Monthly Archives: June 2015

You Won’t Believe What Happens When Preschoolers and Seniors Interact

Boy, drawing a picture for fathers day

When many people think of retirement communities, they envision a living situation in which the elderly are effectively sequestered away from other age groups.

At one Seattle retirement home, however, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, ever since a preschool opened up inside the Providence Mount St. Vincent senior care facility, retired residents have “come alive,” as a newly released documentary finds.

According to People, preschoolers attending the Intergenerational Learning Center, who range in age from infancy to five years, spend time with more than 400 senior residents five days a week. Together, they partake in activities ranging from dancing and art projects to storytelling and even cooking.

“I was struck by the simple perfection of the concept,” said filmmaker Evan Briggs, who spent the 2012-13 school year documenting everyday life at the Intergenerational Learning Center for her documentary, entitled Present Perfect.

Briggs described the interactions between the school’s small children and the retirement home’s elderly residents as “sweet, some awkward, some funny – all of them poignant and heartbreakingly real.”

With preschoolers present, Providence Mount St. Vincent’s residents underwent a “complete transformation,” Briggs explained.

“Moments before the kids came in, sometimes the people seemed half alive, sometimes asleep,” she told ABC News. “It was a depressing scene. As soon as the kids walked in for art or music or making sandwiches for the homeless or whatever the project that day was, the residents came alive.”

And by “coming alive,” Providence Mount St. Vincent’s residents are able to be a little more active every day. In 2010, a mere 22% of seniors were regularly active; when increased exercise is linked to improved memory and cognitive function, retirees can benefit immensely from getting up and around.

Present Perfect is more than just a documentary that entertains the notion of two opposite ends of the age spectrum interacting. Its purpose is to start a conversation about aging in America and how the elderly are too often segregated from society. When 43% of older adults report experiencing feeling social isolation and loneliness, there are plenty of things that today’s nursing homes can learn from places like Providence Mount St. Vincent.

Eccentric Hobby Or Savvy Home Improvement Scheme?

shed

A new wave of home improvement reality shows is documenting the international trend of outlandish garden shed designs. For some U.S. homeowners, imaginative garden sheds are simply an eccentric hobby, while others want to build a practical outdoor space for their home.

According to a recent survey, 77% of garden shed owners just keep old tools in their backyard storage space. The other 23% includes American do-it-yourself designers like Morgaine and Wren Workman, who turned a dusty garden shed into a 10′ x 12′ outdoor bar. Plus, a new reality show on the FYI network will document the spreading trend of so-called “She Sheds,” or female-centric garden sheds designed as retreats for women.

“As we continue to explore other ways we can utilize our backyard space, we will continue to see trends like this,” says Stacy Nelson, owner of Backyard Mamma, a West Virginia design firm. “We want to be in nature and unwind.”

In England, garden sheds have long held a special spot in the public imagination. Now, a spin-off of a popular British show called “Amazing Spaces” features the greatest backyard sheds across the pond. “Shed of the Year” shows off elaborate custom sheds, like the “Shedservatory,” a garden shed with a retractable roof for star watching.

U.K. writer Patrick Barkham even wondered whether the humble garden shed might serve a more enlightened purpose.

He writes: “Perhaps it is too much to hope that our love for sheds might yet transform our housing industry, planning system and building regulations to allow the creation of simpler, cheaper, low-consumption homes.”

And although he was being ironic, the custom shed trend mirrors a similar cultural fascination with “tiny houses,” a green building trend that started gaining widespread popularity in 2014.

Aspiring DIY designers aren’t necessarily building idle recreation areas, either. For homeowners who can’t afford to buy a larger house, home improvement experts say that building a habitable shed in the backyard can increase a home’s value.

Your Skinny Jeans Could Be a Health Hazard

Yoga pose, Abstract color background
The debate over skinny jeans is no longer confined to the fashion world. According to a study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry June 23, an Australian woman lost feeling in her legs and feet after her too-tight jeans restricted blood flow in her legs.

The woman, 35, apparently had spent several hours squatting while cleaning out cupboards in preparation for a relative’s move. As she was walking home in the evening, her feet grew numb, causing her to fall.

She lay for several hours on the ground, immobilized, before being discovered and taken to the hospital. There, doctors needed to actually cut her jeans off because her calves had become so swollen.

The swelling had also had a severe effect on her nerves and circulation. She was unable to move her ankles or toes (not only do the feet contain a quarter of the total bones in the body, they also have more nerve endings per square inch than any other area of the body).

“Normally muscles can expand to compensate for swelling, but there was a tourniquet effect, so the muscles had to expand inwards and compressed blood vessels and nerves,” Thomas Kimber, a doctor who treated the patient, was quoted as saying by CNN. It took four days of treatment by IV for the patient to be able to walk again.

Does the study mean that people would be wise to avoid skinny jeans altogether? Its authors have made no such recommendation, concluding only that the combination of prolonged squatting and the tight clothing caused the patient’s symptoms in this case.

And several fashion experts have jumped to the defense of skinny jeans in general, saying that people ought to use their common sense in choosing clothes that won’t cause them physical harm.

“I think the takeaway is skinny jeans are one thing, jeans that actually inhibit movement something else,” Vanessa Friedman, fashion director for the New York Times, said. “Maybe we should call them straitjacket jeans. Those should be avoided.”

Doctors Accidentally Remove Woman’s Uterus Because of Her Tattoos

surgical instruments in kidney tray

The hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the uterus to treat a myriad of different medical issues, including uterine fibroids and some types of cancer. Unfortunately, a recent study from Michigan University found that as many as one in five hysterectomies are performed needlessly. Researchers found that the main reason so many uteri are being unnecessarily removed is because doctors are underutilizing alternative treatments.

One woman, however, recently underwent a hysterectomy because of her tattoos.

A 32-year-old California mother of four received a PET/CT fusion scan, which injects patients with a radioactive tracer that makes tumors show up as bright spots. When the scan lit up, doctors thought the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. In actuality, it was the ink from her tattoos that they were seeing.

After the salpingectomy and regional lymph node dissection removed her uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and pelvic lymph nodes, the doctors inspected the “cancerous” cells, and found that they were actually just deposits of tattoo ink from her 14 leg tattoos.

“When you tattoo, some of that ink will be absorbed in the cells in the lymphatic system and migrate to levels of lymph nodes,” surgeon Dr. Ramez Eskander told CBS.

Fortunately, the patient’s case did actually call for surgery, even though it was her tattoos that mistakenly prompted surgeons to act. After examining the excised cells, doctors found that she’d had a small number of cancer cells in one of her pelvic lymph nodes, a condition called “micrometastasis,” that were too small to show up in a PET scan.

Eskander recently published the findings in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, hoping that the case would serve as a warning of the dangers of misdiagnosis. According to Medscape, this is the first case of tattoo ink migrating to the lymph nodes of a cervical cancer patient, but it’s not a novel concept in oncology. As for the patient, she’s doing well, and shows no signs of cancer recurrence.

20 Years for Brothers Who Ran Roofing Scam on Elderly

Man Examining and Repairing Rotten Leaking House Roof
Two brothers from Georgia have been sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison for a roofing scam targeting the elderly.

Keith Ogles, 50, and Jeffrey Ogles, 52, pleaded guilty to home repair fraud and financial exploitation of the elderly.

“This pair deliberately preyed on elderly victims, who were all in their 80s, and demanded payments that reached over $130,000,” DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said in a statement. “The Ogles lined their pockets with the money many of our victims worked a lifetime to accumulate.”

The brothers significantly overcharged four victims, damaged their roofs, threatened a victim who refused to make the additional payments they demanded, and performed shoddy work.

Many homeowners assume that all roofing scams involve taking a down payment and then disappearing, but many scams actually involve raising bids after a contract has been signed or building a roof that will last only a few years (with proper workmanship, many roofing materials will last 25 years, and some even have a lifespan of 50).

The pair will be required to serve at least 10 years in prison, as well as pay $100,000 in restitution.

Their crimes first came to light in November of 2014, when Wells Fargo bank alerted authorities that an 89-year-old woman was trying to withdraw $16,000 in cash from her account, saying that her roofer had driven her there and was waiting in the parking lot.

A police investigation revealed that the Ogles had collected more than $40,000 from her — for work that should have cost less than $1,500.

The authorities subsequently identified and contacted additional victims.

“We all have to be vigilant in making sure that our parents and grandparents are not being taken advantage of and exploited by criminals like the Ogles brothers,” James said in a statement. “Far too often, we hear of similar crimes that involve caregivers and even other family members who take advantage of vulnerable adults.”

The Better Business Bureau recommends being wary of any roofers that come door-to-door offering “limited time” offers and asking for payment in cash. Homeowners should ask for proof of licensing, insurance and bonding; check references; ensure that all promises are put into writing; and pay by credit card whenever possible to protect themselves against unscrupulous contractors.

As New Zealand Gets Blasted By Blizzards, Reactions Are Mixed

Motion Blur of Car
While people living throughout the snow-laden lands of the northern U.S. and Canada are used to dealing with several inches of snow at a time — Canada alone spends an astronomical $1 billion every year on snow removal services — many of those living in temperate New Zealand aren’t.

So when New Zealand recently got hit by heavy snows, freezing rain and blustering winds, many kiwis weren’t quite prepared for such a severe onset of winter.

According to a June 18 Radio New Zealand report, the winter blast has closed roads and schools, caused power outages, disrupted flights in and out of Queenstown Airport, and caused flooding throughout the South Island. As many as 30 centimeters of snow fell, visibility was limited, and winds reached 70 km/h.

“There’s just snow everywhere,” said Reuben Mama, who got stuck on a bus trip that had been traveling from Christchurch to Wanaka said. “It hasn’t stopped falling for the last four or so hours. It’s pretty crazy stuff, really. I wasn’t expecting that when I left Christchurch this morning.”

For the country’s farmers, the blizzard made life difficult. Throughout parts of Central Otago, farmers battled against freezing conditions and waded through endless snow drifts to feed their livestock, reported New Zealand’s 3 News.

However, not everyone is upset to see snow covering the ground. On Friday, June 19, some 9,000 people braved the cold to attend the 41st Queenstown Winter Festival, which featured plenty of musical performances and a fireworks show. Even Queenstown Mayor Vanessa van Uden and Prime Minister John Key turned up for the event to deliver opening remarks, according to the Otago Daily Times.

Winter Festival director Lisa Buckingham said this was the “perfect weather” for the event, and credits the snow for drawing a crowd that was “certainly one of the biggest ever.” The festival, which runs through June 28, is projected to bring in 45,000 visitors and residents.

NASA Creates Climate Map To Help Developing Nations Combat Global Warming Effects

Kenai Fjords
It probably comes as no surprise that NASA has hordes of data collections measuring every imaginable biological and geological process on Earth. But unlike most businesses and organizations today, which create and store valuable data but only use less than 1% of that data, NASA scientists have created a state-of-the-art digital map that predicts weather patterns and environmental conditions around the Earth, nearly 100 years into the future.

According to Mashable and EandE Publishing, scientists from the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) focused primarily on mapping out “hot spots” where high temperatures may appear as a result of global warming, and they also made data-based predictions on rainfall and global temperatures.

EandE Publishing states that NEX has “hundreds of terabytes of data” regarding natural geological processes and weather patterns in nearly every habitable city across the globe, and based on this data, scientists have created a map that predicts the yearly rainfall and global temperature levels between the years 2050 to 2100.

The maps aren’t just interesting for geologists or useful for politicians who argue that global warming is actually real; according to HNGN, NEXcompiled the maps as part of a White House initiative to combat the harmful effects of global warming domestically and internationally.

Specifically, scientists and politicians are hoping that the maps will serve as warnings for poverty-stricken countries. Many developing nations are located in regions where natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis run rampant — and these events have been increasing due to rising global temperatures — but these countries don’t have the resources to fix their broken infrastructure.

With some advance warning, scientists and politicians are hoping that developing countries will be able to prepare and/or evacuate their homes before disasters strike.

These maps are already available to the public, HNGN states, and a similar set of maps released in 2013 regarding U.S. client risks are available as well.

Deadly Teenage Car Crash Emphasizes Need to Wear Seatbelts

accident
A crash in Lehi, UT, has left one 17-year-old girl dead and five teens injured when their car rolled over on Thursday night.

Maryah Hayley Edwards was driving an SUV down a road just outside of Lehi and likely traveling faster than 50 mph, according to police. The posted speed limit on the road is 20 mph.

Edwards then lost control driving at the intersection near Routes 2600 North and 300 East, which sent the car rolling.

A witness who had seen the accident helped administer CPR to Edwards until Lehi Fire Department Paramedics arrived and took over. However, the teen died shortly thereafter at the scene of the accident.

Four of six teens in the car were thrown from the vehicle, and one is in critical condition in a local hospital.

All passengers were 17 years old except for one, who was 16. In the United States, more than 21,000 people are estimated to lose their lives in vehicle accidents each year, and approximately half of all traffic accident deaths in the U.S. are teens and younger adults between the ages of 15 and 44.

Police say the driver was not wearing a seat belt and was one of the four teens thrown from the car. They are currently investigating the accident to see if drugs or alcohol were involved.

Another 17-year-old, Jayden Farrell, was also ejected from the car and sustained several injuries, including a broken back and neck and head injuries. Farrell was flown to Intermountain Medical Center for surgery and remains in critical condition.

Although their injuries were not life-threatening, two other teens ended up with a broken neck and a broken tailbone, respectively.

The sixth teen in the car, a 17-year-old from Lehi, was wearing a seat belt and walked away with minor injuries. She was reportedly the only one in the car wearing a seat belt.

As Their House Falls Apart, Deaf Couple Pleads with Local Charities for Help

Burned out house
Home buyers are experiencing a seller’s market at the moment, but homeowners could see big gains in their home values, especially if they’ve undergone any upgrades.

Yet this isn’t the case in the poorest parts of the United States, especially for homeowners who may be unable to afford home improvements.

This is the situation for one couple in Victoria, VA, who need all the home improvements they can get.

To say that Eugene and Suzanne Giles live in a rundown house is an understatement. Everything needs replacing or repairing, from the roof, windows and walls to the plumbing and the foundation.

The cracking and rotting foundation causes ants to get in. The plumbing is backed up because of mud that seeps into the pipes, rendering the couple’s sink unusable and the well water undrinkable.

As for the windows, they leak air, which means what little heat they do have doesn’t stay in. Where newer, Energy Star windows, including thermally broken steel windows, could save them between $126 and $465 per year on energy bills, the house itself has holes big enough to see through, which would make the upgrades useless.

When it rains, Eugene and Suzanne have to place buckets all over the house to catch the rain falling through the roof.

To add to the frustration, both of them are deaf, so they have to rely on their pastor as their sign language interpreter. This makes getting the help they need more difficult.

But their problems go beyond their disability: their home needs just about all the repairs they can get, but they have no way of paying for them.

The land their house is situated on is zoned for a double-wide trailer, so the couple (along with a local news station) is looking for a trailer that someone can donate.

If that’s not possible, they’re looking to the community to help donate items to fix up their home — at the very least to make it safer.

Could China Be Behind the Recent U.S. Government Hack?

Hands typing on the laptop
The recent data hack that exposed the personal information of some 4 million current and former federal employees may have been a mechanism to prepare for future cyber attacks by China against the U.S., cyber security experts say.

According to a June 5 CNN report, law enforcement officials believe the hack was carried out by the same group of Chinese hackers responsible for the Anthem Insurance data breach, which released the personal information of tens of millions of customers earlier this year.

The federal government itself is no stranger to cyber attacks, seeing a stunning 680% rise in cyber security breaches over the last six years alone. However, U.S. officials believe this hack, revealed June 4, is the largest breach to affect the government’s computer servers and networks.

“The extent of personal data stolen makes this attack an order of magnitude greater than any we have seen of its kind in the past,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee who was briefed on the attack, told CNN.

The Chinese government has called statements linking itself with the data breach “irresponsible,” but neither confirmed nor denied its involvement.

This hack could allow for future insider attacks that are impossible to predict and difficult to detect. Additionally, the hack exposed which employees have security clearances, which could allow the Chinese to blackmail and expose U.S. government workers across the globe.

Months before this hack, the U.S. government was actually warned of its systems’ vulnerabilities, the New York Times reported on June 5.

The report, issued in November by the Office of Personnel Management, described the federal government’s networks as a Chinese hacker’s dream. The Office of Personnel Management even suggested temporarily shutting down federal servers, as these vulnerabilities “could potentially have national security implications.”

“The mystery here is not how they got cleaned out by the Chinese,” a senior former government official said. “The mystery is what took the Chinese so long.”

In the days following discovery of the hack, the Office of Personnel Management has advised federal employees whose data was exposed to keep a close eye on their financial statements and to consider getting a new credit report.