This summer’s heat waves are more dangerous than you think

It’s not just the elderly who are at risk when the weather heats up. Here’s what you need to do to stay safe.

By Gary Drevitch for Next Avenue

SummerHeatwave - web

Credit: Ingram Publishing I iThinkStock

Heat waves tend to be underestimated as natural disasters because they lack the destructive power of hurricanes or earthquakes. We shouldn’t, however, overlook their lethal capabilities. During a week-long heat wave in Chicago in July 1995, temperatures in that city reached as high as 106 with a heat index of 120. At least 739 people died — 651 of them 85 or older. Most were living alone, without power or air conditioning.

Four years later, when another heat wave hit, the city took aggressive action, sending police to check on isolated seniors and offering free bus service to cooling centers. Still, 110 people died. And during a catastrophic three-week heat wave in Europe in August 2003, when temperatures produced the hottest season in five centuries, an estimated 70,000 people died, a fifth of them in Paris alone. Again, elders living alone were most vulnerable.

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Can we delay aging?

Research on animals suggests we could improve humans’ healthy lifespan

By Felipe Sierra for Next Avenue

Credit: Thinkstock

Credit: Thinkstock

Editor’s note: This article is part of Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencers in Aging project honoring 50 people changing how we age and think about aging.

No, we cannot “prevent aging”… but what if we could delay it?

Unfortunately, the deterioration that comes with aging is part of a fundamental aspect of the universe, so it cannot be eliminated. Recent research suggests, however, that the rate of deterioration is indeed malleable, at least in many different animal models. So why not in people?

Aging itself is the major risk factor for most chronic diseases and conditions. We know that cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Yet it is well documented that these pale in comparison to the risk of merely increased age. The same is true for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and most other chronic conditions.

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Volunteers provide relief with Twiddle Muffs

Twiddle MuffsThanks to the handy work of the local Charity Knitting group, Fulton area patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia and autism are finding relief with a unique and handmade item – the Twiddle Muff.

So far, Charity Knitting has donated more than 200 Twiddle Muffs to agencies in central Missouri. This includes Fulton Presbyterian Manor, who recently received 30 Twiddle Muffs for residents.

“They’re basically two tubes,” said Peg Dzicek, RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) Director. “The outer tube has eye lash yarn, four or five rows on the outer tube with different textures. The inside tube is soft yarn and they put things like buttons, beads, ribbons and rick-rack inside, so there are all different textures.”

The Twiddle Muff was created to calm busy hands by allowing patients to insert their hands inside the tubes and handle the objects sewn to them. According to Peg, this lessens their desire to pick at things, which is a symptom of their medical conditions.

“I read a study that proves these work better than some of the drugs used by Alzheimer patients because they relieve a need,” Peg said.

Alice Kimble, SERVE volunteer, Peg Dzicek, SERVE volunteer Director, and Anita Houston, SERVE volunteer“You have no idea the difference this makes for some of our patients,” said Beth Boyd, activities director. “It relieves stress and even chronic pain. These are a blessing for our residents and our staff.”

Charity Knitting operates through RSVP, the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, which is a program of Senior Corps, sponsored by the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) and administered through SERVE, Inc. The group’s goal is to provide the Twiddle Muffs to hundreds of people.

“We will NEVER sell a Twiddle Muff,” said Peg. “All of the ones made by the RSVP volunteers are going to be donated. And, we are always looking for more knitters (we’ll even teach you how), donations of yard (new or scraps) and financial donations to add to our ‘yard fund.’”

If you’re interested in volunteering your time or materials or making a financial contribution, contact Peg at 573-642- 6388.

7 steps to healthier barbecue

Here’s how to make the best Fourth of July cookout ever

By Maureen Callahan for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

It may be the favorite way to cook on hot summer days, but experts say the high heat of grilling can produce cancer-causing compounds that are dangerous to your health.

But with the 4th of July nearing, don’t ditch the barbecue just yet. Grilling can still be one of the healthiest methods of cooking, as long as you use the right techniques and make healthy food choices.

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Why Social Security benefits won’t be cut

One of the presidential candidates is a key reason

By Chris Farrell for Next Avenue

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

I love Social Security. Seriously. Social Security was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 and over time has evolved into America’s most successful pension and insurance program.  Social Security helps keep millions of America’s elderly out of poverty, too.

Those aren’t particularly controversial sentiments, except in bitterly polarized Washington, D.C. Conservatives have routinely called for cutting back on Social Security’s “unaffordable” benefits and “privatizing” the system. Social Security, they say, is “bankrupt” and a “Ponzi scheme.” Liberals have staved off Social Security benefits cuts in recent years largely through a defensive strategy of preserving the status quo established by the 1983 National Commission on Social Security Reform.

But things are changing — bigtime.

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