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Seniors In College: Exploring New Horizions

Sure, going back to get that high school diploma or finish that college degree can be quite an accomplishment. But that’s not the only reason for going back to school. It’s a great way to “get a life.” School can be a lot of fun when there’s no pressure involved, and these days, where is the pressure going to come from? With all the life skills that we have picked up along the way, we’ll probably be the smartest guy or gal in class.

There are two basic reasons for starting or going back to college in our senior years: to create or enhance career opportunities, or for personal enrichment – it’s something we always wanted to do. Your reason for going back will play a big part in how you pursue your objective.

Career Enhancement:

If your reason for starting or returning to college is professional, there are many programs designed especially for seniors that can help you prepare for your “second act.” Some schools around the country offer EncoreTransition Programs. These programs offer opportunities for older adults to acquire new knowledge and skills that employers need, gain credentials, and prepare to “move up the ladder” if you are still working. Although they can be beneficial for any career objective, their primary focus is to teach you how to translate your years of experience and existing skills in new ways to improve your community and the world.

Another great way to enhance your career by way of secondary education is to enroll in online college courses. These courses are very accessible and very flexible. They are offered by colleges all over the country in any subject you wish to pursue.

Online courses can be synchronous, which means everybody meets at the same time, or asynchronous, which means the materials are posted and you work at your own pace. Some schools will even provide you with a laptop computer that is yours to keep when you finish the course.

In either case, you must be disciplined and committed, or you will find yourself falling behind and getting frustrated very quickly. Schools that offer online programs that are great for seniors include:

  • University of Washington
  • University of Minnesota
  • Mississippi State University
  • Pace University
  • University of West Florida

Credit For What You Already Know

One of the really nice things about going back to school or starting school at this stage of the game is we don’t have to start from scratch. There is a ton of stuff that we have done that we can get college credit for:

  • work experience – think about it; all the jobs you have had this past umpteen years has given you a wealth of knowledge that can translate into Lord knows how many credit hours. Even if you’ve had only a couple of jobs in your work history, you still have a plethora of transferable skills.
  • different courses you have taken here and there
  • certifications
  • training programs
  • military experience

Test Your Knowledge

There are several ways to get college credit for work/life experiences. The two most popular ones are the College Level Exam Program (CLEP), and the Dantes Subject Standardized Tests (DSST).

The CLEP program features 33 single-subject college exams and five general exams. Single subject exams are just that. They cover material in one particular subject. For example, if you take the Biology CLEP test and pass it, you’ve saved yourself a whole semester of going to Biology class. Not only that, but since the test only costs around $80, you’ve saved yourself a bunch of money.

The five general CLEP exams cover first-year course material in English composition, humanities, college math, natural sciences and social sciences. The nice thing about them is if you pass one of them, you could qualify for CLEP credit for several classes! That one test can save you a lot of time and money. CLEP test results are accepted at nearly 3000 colleges and universities around the country and online.

The DSST program offers many of the same basic tests that the CLEP program offers, but it also has offerings in subjects such as Introduction to Business, Human Resource Management, Computing and Information Technology and the like. If you’re going to school to get back into the work force with a new, well-paying career, this might be a good place to start. Like the CLEP Program, each test costs around $80.

Between these two programs alone, you can save hundreds – even thousands! – of dollars, and save a couple of years of class attendance, as you work towards your “second act.”

There’s Financing Out There

These days, with all the bad press about student loan debt, many people have lost sight of how reasonable a college education can be – especially for us seniors. By taking advantage of the aforementioned programs, and federal, state and local grants and scholarships, not only can we leave college debt free, the impact on our pocketbook can be minimal.

Unless you plan to foot your college bill out of your pocket, the first place to start your quest for financial assistance is with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the form that the federal government, states, colleges and other organizations use to award financial aid. It opens the door to grants, scholarships, work-study programs and all sorts of financial aid that will possibly pick up your whole tab.

If you have yet to earn your first bachelor’s degree and can demonstrate the financial need, a Federal Pell Grant may be just the ticket for you. This grant does not have to be paid back unless you drop out of school or change your enrollment status. The maximum amount you can receive is adjusted for inflation each year and will generally cover the cost of tuition and books for a year at your local community college, and put a few bucks in your pocket for expenses.

Another good source of financial assistance is reduced – or free – tuition. Every state in the Union has at least one institution of higher learning that offers free or reduced tuition for senior citizens. Check your state for schools, eligibility and program particulars.

Personal Enrichment

So, maybe you’re not looking to get back in the workforce. You want to learn some new stuff and “expand your horizons.” This, too, is a great reason to go – or go back – to college. Your local community college campus is a great place to “get involved.” It will change your life.

Whatever you like to do, you can find a club or organization that shares your interest, or you can start one. You can also explore activities that you’ve always been curious about, get into something completely out of your comfort zone, and take advantage of a truly diverse social and cultural setting.

Senior Presence Rising On Campuses

The hallowed halls of higher learning no longer echo only the footsteps of the young. For many seniors making a living and taking care of a family necessitated putting our college plans on pause. Well, a bunch of us are hitting the “play” button now that we have the time and opportunity to revisit those dreams of a college education.

The number of seniors in college has been rising for the past several years and it is expected to continue to grow. According to the United States Census Bureau, there are presently about a half a million people at least 55 years old enrolled in college. Because of our life experiences, knowledge and maturity, we usually make better students than the “traditional” student.

Seniors are generally very committed to their “mission”, and have clear goals and the necessary motivation to achieve them. Because we are “older and wiser,” students and faculty tend to treat us with more respect than our younger counterparts and in some cases even hold us in reverence.

Go For It

You’ve thought about it long enough. Make that move. It will be a new chapter in your life that will be more fulfilling than you could have possibly imagined. Many of us have harbored a regret that we did not get a college degree for decades. Well, there’s no time like right now to make that dream come true.

So go on, take that leap of faith. You won’t be sorry. You’ve been sorry you didn’t long enough. I look forward to hearing about your experience.

 

 

 

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Sheex Sheets: Not Your Mother’s Cotton Sheets [ A Review ]

My baby sister really loves sheets. She’ll have nothing but the best, and she’s really into counting threads. No, wait. She’s really into the thread count. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Exactly What Is A Thread Count?

For conventional cotton sheets, the consensus is that the quality is measured by the thread count. The industry leads us to believe that the higher the count, the better the sheet. The technical definition of thread count is: a measure of how many threads are in one square inch. The vertical (warp) and the horizontal (weft) weave of the fabric is counted up to determine the thread count.

Does Thread Count Matter?

It sure does, but not as much as you might think. It’s a good place to start, but a high thread count does not necessarily mean a better sheet. Let me explain. Stick with me, now. This can be a little confusing.

For the most part, very high thread counts are a deceptive marketing trap. According to Boll & Branch, makers of fine bedding, to get these extremely high thread counts (800 to 1000 or more) manufacturers pump up the count by using multi-ply yarn. This is yarn made up by twisting many threads together. Jamming these multi-ply threads together results in heavy, scratchy sheets that can do a job on a good night’s sleep. Consequently, a 300 thread count sheet can be a much better sheet than a 1000 thread count sheet. There are, of course, other factors to be taken into consideration when sheet-shopping. They include:

  • Fiber – basically, what the sheets are made of. Cotton-polyester blend sheets are wrinkle-resistant, lasts longer and are less expensive than all-cotton sheets. But for a cool, soft feeling, 100% cotton is hard to beat. Not unbeatable, hard to beat. They are also less likely to stain than polyester blends.
  • Weave – affects what the sheet will look like, how long it will last, and how much it’s gonna cost. The weaves range from basic – an equal number of vertical and horizontal yarns, to Sateen, which has more vertical than horizontal yarns. The higher the vertical threads, the softer the fabric. Basic weaves are the least expensive, Sateen weaves are the most expensive. There are a couple of weaves in between, but I’m sure you get the picture.
  • Finish – chemicals to keep the sheet from shrinking, losing its shape and wrinkling. Some are treated with alkalies to make them nice and shiny. There are a few manufacturers that offer pure-finish sheets (no chemicals) but they can get pretty expensive.
  • Dye – patterns and colors applied to sheets after they’re woven. The softest – and most expensive – sheets are made of yarn-dyed fabrics woven from colored yarn.

All of these elements, along with the thread count, determine the quality of the sheets that you will crawl in between tonight.

Is Cotton Really King?

The largest “other factor” in the equation is indeed what the sheets are made of. Most of us assume that the best sheets are made of 100% cotton. I get that. We have been conditioned to believe that “if it ain’t cotton, it’s rotten (I just made that up).” I mean, the best sheets on the market start with 100% cotton or silk, right? Wrong. Some of the best sheets on the market are made of 100% cotton or silk, but there are notable exceptions. By all accounts, following is one of them:

Fabric Blend For Sportswear Gets a New Life

In 2008, famed University of South Carolina women’s basketball coaches Susan Walvius and Michelle Marciniak were talking about how nice it would be to have sheets made out of the same fabric that their Nike athletic wear was made out of. They were impressed with how great the fabric felt and its ability to transfer heat and moisture away from the body. Out of that conversation came Sheex Performance Sheets. Their company produces sheets that are constructed of the same fabric blend that most modern athletic wear is made of: 87% polyester, 13% spandex. According to the company, this blend releases trapped body heat more efficiently and is 50% more breathable than traditional cotton sheets. Although the sheets have been well received overall, they do have their detractors. Some of the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • lightweight
  • very soft
  • draws moisture away from skin
  • wrinkle-resistant
  • luxury copper set contains copper within the fabric with potential anti-oxidant properties to help rejuvenate skin

Cons

  • pretty pricey
  • feel may take some getting used to
  • loose weave can catch on rough heels and elbows
  • completely synthetic fabric

You Get What You Pay For

As mentioned, these sheets can get up there in price. A queen set (fitted sheet, flat sheet, two pillowcases) starts at around $200.00. However, the quality of the sheets is evident in the stitching and exceptional finish. Shrinking is negligible as long as you follow care instructions, and they are very durable.

Many buyers claim that Sheex sheets are the softest sheets that they have ever used. They feel something like silk, and as mentioned above, can take some getting used to if you have been sleeping on cotton sheets all your life.

A significant benefit of these sheets is how they deal with body sweat. The fabric prevents moisture from being trapped next to your skin. If you have problems with getting too hot during the night, sweat a lot, want a sheet that is not going to come off easily, and are looking for something that will stand the test of time, Sheex sheets are for you. Get yourself a set and come back here and tell us how much you like them.

2

3 Best Job Websites For Seniors (And Other Opportunities)

It is an unfortunate reality that most seniors simply cannot afford to retire. One of the first posts I made on this site was about how difficult it is to live on Social Security alone when you’re done punching the clock. I won’t regurgitate all the dismal stats, click on the link above and read the article. What it boils down to is most of us seniors these days do not have a retirement plan or pension plan that will sustain us through retirement, even if we’re the picture of health.

If we’re not the picture of health, God forbid, even with Medicare and Medicaid, the co-pays will put a serious dent in a Social Security check. Financial planners generally agree that you should anticipate needing at least 80 percent of your pre-retirement income to sustain your lifestyle after you retire. According to Investopedia, the average Social Security check is $1,461. Depending on how long you worked and how much you paid in, it could be a little more or a lot less.

Some of us can fall back on the kids or other relatives to help us navigate the financial shortfalls, but many of us have pretty much outlived everybody we knew or just don’t have anybody we can depend on. It’s pretty scary if you have no safety net.

Post-Retirement Medical Costs

It’s getting better, but we still lag behind most of the world (civilized and uncivilized) when it comes to caring and providing for our elders. Most of the rest of the world revere their elders. The United States seems to grudgingly tolerate us. Since we are the richest country in the world, it stands to reason that we spend more on seniors here. However, this does not translate to better care and opportunities by any means. In an international health policy survey, of the 11 wealthiest nations, when it comes to taking care of seniors, the U.S. ranked at or near the bottom in many categories, including access to, and affordability of, healthcare. The survey also points out that 23 percent of U.S. seniors do not go to a doctor when they are sick, get a recommended test or procedure, or fill a prescription due to high costs. The rest of the countries averaged around five percent.

Robert Osborne, lead author of the study, says: “What stands out is that in the U.S. older adults are more sicker and more economically vulnerable, despite having Medicare.” The way Medicare is set up requires more out-of-pocket expenditures than the health insurance programs in most of the other nations in the survey.

Every year nearly one in four seniors on Medicare (22 percent) spend at least $2000 on co-pays, prescriptions and/or co-insurance. In most of the other countries it was less than 10 percent. To add insult to injury, (or injury to insult, depending on how you look at it), the survey found that 25 percent of U.S. seniors reported having concerns about having enough money to buy nutritious food and pay rent and/or utility bills. So what do we do? Many of us have no choice but to go back to work.

There’s Something Out There For You

The thought of re-entering the work force can be exciting or nerve-racking, depending on why you are looking for a job. If you’re tired of sitting around and need something to do, that’s one thing. If you need to make ends meet, that’s a whole ‘nother ball game. The good news is, finding work after retirement may be a lot easier than you think. There are several good senior employment training programs and other opportunities out there. Many of them will fulfill the aforementioned two objectives and that’s about it. You won’t make a killing, but you will be able to fill in some gaps. Some are better than others, but you get out of them what you put into them.

What To Avoid

If you’re ever asked to cough up one nickel for assistance in finding a job, drop ’em like they’re hot. The internet is crawling with scammers trying to sell you “job offers” that you can get for free. Even if they say they need credit card information to verify your identity, don’t bite. A reputable job offer will come with no financial strings attached. I don’t care how good the offer sounds, if they want you to pay anything at all, it’s probably a scam. Steer clear. Better safe than sorry.

Another must-avoid is online surveys. However, unlike the get-rich-quick schemes, you can earn an income from the online surveys. That is, if you consider a few pennies an hour an income. I’m talking literally a few pennies an hour. Although many of the survey companies will promise you lucrative surveys, the good ones will always have “just closed” and you will be offered one that pays 25 to 50 cents and takes about 20 minutes to complete. That breaks down to $1.50 an hour if you can hang for eight hours. To say this is a waste of time is a gross understatement.

My personal favorites (and I mean that as negatively as possible) are the “Start Your Own Business” offers that promise you wealth untold through internet marketing. Do you really believe that you can make $1500 dollars a day starting tomorrow, working only two hours a day? Of course you don’t. So why did you click on it? Do you know why there are so many of these “offers” on the internet? Because people keep clicking on them! Stop it! Necessity breeds vulnerability. In other words, if you’re really hurting for some extra cash, you can get gullible and fall for some pretty crazy schemes.

Senior Employment Opportunities

The good news is: The job market for seniors has never been better. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people 55 and over is 2.7%, compared to 3.6% overall. The news gets even better: Seniors 65 and over will experience the fastest rates of labor force growth between now and 2024. There are several things driving the increase in senior employment opportunities. A big one is the current lucrative job market. Labor-force participation is the highest it has been in 50 years. Simply put, there are more jobs out there to be had. According to Entrepreneur, other reasons include:

  • not looking to move “up and out
  • cost less to hire, train and maintain
  • punctuality
  • honesty
  • pride in a job well done

Job Websites

Job websites for seniors, and government-sponsored training programs, are two great places to start your job search. I found at least a dozen websites that cater exclusively to our age group. Let’s take a look at the job websites first. I narrowed the list down to three that I am comfortable recommending, based on ease of navigation and their ability to do what the heck they say they will do. I focused on sites that are specifically for seniors. It is my humble opinion that these three are the best of the lot.

  1. AARP Job BoardThis one is a no-brainer. When it comes to anything that has to do with seniors, the American Association of Retired Persons is hard to beat. They have contracted with 450 organizations that have committed to hiring older workers. They also have a host of programs to prepare seniors to re-enter the workforce. You do not have to be a member to take advantage of the job board or any AARP program, but I strongly encourage you to join. Although the organization does have some issues (which I will address at a later date), I truly believe that there is no better – or more influential – advocate for seniors.
  2. Seniors 4 Hire This site is a subsidiary of one of the biggest job sites on the internet: ZipRecruiter. It has been around since 2003 and bills itself as “the #1 Career Center for businesses that value a diverse demographic to actively find experienced workers 50 and older in the United States from all walks of life.” Whew! That’s a mouthful. But they appear to live up to the hype. I could not find any negative reviews for this company and I am impressed with the number, quality, and diversity of the jobs they offer.
  3. Retirement JobsThis site has “Certified Age-Friendly Employers.” This means that these employers recognize the unique value of older workers and is committed to providing meaningful employment, development opportunities and competitive pay and benefits for their senior employees. All of their basic services are free, but they do have a Premium Membership that offers help with resumes (forgive the absence of the little accent mark over the “e”. My keyboard won’t let me do it), online workshops, legitimate work-at-home offers, and a personal agent. All for $99 for one year. This is not a subscription fee. It’s one and done. If you want to go that extra mile and have the $99 to spare, I think it’s worth it.

There are job websites for seniors that specialize in specific employment opportunities, such as accountants, IT professionals, finance and the like. These are the guys (and gals) who are looking for something to do more than being strapped for cash, I think. The sites I have chosen are for “everyday people” who are looking to supplement their income. If you are a “specialized professional” looking to get back into the job market, opportunities abound for you as well. Just search for a career specific website. Google “best jobs for retired” whatever.

More Opportunities

In addition to the job websites for seniors, there are other opportunities you can pursue in your job search. Here’s a pretty good one:

National Older Worker Career CenterThis is a one-stop shopping center for government-assisted employment programs. However, all the jobs are “non-federal, grant-administered positions and are not meant to compete with private sector wages.” It is also only available in certain states. NOWCC administers several government programs that help seniors find employment after retirement, including:

  • Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) work at non-profit and public facilities: schools, hospitals, libraries, etc. I actually got a job at a library through this program. Loved it! The program is another matter. There are a whole lot of negative reviews of this program. All of them center around the difficulty getting payroll set up and an office staff that seems to border on the verge of flat out incompetent. I found this to be true in my experience as well. But don’t let this be a deal breaker! A little patience and tolerance will help you navigate the madness and if you’ve got a valid ID and a social security card, the chances are excellent that they will find you a job. The hours are limited to 20 a week and the pay is minimum wage. Not a lot, true, but you can get working in a hurry. In addition to being administered by NOWCC, this program is available nationwide. Google it for your state to find out who administers it.
  • Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) – positions in EPA offices across the country. Positions include: community outreach specialists, security personnel, receptionists, geologists.
  • Experienced Services Program (ESP) – partners with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to provide enrollees in the program with jobs on conservation projects on multiple-use public lands.

Every self-help guru out there will tell you that the biggest obstacle to us succeeding in anything is self-doubt. This is especially true when job hunting. If you don’t “really” believe that you will get the job, you probably won’t. Your body language will be screaming “don’t hire me.” Go in there with an attitude that says: “You convince me why I should work for you.”

The Exception To The Rule:

In one of the greatest motion pictures of all time, The Ten Commandments, as Pharaoh lay dying, he moaned: “I will break my own decree and mention the name… Moses…” I’m being overly dramatic, but what I’m saying is that out there in that sea of bogus internet marketing offers, there is one name worthy of mention:Wealthy Affiliate.

This is the classic offer you can’t refuse. It costs you absolutely nothing to learn how to build and start making money off of a website. You don’t need a credit card and all you need to get started is your name and an e-mail address. They will host the site and teach you how to make money off of it and won’t charge you a dime. They do all of this because they are pretty sure that after a while, you will realize that you can make a lot more money a lot faster if you upgrade to their Premium program. And trust me, you will. But you don’t ever have to if you don’t want to. Like I said, it’s the classic offer you can’t refuse. Check it out here.  Let me know what you think.

 

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Extend Joint Care For Dogs: Puts Pep In Rover’s Step [A Review]

Let me make a disclosure here:  I have never used this product.  It is a beef – flavored powder and I personally like the taste and texture of the chicken-flavored chewy tablets.  Just kidding.  Actually, the reason I have never used it is that if it is really true that All Dogs Go To Heaven, that’s where my Beagle King is.  He doesn’t need it.  So, since I don’t use it, am I qualified to review it?  Yep.  Sure am.  As Zak and Smoke’s “uncle,” I still have a vested interest in the health and welfare of canine family members.  Besides, I am a retired journalist.  I know how to seperate the wheat from the chaff.

Why This One?

I didn’t just pull Extend Joint Care For Dogs out of a hat.  It is the result of a comprehensive search for the best medication for your dog’s joint pain I could find.  In an earlier post, I wrote about senior dogs health problems.  The logical next step is to recommend something that will help.  There’s a whole bunch of joint pain meds out there.  Many of them you could switch the labels and never know the difference.  That’s because the ingredients are pretty much the same across the board.  What separated this product from the crowd for me was the huge number of positive reviews from users.  I was particularly moved by the number of them that slammed a vet that said it (or any of them for that matter) was only “snake oil.”  According to them, if it was snake oil, it was damn good snake oil.

I didn’t just take their word for it, however.  I researched objective reviews from veteranary professionals.  I didn’t put too much stock in the few reviews that said this product didn’t work for their dog.  Heck, there are some over-the-counter meds that my friends swear by that does absolutely nothing for me.  Dogs, like people, are not “one size fits all” when it comes to medication.  That’s why it’s important that your vet has the last say about your dog’s medication regimen. 

If you’re reading this, you are probably not looking for a whole lot of rhetoric about the myriad of joint pain medications out there.  You just want to know how to stop your dog’s pain.  Is Extend Joint Care For Dogs the best medication for the job?  Depends on who you ask.  Will it get the job done?  Yes.  It will.  The “best” can be an arbitrary term anyhow.  Let’s have a look at the ingredients:

What’s In It

 

Extend Joint Care For Dogs is an over-the-counter medication that will help maintain and improve joint health in your dog.  The active ingredients are:

  1. Glucosamine – a natural compound found in cartilage, which is the tough tissue that cushions joints – yours, mine, Smoke’s and Zak’s too.  It helps to form and repair cartilage.  As your dog ages (and us too, for that matter), the natural production of glucosamine slows down, which leads to joint pain and stiffness and eventually Osteoarthritis.  Supplements of glucosamine can help rebuild cartilage and restore your dog’s joint function and activity levels, and reduce or eliminate the use of NSAIDS (nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs), which relieve pain, but does not repair the joint.  Extend Joint Care For Dogs claims to have developed a faster-acting form of glucosamine.  This seems to be borne out by the fact that users report a faster-than-average recovery time for their ailing dog. 
  2. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) – a naturally occuring sulfur compound found in plants, animals and humans.  It helps to reduce joint pain and inflammation.  It also works to heal and elasticize connective tissue for greater mobility and resiliance.  MSM helps your dog to make better use of the nutrients in his food, and it is essential for maintaining and supporting healthy cells (ours too!).  It also helps clean the blood stream and flush toxins from the cells.
  3. Type II Chicken Collagen – a protein that is part of cartilage, bone and other tissues in animals and humans.  Also known as UCII, Type II Chicken collagen is used to treat joint pain associated with many types of arthritis.  It works with the immune system to reduce inflammation and restore cartilage.
  4. Ascorbic Acid – another name for vitamin C.  Unlike the human body, which does not naturally produce vitamin C, dogs do naturally produce some vitamin C.  Ascorbic acid boosts their level of vitamin C, which provides immune system support and helps to relieve pain and discomfort associated with muscular-skeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis.

Teacup Yorkie

The remaining ingredients are: beef liver meal, maltodextrin ( a flavor additive ), and oat fiber.  The dosage of this product is

Teacup Poodle

somewhat ambigious.  According to the company, “one packet per day should suffice for most dog sizes.”  What that means is that a very small breed dog (have you ever seen a teacup Yorkie? a teacup Poodle?) would require less, and a very large breed will probably need more.  Other than that, one packet a day is the recommended dose.  Since it is an all-natural supplement, it is perfectly safe to try different dosages.  

“An Ounce Of Prevention…

is worth a pound of cure.”  In other words, you don’t have to wait until your beloved canine family member begins to experience joint pain to start giving him joint care medication.  You can start right now.  Regardless of your dog’s age.  Joint care medication not only helps senior dogs suffering from joint pain, it helps to maintain healthy joints in younger dogs.  Depending on the breed of your dog, some vets recommend starting your dog on a joint care medication as early as 12 months old.  Breeds that experience early and more severe symptoms of arthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia (abnormal growth or development ), and general joint inflammation include: 

  • Dachshunds
  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Pit Bulls
  • Saint Bernards

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Check with your vet to see if your dog is on this list and if he is, start him on Extend Joint Care for Dogs right away.  After all, an ounce of prevention…

 

Don’t Play Vet

It’s not a good idea to try to be your own doctor.  It is also not a good idea to try to be your dog’s doctor.  If you have taken him for a checkup and know that like you, he’s just suffering from the attendent manifestations of growing old, an over-the-counter joint care medication should make life easier for the both of you.  However, there are some symptoms, that if displayed, require the immediate attention of a veteranarian.  These symptoms include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Odd eating habits – It’s not unusual for your dog to skip a meal or two, especially in the summer, but any more than that is cause for concern.  Conversely, if all of a sudden he starts raiding the pantry and/or snatching food off the table, this is also a sign that something is wrong.
  • Excessive thirst – You know about how much water your dog usually drinks in a day, so if the amount increases dramatically, check with the vet.
  • Scooting or dragging rear – This could be a sign of worms, a blocked or infected anal gland, a urinary tract infection, or diarrhea
  • Cloudy or red eyes – If your dog is squinting, or there is excessive discharge coming from his eyes, this could indicate an infection or an injury.  Diseases affecting the eyes can get really bad in a hurry, and lead to blindness.
  • Unusual stool – Your dog’s poop can tell you a lot about his overall health.  A healthy dog should have small, firm, moist stools (or that “t” word).  Nobody likes to look at dog poop, but every now and then you should check it for worms, blood, or anything that looks unusual.
  • Vomiting – Dogs will puke from time to time to get rid of something that doesn’t agree with them.  Or when they’ve had too much to drink.  Oh, wait, that’s humans.  Anyway, if he vomits frequently, or several times in a row, or if he vomits blood, call the vet right away.

Don’t assume that any ailment that your dog might have can be cured with an over-the-counter medication.  Some of your senior dogs health problems (and the whippersnapper’s too) will require prescription medication.  You know your dog.  Check with your vet about any behavior that you deem out of the ordinary.  

Your Personal Experience

If you have used Extend Joint care For Dogs, I would love to hear from you.  If you are just starting to use the product, I would love to chart your dog’s progress.  Share your experiences with me in the comment section below.

 

 

6

Senior Dogs Health Problems: You’re Not The Only One Getting Old

If you were to call either of my sisters, as you talked you would swear that there was a rambunctious child wreaking havoc on the place: “Get down from there!” “No! Can’t you see I’m on the phone?” “What do you want?!” Well, my baby sister is #!% years old, and my oldest sister will be *#! in a couple of weeks. At best, you could contribute all the commotion to great grand kids, but that is not the case. They each have a dog.

My oldest sister’s 11 year-old Yorkie is a spoiled brat. Lawnmowers are his nemesis. I don’t know how he makes it through the summer. Smoke, my baby sister’s Lab/Boxer mix, is also 11 years old. Storms get him all bent out of shape . He’s a lot more laid back than Zak, but still manages to get into his share of “devilment.”

They may act like kids, but Zak and Smoke, like their “mothers,” are in their twilight years. Figuring out a dog’s age in human years can get complicated. They age pretty quick the first couple of years of their life, and then slow down according to their size, but still age much faster than humans. Zak’s 11 years at his small size, equates to around 60 human years, and Smoke’s 11 years, seeing as how he’s a big ol’ fella, puts him around 72. Just as it is with us, with advanced age comes health issues. Senior dogs health problems are a lot like senior people’s health problems. Remarkably similar, in fact.

Dogs Are People Too

Okay, maybe not really, but tell that to either of my sisters. When it comes to loving them or caring for them, Zak and Smoke get the “full Monty.” I’m sure you can relate if you have a canine member in your family. In an article in Psychology Today, bioethicist Jessica Pierce, Ph.D., says that living with a dog is much the same as living with a human being. A bioethicist is someone who “studies the application of ethics to the field of medicine and healthcare.” So if bioethicists include dogs in their studies, this elevates their status (the dog’s, that is) considerably.

Pierce goes on to say that the relationship between dogs and humans can be “wonderful, loving and enriching, but it can also be emotionally complex, draining and stressful.” In the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Marie Doan and Sirkke Sarenbo assert that the quality of your dog’s life is directly related to the quality of your life. In other words, “As goes the master, so goes the dog.” I just made that up.

The point is, your behavior directly impacts your dog’s health and behavior. For instance, if you are a “loner”, your dog is forced to be a “loner”, which means your dog will lack “adequate mental and social stimulation,” which can lead to problems such as separation anxiety, excitability, and fear. Another great example is, if you are obese as a result of bad eating habits, chances are your dog is probably overweight too.

Common Ailments

The most common ailment we share with our canine family members is a visit from Arthur; arthur-itis, that is. As they age, many dogs develop arthritis just like we do, with the same consequences. The most common form of the disease befalling aging dogs is Osteoarthritis, which affects weight-bearing joints. This results in pain, stiffness, decreased range in motion, and it gets worse as time goes by. There is no cure for it, but treatment can slow the disease and ease the pain. We’ll talk medication a little later.

Kidney disease is also pretty high on the list of senior dogs health problems. Like arthritis, it cannot be cured, but there is medication available that can treat it and prolong the quality and quantity of your dog’s life. Signs of kidney disease in your dog include increased thirst and peeing, loss of appetite, vomiting and lack of energy. Other ailments shared by dog and man (generically speaking) are:

  • cancer
  • deafness
  • blindness
  • growths and tumors – should be checked by vet to make sure they are not cancerous
  • incontinence

Our senior canine family member can also develop a disease that is similar to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in humans. The signs are subtle in the beginning but can get pretty bad, pretty quick. According to Jenna Stregowski, Registered Veterinary Technician, the symptoms include, but are not limited to: disorientation, confusion, pacing/wandering, not interacting with the family as much, restlessness, and going to the wrong side of an opening door. Many of these symptoms overlap with other illnesses, so check with your vet if you observe any of these signs.

Medications That Improve Quality of Life

It was not too long ago that if your dog got sick, he either got better or he died. Thankfully that is no longer the case. Today, there is medication to treat whatever ails your dog. Some of the most common ones are:

  • pain relievers – used to alleviate chronic pain associated with arthritis and joint pain
  • antibiotics – used to treat bacterial infections
  • antiparasitics – for treating parasites
  • antifungals – eliminates fungal infections
  • steroids – can relieve symptoms associated with inflammation and cancer

Although some medications that we use can be used to treat similar conditions in our senior dog, it is important to check with your vet before administering them. “We have to remember the size of our dog compared to us,” says Dr. Cathy Meeks, Group Medical Director at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa Florida. “Even with the medications that are safe, the dosages are drastically different,” she added. These medications include:

  • MiraLax – helps reduce constipation
  • Pepto Bismol – used to treat diarrhea
  • Benadryl – for allergies, motion sickness and travel anxiety
  • Gas-X – treats gas
  • Prednisone – for treating inflammation from arthritis

Before you run to the medicine cabinet to share your medication with your dog, check with the vet. These medications can do more harm than good depending on other health issues. Some human medications can be downright dangerous for your dog. It is always best to give your dog medication prescribed by the vet. 

Regular Doctor Visits For Your Dog 

Regular visits to the doctor are just as important for your dog as they are for you. Senior dogs with health problems won’t just get better, they need professional help. Just like you have a primary care physician, they need a primary care vet who is familiar with their condition and can provide continuity in their treatment for whatever ails them. Insurance is available to help cover the cost of vet bills. The cost of the insurance depends on the amount of coverage you want, your dog’s size and weight, and where you live, among other things. It can mean the difference between treating your dog’s health issues and euthanizing a beloved family member.

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

You need your dog at least as much as your dog needs you. Psychologist Penny B. Donnefield says that having a dog will help you focus on “something other than your physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.” Your canine companion will also help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase your physical activity, (just walking your dog gives you a great cardiovascular workout) and offer protection for seniors who live alone. And, as age and technology combine to isolate seniors from the rest of the world, dogs can be that bond with nature that we all long for.

It is definitely a two-way street. As a beloved family member, most seniors’ dogs live the “life of Riley.” According to the Washington University School of Law, it is not unusual for owners to leave sizable inheritances to their dogs. The internet is replete with stories of dogs who were left millions. Many seniors adopt shelter dogs who literally go from “wags to riches.” They get regular meals, vet care, and constant love and attention. It is sometimes difficult to determine who benefits the most, the dog or the senior. But one thing is sure: the relationship is reciprocal.

Growing Old Together

Some dogs will grow old in good health, but unfortunately, many will not. Just as it is with us, with age comes health issues. There is comfort in sharing the twilight years with one who has been so faithful for so long. The bond can eclipse that of a human companion. Since they age so much faster than us, we will probably outlive them, so it is up to us to make sure that they transition as peacefully as possible. We should afford them the same care in their senior years that we expect in ours. I leave you with my favorite dog quote:

“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.” – Samuel Butler

 

2

Medical Alert Companies: Peace of Mind (At The Push of a Button)

As we move on down the road toward whatever we believe awaits us, as senior citizens living alone, we love the independence, but in the recesses of our mind hibernates a nagging query: “What if something happens?” This is a legitimate concern. It’s even more of a concern if we have health problems. Sure, we know people who will come a’running when we call, but what if we can’t call? What if we really do fall and really can’t get up? It’s not an ever-present thought, but it does put a damper on our independence. There is, however, a resource that can help relieve this anxiety: a medical alert system.

What Is A Medical Alert System?

According to Wikipedia (not to be confused with Wikileaks), an online encyclopedia, a medical alert system is “an alarm system designed to signal the presence of a hazard requiring urgent attention and to summon emergency medical personnel.” These systems generally have a wireless pendant or transmitter that when activated will transmit a signal to an alarm monitoring company that will dispatch emergency medical help to the location where the alarm was activated.

Anybody 50 years old or better remembers the classic 1987 television commercial where Mrs. Fletcher cried out in desperation: “I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” That pretty much put medical alert systems on the map in the United States. Mrs. Fletcher became the butt of many a joke, but the medical alert system proved to be no laughing matter. Sure, it was funny lo those many years ago, but today, not so much. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists deaths from unintentional injuries as the seventh leading cause of death among seniors, and the overwhelming majority of those unintentional deaths are falls.  According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), every 11 seconds a senior is treated in the emergency room for a fall, and every 19 minutes one of us die as the result of a fall. Today, any one of us could find ourselves in Mrs. Fletcher’s predicament.

Falls Are Not Our Only Problem

More sobering news from the NCOA: About 92% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77% have at least two. These chronic diseases include, but are not limited to:

  • heart disease – the leading cause of death for adults over 65
  • arthritis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • osteoporosis – a major contributor to falls
  • diabetes
  • depression

All of these diseases can present a life or death situation for seniors living alone. If not personally, certainly for a parent or loved one. We like to think that it won’t happen to us, but the reality is, it happens to “us” every day.

All of the aforementioned infirmities aside, let’s say you’re the picture of health. There’s still a bunch of stuff that can happen to you if you’re home alone (I was hoping I could work that in somewhere). A medical alert system is not just something that’s good to have, if you live alone – and it really doesn’t matter how old you are – it’s a necessity.

Get Over The Stigma

It’s pretty easy to conjure up the vision of Mrs. Fletcher lying there on the floor, eyes wide with fear, helplessly reaching out for anybody. Therein lies the problem. That image has cast a shadow on the industry from which it has yet to emerge: To get one is to admit that you are old and alone. Au contraire, mon ami, to get one is to know you have back-up in the event of an unforeseen emergency – medical or otherwise. Hey. Poo poo happens.

Choosing The Right System

Medical alert systems are like smart phones; you can pay a little, or you can pay a lot, depending on how many bells and whistles you want. However, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information division, when evaluating medical alert companies, there are some very important questions to ask:

  • Is the monitoring center open 24/7? What kind of training do staff receive?
  • What’s the average response time, and who gets alerted?
  • Will I be able to use the same system with other response centers if I move? What if I move to another city or state?
  • What’s your repair policy? What happens if I need a replacement?
  • What are the initial costs? What costs are ongoing? What kind of services and features will I get?

If you’re thinking that your phone is good enough, it isn’t. If you’re thinking that Alexa, Echo, or any other of the digital assistants on the market is good enough, they aren’t. You don’t always have your phone with you and you may not have the opportunity to go get it, and Alexa and the like can’t dial 911. Consumer Reports cites three factors that will determine how much system you need and how much money you will pay for it:

  1. Do you want a home-based system, a mobile system, or both?
  2. Should your system be monitored or not? (Unmonitored systems will dial a pre-programmed number when you hit the call button.)
  3. Should you add a fall-protection feature? This feature will add about $15 to your monthly service charge, but the statistics above make it well worth the cost.

Common Mistakes When Purchasing a System

Although medical alert systems have been around for a few decades, they have sort of been in the closet. Few of us have experience in purchasing them. Consequently, since for most of us this will be our first time buying one, I think it’s appropriate to list some mistakes to avoid:

  • Don’t buy a system based on price alone. Prices range from the sublime to the ridiculous and is not a good measure of the quality of the device or the service.
  • Avoid long-term contracts. There are some unscrupulous companies out there that know you’re probably buying it because you’re scared, either for yourself or for someone you love. Don’t get tied up in a multi-year contract. You or a family member may end up paying for it long after you no longer need it. Year-to-year is plenty. Some medical alert companies offer month-to-month contracts and some offer month-to-month service with no contract.
  • Don’t assume that medical alert systems are only for people who live alone. This is definitely the target audience, but if you have elderly or disabled parents or family members living with you, you’re not going to be around them 24/7. You’ve got to take a nap, you’ve got to go to the bathroom, you might have to run next door, or to the store. Precious minutes lost in any of these situations could mean the difference between life and death.
  • Don’t wait for something to happen before you invest in a system. This is not the time to “cross that bridge when you get to it.” If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance that you, or someone you care about, need a medical alert system.

A Great Return on Your Investment

The average response time for emergency medical treatment can vary greatly depending on where you live. We have all heard horror stories about the ambulance, police, or firetruck not getting there in time. Many of us have first-hand experience with the consequences of help arriving too late. In an emergency, every second counts. Your investment in a medical alert system could turn out to be the best dollar you ever spent. To quiet that little voice asking “What if something happens?” click here and put your mind at ease.

6

CBD Oil: The Way of the Future (What It Is, Is Not)

Let me make one thing perfectly clear up front: Although they come from the same hemp plant, CBD oil and medical marijuana are two completely different things. However, the difference in medical marijuana and the weed sold by the friendly neighborhood dealer is – nothing. Medical marijuana is just regular ol’ weed, but in the states where it is legal, you need a valid medical reason to buy and/or smoke it.

The most common reasons for medical marijuana use are pain and nausea. There have also been claims made that it is also effective in treating anxiety disorders, Chron’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and Glaucoma. We can explore the validity of these claims at a later date, but for now we will concentrate on CBD oil.

The property in medical and recreational marijuana that gives you the buzz is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Both THC and cannabidiol, or CBD, are among a host of compounds, known as cannabinoids, found in the cannabis plant. The CBD compound, usually mixed with Sunflower oil or Olive oil, is commonly referred to as CBD oil. THC is psychoactive. CBD oil is not. Simply put, THC will get you high. CBD oil will not

How It Works

Just as your brain produces natural pain and stress-fighting chemicals called endorphins, it also produces natural cannabinoids. Researchers believe that CBD facilitates the use of more of these natural cannabinoids, which produces the benefits of medical marijuana without the buzz-producing effects of the THC. Although there is still much research to be done, CBD oil appears to have a lot of medical potential. In addition to the above-mentioned uses for medical marijuana, CBD oil also shows potential for treatment of:

  • pain
  • inflammation
  • epilepsy
  • psychiatric diseases
  • cancer – researchers note that CBD oil tends to suppress the growth of cancer cells and promote their destruction
  • acne
  • PTSD

This is pretty impressive, but it gets even better. Researchers noted that CBD oil reduced physical and psychological symptoms of substance abuse such as anxiety, mood-related symptoms, and insomnia. It also eliminates the craving for nicotine, and people who used an inhaler with CBD oil in it smoked fewer cigarettes.  

 

What’s Not To Like?

At this point, there’s not a lot known about the long-term effects of CBD oil. Although it is all over the news these days, it is still just a few years on the market. A World Health Organization (WHO) review came to the conclusion that there is no evidence of any public health-related problems associated with the use of CBD oil. Presently, much of the concern centers around the quality of the products offered.

Having said that, there are a couple of things to be concerned about. First off, CBD oil has been approved by the FDA to treat only one of the conditions that I have listed above: epilepsy. There is a mountain of credible evidence that documents its effectiveness in all the other situations, but no FDA approval. Due to the lack of oversight and regulation by the FDA, the quality of CBD oils can vary widely.

In fact, according to adjunct assistant professor of psychology Marcel Bonn-Miller, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 43% of CBD oil products contain too little CBD, and about 26% contain too much. Bonn-Miller and his colleagues also found that approximately one in five CBD oil products contained enough THC to get you high and cause you to flunk a drug test.  However, when properly produced, CBD oil contains no THC, that is why it is important to get it from a reputable source.

 

Consult Your Physician

Since the study of CBD oil is still in its infancy stage, there is always the possibility of a negative reaction with other drugs that you are taking. For example, if you are taking drugs for epilepsy, there could be increases in the blood levels of those drugs if you are also taking CBD oil. Your doctor might have to decrease the dosage of those drugs to prevent any side effects.

CBD oil could also be bad on your liver. About 10% of people in CBD oil studies had increases in liver enzymes, which could indicate possible liver damage. If you are considering using CBD oil, talk to your primary care physician. If he or she is not thoroughly familiar with the pros and cons of CBD oil, find someone who is. “My bottom line advice is people really need to be under the care of a health care provider who understands CBD,” says Timothy Welty, chair of the Department of Clinical Sciences, Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “They need to be monitored and managed by that individual, and not just go out and buy CBD thinking it’s going to be the answer,” he added.

 

Legal Issues

Although CBD oil is the most popular vehicle to administer CBD, there are other methods of delivery:

  • spray
  • gummies
  • vape
  • ointments

Since CBD is not listed in the Controlled Substance Act, There are no federal laws prohibiting its use. So, that makes it legal, right? Well, yes and no. It depends on where you live and who you ask. It’s actually the reverse of the medical marijuana legal situation. Since marijuana is listed in the Controlled Substance Act, it is against federal law to smoke, sell or possess it even in the states where it is legal. By contrast, even though it is legal from a federal standpoint, CBD is not legal in all 50 states.

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Even in the states where it is legal, laws governing the use and sale of it differ. The best way to CYA is to check out the rules in your state. Some companies that sell CBD products assume that since it is legal by federal law, it is legal everywhere. Again, it is not. Do your homework.

Investigation Is Worth The Effort

By all accounts, CBD is the way of the future. It is only a matter of time before it gets FDA approval.  Once only available in head shops, you can now find it in natural food stores, beauty aisles, cafes and even doctors’ offices. This past December, Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, legalizing the production of industrial hemp. Industrial hemp contains less than .3 percent of THC, which makes for pretty lousy weed, but a great source for CBD products. This paves the way for more comprehensive research and production of CBD-related products.

According to the Brightfield Group, cannabis industry analysts, the CBD market will hit $22 billion by 2022. Now that the waters are clearing somewhat, major pharmaceutical companies are looking to get a piece of the action. However, as it stands now, most CBD products will be available as over-the-counter medications. Although many of its uses are not yet approved by the FDA, credible medical professionals attest to its potential. If you have symptoms or conditions that fall within the purview of CBD products, it will certainly be worth your while to consult your physician to determine whether it will be beneficial for you to add any of them to your medical regimen.

P.S. Thank you, Baby Sis.

2

Robin Diangelo: “To Be Racist Is Not To Be Inherently Bad”

“White Fragility,” Robin Diangelo

When James Alex Fields, Jr plowed into a crowd of people in Charlottesville, VA, on August 12, 2017, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 40 others, President Donald Trump declared that “there are some very fine people on both sides” of the conflict that precipitated Ms. Heyer’s death.  Needless to say, a whole bunch of people took issue with that statement.  Some more than others.  I mean, did he know who he was talking about?

A Who’s Who of Hate Mongers

On that fateful day that turned out to be the last day of Ms. Heyer’s life, Unite The Right, a right-wing extremist group, gathered together a bunch of pretty unsavory characters.  I’m talking gun-toting neo-Nazis, neo-confederates, neo-fascists, white nationalists and everybody’s favorite hate group – the KKK.  Notables in attendance were: National Policy Institute Chairman and white supremacist Richard Spencer, Former Imperial Wizard of the KKK David Duke, and a whole bunch of other hate-mongers whose names you probably wouldn’t recognize.  I won’t burden you with the names of these “leaders” and their organizations because it’s really not relevant.  Just know that there were a whole bunch of white folks there that had been harboring grudges – to put it mildly – against people of color, Jews, Muslims, et al, for a long time.  Many of them, for their entire life.

And….?

Well, I’ll spare you the ugly details of the conflicts and confrontations that ensued.  I’m sure you are well aware of them.  As I am sure you are well aware of the President’s seemingly absurd declaration that there were “very fine people on both sides.”  His statement was interpreted by many as being sympathetic to white supremacists.  Not just people of color, mind you, but pretty much everybody but his base was aghast at what came across as a callous attitude to some, and to still others, downright racist.  Is this guy completely out of touch with reality?

Well, Yes, and No

It’s complicated.  According to Robin Diangelo, author of White Fragility, amongst that maddening crowd there were indeed some very fine people.  That may be stretching it a bit.  Let’s say that there were some who were not inherently bad, and had the potential to be very fine people.  The sub-title of Diangelo’s book is: “Why it’s so hard for White People to talk about racism.”  Her epiphany is: White people, the whole lot of them, just cannot digest the fact that racism is not the sole property of bad people. Let that sink in.  Good people can be racist.  Let that sink in.

What We’ve Got Here…

Now that there is something to ponder.  Good people can be racist.  Kinda throws a monkey wrench into the game, doesn’t it?  According to Diangelo, racism has been woven into the very fabric of American life and the entire majority population is infected to some degree. She says that white people – not some white people, not most white people, but white people period – are convinced that all racists are bad people and therefore they are unwilling to internalize any serious debate about the subject, since to acknowledge any racist attributes would be to acknowledge that they are a bad person. That is simply not true, she says.  She contends that racism as we know it today is born out of cultural ignorance.  Contrary to current political and social rhetoric, Diangelo believes that rather than focusing on what we have in common, we should be focusing on our differences.

Is A Failure To Communicate

It actually makes perfect sense. Most conflicts between black and white people that are considered rooted in racism revolve around how one or the other “took it.” What appears to be an innocuous action or statement by a white person can be extremely offensive to a Black person. How I “take it” means everything. And how I “took it” is rooted in my experiences, both actual and vicarious.  According to Diangelo, the inability and/or unwillingness to recognize this is born of hundreds of years of racism that has invaded the very psyche of every white person in America.

All Is Not Lost

Yep. The good ones and the bad ones. Diangelo makes a compelling case that until white people can purge themselves of the conviction that all racists are bad people, no meaningful progress on race relations in America will be made. To avoid serious discussions about these “differences” is akin to avoiding the fact that your hair is on fire. I have deliberately avoided going into these differences because I want you to read the book. If you are white,
this book is a must read. That is, if you are really serious about racial reconciliation. If you are a person of color, I strongly suggest you give it a read as well. It will give you some insight into why your white friend or co-worker “reacted like that” when you “took it like that.” The good news, according to Diangelo, is that the barriers to racial reconciliation are not insurmountable, but two things will have to occur: White people must realize and accept the fact that all racists are not bad people, and we all must be willing to embrace our differences.  It can happen, but the question is: Are white people willing to put in the work?

P.S: Fields got life for killing Ms. Heyer and the jury recommended 419 years in prison for a series of other charges related to the incident.

 

0

Affordable Hybrid Cars: Coming To A Dealership Near You (A Look Back And Ahead)

It won’t be long before a charging station for your car will be just as common as a gas station. Hybrid cars are definitely the way of the future. There used to be some pretty good reasons for not liking hybrid cars: They were thought to be too slow, too small, not very attractive, and personally, I had a hard time seeing them as “real cars.” Well, they’ve come a long way. Oftentimes these days, the only way you can tell a hybrid car from a gasoline-powered vehicle is you can’t hear the hybrid vehicle running. Although many people think of hybrid cars as a relatively new invention, it might surprise you to know that hybrid cars have been around for nearly as long as gasoline-powered vehicles.

What Exactly Is A Hybrid Car?

Glad you asked. Simply put, a hybrid vehicle is one with two different power sources: gasoline and electricity. There are engines powered by other types of fuel (diesel, natural gas, etc.), but we’re going to stick with good old ‘tane (as in “pumped a lot of ‘tane down in New Orleans”)-powered vehicles. Hybrid vehicles come in a multiplicity of variations, but there are two basic types. I don’t want to overload you with TMI, but I think the differences are important enough to share with you. It could make a difference when choosing your hybrid vehicle:

  1. Parallel Hybrid: In this type of hybrid, the gasoline (or whatever) engine and the electric motor work together to power the vehicle. When the car is accelerating quickly or driving up a steep hill, the electric motor will kick in to boost the overall power of the vehicle and take some of the load off the engine. When you let off the gas or coast down the hill, the electric motor bows out and its all gasoline engine. This arrangement allow these cars to get better mileage in the city than they do on the highway. Over 50 mpg in the city is not unusual.
  2. Series Hybrid: The electric motor does all the work in the series hybrid.  The only thing the engine does is power the generator that charges the battery.  This means that the battery has to be considerably bigger than the battery in a parallel hybrid car, which means you’re going to have to reach a little deeper in your pocket for the series hybrid.

Some Hybrid History

Ferdinand Porsche’s 1901 ‘Semper Vivus,’ the world’s first hybrid automobile. Photos courtesy Porsche AG.

The Lohner-Porsche is considered to be the first hybrid car. It was developed by Jacob Lohner, a coach builder, and Ferdinand Porsche, an engineer and founder of the Porsche Car Company. It was introduced at the 1900 Paris Auto Show. Initially designed as an electric vehicle, it was converted to a hybrid because of issues with sustaining adequate battery capacity. In 1902, the Krieger Electric Car Company also in Paris, manufactured thousands of hybrid cars, but the assembly line at Ford Motor Company and the invention of the self-starting gasoline engine relegated the hybrid vehicles to the far corners of the industry.

The Long Road Back

For nearly fifty years hybrid cars were pretty much forgotten about. Gas prices were low, and the big family sedans ruled the day. But by 1966, pollution in America had gotten so bad that Congress insisted that the automobile industry take a look at alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles. So, scientists started tinkering with hybrid cars again.

The 1973 oil embargo proved to be a blessing in disguise for the resurgence of hybrid vehicles. As gas prices went through the roof, Uncle Sam became more involved in promoting the manufacture of hybrid vehicles. But the less-than-enthusiastic reception by car dealers and consumers alike continued throughout the ’80s. There were a couple of other milestones in the ’70s that facilitated the resurgence of the hybrid vehicle:

  • 1975 – the Energy Research and Development Administration started a program to encourage the development of hybrid tecnnology
  • 1976 – Congress enacted the Electric and Hybrid Vehile Research, Development, and Demonstration Act

Environmental concerns have forced hybrid cars back onto the front burner, but they still have a way to go to gain an appreciable share of the market. They got considerable help from the Clinton Administration in 1993.  The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles was created, and billions of dollars were invested in the development of hybrid vehicles. The investment has definitely paid off. Although the major U.S. car companies got into the hybrid vehicles market rather late, their share of the market is growing as fast as the grandkids.

Advantages of Hybrid Vehicles

Apart from the obvious environmental impact, there are some advantages to driving a hybrid car, including:

  • they run quieter and cleaner
  • exceptional gas mileage – up to 58mpg
  • tax breaks
  • higher resale value
  • excellent for city driving – better gas mileage in the city than on the highwa
  • emission tests may not be required

The Other Side of the Coin

The advantages of driving a hybrid car makes a pretty good case for its purchase. However, there are some drawbacks:

  • they can get pricey
  • increased maintenance costs – because of technology involved
  • less power than gasoline-powered vehicle
  • less responsive handling – designed for efficiency rather than performance

The disadvantages notwithstanding, it is hard to argue against owning a hybrid car. They are no longer the step-children of the auto industry.  In fact, it might be time to start thinking about getting one.  Hybrid car prices average four to five thousand dollars more than a comparable gasoline model, but they will save you about three thousand dollars a year on gas!  That’s something to think about.

Do Your Homework

In addition to the efficient hybrid cars produced by Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, and those guys, Mercedes Benz, Lexus, and BMW offer high-end luxury models. It is important to note that hybrid car dealers are not necessarily equipped to work on them. Before you purchase a vehicle, make sure the dealership has technicians who specialize in hybrid cars. As America steps up its efforts to “go green,” hybrid cars will continue to grow in sales and popularity, and they are a great way to make breathing just a little bit easier.

6

Senior Fitness Challenge: It’s Never Too Late To Start

If I told you that I know something that will make you look better, feel better, reduce your blood pressure, relieve your anxiety and add years to your life, to name but a few of the benefits, would you be interested? Of course you would, and I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. But therein lies the problem. Most of us know we need to get off our butts and start a regular exercise program, but we just sit and atrophy. Here’s another thing: Most of us know that exercise is very good for us, indeed, the key to a better life, but I don’t think we realize just how very good it is for us. Hey, we’re talking life and death.

Better Late Than Never

Donna is a work-out fanatic. I’m pretty sure she can kick my butt.

I am not exaggerating. According to Help Guide, a recent Swedish study has determined that physical activity is the number one contributor to adding extra years to your life – even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. Medical professionals agree across the board that as you grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health. More benefits of regular exercise are:

  • helps control joint swelling and pain associated with Arthritis
  • helps maintain and lose weight
  • gives you a greater sense of well-being
  • reduces the risk of dying of coronary heart disease

Another major benefit of regular exercise is it helps us to maintain the ability to live independently. This is a biggie. We all want to go out in style.

What Seems To Be The Holdup?

Sure, most of us know that we should be exercising, but according to a report by Mandy Oaklander in time magazine, despite the “remarkable health benefits of exercise,” more than half of Baby Boomers don’t do any at all. The reasons for this gross inactivity vary greatly, but some of the most common ones are:

  • poor body image
  • chronic illness
  • joint pain
  • procrastination
  • just plain lazy

The gym? Really?

What’s ironic is all three of these reasons not to exercise can be positively impacted by a regular exercise program. Conversely, not exercising can exacerbate these conditions. The most prominent cause of loss of strength and stamina in seniors is reduced physical activity. We don’t necessarily have to hit the gym 3 or 4 times a week, but it is imperative that we do something.

Nation’s Best Known Program For Seniors

Indeed, you don’t have to go to a gym to exercise, but it makes it a heck of a lot easier and a heck of a lot more fun. A great benefit of the gym environment is the social support we get from our peers. This can go a long way toward getting us to exercise when we just ain’t feeling it.

Depending on who you ask, the average gym membership for seniors can cost anywhere from $25 to $60. Planet Fitness offers a no-contract $10 a month membership, but it’s basically just meat and bread. You can only use it at the gym where you signed up; can’t bring a guest; can’t use the massage chairs; no free wifi, and you don’t get a T-shirt.

Call your insurance provider to see if they offer the Silver Sneakers Program.

What you can get, if you are eligible for Medicare, is a free gym membership in the Silver Sneakers Program. It was founded in 1912 by Mary Swanson, to improve the physical, mental and emotional health of older Americans. It is the best known senior exercise program in the country; and for good reason. The program subsidizes gym memberships for seniors at most of the major fitness centers in the country, including Planet Fitness.  As a member of the Silver Sneakers Program, seniors can get for free all the stuff they would not give you with the $10 membership.

In addition to the free gym memberships, the Silver Sneakers Program has some pretty attractive alternatives for members who want to work out at home or for whatever reason can’t get to a gym. These include:

  • Walking Kit – pedometer that also measures distance traveled and calories, Quick-Start Guide
  • Strength Kit – exercise resistance band w/over-the-door attachment, Quick-Start Guide
  • Stress Kit – Meditation For Beginners DVD, resistance flat band, Quick-Start Guide
  • online video library

Silver Sneakers also offers classes in dance, Tai Chi, and a Work-Out of the Week online.

Take Advantage Of a Good Thing

So, if the Silver Sneakers program offers us free access to all of these opportunities to improve the quality of our lives and gives us access to more than 16,000 state-of-the-art gyms all over the country, why are we not taking advantage of it? According to Steve Warner, of the United Health Care Medicare Advantage Product Team, “Over 90% of policyholders eligible for the program never step foot in a gym.” This, taken in conjunction with the other aforementioned dismal stats, means that between the two of us, probably neither one of us is hitting the gym.

But, hey, lots of seniors are “getting their work in.” A lot of them are health nuts, but many of them go for the fellowship. Studies show a direct relationship between physical exercise and social interaction: Exercising makes you feel good about yourself and the better you feel about yourself, the more you socially interact with other people. So, if you want a life, hit the gym.

Check Your Policy

The Silver Sneakers Program is not a part of Medicare. However, the program is offered by most of the major insurance companies that provide Medicare Advantage Programs, also known as Medicare Part C. Many seniors with the plans are not even aware that the program is part of their coverage. It is automatically included. You can’t add it or remove it. It is absolutely free. It does not add one cent to the cost of your policy. You can check your coverage at the Silver Sneakers website.

You’ll Thank Yourself Later

There really is no downside to participating in a regular exercise program. You can taylor a program to accommodate practically any physical restrictions. Plenty of ups, though: long life, more self-esteem, new friends, a real life.  Again, researchers say the important thing is that you begin exercising.  You are not too old.  That dog won’t hunt.  I’ll give you the rest of the day, but tomorrow, it’s up and at it.  Click on the book below for some easy, effective exercises to get started.