Is Medical Marijuana Good Medicine for Older Adults? It’s Complicated

The facts—scientific and legal—about marijuana’s status as a medication

After Jane broke her ankle, walking even short distances was a painful challenge. The 63-year-old had been an avid hiker and gardener and was stifled by her limited mobility. To make matters worse, she couldn’t tolerate the side effects of prescription painkillers.

Then she found relief from an unexpected source: medical marijuana.

“Pot really rescued me,” said Jane, who lives in Brooking, OR, and asked that her last name be withheld for privacy. Fortunately, she lives in one of the more-than-two-dozen states, plus the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is legally available to treat a wide variety of conditions including Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, cancer, asthma, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain, like Jane’s.

As people live longer than ever before with such debilitating conditions, medical marijuana (cannabis) appears to be welcome as a complementary therapy for some. Over one million Americans now use it, according to Americans for Safe Access. And a recent survey of 31 countries found that about 37 percent of adults who use medical marijuana worldwide were between age 61 and 76.

But a confusing legal environment, a lack of scientific research and unevenness in medical and dispensary training make medical cannabis a complicated choice for both patients and doctors.

Is Pot Really Legal?

Medicinal use of cannabis goes back at least 3,000 years. Its first recorded use was in China in 1500 BC. Many other cultures, including Hebrews, Egyptians, Indians, Greeks and Romans also used it for medical purposes. By the mid-1800s, cannabis was mainstream medicine in Western society too. It was widely used in the United States until 1942, when Congress and the American Medical Association battled over taxing the drug. In 1970, as part of the “war on drugs,” the Nixon administration classified it as a Schedule I narcotic—like heroin. This classifies it as a substance with no known medicinal use and makes it illegal to prescribe or possess it.

Marijuana may help those who have Parkinson’s or dementia

That means, even in states that have legalized medical marijuana, users are still violating federal law. Currently, the Justice Department defers to state assurances that products are tightly regulated and generally avoids prosecuting medical marijuana users who adhere to state guidelines. But people who use cannabis for medical reasons might want to be aware of the risk they’re taking, should the federal government decide to crack down.

Further complicating matters, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved cannabis for medicinal use. The FDA has very specific rules around the types of clinical studies it requires before approving a drug. Although European and Canadian studies demonstrating marijuana’s medical effectiveness for a wide variety of conditions are available, most do not meet FDA standards.

Most US studies, to date, have focused on the harmful effects of marijuana and little data exists on older adults who use the drug for health reasons. Before it will consider approving cannabis extracts for medicinal use, the FDA wants more domestic research, which is tough—but possible—to get approved by the government, said Ken Leonard, PhD, director of the Research Institute on Addiction at SUNY Buffalo.

Both the National Institutes of Health and the American Society of Addiction Medicine have come out against legalizing medicinal cannabis until more studies are completed and approved by the FDA.

Marijuana as Medicine

Legal complications aside, cannabis advocates tout the drug’s use for many aging-related conditions.

“There is evidence that it may help slow progress for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease and dementia,” said Ethan Russo, MD, a board-certified neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher in California. It may also aid common aging complaints like aches and pains and disrupted sleep.

Studies from Europe and Canada have shown that cannabis can be medically effective for pain and spasms from degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and for chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis. Other studies show it may help post-traumatic stress disorder, ease seizures, and control nausea and stimulate appetite in cancer and HIV patients.

Interestingly, although the FDA has not recognized the cannabis plant as medicine, it has approved two medications (dronabinol and nabilone) containing a synthetic form of the cannabinoid THC, which is responsible for the “high” effect, and for stimulating appetite and reducing nausea. Many patients don’t tolerate the synthetics well, but do find relief with the natural plant form, Russo said.

Like all drugs, marijuana has potential risks as well as benefits. There’s a slight risk of addiction, although probably less than with opiates, which are frequently (and legally) prescribed for pain, Leonard said.

“There’s likely to be dosage issues as well, since older people react differently to medications than do younger people,” he added.

Those who take multiple medications should consider marijuana’s side effects, which include rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, slowed digestion and movement of food through the intestines, dizziness and hallucinations.

Getting the Drug

The shortage of hard research on health benefits, coupled with the gray area of legality, means some doctors are still uneasy about recommending cannabis to patients.

Physicians can’t actually prescribe medical marijuana, even in a state where it’s been legalized, because of its status as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Clinicians can only write a recommendation, which permits a patient to obtain a medical marijuana card and purchase cannabis in a dispensary.

New York is the only state that mandates a four-hour, health-department-approved course—costing $250—for clinicians before they are allowed to make recommendations. Other states offer free, voluntary physician resources but do not require doctors to take specialized training before they recommend marijuana to patients.

Neither those dispensing the drug nor the doctors recommending it are necessarily up to speed on what’s best for a patient’s specific needs.

Regulations for growing and use vary too from state to state. Some states tightly control which strains are grown and where, what types of products are permitted and who can legally buy them for a narrow range of medical disorders. Others, such as California and Colorado, are more relaxed; medical cards are easier to obtain and patients are allowed to grow a few plants at home for personal use.

Currently, patients must live in a state where medical cannabis is legal and be under the care of a qualified clinician to purchase it. There’s confusion over whether legal medical users who live in one state can carry and use it in another state where it’s also legal. Some states permit it, but not all. It’s advisable to check specific regulations in your state and in any state you plan to travel to and verify what, if any, use is acceptable.

The conflicting federal and state laws leave some patients—primarily older adults living in long term care facilities—in limbo. Many institutions receive at least some federal funds and are hesitant to flout national laws by allowing residents to use medical cannabis in any form on premises, even if the drug is legal in the state. Some facilities may allow restricted use or forbid staff to handle the drug, said Courtney Allen-Gentry, RN, of the Center for Integrative Nursing and Cannabinoid Science in Omaha, NE.

But this can be unfair to those who find cannabis to be a good alternative to traditional painkillers, Allen-Gentry said.

“You would be surprised at how many seniors in nursing homes or assisted living already use or are open to the idea of using,” she said. Many have successfully reduced their need for other pain medication or antidepressants.

Medicare and Medicaid won’t pay for the drug because of its federal classification. Neither do private insurers. That may change if cannabis’ status changes, but for now patients must pay for it out of their own pockets. The marijuana itself can cost several hundred dollars a month, in addition to a marijuana card registration fee. These costs can be problematic for low- or fixed-income patients, including many older adults.

At the Dispensary

Once a person does get past the many hurdles of the legal and medical systems, the next challenge is figuring out what type of cannabis to actually take.

Licensed dispensaries are the only authorized points of product distribution for medical marijuana. Dispensaries are tightly regulated; several states have “seed to sale” requirements to track each individual plant throughout the growing, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, testing and retail dispensing processes, according to Depending on the state, dispensaries may be under the auspices of the health department, liquor control board or other regulatory agency. Owners and staff must go through extensive background checks, present written operations plans that include patient record keeping, and set up security for both transportation and the dispensary itself.

“Budtenders” staff the dispensaries and guide patients or caregivers in choosing the right product, strain and potency for their specific symptoms. Some budtenders have medical backgrounds; others may pay for private courses that teach them the finer points of medical marijuana’s effects.

Medical marijuana is available in many forms: it can be smoked or vaporized, or it can be made into oils, salves, tinctures, teas and edibles, like candy. Specific state regulations determine what types, such as oils, teas or edibles, and for which conditions they can be sold. The medium can affect how quickly the marijuana takes effect.

Jane said choosing the right product for her ankle was overwhelming. “I didn’t have the knowledge or vocabulary to know what to ask for, but the folks at the dispensary were very helpful.”  She chose a tincture, which helps with pain during the day, then added an edible remedy that she uses mostly at night due to its strength.

However, neither those dispensing the drug nor the doctors who are recommending it are necessarily up to speed on what form and strength are best for a patient’s specific needs.

“The industry is poorly regulated at this point, and the average physician has virtually no training,” said Russo, who is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians. Patients are left to rely on dispensary budtenders’ or friends’ advice. 

Anyone who is considering using medical cannabis should proceed slowly, cautioned Allen-Gentry. The concentration of active ingredients, called cannabinoids, can vary widely depending on the strain, form and how it’s grown. For older adults, who metabolize substances differently than younger people, it takes time to build up a tolerance to any side effects of cannabis, she said.

Marian Their, 76, of Boulder, CO, applies a cannabis-based salve for chronic pain from a shoulder injury. Cortisone shots didn’t help and she didn’t like the side effects of prescription painkillers. “Not only is it better but it’s kinder on you,” she said.

To Use or Not to Use

A recent Pew survey found a slight majority of Americans (53 percent) support legalizing marijuana. Baby boomers were about evenly split, with 50 percent in favor, 47 percent opposed and the remainder undecided. In comparison, 68 percent of millennials and 29 percent of adults age 70 to 87 support legalization.

Jane was perfectly comfortable with the idea of using marijuana for medical purposes when other measures failed to bring her pain relief.

“Most of us [boomers] smoked pot in college, so when medical marijuana came up, it wasn’t a shock,” she said.

Doctors seem open minded about cannabis too. A 2014 national survey of physicians found that 67 percent support having medical marijuana as an option for their patients and 56 percent think it should be legalized nationwide. In Florida, which has a medical marijuana measure on the ballot in 2016, nearly 90 percent of the population supports the idea.

Shelly Lindeman, 72, of Aventura, FL, is in favor. “What’s the difference between that and getting a prescription for something? I’m not using it to go to a party and enjoy myself, I’m using it to help with a disease. Absolutely I’d use it.”

Shelly’s sister, Elaine Boyarsky, 76, is less certain. “I’ve never needed anything to make me feel OK. For medicinal purposes, yes. But I’m thinking that people might abuse it.”

Advocacy groups like the Marijuana Policy Project and NORML hope to get medical marijuana initiatives on more state ballots and to broaden laws already on the books. For now, with the patchwork of state laws, mixed messages from the federal government, and insufficient information about the safety and effectiveness of medical marijuana in older adults, it’s not surprising that people might find it hard to make up their minds about using cannabis. But it’s certainly something that everyone, of all ages, is taking seriously.

For Marion Their, her decision to use medical marijuana was less about age than it is about shifting priorities.

“As we age, I think we become a little less cautious about what people think,” she said. “Back then, I smoked because it was cool and forbidden. Now, it’s a matter of getting relief.”

Transitioning Out of the Fast Lane

Here’s what you can expect during the five stages of later life

“Old age” doesn’t descend on you all it once; it happens in stages. Here, journalist Liz Seegert explores them, along with ways to make the most of the years ahead. A Journalists in Aging Fellowship, sponsored by the Silver Century Foundation, supported Liz’s work on this topic. The fellowship program is a collaboration between New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America. The article first appeared on the New American Media website on January 15, 2016It’s reprinted here with permission. You can hear Liz’s interview with Dr. Toni Miles on WBAI radio’s “HealthCetera” program.

Are you a go-go or a go-slow? Or maybe even a no-go?

It’s not some new Dr. Seuss book, but another way to describe the various stages of growing older. Barring a catastrophic event, older adults typically fall into one of five major life stages that take them from active and healthy to completely dependent on others. 

The catchy phrasing—originally developed by Duke geriatrician Harvey Cohen, MD—was quickly adopted by the aging community as an easy-to-explain concept to describe an elder’s functional ability. 

When ‘Life Is Limitless’

The first group is the go-gos. These are older adults who “are in excellent health and can do anything they want,” said Toni Miles, MD, PhD, director of the Institute of Gerontology, University of Georgia, Athens.

They are the ones portrayed in the active-senior advertisements, like those for Viagra. They live in the community and often move in retirement into fabulous homes or retirement communities. For them, said Miles, “Life is limitless.”

But everyone eventually begins slowing down. “George H.W. Bush was a go-go,” Miles noted. The former president even jumped out of an airplane to mark his 80th birthday.

Today, at age 91, she added, “He’s being pushed around in a wheelchair by his son. He has clearly transitioned.” 

While not every go-go gets their kicks from skydiving, they eventually do move on to the next phase, go-slow. These are people who still live in the community, are still in fairly good health and can generally manage their own affairs. “They’re slowing down but, importantly, recognize it themselves,” Miles explained. 

Perhaps they no longer like to drive at night. “What they’re telling you is, maybe they have a vision problem, or they’re anxious.” The good news, she said, is that they’re aware and begin self-limiting their activities. 

Eventually, people segue from being self-limiting to needing assistance with instrumental activities of daily living. These “slow-gos” might visit a clinician every few months to manage multiple chronic conditions. They may have a neighbor who checks in on them regularly, or hire someone to mow the lawn, or have their groceries delivered—activities that require a complex blend of both cognitive and physical performance.

A Little Help from Family, Friends

Although gerontologists note that people may experience the phases differently—with someone of 91 still walking all over town and another of 71 well into decline—even very healthy older adults need to plan for the later stages of aging, given the vicissitudes of old age. 

Miles continued that the next step down from the slow-gos are the slow-slows. “These are people whose relatives are worried about them and might suggest they move into assisted living.” Slow-slows generally rate their health as only fair and have problems managing several critical activities of daily living. That might include medication management, or help with dressing, eating or bathing.

The last group are the no-gos. “That’s the group, unfortunately, that a lot of people have in mind when they say ‘old,’” said Miles. “But there’s all these other stages ahead of them. 

“This group no longer makes their own choices,” she explained—for instance, because of mental impairment or debilitating illness. “They have people making choices for them,” such as a spouse, adult children or another health care proxy designated to make their decisions. 

One step boomers can take: make learning a lifelong process.

Miles, who has worked on federal elder-care policy issues, said that government, clinicians and nonprofit organizations need to think about how all of these pieces fit together and to collaborate to create the best frameworks for every stage of aging. 

She observed, “Selling a no-go lifestyle to a go-go is hard, so we need to have home and community services already in place when they suddenly find they need [them].”

Some older adults have planned well but others have not. As baby boomers begin the transition from go-gos to go-slows and beyond, that could strain social safety nets.

“We haven’t had the conversation yet about how much responsibility [for ourselves] we have as we enter old age…. I am responsible for how I arrive at old age and what resources I can bring, and then the social contract says in our society we owe each other something,” she said. 

Just what that “something” is has been the topic of much debate within the gerontology and policy worlds. It is intensifying as more baby boomers begin reaching the go-slow and slow-go stages.

Engaging Brain and Body

Regardless of life stage, it’s never too early, or too late, to plan for old age. “You have to envision your future, debilitated self,” Miles explained. “That is so hard. No one wants to do that.” 

One step boomers can take is becoming more intentional in how they live their lives—finding a work-life balance and taking time to de-stress. Another is to make learning a lifelong process. 

One of the biggest antidotes to debilitation at any age is education, according to Miles. “You should always be learning new things—and it doesn’t have to be academic-type learning, it’s whatever makes you happy.” She stressed, whatever the activity, give it all you’ve got, so both brain and body are engaged. 

What else can we do to help ourselves to perhaps slow down the transition from go-go to no-go? 

“Eat your vegetables. Exercise as often as you can. And get a good night’s sleep.” Those three things, said Miles, are keys to preserving cognitive function. 

If you have a brain that works, she said, “then you can accommodate your own disability, you can make the decisions that you need to make.” 

But, she cautioned, we need to anticipate that even that organ may eventually fail. So find a surrogate brain—your proxy—who can take over when needed.

Bag Lady Syndrome: The Fear of Dying Broke and Alone

It’s the nightmare of a surprising number of women

In Woody Allen’s film Blue Jasmine, a once-wealthy socialite (Cate Blanchett) sits on a park bench muttering to herself, having lost everything. With no money, no real job skills and no family to help, all she has left is a battered designer suitcase, a reminder of what once was. 

Jasmine symbolizes many women’s worst fears about aging: ending up alone, penniless and on the street. And if this sounds like your worst nightmare, you’re not alone. There’s even a term for it—bag lady syndrome—and it’s particularly touchy for baby boomer women, who feel the pressure of impending retirement.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), 66 percent of women aged 45 to 59 and 52 percent over 60 worry about not having enough money to retire on. Many women say they want to learn more about investing but cite lack of financial knowledge and experience, as well as uncertainty over where to turn for guidance, as major roadblocks.

“Even women who are very successful or are the primary breadwinners in their families, somewhere they have it in their minds that they are going to wake up some day and will have lost it all,” said Kerry Hannon, a financial expert and author of A Guide to Retirement for Women (1996) and Suddenly Single: Money Skills for Divorcees and Widows (1998).

Even celebrities like Katie Couric and Oprah Winfrey have candidly admitted that they lose sleep for fear of becoming destitute.

“There’s a lack of knowledge and comfort and confidence about investing among many women. Women tend to think about money in more emotional ways than men do. We get caught up in this whole idea about money and power.”

When it comes to talking about money and investing, women often react “like deer in the headlights,” Hannon said.

What Lies Beneath the Fear

Bag lady syndrome affects women regardless of net worth or financial savvy, according to clinical psychologist Nancy Molitor, PhD.

The 2014 American Psychological Association (APA) survey Stress in America found that “women at all points along the financial spectrum say they lie awake in bed at night and ruminate about finances,” said Molitor, who is also a coordinator for the APA’s public education campaign. Even celebrities like Katie Couric and Oprah Winfrey have candidly admitted that they lose sleep for fear of becoming destitute.

But why would such financially successful women worry about destitution? Their fears likely go back to childhood, Molitor said. Perhaps a woman grew up poor or her father lost his job or there was a single-parent household. In many cases, lack of money was associated with loss and difficulty. If the family had means, perhaps money was doled out grudgingly, becoming associated with control or even with love.

It’s also typical to meet women who were sheltered from financial reality as they grew up. No one ever talked about money; it seemed to just be there.

“[Money] was used to solve problems but there was no discussion about jobs or saving for a rainy day,” Molitor said.

“All of these early life events get encoded in our brain and become tinged with emotion, usually negative, and women learn money is essential for happiness. If you have it, you’ll be OK, and if not, you’ll be out on the streets.”

Even starting very late, many women can create a more secure financial future for themselves.

Financial worries can affect more than a good night’s sleep. Chronic stress can raise blood pressure, worsen cardiac and gastrointestinal problems, weaken immunity and cause migraines, as well as contribute to depression and irritability.

Fortunately, while the fear and lack of financial know-how may seem insurmountable, the biggest roadblock is just getting started. And sometimes life just forces the issue.

For 60-year-old Adrienne Wald, EdD, learning about finances happened only after her mother became divorced—and terrified.

“I went back to school and got my MBA specifically to know how to manage money and health costs after I saw what happened to my mom. She was afraid of being out on the street because she really didn’t know anything about money and wasn’t prepared.

“I never thought I’d have to worry. I’ve always worked, had nice income, nice career and a pension,” said Wald, a semiretired nursing professor and marathon runner from Westchester, NY. But when an accident left her sidelined for some time, she began thinking about her own longevity and money.

“I think about things like how long will I live? I don’t want to become dependent on someone; I don’t want to be a burden. Life is so unpredictable. A lot of things we plan on or count on are very uncertain.”

It’s Never Too Late

It’s often not until women are past age 50 that they have time to focus on retirement issues, said Jennifer Streaks, financial commentator and writer. Women are too busy being pulled in many other directions—caring for aging parents, raising children, running a household and working. They don’t concentrate on themselves until later in life, when the kids move out or the parents are deceased.

“Some women realize they’re not as astute investment-wise as they should be, and that’s where that fear comes in,” Streaks explained. “It’s not that you can’t do something about it, but that initial realization of what’s ahead, or fear of making mistakes, leads to panic.”

Women generally have smaller retirement savings than men, Streaks said, because they tend to be more conservative investors. They also come in and out of the work force and earn lower wages. According to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), 75 percent of US women earn less than $40,000 per year and 60 percent earn less than $30,000 annually. Half of all working women are in traditionally female, relatively low-paid jobs without pensions. Those with pensions receive only half of the benefits that men do. Women earn about $0.77 for every $1 earned by men—a lifetime loss of over $300,000.

The good news, experts say, is that many women in their 50s, 60s and even 70s can take solid steps toward creating a more secure financial future for themselves, whether through traditional retirement savings plans or innovative methods to generate additional income and cut expenses. The path you’ll need to take, however, is a very personal one.

Going It Alone

For some women, just taking a more active partnership role—gaining some control and knowledge—in the family finances may alleviate a bit of worry. But that’s not an option for a good portion of the population.

“Panic set in when I turned 50,” said Liz Scherer, a health and wellness strategist. “I have no illusion I have enough money to retire on. I’m 54. I’m trying to be realistic. What can I live on?”

Scherer, like nearly half of women in the United States, is single. According to IWPR, “virtually every woman will spend at least part of her adult life as the sole supporter of herself and her family.” About 36 percent of boomer women under 65 are separated or divorced; another 17 percent are widowed.

Scherer knew she had only herself to rely on and wanted to take immediate steps to secure her finances for the long haul. So she made some major lifestyle adjustments, including a career change. She moved from a 500-square-foot apartment in New York City to Silver Spring, MD, where she purchased a four-bedroom house for “a fraction” of a comparable home in New York. Her cost of living decreased considerably and she gained more space and time for a social life.

Scherer also began working with an investment advisor to create a long-term plan.

“It took a few tries before I found [an advisor] I was comfortable with. Now I have a real partner,” she explained.

Getting a Better Night’s Sleep

The number one thing women should do is educate themselves about basic finances, said William Farrell, financial advisor with UBS Financial Services, New York. He frequently works with boomer women who don’t think about money or understand their financial picture until they’re widowed or divorced.

“They just weren’t involved. Everything was handled by the husband,” he said.

Farrell encourages women of all ages to meet with a certified financial advisor or planner to discuss life goals and to develop a plan that takes into account what they need versus what they want.

Financial commentator Streaks agrees while advising women to choose such planners wisely.

“Try to only work with fee-for-service planners,” she said. “Make sure they have your best interests at heart and don’t just move assets from one place to another because that’s how they get paid. These advisors work for a set rate, rather than earn a portion of their income by selling specific stocks.

“A good planner will review everything from retirement accounts to insurance coverage on your home or car, your health—really anything that can come into your life and cause a financial outlay.”

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisor is a good place to start your search. Family and friends also can make trustworthy recommendations.

By the time you’re 65, you should be looking to downsize—both your lifestyle and your expenses, Streaks said. It might be time to sell that huge house and move to an apartment. Pay off credit card debt and analyze monthly expenses: small changes add up. Trim extra cable channels or eat out less often.

The rule of thumb for retirement is to live on 75 percent of what you earn now.

As you get older, financial security comes down to focusing on the basics—housing, health and eliminating debt.

“Break down what’s really important to you and put those savings into something like a gym membership, to keep your health going,” Streaks advised. “[And] make sure your health insurance is intact. Not having enough insurance or the right insurance, or high deductibles, will really decrease your savings.” 

The Employee Benefits Research Institute estimates that at age 65, a single woman will need at least $139,000 in savings just to cover out-of-pocket lifetime retirement health expenses. This assumes typical prescription drug costs and no catastrophic illness.

Because women live longer than men and often have multiple chronic diseases, they should consider purchasing a long term care insurance policy while in their 40s or 50s, when premiums are still low, Farrell advised. Nearly 70 percent of people over age 65 eventually need some long term care.

As you get older, financial security really comes down to focusing on the basics—housing, health and eliminating debt, Streaks said. If you put a plan in place now, it will be much easier to ease the fear of ending up on the street.

That’s what Maribel Torres realized. Torres, 51, married young and never went to college. She worked part time but was primarily a stay-at-home mom for her two daughters. A divorce in 2006 forced her to take a hard look at her options and financial future.

“Although I was working in an office, I didn’t think I had time to save enough for the future through the traditional way,” Torres said. “I’d always be worrying about that and lose sleep at night.

“I was never taught how to make money work for me; I had to figure this out myself.”

After reading a magazine article about creating income, Torres was inspired to get creative about her financial future. She scraped together enough to purchase a two-family house in a middle-class, Long Island neighborhood. She and her kids lived in the basement apartment, allowing them to rent the other apartment, which helped significantly with the bills. This got Torres to thinking about what else she could do to secure her finances.

She launched her own business as a personal trainer and wellness coach, which “put me in charge of my own future.” Now an empty nester, Torres moved to Kingston, NY, where the cost of living is significantly less than on Long Island. Torres still rents out her Long Island house and aims to purchase additional rental properties as part of her long-range plan to create ongoing income.

If she hadn’t faced her fears or had been unwilling to make lifestyle changes, Torres might never have been able to say she no longer worries about being out on the street or outliving her money.

“I sleep well at night. There’s always a solution.”