Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Elder Care Squeeze Play

Wednesday, April 21, 2010
By Laurel Kennedy

Laurel Kennedy is a nationally-recognized expert on Boomer issues. Founder of the multi-generational consulting firm Age Lessons, she has worked as a senior executive with Edelman Worldwide and Ketchum for clients like Kraft, Kellogg, Pepsi and Sara Lee. Kennedy has appeared on national and syndicated television including CNBC and Comcast TV, testified as an expert witness in Superior Court, and keynoted numerous industry and professional groups. She has won dozens of awards for her work, including several National Tellys, Addys and Silver Anvils. For more information on elder care, visit

Bet you wish there was more of you, and your day, to go around. That’s how most Boomer women feel these days, sandwiched between the constant and conflicting demands of a meaningful career, raising young children still in school, supporting adult children who can’t find a job, struggling to maintain a relationship with their significant other, and suddenly, taking on the responsibility for aging parents.

Note that in the scenario above, there is no time budgeted for “me time”, those brief breaks in routine and small indulgences like a good workout, a facial, or a mani-pedi that can keep us sane and help us recharge. It’s easy to fall into the trap of sacrificing yourself to care for others. But remember, if you lose your sanity or your savings, you’ll be no good to anyone.

Women represent the front line of caregivers. Our research for The Daughter Trap discovered that fifty percent more women than men provide elder care today, and they are literally doing the “heavy lifting” of elder care, performing more than 70% of the arduous Level 5 hands-on tasks. Why do we do it? Lots of reasons:

· Because people expect it.

· Because we’re trained from childhood to do it.

· Because it’s more of a hassle to challenge it.

· Because we want it done right.

· Because we want our parents to be comfortable.

· Because if we don’t, who will?

Career chaos

Often, we fall into the caregiver role as an interim measure, and before we know it, we’ve taken on the job by default. Consider if you will, that most women will spend 17 years raising children, and 18 years caring for aged parents. What begins as a stop-gap measure can literally put a stop to career progression. According to a study by the Society of Human Resource Management, almost half of businesses agreed that becoming identified as an elder caregiver can inhibit career growth. A sad state of affairs, when the AARP predicts that by 2013 fully half of the U.S. workforce will have elder care responsibilities.

Money matters

Career conflicts are just the beginning. The financial ramifications for caregivers can be devastating as well. Boomer investment portfolios took a dramatic hit at the turn of the century when the dot-com bubble burst. Then the recession of 2008-2009 took another voracious bite out of their nest eggs. Just as their portfolios are sent reeling, Boomers are forced to draw down on those same accounts to help support their parents.

Unfortunately, the same boom-bust cycle applies to the portfolios of senior citizens. Even elders who executed well-thought-out financial plans have, in many cases, literally outlived their assumptions and their assets. Who knew that 100 would be the new 80? Not the financial planners practicing in the 1960s.

The news is even more dire for women. The average woman will forfeit as much as $659,000 in lifetime earnings and benefits by caring for others. Part of the reason is that women lose 11.5 working years to caregiving, while men lose just 1.3 years.

Taking control

Fortunately, there are a few straightforward ways to take back control of your life, without sacrificing the quality of your parent’s life. Caregiving is a job and should be treated as such. Draw up a written job description listing all the tasks that need to be performed in support of a senior, along with the required hours and attendant costs.

Review the job description with your parents and siblings so everyone has a clear understanding of what it takes to keep things running. Decide together how best to parse out the tasks among siblings and identify support services for the remaining items. If no one steps up, then make it clear that two options remain: hiring a full-time outside caregiver, or hiring you full-time with all the attendant benefits you would be foregoing including vacation time, respite periods and contributions to a 401(k) or IRA.

Kid stuff

Even under this contractual arrangement, family members still have some elder care responsibilities. As family, they provide necessary emotional and social support to both parents and the full-time family caregiver. While not responsible for the day-to-day tasks, they are responsible for engaging the elder in entertaining and enriching activities that break the monotony of a physically-constrained life.

Assign the kids the job of keeping grandma and grandpa entertained. The benefits will be enormous and carry over into the workplace. One of the laments of managers about Millennials is that they are terrific in teams and terrible at one-on-one interactions. That can be remedied easily by growing up talking with elders.

Elders appreciate the chance to relive family history and share favorite anecdotes. Children learn a new appreciation for older people when they interact informally over games, the Internet or craft projects. The oral tradition can take on new forms as family stories burnished by time are captured by HD video cameras and posted on You Tube.

The panacea for being squeezed between conflicting responsibilities is to co-opt the people responsible for applying the pressure, and inviting them to become part of the solution, providing the time or money needed to more evenly distribute the elder care workload.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Drive No More: 6 Alternatives to Your Car

by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada

Do You Want to Go Car Free? We often write about how our society is too car-centric, and while it's important to improve cars so they're orders of magnitude greener (because they aren't going away anytime soon), it's also crucial to have a wide variety of alternatives to the automobile. What are these alternatives? To some of you they might be obvious - you might use some of them every day - but to others who are just starting to try to reduce their dependence on cars, an overview of what's out there will be useful. Here we go!

1. Buses

Probably the most obvious choice, the bus can either be a great way to get around or a nightmare, depending on where you live. Sadly, in many places there's been a comparatively small investment in bus transit compared to the money that goes into the infrastructure used by cars.

One way to make the bus more attractive is to create more reserved lanes and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems (check out Curitiba's BRT: 2.3 million passengers/day). If buses have to spend too much time using the same lanes as cars, they just end up swallowed up by the masses of cars during peak traffic times and there's very little benefit to taking the bus. But if they can bypass all that, a lot more people will use them.... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Government must act on looming retirement income crisis

84% concerned about inadequate retirement income, 91% favour multi-employer pension plans

TORONTO, April 14, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - With new research showing overwhelming public concern about Canada's looming retirement income crisis, the government must act now to enable multi-employer defined benefit plans, says John Crocker, President & CEO of the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan. He spoke at the Conference Board of Canada's Pension Summit in Toronto.

"I worry that as a country we are undoing decades of success at raising the standard of living for retired people and shrinking the scourge of elder poverty," Crocker said. "That's why I'm calling on government to show leadership by encouraging the development of multi-employer pension plans for Canadians."

New research carried out for HOOPP by the Gandalf Group shows that 84 per cent of Ontarians are concerned about not having enough money for retirement. 86 per cent believe there is an emerging retirement income crisis in Canada, and a majority (58 per cent) believe it is principally the role of government - not individuals - to ensure Canadians have adequate incomes in retirement. 91% support HOOPP's call for new multi-employer pension plans.

Crocker called on all governments to take action to "get the rules right," and to take leadership in forming new sectoral plans. Without corrective action now, he warns, the risk of elder poverty will grow as the baby boomers retire.

Crocker says regulatory barriers, such as accounting and surplus rules, make it hard for a single employer to fund a defined benefit plan. But there's strength in numbers, he notes. If multi-employer DB pension plans were formed to serve various sectors of the economy, "no longer would the full weight of funding be on one set of corporate shoulders."

Defined benefit pension plans typically provide retirees with pensions equal to about 67 per cent of their pre-retirement income. Other retirement savings vehicles typically generate only about 20 per cent of the individual's pre-retirement income.

"Together, we need to fix our pension system so that it looks after the retirement income needs of our citizens. If we focus on the right issue - adequacy - we can build a sustainable retirement system that makes sound business sense, we can meet the critical goal of allowing Canadians to retire with dignity and independence," says Crocker.

About the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan

HOOPP is the pension plan of choice for Ontario's healthcare sector with over 300 participating employers and more than 250,000 plan members and retirees. HOOPP pays more than $1 billion per year in pension benefits, providing security and peace of mind to thousands of retired healthcare workers.

HOOPP was created in 1960 and is now administered by a successful partnership of employers and representative unions. It is governed by a Board of Trustees with representation from the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) and four unions: the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Ontario Public Service Employees' Union (OPSEU) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Funky Bunky Is Garden Shed on.....Something

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto

Brad Moon, The Geek Dad at Wired, discovers the FunkyBunky, noting that "one of these colourful and playfully deranged buildings would be pretty fun as a workspace."

Bunky or Bunkie is a Canadian term for a sleeping cabin for guests or kids, accessory to a summer cottage.

Designers Greg and Aaron were "were talking about building a bunkhouse together. It had to be something fun and a little bit different." They were perhaps enjoying a little something on the side during the conversation, but whatever, they have come up with a bunky that is truly funky, and offer green accessories like solar power and a Sun-Mar composting toilet.... read the full story on TreeHugger.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

No, the Record-Setting April Heatwave Doesn't Prove Global Warming. But...

by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York

If you happened to be in part of the country that was hit by it, you sure noticed the warmer-than-usual temps caused by the April heat wave. It caused meteorologists across the country to ask if it was "July in April" and even got a few to mention global warming! But hold on--I am not about to suggest that a single hotter-than-usual week is evidence that the entire planet is experiencing global warming. That would be ridiculous, and that would be the same logic climate deniers use when it snows more than usual. In January. But with the high temperatures setting records around the world, it certainly means something in the greater scheme of things . . .

And it does, of course. Here's Climate Progress:

We all know that you can't use a single weather event as evidence for or against climate change -- unless of course that weather event is a big snowstorm [wink] ... What people should be talking about are record highs versus record lows across the country. The figure above comes from a Weather Channel post by Jonathan Erdman, "July or April? Spring skipped?":

"To the south of this front, temperatures had soared into the 80s and, yes, 90s in many locations, shattering daily record highs. In fact, according to the National Climatic Data Center, in the seven-day period from March 29 through April 4, over 1100 daily record highs were either tied or broken in the nation!"

Now that is a heat wave!... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Thursday, April 8, 2010

FabCab: The Ageing Boomer's Prefab

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto

As the boomer generation hits retirement, where are they going to live? Many will want to stay in their neighbourhoods, close to their family. In an era where it is becoming impossible to get a mortgage, perhaps they may even want to share their house with their kids. FabCab isn't just another pretty prefab, but part of a plan to address this demographic certainty. The FabCab creators are taking advantage of the changing zoning bylaws that allow Granny Flats and accessory dwelling units.

Every unit is designed for accessibility, even though a fully accessible bathroom takes up a lot of space in a 320 square foot unit like this one. They even have an accessibility and zoning consultant to help purchasers through the maze of approvals.... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Sunday, April 4, 2010

When Your Body Does the Unexpected

10 Unexpected Body Quirks Explained:- From hiccups to goose bumps, your body can sometimes react in strange ways.

By Chris Iliades, MD

The human body can be mysterious. You know that your heart beats to circulate your blood, and that sweating on a hot day cools your body. But why do you hiccup, get goose bumps, or develop an ice cream headache? Does being scared really make the hair on the back of your neck stand up? What is your body trying to tell you when your foot falls asleep or you get a charley horse? Most of these mysterious body quirks do have logical explanations.

Frightful Body Chills and Goose Bumps

A good scare really can give you goose bumps and raise the hair on the back of your neck. Goose bumps can be caused by strong emotions like fear or by exposure to cold. Your body produces the bumps by contracting the muscles around your hair follicles, pulling the hairs into an upright position. Chills that result from exposure to cold or a fever also cause goose bumps, but you can get them without having chills. Another cause of chills and goose flesh is withdrawal from certain drugs, which is where the term "going cold turkey" comes from. The medical word for goose bumps is horripilation.

Is It a Sneeze or a Fastball?

You may have never heard the medical term for sneezing: sternutation. A sneeze may start in your nose, but it requires a lot of cooperation from other parts of your body. Your nose sends a message to a special part of your brain to trigger the sneeze (your body's way of getting rid of an irritant in the nose), which requires a quick response from muscles in your chest, belly, throat, and even your eyes. Yes, it's true you always close your eyes when you sneeze. A sneeze is so effective that it can send irritating particles out of your nose at a speed of about 100 miles per hour.

A Cup of Water for Your Hiccups

Researchers know how the body makes hiccups, but they don’t always know why. Unlike sneezes, hiccups offer no obvious benefit. A hiccup occurs when a big abdominal muscle called the diaphragm is irritated. It contracts suddenly, sucking air into your windpipe. In some cases, hiccups can last so long that they require medical treatment. Many of the home remedies your mom prescribed to stop hiccups actually do work, including holding your breath, drinking cold water, and eating a spoonful of sugar. Possible hiccup triggers include anxiety, drinking a carbonated beverage, and eating hot, cold, or spicy food.

Saying Whoa to a Charley Horse or Cramp

Charley horse is a slang term for a muscle cramp, usually in a thigh or calf. Cramps typically occur in muscles that stretch between two joints in your body and are common in the lower legs, feet, arms, hands, and stomach. Although there is no hard evidence that you will get a charley horse if you swim after eating, there is some common sense behind your mom's old warning: After you eat, blood rushes to your stomach, and one known cause of cramping is not getting enough blood to your muscles. The best way to get rid of a painful charley horse or other muscle cramp is to stretch and massage the muscle.

Defrosting the Ice-Cream Brain Freeze

It's a hot summer day, you just took a big lick of ice cream or a big gulp from a cold drink, and suddenly your forehead and temples hurt like heck. Don't worry — you haven't frozen any brain cells. A so-called brain freeze, or ice cream headache, occurs when cold food or drink touches nerves in the roof of your mouth, which then stimulates blood vessels in your head to suddenly swell and cause your head to ache. The pain doesn't last long or do any damage to your brain or any other part of your body.

Open Your Eyes to the Cause of Spasms

In the movies, a twitching eye is a dead giveaway of a shady character, but in real life involuntary blinking or spasm of the eyelids, called blepharospasm, is caused by an abnormal nerve function. People who have twitching of the eye may also be tired, tense, or sensitive to bright lights. In severe cases in which the twitching does not go away, treatment can include injection of Botox (botulinum toxin) into the muscles around the eyes.

Nothing Funny About the Funny Bone

Someone with a good sense of humor may have a funny bone that is easily tickled, but if you have ever banged your elbow, the numbing, tingling sensation you get in your lower arm and hand is not at all amusing. However there is no such thing as a funny bone in the body. That strange sensation results not from hitting a bone but a nerve — the ulnar nerve that runs over the inside end of the long bone in your upper arm. The ulnar nerve helps you move your hand and supplies feeling to your last two fingers. A little bump feels strange, but does no harm.

When a Foot or Leg Falls Asleep

Most people think the tingling that happens when a body part “falls asleep” comes from cutting off the circulation, but it is usually due to putting too much pressure on a nerve. In most cases the body part — typically the legs, feet, arms, and hands — will "wake up" as soon as you change position and relieve the pressure. The medical term for those pins and needles you feel is parestheisia. Paresthesias that keep coming back, or don't go away, could be a sign of a neurological problem and need to be investigated.

When Your Body 'Falls' During a Dream

Have you ever had the feeling of your body falling through space shortly after you fall asleep? Don't worry — you won't die if you hit the ground in a dream, as urban legend speculates. This feeling of falling is a common sleep sensation known as a hypnagogic hallucination. These sleep hallucinations include sensations like falling, being touched, paralysis, hearing voices, or seeing strangers in your room. Sleep hallucinations are more common in children and usually occur soon after falling asleep. Although severe and persistent hallucinations may be a sign of a sleep disorder, most night terrors decrease with age.

Floaters and Flashes Before Your Eyes

It's common to see dots, circles, clouds, or small squiggly lines that seem to float in front of your eyes. Actually, they are inside your eyes. Floaters are caused by tiny clumps that form in the jelly-like substance in your eyeballs called the vitreous gel. What you are seeing is the shadow these particles cast on the back of your eye, where the nerves for sight are located. Flashes — also referred to as seeing stars — are caused by the pull of the vitreous gel on the back of your eye. Floaters and flashes increase with age and are generally not harmful. But a sudden increase in the number of floaters and light flashes accompanied by vision loss could indicate that you have a retinal detachment — a serious medical emergency.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Who's Thriving Worldwide?

from GOOD Blog >
Andrew Price on March 29, 2010

Gallup has released the results of a new global "wellbeing survey" and it confirms what we already know: There's a lot disparity in how comfortable it is to live on Earth.

Adults within each of the four major regions are often worlds apart in how they evaluate their lives. Africa has the lowest wellbeing; no country in this region has a thriving percentage higher than 25%. In fact, of the 41 countries where the thriving percentage is 10% or lower, more than half are in Africa. Conversely, in the Americas, where "thriving" is highest, the only countries with less than a quarter thriving are Cuba (24%) and Haiti (4%). "Thriving" in the Americas is highest in Costa Rica (63%) and Canada (62%), followed closely by Panama (58%), Brazil (58%), and the United States (57%).

At the extreme ends, 82 percent of people are "thriving" in Denmark and 1 percent are "thriving" in Togo.

There are a few different measures of wellbeing that pollsters, economists, and academics use. In this survey, Gallup used the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, which asks you to imagine where you are on a scale from the "best possible life for you" to the "worst possible life for you," and where you think you'll be in five years. It's a much more subjective measure than Gross National Happiness, for example.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Plants Get Geeky! 10 Techy Tools and Concepts for Gardeners

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California

In these modern times, even such simple tasks as tending plants now have gadgety help. Some ideas for how technology can help us with our green thumbs are awesome, while others miss the mark. We're taking a look at 10 tools - from apps to devices to concepts - that aim to make communing with flora easier.

Plant Mate

Useful for designing a garden space, this concept solar power device gets plunked into your yard, where it can analyze the area - similar to the Easy Bloom. You can then use the information to create a garden where every plant is put in just the right spot according to its needs and the conditions. It can also provide maintenance data, letting you know when more water or fertilization is needed. Seems like something gardeners would love!


This gadget goes in the ground next to a plant you want to monitor. It pulls all sorts of data including soil conditions, lighting, moisture levels and so on. After 24 hours you can plug it in to your computer's USB port, access an analysis of the area, and it will then recommend ideal plants for that part of your garden or diagnose how your plant is thriving in that area, and get recommendations on how to make it happier.

... Read the full story on TreeHugger