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Former Rep. Trail named new AARP state president

Former longtime state Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, has been named the new state president of the Idaho AARP. Trail, who served 16 years in the House and is the former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has been an AARP member for 24 years, the seniors group said. He’ll now take on the group’s highest volunteer position, replacing Peggy Munson, who will continue on the organization’s executive council. Munson is a retired geriatric nurse; Trail is a retired college educator with a doctorate in psychology and degrees in education and animal science.

“During my entire career, I served in positions committed to social concerns, education and public service,” Trail said. “This appointment represents a culmination of that work. … I look forward to engaging and energizing volunteers to carry out AARP’s vision, mission and strategic priorities in the state.”

New Boomer Erickson Eschews AARP

When the AARP membership application appeared in Keith Erickson’s Coeur d’Alene mailbox, he threw it in the trash. Another application arrived the next week, then another in the days before his 50th birthday. “I was blindsided and then insulted,” said Erickson, an avid runner who clocks 50 miles a week. “I still consider myself as relatively young. It had to be a mistake.” He didn’t think AARP tracked you down for its $16 annual membership that allows for senior discounts on everything from dinner out to travel and the movies until at least age 55. “It’s like taking a step into oblivion,” he said. “Once you take that step, there you are. You are always a senior citizen”/Erica Curless, SR. More here.

Question: Hey, I still don't have my AARP card. Do you?

Weiner Drops ‘GrandPa’ Bomb

New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner (WEE'-nur) has called an older political rival “Grandpa” during a heated confrontation at a forum sponsored by the AARP. Longshot Republican candidate George McDonald frequently mocks the former Democratic congressman's sexting scandal. Tensions between them erupted again before the Manhattan forum Tuesday, when Weiner touched his 69-year-old opponent's chest in greeting. McDonald barked, “Don't put your hands on me ever again.” The 48-year-old Weiner responded by telling McDonald he has “anger issues.” When McDonald disagreed, Weiner said, “Yes, you do, Grandpa”/HuffPo. More here. (AP photo: New York mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, second from left, reacts as fellow candidates George McDonald, far left, and Anthony Weiner, second from right, exchange words)

Question: Would you be offended if a younger candidate called an older one “Grandpa” or “Grandma” at a public forum?

Yikes? Technology to keep seniors driving longer

We’ve all seen the cliché elderly person in a powder blue Cadillac doing a righteous 48mph on the freeway with their turn signal on.  It’s annoying, dangerous and according to several new studies these active members of the greatest generation should be allowed to drive even longer with the help of technology. 

“For many older people, particularly those living alone or in rural areas, driving is essential for maintaining their independence, giving them the freedom to get out and about without having to rely on others,” said Professor Phil Blythe of Newcastle University.

“But we all have to accept that as we get older our reactions slow down and this often results in people avoiding any potentially challenging driving conditions and losing confidence in their driving skills. The result is that people stop driving before they really need to.”

“What we are doing is to look at ways of keeping people driving safely for longer, which in turn boosts independence and keeps us socially connected.”

As part of nearly $20million program under Blythe’s direction a team of Newcastle researchers converted an electric car into a ‘DriveLAB’ outfitted with tracking systems, eye trackers and bio-monitors to gather information on what contributes to senior drivers’ unique challenges.  The systems track things such as eye movement, speed, reaction, lane position, acceleration, braking and driving efficiency.

The Newcastle team tested older guinea pigs from the North East and Scotland in the DriveLAB as well as the University’s driving simulator to shed light on their driving habits, fears and ways to possibly mitigate them with technology.    

Dr. Amy Guo, the leading researcher on the study, explained: “…Most of us would expect older drivers always go slower than everyone else but surprisingly, we found that in 30mph zones they struggled to keep at a constant speed and so were more likely to break the speed limit and be at risk of getting fined.”

“We’re looking at the benefits of systems which control your speed as a way of preventing that.”

Other vehicle technologies the DriveLAB team is developing include night vision systems and a navigation tool dubbed the “granny nav.” 

Versus instructing drivers to follow directions by street names and distance cues the granny nav tells them to turn at landmarks that are easier to notice, such as a gas station, McDonalds, mailbox, etc.  

Hold on a second… I’m twenty seven years old and that sounds like a technology I would use.  According to an eye test I squinted through at the DMV when I was sixteen I don’t need glasses.  But that doesn’t keep me from cursing SAT NAV systems when I miss their verbal turn cues; street signs are hard to spot when navigating traffic.    

DriveLAB researcher Chris Emmerson, explained: “One thing that came out of the focus groups was that while the older generation is often keen to try new technologies it’s their lack of experience with, and confidence in, digital technologies which puts them off.  Also, they felt most were designed with younger people in mind.”

I wish the granny navy actually was designed for me – I would use it. 

I see a trend forming here. In September of this year The Harford and MIT AgeLab released a study listing their top technology recommendations for mature drivers: 

1. Smart headlights: adjust the range and intensity of light based on the distance of traffic and to reduce glare and improve night vision

2. Emergency response systems: offer quick assistance to drivers in the case of a medical emergency or collision, often allowing emergency personnel to get to the scene more quickly

3. Reverse monitoring systems: warn of objects to the rear of the vehicle to help drivers judge distances and back up safely, and helps drivers with reduced flexibility

4. Blind spot warning systems: warn drivers of objects in blind spots, especially while changing lanes and parking, and helps those with limited range of motion

5. Lane departure warning: monitors the vehicle's position and warns the driver if the vehicle deviates outside the lane, helping drivers stay in their lane

6. Vehicle stability control: helps to automatically bring the vehicle back in the intended line of travel, particularly in situations where the driver underestimates the angle of a curve or experiences weather effects, and reduces the likelihood of a crash

7. Assistive parking systems: enable vehicles to park on their own or indicates distance to objects, reducing driver stress, making parking easier, and increasing the places that a driver can park

8. Voice activated systems: allow drivers to access features by voice command so they can keep focused on the road

9. Crash mitigation systems: detect when the vehicle may be in danger of a collision and can help to minimize injuries to passengers

10. Drowsy driver alerts: monitor the degree to which a driver may be inattentive while on the road and helps alert drivers to the driving task

Just about every recommendation on the list is a safety option that’s becoming more standardized on upper-end cars.  Whether you’re a senior citizen who needs some help keeping up with younger motorists or just a crappy driver they’re designed to compensate for human error.

This list also spotlights the fact that with these new technologies cars are moving closer to being able to drive themselves.  That’s good news for seniors who can’t rely on Access buses or a caretaker to get them out of the house for every trip.   

Exactly when seniors become too old to drive is a matter of discretion that needs to be regulated more closely and researched further to do so.  For now let’s hope powder blue Cadillac’s of the future will come standard with a ‘senior’s technology package’.


Newcastle University

The Hartford


Picture: Automedia.com

One in 6 Idahoans now gets Social Security; program marks 77th anniversary

One in six Idahoans now receives Social Security benefits, according to the Idaho AARP; the program marks its 77th anniversary tomorrow, amid debate about its future solvency. Idahoans collect $3.6 billion a year from Social Security, with the average monthly benefit check at $1,130, AARP says; for two in three Idaho seniors age 65 or older, Social Security makes up 50 percent or more of their income.

Nationally, AARP has launched a “You've Earned a Say” campaign to mark the 77th anniversary, urging Americans to join in the debate about the future of Social Security and Medicare. “We've enlisted policy experts from the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation to help lay out the pros and cons of the options for the public,” said Idaho AARP spokesman David Irwin, noting that future solvency options for Social Security being examined in the nation's capitol include raising the retirement age; recalculating the cost-of-living adjustment; and increasing or eliminating the payroll tax cap, which now exempts wages over $110,000 a year from Social Security taxes.

PUC loosens requirements for phone companies to fix land-line outages

Idaho phone companies won't have to fix outages to land-line phone service within 24 hours any more, nor will they have to give credits to customers when they don't meet the new standard, which is doubled to 48 hours, under new rules approved Tuesday by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. The PUC approved the changes on a 2-1 vote. Those opposed to the changes still have until July 24 to ask the panel for reconsideration; click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Idaho easing rules requiring quick fixes of land-line phone outages

Idaho's land-line phone providers would no longer have to fix outages within 24 hours or be forced to give customers a month's service credit, under a rule change pending at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. The Idaho AARP is decrying the change as a prime example of why Idaho needs a consumer advocate in its utility regulating process; Idaho is the only state in the west without one. “Had we not had a volunteer of ours bring it to our attention, we would have completely missed it, as have, I believe, the majority of Idaho consumers,” said AARP spokesman David Irwin.

AARP submitted comments protesting the rule change on May 31, the final day of a public comment period, more than a month after the IPUC had convened settlement talks with telephone companies and drafted the rule change. It was prompted by an application from CenturyLink, the state's largest land-line telephone provider, and several related companies, for an exemption from the rule, which the company argued is obsolete. Washington has a somewhat similar 48-hour rule; there's no move on in that state to change it. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

AARP says it’ll push for new consumer utility advocate when lawmakers convene

The Idaho AARP now says it'll push for establishing a new state consumer utility advocate during the legislative session that starts in January, after the idea was passed over in revisions to the Idaho Energy Plan recently approved by a joint legislative committee. “It's clear whose voice was heard and whose wasn't,” said Jim Wordelman, state director for AARP in Idaho. “Idaho utility companies were really the only ones opposed to creating a stronger voice and presence for consumers by establishing an office to advocate on their behalf.” The senior citizens group wants a consumer advocate office to advocate for consumers in rate cases before the Public Utilities Commission and the courts; Idaho is the only western state that doesn't have one.

A motion in the Energy, Environment and Technology Interim Committee to explore the concept as part of the state's energy plan revisions failed on an 8-4 vote. “We are disappointed to say the least,” Wordelman said, who noted that numerous AARP members submitted comments to the panel supporting the idea. “AARP will revisit the creation of the consumer advocate office in the upcoming legislative session. We only hope the legislature will be more responsive to the needs of Idaho's residential consumers and small businesses.”

PACs, Business Fund Idaho Warchests

The Idaho AARP has issued a new report on campaign contributions in Idaho, concluding that corporations, businesses and PACS spent $2.7 million on Idaho's winning 2010 campaigns for governor, lieutenant governor and state Legislature; that 35 percent of those contributions came from outside Idaho; and that 34 legislators received 90 percent or more of their campaign contributions from those groups - including seven for whom it was 100 percent. The report also showed that nearly 90 percent of lawmakers got the majority of their campaign funds from corporations, businesses and PACs/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. And: George Prentice/Boise Weekly here. And: Dan Popkey's Idaho Statesman story here.

Question: What do you make of this AARP study that shows outside PACs & corporate interests provide majority of funding for many Idaho politicians?

AARP: Lawmakers ignore voices of older voters, campaign finance reforms needed

The Idaho AARP has issued a new report on campaign contributions in Idaho, concluding that corporations, businesses and PACS spent $2.7 million on Idaho's winning 2010 campaigns for governor, lieutenant governor and state Legislature; that 35 percent of those contributions came from outside Idaho; and that 34 legislators received 90 percent or more of their campaign contributions from those groups - including seven for whom it was 100 percent. The report also showed that nearly 90 percent of lawmakers got the majority of their campaign funds from corporations, businesses and PACs.

Idaho AARP State Director Jim Wordelman said the group was disappointed with the Legislature's lack of response to AARP members' concerns, including finding new revenues to address the state budget shortfall, such as closing business tax loopholes, rather than cutting programs; and protecting the wishes of dying patients from being overridden by the conscience concerns of medical providers. “The outcomes of this past legislative session left many AARP members believing that Idaho has a golden rule, and that is, those who have the gold make the rules,” Wordelman said. “When the most powerful voting group in Idaho, voters aged 50 and older, feels that their voices and issues are ignored by state lawmakers, we've got an issue of public confidence in the system.”

The seniors group is calling for requiring Idaho candidates to raise the majority of their campaign funds from individuals living in their districts; limiting contributions to and by PACs; and limiting contributions to state political parties. You can see the AARP's full report here, and its statement here.

High Noon: Betty White Hearts AARP

AARP today announced that it will begin working with actress and pop culture darling Betty White in 2011. The announcement was made via video message by Ms. White herself earlier today in front of more than 2,000 AARP employees at an AARP all-staff meeting in Washington, DC.  “Some of you may be wondering why I’ve signed on to work with AARP. Mostly, it’s because I’ve been promised a giant membership card. No, no – I’m just kidding,” said White. “It’s really because it took over 500,000 people on FaceBook to get me on SNL. Imagine what I’m gonna be able to do with the millions of AARP members!”/AARP Press Center. More here.

Question: I've never signed up for AARP. Don't take senior discounts in most instances, either. Can anyone tell me what the benefits are re: being a member of AARP?

50 & Older Voters Dominate Idaho

As Idaho candidates enter into the home stretch towards Election Day, the state’s voters age 50 and older will likely determine who crosses the finish line and who doesn’t.  While the 50+ in Idaho are already expected to make up over half (56%) of all votes cast this year, a new AARP analysis of voters under and over the age of 50 in Idaho elections finds that if voting trends hold, the group could account for over two-thirds of all voters come November 2/PR News Wire. More here.

Question: Does it bother you that 2/3s of the votes in Idaho this fall will likely come from individuals who are 50 and older?

AARP launches statewide voter-ed campaign

The Idaho AARP is launching a statewide voter-education effort complete with voter guides for every legislative race in the state along with statewide and congressional races, meetings and discussions with its members throughout the state to bring them up to speed on issues before they vote, and more. Why that matters: The group estimates that 56 percent of Idaho’s votes in November will come from voters age 50 and older, and 30 percent of all ballots will be cast by AARP members. “The 50-plus in Idaho and across the nation is a voting powerhouse,” said AARP volunteer C.J. Petrovsky of Eagle. “We’re going to help them get the facts, learn the candidates’ positions on key issues and raise their voices.”

Petrovsky was among a group of AARP officials and volunteers who gathered on the Statehouse steps today to kick off the effort, which also will include advertising in print, online and on the radio, with the theme, “Your right, your decision, your vote.”

“This is the first time ever we’ve done a voter guide for every single race in the state, and the first time the questions came directly from our members,” said Jim Wordelman, state director for AARP in Idaho. Response from candidates has been strong, he said, with about 100 state candidates responding. For those candidates who didn’t respond, AARP is urging its members to continue to ask them where they stand on the issues. The voter guides for state and legislative races went up online today at www.aarp.org/yourvote, and the congressional guides will be up the first week of October.

For state races, AARP members chose the state budget as their top issue, but the second-top issue is a “conscience” law that Idaho’s Legislature enacted this year. It lets any health care provider refuse to provide end-of-life care that violates the provider’s conscience, and AARP says it threatens Idahoans’ rights to have their living wills and advance care directives honored. “A lot of people are worried about the conscience law,” said David Irwin, AARP spokesman. “Our members are looking for whoever they vote for to fix this thing.” He added, “We went to our members. … These are their issues.”

Education funding, campaign financing and addressing Idaho’s doctor shortage also are issues covered in the guides; the congressional voter guides will focus on the future of Social Security, Medicare fraud, access to doctors for Medicare beneficiaries and how the candidates will help older workers get back to work.

The voter guides are available to anyone; the member meetings will start with a Sept. 27 gathering in Coeur d’Alene and continue around the state.

AARP Members Don’t Trust Idaho Pols

With Idaho‘s primary election just a few short days away, a new AARP survey finds the most powerful voting population in the state, the 50 plus, has already cast a surprising vote – one of no confidence.  According to a new AARP member survey released this morning, 85% said they had little to no confidence in Idaho state lawmakers to tackle the issues they care most about.  This election year, roughly 56% of all votes are expected to come from Idahoans aged 50 or older. “The low public confidence in state lawmakers is very alarming– it’s not good for anyone in Idaho, businesses, retirees and especially those elected to serve in office,” said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho/PR Newswire. More here.

Question: Do you see an anti-incumbency backlash in the results of this survey?

AARP criticizes Otter decision for Idaho to ‘opt out’ of running high-risk pool

AARP is denouncing Idaho’s decision to “opt out” of running a high-risk health insurance pool for 34,000 eligible residents; Gov. Butch Otter announced last week that Idaho won’t participate, leaving the federal government to operate the program in Idaho. “Otter’s given up a crucial seat at the table opting-out of establishing a new temporary insurance pool for high risk Idahoans with pre-existing conditions, paid for by the federal government,” said AARP Idaho state director Jim Wordelman. “The cost of the high risk pool will be covered, 100%, by the federal government – coming at a time when Idaho can use the help.” He called the move a “missed opportunity” for Idaho to “be at the table to ensure we take advantage of a new law that can help relieve the stress of Idaho’s worsening health care crisis.” Click below to read Wordelman’s full statement.

Idaho seniors as a voting force…

Idaho seniors have been hit hard by the recession, their incomes are low, their living costs are rising - and they’re very, very likely to vote. That’s the picture that emerges from a new survey commissioned by the AARP Idaho, which described Idahoans over age 50 as “the most powerful vote in Idaho.”

The seniors group is launching statewide voter education efforts that will include asking its members which issues matter most to them, and laying out the candidates’ positions in voter guides for every congressional, statewide and state legislative race this year. Idaho’s primary election is May 25. “What we’re saying is, look, this is the largest voting demographic in the state - you need to be cognizant of the issues that matter the most to them, ” said David Irwin, AARP Idaho spokesman. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and see the full survey results here.

High Noon: Older Idahoans Dominate

In Idaho, according to AARP.org, 56 percent of the population is 50 or older. Of that group, 37% identify themselves as Independents, 29% as Republicans, and 17% as Democrats. In other findings, 60% of the 50-and-older crowd said they always vote, 23% that they vote most of the time, and 6% sometimes. Also, 53% of the 50-and-older population say they lean conservative, 26% moderate, and only 8% liberal. Full results here.

Question: How would you describe your political leanings: conservative? Liberal? Moderate? And/or: How often do you vote?

Idaho AARP: Otter wrong on health care reform

The AARP of Idaho is criticizing Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s threat to sue to stop federal health care reform legislation if it becomes law, saying it would hurt Idahoans struggling with health care costs; Otter made the threat last week in a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “To simply say ‘no’ to health care reform can only serve to make Idaho’s health care crisis worse, the cost of inaction on this issue is too high,” said Jim Wordelman, state director for the seniors group in Idaho. “We’re calling on Idaho’s elected officials to set partisan politics aside and work to make the final health care reform bill the best it can be – that’s what Idaho deserves.” AARP said 221,000 Idahoans are uninsured, though 88 percent of those uninsured Idahoans are employed. Also, about 27% of Idaho’s Medicare beneficiaries last year fell into the prescription drug coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole”, leading to high out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions; closing that hole has been a top priority for AARP in its work on national health care reform. Click below to read the full statement from AARP Idaho.

AARP: ‘Idaho on crash course with health care disaster’

The Idaho AARP says the combination of state budget cuts with cutbacks in health coverage for part-time state workers and shifting state retirees off the state health plan onto Medicare is “a combination that spells health care disaster for many Idaho residents,” and the organization is calling on lawmakers to address the issue.  “It doesn’t make any sense to pull the rug out from underneath Idaho’s part-time state employees and retirees, while continuing to weaken the programs in the community where people turn in times of crisis,” said Jim Wordelman, AARP Idaho state director.  “AARP members in Idaho – half of whom are in the workforce – are looking to their elected officials at the state and federal level to tackle this issue now.” Click below to read AARP Idaho’s full news release.

Are we a lost generation?

Alright. This one is 100% for us Teenagers. Please watch this, and then post your thoughts. Its short, but its clever and has a strong message.

This video really got me thinking. We as teens have become lazy and complacent. We take things for granted. We put work, friends, and other things above our families. We see problems all around us, but don’t do anything to fix them. We figure “what difference can I make?”

What do you guys think? Is there any way we can make a difference? The video talked about how we could possibly end up living in our later years, if everything stays the same. Does it have to be that way? Why do you think teenagers nowadays have the attitudes they do? It hasn’t always been this way. I want to know what you think.

Patty Duke Stumps For Social Security

Patty Duke reprises her roles of Patty and Cathy for a Social Security public service announcement. Photo courtesy Social Security Administration

In this photo provided by the Social Security Administration, Patty Duke, now of Coeur d’Alene, reprises her teen-age roles as TV’s Lane cousins to drum up enthusiasm for retiring online. As a teen-ager, Duke played the characters Patty and Cathy Lane from the hit 1960s sitcom “The Patty Duke Show.” If you can remember CDA’s Patty Duke in the “Patty Duke Show,” you’re probably deep into your AARP Years and mebbe even Social Security. You can see the video here. And you can read the full press release here.

Question: Which one of Patty Duke’s “Lane” twins did you like best?