementia community in the U.S. ranges between 20-25 million.

When supporting a person with dementia, the north star to offer is a reality check and personal reflection. Let us look at three phases of reality that people often struggle to navigate.

‘Why Get Diagnosed If There Is No Cure?’

This question is often voiced. However, seven out of 10 Americans would like to receive a diagnosis early to provide for treatment and planning. There is a worry that people will receive a diagnosis that will upset them and  it is important to remember that this emotion is a valid response. Dementia is a chronic degenerative condition, and many fear it. However, being upset is not the only emotional response that can be evoked. Many people report that receiving a diagnosis of dementia comes as a relief to them, making claims like– “I knew there was something wrong,”or “at least I know I am not going mad”. 

With the right information and support, a dementia diagnosis can act as a wake-up call to prioritize what is most important in life. It makes people realize that time is precious and helps with planning on many levels. For some, it is going on that milestone 80th birthday vacation a couple of years earlier to ensure they can truly enjoy it. A diagnosis often motivates people to make decisions that will impact the future of their loved ones, such as financial and estate planning, so that they can be actively involved in the process. This focus on planning can create a sense of control and pave a clearer path for all involved in their journey.

‘Just The Two Of Us, Against The World’

People can live for many years with dementia. Partners in long-term, close relationships often establish codependent habits and routines–one cooks, one clears, one washes and one folds. Additionally, couples are accustomed to doing things together, such as the weekly bingo night, food shopping or weekend walks with the dog.

When we talk to partners about supporting a loved one with dementia, the transition is a common theme in every culture. The shifts can be subtle, but the plural language of a couple as a unit changes in every story. It starts with ‘We enjoy doing X’ or ‘We always go to our favorite place on Saturday nights.’ As time passes, the language changes to ‘Now I do X, and they do Y’. It is no longer a plural language. This is important to note, especially as this feels like a breakdown of the relationship for some. 

From a person-centered perspective, the caregiving spouse is realistic, recognizes their partner’s real needs and acknowledges that they might need different support. Trying to pretend that nothing has changed can be painful and destructive to both. There comes a time when finding new and possibly more intimate ways of being ‘we’ is the best way to ensure both partners continue to follow the best path for their well-being.

‘I Just Want To Go Home.’

We have established that in the early stages of dementia, knowledge and understanding can help create a roadmap for days to come. As time progresses, it is not uncommon for that joint ‘we’ path to become slightly different, with people trying hard to move in the same direction together. People frequently struggle to know how to respond when a loved one living with dementia says something untruthful or out of character as an effect of the disease.

These instances can be incredibly painful for the person on the receiving end. Our natural reaction is to bring it back to reality, which can escalate negative emotions and behaviors on both sides. Although it is hard to do in the heat of the moment, the key is to ask, “What emotion is this statement reflecting?” Thinking of these untruths as codes for emotional needs can take some of the sting out. It can also help us explore ways to address and support these fundamental human and emotional needs differently. When we start to hear these statements as a general way of communicating a situation that is uncomfortable for the individual, rather than a concrete request, it opens many creative ways to try and address that emotional need. The north star here is that often, the underlying emotion is feeling unsafe, overlooked and out of control.


Michal Herz
Michal Herz, PhD is the Voice of Customer, Director at Assured Allies. She is also a member of ADI’s Global Accreditation Panel (Alzheimer Disease International). Michal has worked for over 20 years in the field of aging, specifically, dementia and care. Her work extends from the WHO, to academic roles in the UK, the Alzhimer society in Israel and other stops on the way.

Last week’s annual ILTCI (Intercompany Long Term Care Insurance) conference, the biggest industry event of its kind, was an exciting event both for our company, Assured Allies, and for all who attended. We came into the conference with a lot of momentum, having just announced our $42.5M Series B funding round and investing in a bigger footprint at the conference than ever before. In addition to hosting both a kick-off cocktail hour and a bustling booth, we lent our talents to several panels led by Chief Growth Officer Larry Nisenson, US Legal Counsel Mike Gugig, Head of Actuarial Nkenge Blue, and more.

It was an investment that paid off for our company and the many others who are working hard to make the most of what many are calling a renaissance in the LTCI industry. Roughly 1,000 LTCI industry enthusiasts descended on Denver to discuss the state of long-term care insurance today and delve into the trends that will continue to drive disruption and innovation in 2023 and beyond. Innumerable conversations advanced lines of new or expanding business prospects for all comers. 

Here’s a brief rundown of what we learned.

The wellness trend continues

Wellness continues to attract a lot of interest, driven both by consumer demand for how insurers can help them reduce risk, the push for better customer engagement, and, of course, a way to reduce carrier claims and cost. In the long-term care insurance industry, in particular, there is interest in how wellness can benefit policyholders, add value, and act as a catalyst for new innovative products to address longstanding gaps in the current marketplace. 

Our Assured Allies booth was abuzz as a result, given that both of our products, AgeAssured and NeverStop, are in such alignment with the booming wellness trend. AgeAssured, our legacy product, provides 1:1 coaching and targeted, low-cost interventions for in-force policyholders so they can age in place successfully. One clear metric of success (more below) is that policyholders eligible for AgeAssured is expanding from ~60,000 to over 200,000 by the end of 2023. 

Our latest launch, NeverStop, also sparked excitement as an innovative way for carriers to make long-term care insurance more accessible for the 65M Americans who need it. NeverStop is able to do this thanks to precision actuarial modeling, a streamlined all-digital underwriting process that takes less than an hour to complete, and a personalized wellness program that incentivizes policyholders to take healthy actions to feel better now and earn long-term care credits in the future.

Wellness has to demonstrate value

Talking about wellness and innovation is no longer enough. Carriers, distributors, and agents want to see proof that wellness adds value. This “show me the money” stage is perhaps both a natural organic moment in the industry after many years of innovative pilots and insuretechs as well as a reflection of increased investor scrutiny in tech and start-up companies generally, due to macroeconomic forces.

Assured Allies was fortunately well positioned to demonstrate that wellness really does benefit the bottom line, after years of a rigorous analytical approach. We have enough of a track record now with carriers who have been with us since we launched in 2019 to demonstrate that our AgeAssured aging-in-place interventions are both making life better for policyholders and saving money on claims. Specifically, AgeAssured reduces cost of claims by 18%; lowers incidence by 13%; and shifts claims from facility to home care by 15% (specifically for women).

Huge potential for new products

“It really seems like the resurgence in the long-term care insurance industry that everyone has been waiting for is finally taking off,” reported our Senior Product Actuary, Erik Wenzel, who gave a presentation titled “The Long-term Care Renaissance: New Product and Market Opportunities” in the actuarial track. Erik talked about the win-win opportunity of wellness for both policyholders and carriers, both for in-force business and for new business. Erik used NeverStop as an example of how carriers can create innovative new products that reduce cost while being more attractive to the 55-75 age demographic in helping them prevent age-related decline by taking healthy actions today. The audience response was very positive and several people asked for the slides.

“There is huge potential for new products,” said Wenzel after attending several other panels and touring the exhibition hall. “One is the worksite market in states like California that are considering long-term care legislation. Another area for innovation is less expensive, simpler products like short-term care that are targeted to older individuals who are not in perfect health.”

“It’s so important to get distribution input in the product creation process,” said Wenzel. “It was eye-opening to get real reactions at the conference to our new products, like the NeverStop Bridge Annuity that we launched with Equitrust.”

It’s more than just another booth

If you’re hosting a booth at a conference, you know you have to design a banner or two, offer some giveaway goodies, collect contact info, and hoist your logo up high. But stop and think: are you just going through the motions, or do you have a creative vision for your booth?

The kitchen counter at our booth invited people to sit, stay, and chat for awhile.

This year, our Director of Product Marketing Michelle Spinale pulled out all of the stops and went full domestic on our booth, with A-frame rooflines, architectural display nooks, and a kitchen counter with stools! Not only was this the perfect theme for our successful aging-in-place mission, but our booth design invited people to sit and stay awhile, with their lunch, their cocktail, or their tired feet. Chatting around the kitchen counter set a relaxing, informal tone that catalyzed many productive conversations.

Take-home momentum

This is an exciting time for the LTC industry. Our Assured Allies team members in attendance soaked up everything the conference had to offer and had dozens of productive conversations. We will reap the benefits over the upcoming quarter and beyond.

“ILTCI was an opportunity for us to introduce in a formal way our new product to the LTCI industry,” said VP of Marketing Andy Freedman. “This was the time where we showed up to tell our story of both our incredible products and the results we are seeing in the market. We were excited to be joined by our NeverStop partners at Equitrust and FedLife and have a chance to connect in person with many of our LTC carriers and partners. I got valuable feedback on our product and ideas for how we can introduce this innovation—and access to LTC insurance and wellness program—to many more adults around the country over the next year.”