Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Older Americans have unique needs, and our web site offers tools to address them. Find articles, tips and resources geared towards those in the prime of life here.
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Saving at the Pump
Just when you thought it was safe to get behind the wheel again, riots break out in Egypt. Libya is under siege by its own government. Insert any Middle East nation here along with a myriad of excuses.
The result is the same. Skyrocketing gasoline prices are back.
So how can the average American afford to get from Point A to Point B?
You can do a web search for gas saving tips. But beware. You'll find more myth than savings.
Myth 1: Running your auto's air conditioner burns more fuel.
Myth 2: Gas is denser in the morning when it's cool, giving you less volume when you fuel.
Myth 3: Keep your tires under-inflated to improve mileage.
Myth 4: A clean air filter will improve mileage.
Now that we've identified what won't work, here are a few tips that will.
Your driving habits play the biggest role in fuel mileage. Ever watch an auto race in any series? The difference between winning and losing often comes down to fuel mileage. The driver who can feather the pedal and maintain consistent speeds is often the one being sprayed with champagne in the winner's circle.
You don't have to be a professional race car driver to learn these tricks. Rapid acceleration and frequent braking are fuel bandits. Keep a consistent pace. If your car has a tachometer, watch that instead of the speedometer. Keep those rpm's steady.
Most vehicles burn more fuel when driven over 60 mph. And with traffic, you won't reach your destination any sooner at a higher speed. Stick to the speed limit. Use cruise control if you have it to assure consistent speeds.
If you'll be more than a minute, turn off the engine. It takes more gas to start a car than run it, but idling burns more yet.
Shed that extra weight. You'll use two percent more gas for every 100 lbs. in your vehicle. Spring is right around the corner. Soon you won't need to lug around that bag of sand in your trunk.
Keep your engine properly tuned. And use the recommended grade of motor oil. The grade indicates viscosity. Use the wrong one and you're increasing engine friction.
Plan your errands to avoid back tracking as much as possible. Choose a route with fewer traffic lights or heavy traffic whenever it's an option. The longer route may actually save you time and money.
The first gas station you see after a long stretch is usually the most expensive. Same with those whose sign you can see from the highway. Drive a bit further for better prices.
We've seen this up-and-down gas price cycle so many times that it's pretty much old news. But that doesn't make it any easier on the wallet. Use these tips to keep your wallet as full as possible.
Choosing a Senior Living Community
One of the most difficult tasks a family can undertake is assuring their loved one has proper care as they age.
Humans are independent creatures by nature. We're taught how to care for ourselves at a young age. But you won't find any lessons on aging.
There are different levels of elder care. Many people don't need the intensity of a nursing home. They can fend for themselves, but have difficulty with certain functions they once took for granted. Like getting back up after a fall, or turning the stove off after cooking a meal.
For these people, assisted living makes a good alternative. There are good facilities in most communities. But how do you know which is the right one for your loved one?
Tour several assisted living facilities. Observe the other residents. Do they have anything in common with your loved one? Do they have the same social or professional background? Do they speak the same language? Do they have similar impairments or limitations? Do they look content?
Ask to see a schedule of activities. Are they the type your loved one would participate in? Try to attend one to see what's going on first hand.
Is the staff experienced in the type of care your loved one requires? Are members of a medical staff on-site? Do they have the provisions to address needs that will change in the future?
Visit the facility around mealtime. If possible, eat a meal while you're there to see if the food is good and fresh. Evaluate the dining room experience. Are special meals or diets available? What about special requests?
Household services offered can differ from one facility to the next. If your loved one can't cook, clean, or do laundry any longer, make sure these services are offered by the community you choose. How often are services provided? How responsive is the staff to accidents that may occur?
Speak to as many staff members as possible during your visit. Get a sense of how they feel about the facility and whether they enjoy working there. Are they warm, friendly and respectful? Do they appear to be caring individuals? Learn about the hiring process, particularly whether or not a criminal background check is conducted. The quality of the staff is much more important than the quantity.
Will the facility hold a bed if your loved one is hospitalized or needs temporary rehabilitation? How close is the nearest hospital?
Consider the size of the living space. While you may want to provide the largest space available, it may not be the best option. Typically, a person will become more reclusive when they have more space. Socialization is important to guard against depression.
It will be a difficult move for your loved one when they have to leave the family home. They're leaving behind a lifetime of memories; raising a family, home repairs gone awry, holiday celebrations. All those little events that turn a house into a home.
Have patience. Expect fits of anger, bouts of depression and hysterical outbursts. It will take some time for them to become comfortable with their new lifestyle. In the meantime, you may find yourself labeled the villain no matter how necessary it was to make the move.
Visit frequently. Take them shopping for a day, or treat them to a restaurant meal. If you promise a visit, show up. Your continued love and support will help make the adjustment easier.
The big news today dominating the business wires is about Apple, Inc. - and its likely rise to the world's first "Trillion Dollar Company." No surprise there, as Apple has been able to design, produce and sell a dazzling series of products with unrivaled market acceptance. Some analysts predict the stock to rise above $1K per share.
But let's take a break from the austere discussion of financial matters. If you will humor your financial news editor for a few weeks, I would like to recount a truly touching real life story about overcoming adversity - and the hard teamwork that accomplished it. Some say that the enthusiasm and optimism this story generated in the economically weary country of the time was at least partly responsible for the final stamping out of the Great Depression. I promise to interject any pressing financial news as the series plays out. This first week's installment is simply a reprint of a piece that was first published in GCFLash on January 4, 2005.
"SEE YOU CHARLIE!"
Seabiscuit's jockey George "Iceman" Woolf to Charlie Kurtsinger - aboard the mighty War Admiral - on the bottom of the backstretch at Pimlico Racetrack - November 1st, 1938. It was dubbed the "Match Race of the Century" when, in fact, it was the equivalent of a David and Goliath struggle between the regal Triple Crown Winner, War Admiral, against the splayed leg embattled runt of a horse called Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit had already lost more races than War Admiral had run. Indeed, War Admiral's aristocratic owner, Samuel Riddle, didn't want to match his "perfect racehorse" against that "poor little colt from California." Bowing to public pressure, he finally relented, arrogantly instructing Charlie Kurtsinger to "not embarrass the hapless little colt too badly." Riddle was not alone, as nearly all the odds makers thought Seabiscuit didn't stand a chance. Several national newspapers even predicted the race would be over as soon as War Admiral took his very first stride. No one, that is, except benevolent Seabiscuit owner Charles Howard, mystical trainer Tom Smith, jockey (and virtual soul mate) Red Pollard - not to mention most of the 40 million Americans who tuned in their radios to hear the race called live. President Roosevelt delayed a cabinet meeting and tuned in as well. Although the 70,000 fans in the stands gave War Admiral 2-1 betting odds, Seabiscuit was the overwhelming popular favorite as the depression weary masses rooted for their underdog.
To the roar of millions, the two horses broke off the line together, and despite Kurtsinger's whip, "the Biscuit" pushed first his head, and then his neck, into the lead. Seabiscuit "drove from the heart" as jockey Red Pollard would later describe the courageous little colt, "He doesn't know he is the smallest one out there." Pollard, laying in traction at a nearby hospital, shouted instructions at stand-in (and close friend) Woolf on how to ride the little horse he called "Pops."
Entering the first turn, daylight had opened between the dueling pair and a shell shocked Kurtsinger faced a chilling realization: Seabiscuit was faster. He simply hadn't thought it possible. Kurtsinger didn't panic, however, he was a veteran and this was a long race - a lot could happen. Even more importantly, he had the endurance and stamina of a Triple Crown winner beneath him, nearly a half a foot taller and a year younger than his underdog opponent. Hence "Charlie" modified his game plan: He'd let this reckless little sprinter waste himself early and then snuff him out late in the backstretch. Ever so skillfully he guided the Admiral around, finally convinced he had the race won as he pulled alongside Woolf and the Biscuit late in the backstretch. Up in his private box, Samuel Riddle clenched his fists. He'd had a brief scare, but surely victory was at hand. Except. Except what Kurtsinger, Riddle and almost no one else knew was that Woolf had been instructed to hold his mount back and let War Admiral get close enough so Seabiscuit "could look him in the eye." That famous challenge occurred just seconds before Woolf uttered his famous farewell to Charlie Kurtsinger - coining the saying for the ages. Finally unleashed, Seabiscuit delivered a tremendous surge - cocking one ear to the roar of his fans - the little horse who played to the stands. Under the wire it was Seabiscuit by four lengths. The crowd, the President, indeed the entire country, went crazy. It was just the lift they all needed.
Epilogue: Many, perhaps most of us have at some point uttered the phrase "See you Charlie!" - virtually all without realizing the drama, and amazing triumph over adversity that inspired it.
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