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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Connecting with Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities During COVID-19

The pandemic has left those in skilled nursing, rehabilitation facilities and assisted living feeling isolated and often sad. Here’s what you can do to help.

The pandemic has hit everyone hard as we struggle to stay safe with social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing routines. But it’s worse for older adults in long-term care facilities, where the risk of a fatal outcome from catching the coronavirus is particularly high. 

“Eight out of 10 deaths from COVID-19 have been from those age 65 or older,” according to Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician in Phoenix, Arizona. “The reason why is because our immune system is less effective at fighting infections as we get older. Also, having multiple other chronic diseases can complicate this virus.” So, it’s vitally important to protect this population and as a result, many facilities have banned face-to-face visits since March. 

State-by-State Guide

As of this writing, 41 states were allowing visits to nursing homes, assisted living and rehabilitation facilities. However, some facilities continue to restrict visits to ensure the safety of their residents; protocols vary widely by individual location. Check for updated information on the status of your state

What About Residents With No Family?

If you are interested in helping residents with no family to write or call them, it’s best to call the facility directly and ask about their policy. There may be a volunteer organization that is writing letters and/or making calls. Another option is to check with the Friendship Line, founded 40 years ago. It’s now national and accredited as a combined crisis line and “warmline” for callers who are just lonely. It is targeted to serve disabled adults and people age 60 and above.

Phone Chains

There are ways to mitigate the isolation. Video chat and conferencing platforms such as FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom work well to help your family member feel included and up to date. If your loved one doesn’t have a smartphone or other device to use, see if the facility has one to borrow and someone to help facilitate the call, if needed. 

Ordinary calls are welcome, too. Set up a phone schedule with other family members to ensure the resident gets a daily call, or even one in the morning and one in the evening, if possible. Family members can send photos and videos. Although it’s hard to top grandchildren, a video of a walk in the woods or elsewhere outdoors can be a welcome change from the resident’s room. 

Different Meal

Another idea is to share a virtual meal together, perhaps made with a family recipe. Some facilities will allow you to drop off a serving for the resident, so you can eat at the same time, chatting over the phone. Check if it’s okay to have food delivered from a restaurant; it can be a welcome change from the same old fare made onsite. 

Photo Album

Print off some favorite photos and staple them together to make a booklet that the resident can page through again and again. You can caption the pages to identify family and friends. A new one could be delivered every week if it’s a hit. 

Window Visit

Some residence facilities are allowing window visits. The resident stays indoors, seated near a main-floor window, and the visitor can “visit” through the glass. It may be possible to chat, and certainly you can exchange smiles. Homemade signs can be designed for special occasions like birthdays. 

Snail Mail

Older residents can enjoy the gift of a letter many times over. There’s the anticipation every time they go to the mailbox, the excitement when they see a letter, the fun of opening and reading it, and the continued comfort in reading it again and again. Keep your news cheery, with updates on family activities. Kids can add a note and/or draw a picture. Enclose a magnet or clip so the letter or pictures can stay in sight. 


You can send a recorded text message so the resident can hear your voice over and over. Consider asking about long-ago events, such as “When we lived in Texas, you had a Girl Scout troop. Do you remember some of the things your troop did?” You can then leave a silent space for the resident’s response. If the resident has dementia, it may be played repeatedly. 

Plants and Animals

Perhaps the resident would enjoy taking care of a small plant such as an orchid or succulent. Caring for something gives a sense of purpose and usefulness. Residents with dementia especially might enjoy having a stuffed dog or cat to cuddle and talk to. For about $110, you can even purchase robotic versions such as the Joy For All Companion Cat

Send a Caregiver

If you are fortunate enough to have extra funds, consider having a caregiver visit the resident. Most facilities allow CNAs to enter, and having a visitor devoted just to the resident for a couple of hours can be enormously uplifting. This person may help with exercises, dust and tidy, assist with a project such as going through photos, facilitate calls, or simply engage the resident in conversation. 


The resident may well have days, or every day, when he or she needs to vent — about the loneliness, the food, the staff, or whatever. You can help just by listening and commiserating. It’s a lousy time to be shut away, no matter how nice the facility. Elizabeth St. John, a licensed clinical social worker at Stanford Health Care, says that older adults need to talk to people who “can just listen and validate their feelings. Be the person who will bear witness to their sadness, stress, and anxiety and who will let them reminisce because this is a really sad time.”

You don’t have to bear the burden all by yourself. Residents love to hear from old friends and relatives. Spread the work around so that you don’t get caregiver burnout from afar. 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Internet Satellites Providing Access

Fleets of SpaceX low-orbit satellites are beginning to bring internet service to rural U.S. locations and unserved areas around the globe.

Elon Musk may be the Michelangelo of our times. The storied entrepreneur heads electric tech and car company Tesla, infrastructure and tunnel services outfit The Boring Company, and aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, better known as SpaceX. Apart from figuring out how to land reusable rocket boosters right-side-up on a ship in the ocean, SpaceX has been working on satellite technology, dubbed “Starlink,” to span the world with internet accessibility. 

Loon Balloons

A few short years ago, Facebook had big plans to use solar-powered drones and laser-based tech to beam Wi-Fi to antennas around the world. Crazy, right? Facebook abandoned the plan in 2018, but Google’s effort to spread the internet survived. What would Google use? Giant balloons containing solar-powered units to transmit from the stratosphere. And they’re starting to be deployed. 

As of July, Kenyans might see a giant (49 feet across) white balloon floating 12 miles above the earth in the central and western part of the African country. Made of common plastic polyethylene (the same as grocery bags), the balloons are launched with the help of a crane and use predictive modeling to shift them as needed for reliable connections on the ground. 

Although speeds are slow compared to the U.S. and they only transmit in daylight, each balloon can cover an area about the size of Delaware, or a little less than 2,000 square miles.

Coverage Needed

You may think that everyone in the U.S. is already covered, but you’d be mistaken. Rural parts of the country often suffer from slow or nonexistent internet service. The pandemic has forced many schools to offer all or a portion of learning online, highlighting the need for accessibility. And there are vast swaths of Africa and other continents that also lack internet connection. 

Falcon 9, designed and manufactured by SpaceX, launched May 23, 2019 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with a nosecone full of the first 60 Starlink internet satellites. According to Musk, 400 satellites would be needed to provide “minor” coverage, 800 for “moderate” coverage, and up to 12,000 for a complete network. For comparison, the 12,000 number is more than six times the count of all operational spacecraft now in orbit.

In fact, more than 700,000 individuals in the U.S. had expressed interest within a month and a half of the company allowing people to register their interest on the Starlink website.  As of August, SpaceX had launched more than 500 of the table-size satellites and had begun building the ground station network to connect consumers to the network. Beta testing began this summer.

Current Speeds Are Slow

With 540 satellites in the air in August 2020, tests conducted by Ookla (and collated by Reddit users) documented download speeds ranging from 11 Mbps (megabits per second) to 60 Mbps, with upload rates between 5 Mbps to 18 Mbps and latency ranging from 31 ms to 94 ms. These compare negatively to eventual expected download speeds reaching 1 Gbps with latency between 25 to 35 ms, but speeds are expected to increase as more satellites are put into orbit. And, the speeds are still above what most rural Americans currently receive. In fact, the average download speed across the entire U.S. is 33.88 Mbps according to mobile performance data aggregator Speedtest

According to the Federal Communications Commission, Starlink is slated to begin offering commercial service in the northern United States and southern Canada before the end of 2020, “and then will rapidly expand to near-global coverage of the populated world in 2021.” Musk has claimed the speed will rival existing services, “… so somebody could play fast-response video games at a competitive level.”

Market Potential

SpaceX plans to use revenue from Starlink to fund its Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket, designed to take people to and from Mars and other space destinations. It won’t be an easy task. SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell expects the project to cost $10 billion or more. And Musk himself has admitted that “there is a lot of new technology here. So it’s possible that some of these satellites may not work.” The billionaire added that there’s a “small possibility that all of the satellites will not work.”

However, the gamble could pay off big. SpaceX informed investors that Starlink has a $1 trillion addressable market. One hiccup? Some astrophysicists are not happy that Starlink satellites have been interfering with photographs of comets. The low orbit (341 miles above the earth’s surface) of the satellites gets in the way of stargazing, and with more than 20 times the current number of satellites expected to go up, the problem will likely get worse.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, November 12, 2020

30 Days of Change

Novelist (he wrote one in 30 days) Matt Cutts says the secret to a happier life may lie in a series of 30-day challenges, big or small, that you give yourself.

Let’s be honest. Most of us are somewhat happy with our lives, but wondering if there isn’t something more — something more we could be doing, something more we could be learning. Think back to the aspirations you had as a child or young adult. When did you let go of those goals? 

Setting 30-Day Goals

Software engineer Matt Cutts felt the same way. After creating the family filter for Google’s search engine, he reduced his work load to spend time with his wife and pursue other goals. But he went about it in a way that seemed attainable: he would give himself a goal and spend 30 days making it happen. He gave up sugar. He biked to work. He wrote a novel. He took a photograph every day. 

Eventually, some of the goals stuck. He kept biking and accomplished another goal: finishing an Iron Man race. He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Other goals, such as cutting out sugar, didn’t stick completely, and that was fine. What Cutts found was that his life became more full as his memory bank filled with new experiences. 

View the Ted Talk Cutts created here

In fact, research shows that time seems to slow down when we do something novel. Our brains have to pay more attention as we perform a new activity, and the memories from the experience expand time. Time also stretches when we are emotionally engaged. You can actually experience more time than you have by exposing yourself to new things and making an effort to notice what is going on in each moment.

What to Do?

Most of us will never run an Iron Man, but there are plenty of things that an average person can aspire to do every day for a month:

  • Write a poem
  • Take a walk
  • Take a free class online
  • Quit watching the news
  • Work in the garden
  • Volunteer somewhere new
  • Perform an act of random kindness
  • Meditate for 30 minutes every morning
  • Lie on your back and look at the sky
  • Paint a picture
  • Make a meal from scratch
  • Give up criticizing, except regarding yourself
  • Exercise for half an hour
  • Learn how to lift weights
  • Reach out to a family member or friend

Cutts found that smaller goals were easier to keep as habits after the first month was done, and he often built on them to accomplish bigger things. He also noted that his self-esteem increased as time passed and he completed more of his goals. Each of us will differ in what we chose to do, but we will grow no matter what our goals are. Starting today, what will your first goal be? 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Monday, November 9, 2020

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 5 - Kris Jenner, TV personality

Mama Kardashian Kris Jenner became famous promoting her large brood on reality television’s Keeping Up with the Kardashians. In doing so, she became a television personality, entertainment manager, and author. The kids from her marriage to lawyer Robert Kardashian include Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, and Robert, with an additional pair, Kendall and Kylie, from her marriage to Olympic gold medalist Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner. 

Born in San Diego, Jenner’s parents divorced when she was seven. She worked in her mother’s children’s clothing store as a teen and was a flight attendant in 1976 on American Airlines. She runs her own production company, ran a children’s boutique with daughter Kourtney for several years, wrote an autobiography and a cookbook, and hosted a talk show for six weeks.

The reality show had its genesis when Jenner met with Ryan Seacrest in 2007. She knew her family was a natural for the genre, with plenty of everyday drama that wouldn’t have to be manufactured. Jenner became the executive producer, and the hit has run longer than almost any other reality show in the country, generating several spin-offs. 

Jenner’s first ex was Robert Kardashian who she remained on good terms with until his death in 2003. A month after her first divorce, Jenner married retired Olympian and heartthrob Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner, who she divorced in December of 2014 after 23 years of marriage. 

Jenner is in a long relationship with Corey Gamble and has nine grandchildren.

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 6 - Maria Shriver, American newscaster

Prolific and compassionate, Maria Shriver is a journalist, author, founder of the nonprofit The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and served as the former First Lady of California, initiating volunteer programs, women’s awards and much more in the process. She has written six books and been honored with television Emmy Awards for her television work and Peabody Awards for journalistic endeavors. In 2017, she received the first Lifetime Achievement Award ever given by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Born into the legendary Kennedy family, Shriver’s mother was an activist and sister to late President John F. Kennedy, U.S. Attorney General and Senator Robert Kennedy, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (all deceased) and a bevy of other accomplished siblings. Shriver’s father was a politician, and she credits her success in journalism with being sent to the back of his plane while volunteering for his 1972 U.S. vice presidential race, calling her time with the press corps “the best thing that ever happened to me.” 

A slew of anchor positions followed on top shows such as Sunday Today, NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC. Shriver had married Austrian bodybuilder and film star Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1986, and the couple had four children by 1997. In 2003, Schwarzenegger became governor of California and Shriver had a more prominent platform for promoting and supporting Special Olympics and other projects, especially for mentally challenged children and those with dementia. 

A sad end note was the public revelation, in 2011, that her husband had fathered a child 14 years earlier with a member of their household staff. The marriage of 25 years didn’t survive the “painful and heartbreaking” episode. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 13 - Whoopi Goldberg [Caryn Johnson], Actress

Whoopi Goldberg, née  Caryn Johnson, never finished high school. The actor, comedian author and T.V. personality didn’t need to, as she went on to be one of only 16 to have won a Tony Award, an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, and an Emmy Award. 

Her breakout role as Celie in Steven Spielberg’s period drama set in the Deep South catapulted her to fame in 1985. The roles kept on coming, and the hundreds are too many to list. She has done one-woman shows on stage, produced a comedy album, and is famed for acting the part of Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But it hasn’t always been so easy. In the 70s, Goldberg strung together a series of odd jobs: bank teller, mortuary cosmetologist, and even bricklayer, before joining an avant-garde theatre group. She also taught comedy and acting classes; one of her pupils was future Kurt Cobain squeeze Courtney Love.

Since 2007 Goldberg has been moderator and co-host of morning show The View. You may consider her a strictly liberal voice, but she has said she is a member of the NRA, defended Mel Gibson against racist criticism and made several other eyebrow-raising comments for those on both sides of the aisle. Goldberg is nothing if not her own woman.

She has been married three times and has a daughter, Alex Martin, who is also an actress and producer. However, she has since stated that she never loved any of the men and doesn’t foresee another union. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 27 - Bill Nye, The Science Guy

Bill Nye has turned hundreds of thousands of kids (and their parents) on to science. He got a mechanical degree in college and connected with astronomer and guest teacher Carl Sagan. With his B.S. from Cornell, Nye went to work for Boeing, where he invented a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube used on the 747. Alas, he really wanted to be an astronaut, but NASA turned him down four times. 

In an interesting turn of events Nye won a Steve Martin lookalike contest in 1978, and this would be a defining moment in his young life. He began to do Steve Martin impressions at parties, egged on by his friends, and the young engineer found he liked being in the limelight. He began to be a jet navigation systems engineer by day, and a standup comic by night. He quit the Boeing job, not comedy, and the rest is history. 

The pilot for Bill Nye the Science Guy came out in 1993. Distributed by Disney and underwritten by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy, the show ran for five years. It was a runaway hit, nominated for 23 Emmy Awards and leading to a slew of other science-themed media appearances. 

Nye’s current mission is to advocate against climate change. 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors