Vermont Maturity Magazine May-June 2024

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VERMONT MATURITY Product of RTN Publishing 6170 Forest Hills Drive Dubuque, IA 52002 Change Service Requested PRSRTSTD PAID LITTLE ROCK, AR Permit # 1884 US POSTAGE VERMONT MATURITY All In the Family: Healthy Living Embraces Relatives, Community Alike May/June 2024 Issue The Importance of Estate and Life Planning in Vermont Building Your Personal Resilience Step 3 A Guide to CholesterolLowering Drugs

Vermont Maturity For Vermonters Age 50 and


Phone – 563.557.7571



Terri Nichols


Joshua Nichols


James Conner Jim Miller

Carolee Duckworth Phyl Newbeck

Ben Durant Nick Thomas

Alicia Fleming Clover Whitham

Dr. Richard Houston Vicky Parra Tebbetts


Char Grass


Mark Chaney



Phone – 563-557-7571

Fax – 563.557.7641

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Table of Contents The Importance of Estate and Life Planning in Vermont by Alicia Fleming, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® 11 Building Your Personal Resilience Step 3 by Dr. Richard Houston 14 A Guide to Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs by Natalie Binder 18 Does Medicare Cover WeightLoss Treatments? by Jim Miller 20 How to Select the Right Potting Mix by Melinda Myers 22 Billy Dee Williams – More Than a Charming Space Pirate by Nick Thomas 24 Home Improvement Projects with the Best Return on Investment Brought to you by Preferred Properties 26 All In the Family: Healthy Living Embraces Relatives, Community Alike 6 VERMONT MATURITY: HowtoStaySafe on the Road as an Older Driver . . . . . . . . . 29 Business Cards . . . . . . 30 4 | May/June 2024 | 24 26

Vermont Maturity Cover Story

All In the Family: Healthy Living Embraces Relatives, Community Alike

In 1986, Katy Lesser opened a small store called Healthy Living in South Burlington’s Blue Mall.

More than thirty years later, that store has grown exponentially and spawned other locations in Williston and Saratoga Springs, New York.

Since its inception, Healthy Living has been on a mission to offer shoppers the best products while supporting the local farms, producers, and economy.

While opening a store — or three — wasn’t Lesser’s initial plan for her career (she was an English teacher and a psychotherapist before becoming an entrepreneur), she has never wavered on her values.

Lesser started the market because she wanted her family to have access to healthy, unprocessed food and found limited options available.

“I had absolutely no knowledge of business,” she said, “but I also had memories of the food markets I knew growing up.”

Lesser remembered those markets as community meeting places where neighbors ran into each other in the aisles.

“They seemed like much happier places to shop than the sterile, harshly lit supermarkets I visited each week,” she said, “so why not own a tiny food market that was

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dedicated to exactly the kind of foods and experience I was searching for?”

She said she quickly learned that there was much more to running Healthy Living than food — the people, be they customers or staff, set the business apart from the average grocery shop.

As for its products, Healthy Living holds them to very high – and self-imposed – standards. The food it carries has no added hormones, antibiotics, artificial or trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, bleached or bromated flour, or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

In 2022, Healthy Living became one of the first retailers to sign on to the Northeast Organic Family Partnership, encouraging shoppers to purchase at least one-quarter of their weekly dairy items from participating brands.

Lesser said the relationships she has nurtured with her guests and staff “has been really the greatest thing for me.”

Healthy Living has grown from being overseen by Lesser and one other staff person to employing more than 300 community members. From the days when she did everything herself — from unloading trucks, to stocking shelves, to running the register, and more — she said she now has talented staff, “doing a much better job than I ever could.”

Along the way, Healthy Living has pocketed its share of awards including the Small Business Association’s Small Business Person of the Year, the University of

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The business gives back, donating to local food shelves, community centers and non-profits. It also takes part in food, diaper, and winter clothing drives. It matches staff’s charitable contributions to non-profit organizations and compensates them for the volunteer time they give to the charities of their choice.

“They both grew up in the business,” Lesser said. “They went away to college, and I never imagined in a million years that they would come back and work with me. The best thing I ever learned about running my business is to hire people smarter than I am, and they are both way smarter than I am! They are taking our company to the next level and beyond.”

Almost three decades after opening her first store, Lesser is thrilled with how her business has grown while still retaining its core values.

Passing the Torch

Lesser’s two children, Eli and Nina LesserGoldsmith, serve as CEO and COO of Healthy Living.

“I’m all about staying healthy and strong as I age,” Lesser said, “and the food I put in my body is a big part of that plan. There’s a lot to learn about food, changing your diet, supplements and more. We’re here to take the confusion out of it.”

Her staff is knowledgeable and experienced and dedicated to serving the community. Lesser’s passion for hospitality makes training new staff a rewarding experience and brings together the pillars Healthy Living has stood on for three decades — food and people.

“I still love the everyday routines, the customer interactions, the new product excitement, the seasonal changes, and the learning process,” she said. “All I’ve learned over the years about running a business translates to taking care of people and delivering exceptional hospitality which is, I believe, a good way to live.”VM

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Store Locations

222 Dorset St., South Burlington, VT, 05403

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The Importance of Estate and Life Planning in Vermont

Securing Your Future with the Vermont Ethics Network

Estate and life planning encompass a range of legal and healthcare decisions designed to protect your assets, provide for your loved ones, and communicate your healthcare preferences. Whether you’re drafting a will, establishing a trust, creating advance directives, or planning for long-term care, these actions help you maintain control over your future and ensure that your wishes are carried out, even if you become incapacitated.

In Vermont, where aging populations are prevalent and healthcare choices can be complex, estate and life planning take on added significance. By proactively addressing these matters, individuals and families can avoid unnecessary stress, conflicts, and financial burdens down the road.

As we navigate the journey of life, one of the most critical steps we can take is planning for the future. While it’s a topic that many may prefer to avoid, estate and life planning play an essential role in ensuring that our wishes are respected, and our loved ones are provided for. In the Age-Strong state of Vermont, where community values and individual autonomy hold significant importance, taking proactive steps towards estate and life planning is particularly vital. Among the invaluable resources available to Vermonters in this process is The Vermont Ethics Network (VEN), an organization dedicated to promoting ethical decision-making in healthcare and end-of-life care.

The Role of the VEN

VEN is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting ethical decision-making in healthcare and fostering compassionate end-of-life care. As a key resource for Vermont residents, VEN offers support,

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education, and advocacy on a wide range of ethical and healthcare-related issues.

How VEN Supports Vermonters Care Planning


VEN provides educational resources and information to help Vermont residents understand the importance of life planning, including advance care planning, healthcare decision-making, end-of-life care options, and manages the Vermont Advance Directive Registry.


VEN offers guidance and support for individuals and families navigating advance care planning, including the completion of advance directives such as healthcare power of attorney. including the completion of advance directives also known as a health care power

of attorney or Living Will. These documents ensure that your healthcare preferences are known and respected, even if you’re unable to communicate them yourself.


VEN partners with other health care organizations on issues related to ethics, end-of-life care, palliative care, health care decision-making, and provides access to services as well as the allocation of resources and provides support for hospitals and other health care facilities to develop ethics committees and policies.


Through community outreach and advocacy efforts, VEN works to raise awareness about the importance of ethical decision-making in healthcare and end-oflife care. By engaging with policymakers, healthcare providers, and the public, VEN promotes policies and practices that support compassionate and dignified care for all Vermont residents.


In Vermont, estate and life planning are essential steps for ensuring peace of mind and security as we age. With the support of organizations like the VEN, individuals and families can navigate the complexities of advance care planning, ethical decision-making, and end-of-life care with confidence and clarity.

Whether you’re considering drafting advance directives or simply seeking guidance on healthcare decisions, VEN is a valuable resource to turn to. Their commitment to ethical decision-making and compassionate care makes them an invaluable ally in the journey towards planning a future that honors your wishes, ensuring dignity and respect throughout all stages of life. More information can be found online at: VM

Alicia is a trusted Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® & Seniors Real Estate Specialist. She can be reached at 802-318-0441, and

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Building Your Personal Resilience Step 3

Locus of Control

As announced in previous issues, we are devoting the entire 2024 year to helping readers build a Personal Resilience Plan. We encourage all our readers to participate.

Our focus for this month’s article is Locus of Control. Readers may be familiar with the more well-known concept of Personal Agency. Do you believe that you are in control of your personal destiny or are you more likely to think that your fate will be determined by factors beyond your control?

People who believe that they control their own destiny are said to have an internal locus of control. Those who expect that forces beyond your sphere of influence will determine your fate are said to have an external locus of control.

In general, as we age, the trend tends to move in the direction of an external locus of control as we lose cherished friends and chronic illness becomes more prevalent. These factors present stark realities that we are not likely to change.

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However, important outcomes remain in play and our beliefs and attitudes exert a powerful influence on priority dimensions of the aging experience. For example, mature adults with an internal locus of control live longer.

Locus of control plays an important role in personal resilience. Seniors with a robust sense of resilience: ✔ have fewer chronic health conditions ✔ are more independent in daily living skills ✔ have a lower incidence of depression, and, ✔ are more physically active.

As readers of my past articles know, regular physical activity has a major impact on the quality of life for mature adults.

Building and maintaining regular activity routines is an excellent way to develop a stronger internal locus of control. Former Director of the Center for Disease Control, Tom Frieden, M.D., stated that “We know that … being active is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”  Regular physical activity routines tilt the odds in favor of better health.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development has what is likely the best data set on aging anywhere. They conclude that the state of our friendships and relationships stands out as the most important dimension of mature adult adjustment. Here again, seniors have a very direct opportunity to impact their personal experience. We offer a strategy for seniors to strengthen their relationships by asking friends and family relations for feedback on their own resilience profile. Engaging members of your social network in such a dialogue creates an outstanding opportunity to enrich the quality of interaction seniors have with their social connections. Of course, seniors can reach out to friends and family with their own inquiries and updates to maintain a robust communication channel.

Believing that you can shape your physical activity habits and your social relationships can play a powerful role in boosting your personal resilience. Despite the painful loss of cherished friends and the struggle many of us have with chronic health conditions, there remain

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extremely important dimensions of life that we can influence for our advantage.

Maintaining cognitive acuity may be the most important outcome we can impact. Regular physical activity habits and a willingness to take on challenging mental exercises will shape the odds of sustaining cognitive health. Getting out and taking a brisk walk will fire up new neuron growth in your hippocampus – a central switching station in the human memory process. You can make that happen today and tomorrow.

Take charge of outcomes that you can influence.

We devote this article to a review of prominent research findings in the neuroscience field. Every single person fortunate enough to pass the 65-year milestone worries about their mental acuity and, specifically, their memory function – with good reason. The National

Institutes of Health report that almost half of adults over 65 report some kind of memory impairment. Every mature adult wants to sustain their memory function and mental clarity for as long as they possibly can. We bring good news to this discussion.


The ability of our brain to learn new things and adapt to various challenges – does not diminish with age. Each person has the capacity to maintain your learning ability. The catch here is that many senior adults don’t exercise the option. Sustaining our brain’s plasticity requires putting it to work – in the form of learning something new. Look into the offerings at Coursera and explore hundreds of topics that will challenge you to build new neural circuits in your brain.


For years neuroscientists held the belief that human brains are born with the same number of neurons that

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they will have as mature adults. In fact, human brains prune unused neurons throughout our life – kind of like cleaning house – so that adults have fewer neurons than babies.

Humans still pack something like 85 billion neurons into our skull and each neuron may have 1,000 connections to other neurons. Do the math. Pretty amazing.

Recent research however has revealed that the hippocampus, a seahorse shaped component of our brain tucked away in the middle of our head, is capable of neurogenesis – the formation of new neurons. The hippocampus is the central switching station for memory. The bottom line is that you can generate new neuron growth to support your memory function today by going out and taking a brisk walk.

Our memory can also be fortified by mnemonic exercises. On your next trip to the grocery store, make a list of things you need. Put the list in your pocket and go through the aisles relying on your recall. Before heading

for the cashier, check your list to see if you forgot anything.


Physical activity causes the brain to generate proteins, like BDNF, that John Ratey M.D. of Harvard Medical School calls Miracle Gro for the brain. Get out and pump up some BDNF to bathe your brain in beneficial, invigorating chemicals.

The human brain is the most amazing creation known to man. Senior adults have a very important role to play in how well it functions in later decades. You have the capacity to keep your brain in good shape and sustain your mental acuity. Our brain defines who we are. Take excellent care of it. VM

Richard Houston, Ed.D., is an aging baby boomer who is ramping up his productivity rate in his mid70’s. He swears that his brain has never been more productive. Check out his web sites at Senior-psych. com and Resilience-Advocate.

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A Guide to Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

Elevated cholesterol levels are a major risk factor for heart disease. Over time, high cholesterol can cause a dangerous buildup of plaque in the arteries, leading to reduced blood flow, heart attacks, and strokes. Fortunately, several effective cholesterollowering medications can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL (good) cholesterol.


Statins are usually the first line of drug therapy prescribed to lower high cholesterol. This class of drugs works by blocking an enzyme in the liver involved in cholesterol production, which causes the liver to remove

cholesterol from the bloodstream. Statins include popular brands like Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, and more.

Statins have been extensively studied and are highly effective at lowering LDL levels by up to 60% while stabilizing or raising HDL levels. Many large clinical trials have demonstrated that statin therapy significantly reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths in people with heart disease or at high risk of developing it.

However, there has been some concern about potential side effects with long-term statin use, including statins and memory loss in some patients. Doctors may recommend a lower statin dose or a different medication if these side effects persist.

Bile Acid Sequestrants

Bile acid sequestrants (BAS) reduce cholesterol levels differently than statins. Instead of blocking cholesterol production by the liver, BAS binds to bile acids in the digestive tract, preventing the body from reabsorbing cholesterol. This forces the liver to pull more LDL cholesterol out of the blood. Brand names of BAS include WelChol, Questran, and Colestid.

BAS can lower LDL by up to 30%. They may cause gastrointestinal issues like constipation, bloating, or nausea. Unlike statins, BAS do not offer much cardiovascular protection beyond their LDL-lowering effects. They are sometimes prescribed in combination with statins when statins alone are not enough to reach cholesterol goals.

Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors

The cholesterol absorption inhibitor ezetimibe (Zetia) works by blocking the absorption of cholesterol from food in the small intestine. This leads to reduced

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cholesterol delivery to the liver, which responds by taking more cholesterol from the bloodstream.

In clinical studies, ezetimibe lowers LDL cholesterol by approximately 18%. It is often prescribed along with statins when maximal statin therapy is not enough to reach LDL goals. Ezetimibe does not typically cause major side effects, though it may increase the risk of muscle pain when combined with statins in some patients.

PCSK9 Inhibitors

PCSK9 inhibitors are a newer class of injectable cholesterol medicines. PCSK9 is a protein that interferes with the liver’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood. Inhibiting PCSK9 allows the liver to remove more LDL.

Brand names of PCSK9 inhibitors include Repatha and Praluent. Clinical trials have shown they can lower LDL cholesterol by a very impressive 60% or more, even in patients already taking maximal statin therapy. They also appear to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks in high-risk patients.

However, the injectable administration and high costs of PCSK9 inhibitors mean they are usually reserved for patients that are intolerant to other cholesterol drugs or those with familial high cholesterol.

Potential side effects include injection site reactions, flulike symptoms, and a slight increase in neurocognitive symptoms like confusion in some patients.


Various medication classes are available to effectively lower high cholesterol and reduce cardiovascular risk. Statins tend to be frontline medications, while other drug classes may be added for patients needing extra LDL reduction. All cholesterol medications require monitoring to assess efficacy and watch for potential side effects. Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle along with medication adherence provides optimal defense against the dangers of high cholesterol. VM

Natalie Binder writes about health and wellness. With a passion for helping others live their best lives, Natalie dives into topics like nutrition, fitness, and mental wellbeing. Offering practical tips and heartfelt advice, she supports your journey to a healthier you.

Something To Think About


Sometimes, when one parent dies, a child worries about who will care for him if the surviving parent should also die. This fear may even extend to children not directly involved. For instance, if a friend should lose a parent, or parents, a child might have a great anxiety about the same thing happening to him or her. It is something you should discuss if the subject should come up. When a child has already lost one parent, the concern over the survival of the

remaining parent may become a real preoccupation. “Who will take care of me if Mommy dies, like Daddy did? What will happen to me?” If the surviving parent is in good health and has every expectation of a long life, the child should be assured of this. At the same time, definite plans should be made for the guardianship of the child. Including the child in the making of them can often help relieve his or her anxiety about the future.

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Does Medicare Cover Weight-Loss Treatments?

Traditional Medicare does indeed cover some weight-loss treatments like counseling and certain types of surgery for overweight beneficiaries, but unfortunately it doesn’t cover weight-loss programs or medications. Here’s what you should know.

Who’s Eligible

For beneficiaries to receive available Medicare-covered weight-loss treatments your body mass index (BMI), which is an estimate of your body fat based on your height and weight, must be 30 or higher.

A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese and increases your risk for many health conditions, such as some cancers, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and sleep apnea.

What’s Covered

If you find that your BMI is 30 or higher, Medicare Part B will cover up to 12 months of weight-loss counseling conducted by a medical professional in a primary care setting (like a doctor’s office).

Most counseling sessions entail an initial obesity screening, a dietary assessment and behavioral therapy designed to help you lose weight by focusing on diet and exercise.

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Medicare also covers certain types of bariatric and metabolic surgery for morbidly obese beneficiaries who have a BMI of 35 or above and have at least one underlying obesity-related health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. You must also show that you’ve tried to lose weight in the past through dieting or exercise and have been unsuccessful.

These procedures make changes to your digestive system to help you lose weight and improve the health of your metabolism.

Some common bariatric surgical procedures covered include Rouxen-Y gastric bypass surgery, which reduces the stomach to a small pouch that makes you feel full even following small meals. And laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, which inserts an inflatable band that creates a gastric pouch encircling the top of the stomach.

What’s Not Covered

Unfortunately, original Medicare does not cover weight-loss programs such as fitness or gym memberships, meal delivery services, or popular weight-loss programs.

Medicare also does not cover any weight-loss drugs, but it does cover FDA approved diabetes drugs that have unintentionally become very popular for weight loss.

Medicare Part D plans cover Ozempic and Mounjaro for diabetes

only, not for weight loss. So, your doctor will need to prescribe these medications for diabetes to get them covered.

Medicare also does not cover Wegovy or Zepbound because they’re approved only for weight loss.

The reason behind the weightloss drug omission is the Medicare Modernization Act, which specifically excluded them back when the law was written 20 years ago. They also excluded drugs used for cosmetic purposes, fertility, hair growth and erectile dysfunction.

Without insurance, weight-loss medications are expensive, often costing $1,000 to $1,300 a month. To help curb costs, Eli Lilly recently launched a new website (LillyDirect. to give consumers direct access to the weight-loss drug Zepbound at a lower rate.

Medicare Advantage

If you happen to be enrolled in a private Medicare Advantage plan, you may have coverage for gym memberships and some weight loss and healthy food delivery programs. These are considered expanded supplemental benefits and have gradually been added to some plans to provide coverage for nutrition, health, and wellness. Contact your plan to see what it provides. VM

Jim Miller publishes the Savvy Senior, a nationally syndicated column that offers advice for Boomers and Seniors.

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How to Select the Right Potting Mix

As gardeners, it seems we are all looking for an ideal potting mix for our houseplants and containers. As with any gardening endeavor, a lot depends on what is available, the plants you are growing, and the type of maintenance you provide.

That said, there are some things you can do to increase your success and reduce ongoing maintenance. It all starts by reviewing the label on the bag you plan to purchase. You’ll find a variety of bags labeled as planting mix, potting mix, container mix, and more. Check the label to see what the bag contains and recommendations for its use.

These mixes usually contain inorganic and organic materials and may also include sand and mineral soil. They may or may not be sterilized to kill weed seeds and pests. If it doesn’t say sterilized, it probably is not, and you should consider another product instead.

Many potting mixes are labeled as “soilless.” They consist of peat moss, sphagnum moss, and compost for moisture retention and vermiculite or perlite for drainage but do not contain mineral soils such as sand or clay. They are lightweight and blended to hold moisture while draining well.

Some potting mixes are modified to accommodate the needs of certain plants. Orchid mixes often contain more bark for better aeration while cacti and succulent mixes have more sand or perlite for better drainage. African Violet potting mix contains more organic matter to create a moist, rich growing medium.

Organic potting mixes are also available. Many gardeners prefer to know the ingredients are free of pesticides and other contaminants. Check for the word organic and OMRI on the label if you want an organic product.

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Once again, check the label on the bag for more details on the potting mix. Some potting mixes contain a “starter charge” of fertilizer. This minimal amount of fertilizer is usually gone after two or three waterings. Some include additional fertilizer that provides small amounts of nutrients over a longer period. The label may say controlled-release, time-release, or slow-release fertilizer, meaning it provides your plants with nutrients for a certain amount of time.

Moisture retaining products are supposed to hold water near plant roots and reduce the frequency of watering. Research has not shown them to be effective. Some gardeners feel they are effective while others end up with root rot when using these.

Select bags of potting mix that are light, fluffy, and moist. Avoid bags that are waterlogged and heavy. The mix can break down and become compacted and some of the slow-release fertilizer may be pre-released and damage young seedlings when saturated with water.

Spend a bit of time searching for the potting mix that best matches the plants you are growing and your watering regime. The time spent selecting your perfect potting mix will pay off with greater growing success. VM

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts the “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Her website is

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Billy Dee Williams More Than a Charming Space Pirate

As any devoted Star Wars fan can deduce, the title of Billy Dee Williams’ new autobiography, “What Have We Here?” released in February, is a nod to the actor’s most famous character – Lando Calrissian. The smooth-talking caped space smuggler first greets Princess Leia with that line in 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back.”

While the feisty cinnamon-bunned princess may not have swooned on-screen when the charming Lando gently kissed her hand before eventually joining forces to save their galaxy (although Leia’s fleeting smirk suggests her royal knees might have buckled slightly), other screen characters were not so demure when confronted with the suave actor.

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For instance, Diana Ross (playing singer Billie Holiday) first glimpses Williams (portraying her future lover, Louis McKay) in 1972’s hit movie “Lady Sings the Blues.” Her character promptly sinks to the floor, emotionally melting – mouth agape – captivated by the dreamy, white-suited Williams gracefully descending a staircase.

“When I saw film of myself walking down those stairs, I fell in love with me!” said Williams, laughing, from his home in Los Angeles. In real life, too, fans were similarly drawn to Williams’ charisma.

“I even had a woman faint right in front of me and it’s all very flattering,” he recalled. “But I don’t take myself too seriously.”

Beyond his Hollywood status as a heartthrob or swashbuckling space pirate, Williams was a solid, compelling actor throughout his long career that began when he stepped onto a Broadway stage, barely 8 years old.

Raised in Harlem during the 40s in a moderately well-off household, young Billy’s family supported his interest in the arts which also included painting – a career he originally planned to pursue. But in 1956, on a chilly winter’s day in New York City, he literally bumped into a TV casting director emerging from a clothing store, striking up a conversation.

The chance encounter led to an offer of work as an extra in East Coast television series, reinvigorating his interest in acting. After moving to Hollywood, Williams would amass hundreds of film, television, and theater credits over the next six decades.

“For a young, brown-skinned boy like me growing up in Harlem, getting to Hollywood was a far-fetched

24 | May/June 2024 |

dream in those early days,” Williams said. “I’m not a very competitive person when it comes to something like sports, but I am when it comes to acting. I was determined to make it.”

And he did, with lead roles in feature films such as “Mahogany” (1975), “Scott Joplin” (1977), “Nighthawks” (1981), as well as ABC’s “Dynasty” series and the acclaimed TV sports biopic “Brian’s Song.”

“I didn’t want people to just see a young black kid from Harlem on the screen, but to appreciate the full spectrum of the characters I was playing,” said Williams.

It’s been almost 45 years since Williams first entered the Star Wars universe as Lando Calrissian. With his broad appeal and extensive acting experience, he was a popular addition to the franchise.

While he acknowledges that sci-fi actors rarely win Oscars or Emmys, Williams remains grateful for the recognition the character afforded.

“In the long run, I think the whole idea of creating a huge fan base gives you much more longevity,” he said. “I’ll turned 87 in April, and I’ve had a lot of interesting experiences throughout my life that are described in the book. Some were not pleasant but working on ‘Empire’ (and two other Star Wars movies) was. I’m always observing, learning, and trying to be a sponge, so to speak, to make myself a better actor.” VM

Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama and writes features, columns, and interviews for newspapers and magazines around the country. See

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Home Improvement Projects with the Best Return on Investment

Brought to you by Preferred Properties

Home improvement projects have always been a great way to enhance the comfort and enjoyment of one’s home. They can also be an excellent option for helping increase the property value and stay competitive in the local real estate market. For those toying with the idea of a home improvement project, some projects have a much higher return on investment than others. For 2024, these are the top interior and exterior home improvement projects with the highest return on investment according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2022 Remodeling Impact Report.



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Top 5 Interior Remodeling Projects for 2024


Hardwood flooring is something many buyers look for in a property. If your current home has hardwood floors, the number one ROI project is refinishing your home’s hardwood floors. Essentially a facelift - this procedure helps remove or improve signs of discoloration, scratches, and even signs of water damage. The return on investment for this project was estimated at 147% which makes it an excellent choice for a home improvement project.


Floors are an integral part of a property. Buyers want durable and long-lasting materials in their homes and wood is a solid choice for durability and quality. New wood flooring scored high on NAR’s report, at 118% return on investment. If you’re looking to add value to your property, consider installing new wood floors.


More homeowners are looking for ways to increase their home’s energy efficiency, and one option is an insulation upgrade, especially for older homes that don’t have enough insulation. Whether attic insulation, wall insulation, or basement and crawlspace insulation - this upgrade saw a 100% return on investment. Not only will RESTAURANT:

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this make your home more energy efficient, but it will also save you money in the long run.


Adding usable living space and improving the livability of one’s property is an excellent way to not only attract more potential buyers, but a great way to increase the value of your home. A basement conversion may seem like a large project, but in terms of return on initial investment, NAR estimated an 86% ROI, making it a top option for those looking to remodel or increase property value.


Storage is an important and often sought-after feature for homebuyers, and having ample usable storage will make a property

stand out. Renovating a closet by adding features (shelving, drawers, etc.) or improving overall usability ranked high on the remodeling impact report, coming in at an 83% return on investment.

Top 5 Exterior Remodeling Projects for


1. NEW ROOFING (100%)

A property’s roof is one of the most important parts of its structure, and buyers look highly on properties that have had improvements done to make the home more sound. Adding new roofing is the process of applying a new layer of roofing material over the existing layer (also known as an overlay). Re-roofing is dependent on the condition of the existing roof, but any improvements

Vermont Maturity | May/June | 27
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to a property’s roof will see a high return on investment (100%), and re-roofing is often a more economical option than a completely new roof.


For many homes, the garage door is one of the first things you see on a property. An old, worn-out garage door can be an eyesore, especially for potential buyers. A new garage door is a quick project that can be done for a relatively small investment (when compared to other projects). A new door will look nice, attract buyers, and will have a great return on investment: 100%.


Another important and integral part of a property is siding, or the protective material attached to the exterior of the structure that defends against weather, impacts, and other intrusions like insects. Upgrading to fiber cement siding (a durable, long-lasting, and lowmaintenance material made of cement, sand, water, and cellulose fibers) can see a high return on investment - 86% according to NAR’s 2022 Remodeling Impact Report.


If fiber cement siding is not an option, the next best option is vinyl siding - a durable, plastic exterior wrapping that can imitate wood and is used for both decoration and weatherproofing. For homeowners that chose to add new siding (both vinyl and fiber cement), 93% had a greater desire to be at home after completing

the project. Whether you’re choosing new siding for adding value or another personal reason, many homeowners see a good return on investment for this project (82% for vinyl siding).


Windows can take a beating, and they tend to show their wear, especially older windows. Vinyl windows, or windows made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), are windows made from a synthetic plastic material, making them resistant to rot and decay, meaning they will retain their efficacy throughout the years. Vinyl windows are also energy efficient, making them a top choice for homeowners looking to increase the efficiency of their homes. If your home has a lot of windows, the cost to replace them can be high - but for those looking to make the switch, you can see a potential 67% return on investment.

Remodeling and home improvement projects don’t need to be a complete overhaul of your property - you can choose what best fits your budget, time frame, and ultimately how you’re looking to improve your home. Just be aware that some projects will have a higher return on investment than others. If you’re looking to sell soon or in the future, a project with a high ROI that will boost your property’s value is an excellent option. VM

This article was brought to you by Preferred Properties. With over two decades of real estate experience and training, Barb utilizes her knowledge and expertise to help her clients successfully navigate life’s toughest transitions. Visit their website at

28 | May/June 2024 |

How to Stay Safe on the Road as an Older Driver

With more and more older Americans driving well into their 70s, 80s and beyond, there are a variety of things they can do to help maintain and even improve their driving skills. Here are some recommendations by driving rehabilitation specialists that work with older drivers.


Because about 90 percent of the information necessary to drive is received through our eyes, this is a good first step in ensuring driving safety. So, get your eyes checked every year to be sure your vision and eyewear is up to par.


As people age, it’s also very important to monitor changes in overall health as it relates to driving. Medical conditions like arthritis, dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea and stroke can all affect driving.

In addition, many seniors also take multiple medications or combinations of medications that can make them drowsy or lightheaded, which can impair judgment or affect reflexes or alertness necessary for safe driving. So, an annual physical or wellness examination and medication review is also a smart way to verify your driving safety.


AARP and the American Automobile Association (AAA) both have older driver improvement courses that can help you brush up driving skills and understand how to adjust for slower reflexes, weaker vision and other agerelated physical changes that can affect driving. Taking a

class may also earn you a discount on your auto insurance. To locate a class, contact your local AAA ( or AARP (, 888-227-7669). Most courses cost around $20 to $30 and can be taken online.


Adjusting when and where you drive is another way to help keep safe and behind the wheel longer. Some simple adjustments include not driving after dark or during rush hour traffic, avoiding major highways or other busy roads, and not driving in poor weather conditions.


To stay on top of your driving abilities you should a trusted friend or family member take a ride with you from time-to-time to watch for problem areas. For example: Do you drive at inappropriate speeds, tailgate or drift between lanes? Do you have difficulty seeing, backing up or changing lanes? Do you react slowly, get confused easily or make poor driving decisions?

For more evaluation tips, AAA offers a senior driver self-rating assessment exercise (Drivers 65 Plus) that you can access at

If you need a more thorough evaluation, you can turn to a driver rehabilitation specialist who’s trained to evaluate older drivers and offer suggestions and adaptations to help keep them safe. But be aware that this type of assessment can run anywhere between $100 and $500 or more. To locate a professional in your area, visit or – search “driving practitioner directory.”

When it gets to the point that your driving isn’t safe anymore and you need to quit, you may need to ask for help to create a list of names and phone numbers of family, friends and local transportation services that you call on for a ride.

To find out what transportation services are available in your mom’s area contact the Eldercare Locator (800-

10 Tips to Optimize your Senior Living Search Continued On Page 30

Vermont Maturity | May/June | 29
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