Fall is here, which means, like it or not, cold weather is just around the corner. While most of us would prefer not to think about turning on our heat just yet, this is actually the best time to check your heating to ensure everything is operating as it should. Neglecting to winterize your home and letting small issues pile up can have big repercussions. Ahead of the winter season, make sure you’re aware of three major things that may go wrong if you don’t winterize your house or neglect your heating system.
- Your utility bills may skyrocket. Utility bills often jump up in the winter due to the increased hours of darkness and the cost to heat your home. But if your heater is on the fritz or your filters are clogged, you could be in for an even bigger surprise. Dirty filters cause your furnace to work harder, which leads to inefficiency and a shortened lifespan for your heating system. Replacing filters is often an easy task for homeowners. A yearly tune-up is an inexpensive way to help prevent a costly system breakdown in the coming months. Also, keep in mind that some warranties require annual tune-ups, so don’t let your warranty go invalid by skipping this year’s tune-up.
- The threat of carbon monoxide is very real. Do you know how old your furnace is? Do you know how long it’s been since a professional checked it over? Carbon monoxide poses a health threat when the heating system flue, vent or chimney becomes blocked from debris or other material. During a heating system tune-up, a professional service technician can check to make sure all your vents are not blocked and are working properly. Drains and traps also need to be checked and combustion gases should be analyzed and compared to the specifications of your furnace or boiler to make sure everything is running safely. Installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home is another smart way to help with early detection.
- Water pipes can burst. It’s not just your heating system that needs to be winterized. All too often it happens – we wake up to realize our pipes are frozen, or even worse, leaking. Before the cold sets in, make sure outside hoses are put away and water is turned off. Evaluate which pipes are at the greatest risk for freezing during cold weather. For example, if your water pipes come up from an un-insulated crawl space, or if they are in or close to an uninsulated outside wall or vent, they are more likely to freeze and burst in low temperatures. Inside pipes should be covered in insulation to keep pipes warmer longer. Pipe insulation is easy to apply and available at most hardware stores and home centers.
By having an annual tune-up in the fall, you can catch small issues now, instead of experiencing bigger problems in the dead of winter. A tune-up with a reputable local company can also save energy, reduce heating costs and prevent a system breakdown in the coming months.
A firefighter helps an elderly couple plan for their escape from a home fire. Credit: US Fire Administration
Age Safe America announces Fire Prevention Week, October 6-12 from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This years theme is “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!”. This year’s campaign recognizes the everyday people who motivate their households to develop and practice a home fire escape plan; these seemingly basic behaviors can have life-saving impact. For those of us who are older adults or care for older adults, this message is vital.
“This year’s campaign works to celebrate people of all ages who learn about home fire escape planning and practice, bring that information home, and spur their families to action,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA.
“Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” also focuses on what a home escape plan entails and the value of practicing it. These messages are more important than ever, particularly because today’s homes burn faster than ever. Carli notes that synthetic fibers used in modern home furnishings, along with the fact that newer homes tend to be built with more open spaces and unprotected lightweight construction, are contributing factors to the increased burn rate.
“People tend to underestimate their risk to fire, particularly at home. That over-confidence lends itself to a complacency toward home escape planning and practice,” said Carli. “But in a fire situation, we’ve seen time and again that advance planning can make a potentially life-saving difference.”
A home escape plan includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. It also includes two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) that’s a safe distance from the home. Home escape plans should be practiced twice a year by all members of the household. If you are an older adult, a family or professional caregiver, the escape routes may be different and the traditional escape routes, such as the windows, may not be feasible. So it is vital to identify the routes that will work with the challenges. Remember to notify local fire and emergency personnel if someone in the home has special equipment or difficulty leaving the home. Many fire departments have special lists for individuals in their territory who may require additional assistance.
A new study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shows scientifically for the first time that an individual’s ability to respond quickly to a residential fire determines who dies and who gets injured. Home fire deaths, the NIST researchers state, are more likely among those they define as frail populations—persons who are not in robust health and primarily age 65 and older—while nonfatal injuries occur more often in adults ages 20 to 49.
For more information about Fire Prevention Week and “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!,” along with a wealth of resources to help promote the campaign locally, visit fpw.org.
During Fall Prevention Week we consider the Impact of falls on Caregivers and Employers. One of the most staggering statistics for companies is the lost productivity by employees acting as caregivers. The losses range from lack of attention to current job tasks, more time away from work for appointments and caregiving to the increased levels of stress and health-related issues for the employees themselves. Informal caregiving burdens cost employers as much as $33 Billion annually in lost productivity according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.
American workers must make the most out of their situation when life happens while performing at an optimum level. That’s the corporate ideal, but on a personal level, the burden of caregiving can exceed a worker’s mental fortitude and earning potential. A new report from the Harvard Business School Project on Managing the Future of Work shows companies lose too when workers must decide when to care for a loved one or to keep on working.
“The Caring Company,” from co-authors Joseph B. Fuller and Manjari Raman, suggests companies are ignoring the “silent crisis of caregiving” as it pertains to today’s workers. A rapidly aging population, more women in the labor force and misalignment of benefits are contributing to pressures on work-life balance. For companies that espouse a culture of caring, many are unprepared to expand their conception of caregiving and benefits beyond family leave or more flexible work options.
In the authors’ estimation, companies do not calculate or understand the costs their workers incur when absent from the job or working when distracted or fatigued. High turnover and training costs are hidden from companies’ bottom lines while parents and elder caregivers are acutely aware of what they sacrifice in pay, time and mental strength. The rising cost of child and elder care is eating into earnings, leading workers — mainly women, who still shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities — to restrict their careers.
Workers’ expertise leaves with them when they suspend their careers, and many companies aren’t offering a pathway back to pick up where they left off. The result is a miscommunication between the two parties. According to the report, workers suffer in silence and do not utilize their benefits to ease their caregiving burden in fear of negative consequences while companies could look at this underutilization and say that there isn’t a problem. “The Caring Company” illustrates how companies operate in ignorance and pay lip service to caring, while not accommodating a widening spectrum of issues related to care.
The report comes at a time where dynamic population and healthcare trends are coinciding with a labor and skills shortage.
It doesn’t have to be this way! There are professionally trained Senior Home Safety Specialists™ who can provide the information and solutions to reduce the stress and worry about aging parents at home while an employee is attempting to put in a full day’s work. Age Safe® America has trained professionals throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East to provide the valuable resources for HR departments and EAP program administrators.
Our mutual goals are better, healthier, less stressed, more productive employees who have confidence that their family members have the right solutions in place for their home environments.
Age Safe® Live Well.
Falls Prevention Awareness Day!
The annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day raises awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults. We have heard the statistics over and over. One in 3 Americans over the age of 65 will fall this year. One in 2 Americans over the age of 80 will fall this year. Falls account for 40% of nursing home admissions. It doesn’t have to be this way! As our population ages and the demographic studies tell us that the longevity for the current generations is greater than any other time in history, then this is the opportunity to change the statistics. Ten years from now, the fall rate among Americans can be significantly different. But in order to do so, we must take the action.
The social activism of the 60’s needs to translate into personal activism to maximize the independence and control we can exert in our lives. This generation took the action 50 years ago to affect military policy, civil rights and the creation of Older Americans Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are too many stories of people moving into assisted living communities or long-term care, not by choice but by necessity. We all know an individual, family member, friend, member of our social circle or faith community who has not had the chance to remain independent.
You must be the change you want to see in the world….Gandhi
Be the change—-get a professional home safety evaluation. A trained specialist can identify the opportunities and changes that we don’t see for ourselves. They may suggest to add the grab bars and motion lights, clear the pathways and make sure our entrances are safe and easy to navigate. (The extra benefit of a safe entrance is a safe exit during an emergency or natural disaster!) You can make an appointment get your eyes checked, mark your calendar and get it done! On the next visit, take your list of questions and review your meds with the doctor. Exercise can be as simple as a short walk or stretch or taking a class in person, by video or on TV.
We cannot look back and wish we had our home evaluated or our eyes checked.
Our future selves are relying on our taking the steps today to change the trajectory of our lives and change those awful, realistic statistics. Take a step today to Age Safe® and Live Well!
Change the Statistics, Make a Difference.
Plan for independence!
We all want to live safe, independent and comfortable, regardless of our age or ability. Unfortunately, many homes were not designed to give you freedom as you age. Whether you are living by yourself or with a family member, you can design your own additions or home modifications that will help you continue living independently. Trained advisors and qualified contractors are available to help you plan and create the safety, comfort and flexibility in the home that you want and need. Age Safe® Live Well.
Join NCOA for Falls Prevention Awareness Day 2019 events! #FPAD2019
Go4Life® is an exercise and physical activity campaign designed to help you fit exercise and physical activity into your daily life. Every September marks Go4Life Month and this year’s theme is Get Motivated! Get Moving! Go4Life! The overall goal of Go4Life Month is to promote the importance of regular physical activity as a key component of healthy aging. As a national partner, Age Safe® America helps the National Institute on Aging at NIH to promote the “Go4Life” exercise campaign and spread the word about the many benefits of exercise.
Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults. No matter your health and physical abilities, you can gain a lot by staying active. In fact, in most cases you have more to lose by not being active. Most people tend to focus on one activity or type of exercise and think they’re doing enough. The goal, however, is to be creative and choose all four types of exercise – ENDURANCE. STRENGTH. BALANCE. FLEXIBILITY.
Happy Go4Life Month – Get Motivated! Get Moving! Go4Life!
This month is a great opportunity to encourage older adults to be active. If you haven’t made plans yet, there’s still time.
Use the suggested activities and Go4Life materials below to help older adults get motivated and moving during Go4Life Month this September.
Lots of Free Resources to spread the word!
– Check out the free online Go4Life Month Toolkit, with ideas for events and activities, social media messages, and more!
– Help us share and promote NIA’s NEW! Exercise Safety Videos for Adults 50+ during Go4Life Month. Through these videos, viewers will learn about selecting the right fitness shoes and clothes, staying safe while doing the 4 types of exercise, exercising safely in both hot and cold weather, exercising safely outdoors, and biking safely.
– Physical activity is an important part of healthy aging. Try these Go4Life workout videos to help you fit exercise and physical activity into your daily life. https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/workout-videos/
– And take a look at two new resources developed in collaboration with our partners: Walking Club Toolkit and Partner with Libraries Toolkit
Each year, more than 2 million older Americans go to the emergency room because of fall-related injuries. A simple fall can cause a serious fracture of the arm, hand, ankle, or hip. But don’t let a fear of falling keep you from exercising and being physically active. Overcoming this fear can help you stay active, maintain your physical health, and prevent future falls. The good news is that there are simple ways you can prevent most falls.
One of the most important ways to prevent falls is to stay physically active. Regular exercise makes you stronger. Weight-bearing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, may slow bone loss from osteoporosis. Lower-body strength exercises and balance exercises can help you prevent falls and avoid the disability that may result from falling.
Balance exercises can help you prevent falls and avoid the disability that may result from falling. You can do balance exercises almost anytime, anywhere, and as often as you like, as long as you have something sturdy nearby to hold on to for support.
Age Safe® America was honored to provide input into the development of the Walking Clubs Toolkit. The Go4Life Walking Clubs Toolkit provides tips for those interested in starting and sustaining a walking club for older adults. The recommendations presented here were obtained from a variety of trusted sources at the National Institutes of Health, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Surgeon General, national and local Go4Life partners with expertise in developing and conducting walking clubs. A list of these resources may be found under the “Helpful Resources” https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/walking-clubs/helpful-resources section of this toolkit.
Happy Go4Life Month – Get Motivated! Get Moving! Go4Life!
Happy Labor Day Stay Safe!
Labor Day is famous for barbecues, also known unofficially as the holiday that marks the end of summer, the start of football season and a Monday off. It’s a holiday that celebrates the contributions of the millions of hardworking Americans that Labor every Day to make this country great!
Labor Day is a US federal holiday celebrated annually on the first Monday of September. But it is thought to have originated in Toronto, Canada in 1872 and adopted by the United States in the 1880s. The first United States Labor Day was celebrated on September 5, 1882, in New York City. On that Tuesday, 10,000 citizens marched for labor rights down the streets of Manhattan. During this time the average American worked 12 hours a day, six days a week and that included young children who were sweating it out in factories to help contribute.
Today Americans work on average 8 hours a day for 5 days a week. Thanks to the Adamson Act, which was passed on September 3, 1916, federal law started regulating hours worked for private companies. Because the law was passed in early September, Labor Day also celebrates the Adamson Act.
Labor Day ironically causes some of the longest working hours for retail workers. In fact, many other professionals are expected to work on Labor Day as well including correctional officers, police officials, firefighters, nurses, and more. It is also the second most dangerous holiday weekend to drive on U.S. highways. So please Be Safe!