Thursday, November 9, 2017

Veterans' Voices from LifeBio: Ronald Max Bailey

In honor of Veterans Day, we are featuring stories of Front Porch residents who served in our armed forces. This is the story of Ronald Max Bailey, an England Oaks Retirement Community resident, who began his service in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

"I served in the United States Navy. I was on active duty from September 1970 until October 1982. I achieved the rank of Senior Chief while I was on active duty. I then served in the Reserves from 1983-1996, and I was promoted to Warrant Officer CW2 while in the Naval Reserves.

I attended Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Biology. During this time, I married my wife, and we have now been together 46 years. My reason for receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Biology was because I planned to be a teacher. Plans changed.

I enlisted in the Navy, so that I was not drafted. It was my decision to enlist, because I wanted to serve my country by ensuring the Navy ships accomplished their missions. I liked watching ships when I was young. I also liked traveling.  

It was bittersweet for me to leave home. My wife was expecting our son and even though she was very anxious, she saw me off. After about two months, it was requested by our OB that I should be allowed to come home for the birth of our son, as it was going to be a risky delivery. I was there for three or four days before we knew he was out of danger.

Boot camp was an initiation to Hell Week! I lost about 30-40 pounds during boot camp. We had many hours of rigorous exercises and the food was very BAD! I was one of a few enlistees who could type, so I did that most of the time. That was a great escape for me, as I enjoyed the air conditioned office and not having to complete most of the exercises.

After completing boot camp, I received specialization in my Naval Rate as Machinist Mate. When I went to my first duty station in Alameda, California, I got to be more hands-on at nuclear power plants in my rate of Machinist Mate. After completing my required schooling, I stayed in Alameda, California, for about six months before I was told to go to the nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. Life on an aircraft carrier is like living on a floating city. Like any other job in the civilian world, if you do your job well and promptly, everyone was happy.

I did not see any actual combat, because the Enterprise was out at sea. The aircraft completing missions took off from the carrier. Some returned in bad condition, but they were home safe and sound. Even though we did not see combat, I felt proud that I was completing my assigned tasks to the best of my ability. My most memorable experience was in our port of call in Tasmania. The locals met the ship and took several of us home to eat, sight-see, and talk! The family I went home with treated me very well. We ate wonderful home-cooked meals, did a lot of guided sight-seeing, and just having a comfortable bed was great. 

My wife and mother wrote a lot of letters and we were able to call home some during long deployments. The letters acted as a link between my wife, son, and parents. My wife wrote many more letters than I did, which was a source of support for me. This, along with my faith in God, got me through rough times.  

My last duty command was under Captain Hilt, who was in command of the USS South Carolina (CGN 37). He was a good leader, in that our whole command received the Enlisted Surface Warfare Service Award. My wife worked with Mrs. Hilt in the Wives Club and as an ombudsman! Being on my last deployment to the home port of Norfolk was bittersweet, as I knew my discharge from the Navy was near. I truly loved my service in the U.S. Navy. We were welcomed home by a huge mass of people who met the ship. The community was a great welcome, too.

Upon my discharge from the Navy, I worked for three nuclear power plants as an instructor for new operators. I also spent several years employed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I did many on-site inspections of nuclear power plants in many states. I would have stayed in the Navy longer, but deployments were often long and in-port time was not nearly long enough. One of my deployments lasted 13 months. All in all, I was very proud of being a sailor in our U.S. Navy. I felt I was doing my part to protect our country!”

-Ronald Max Bailey

LifeBio is an engagement program that captures cherished memories and lasting legacies through storytelling. Since launching in 2000, LifeBio has helped 20,000 people tell their life stories through autobiographical tools and services for all levels of care. LifeBio uses technologies as mediums to help individual document their stories in an easy and unique way such as tablets, web cams, and audio and video equipment. LifeBio has been a partner with Front Porch since 2009. For more details, check out LifeBio’s Impact Story on the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) website.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

7 Tips for Travelers With Disabilities

Credit: Thinkstock
You can do more than you may think – but planning is essential

Barbara and Jim Twardowski for Next Avenue

Jackie Witt always feels a little anxious before she travels. The 31-year-old can barely climb steps, finds walking long distances difficult, and can’t lift more than five pounds.

Witt, who has visited France and Ireland, has central core disease, which causes muscle weakness. “Because of my disability, I want to know everything I’m going to be faced with while traveling, which obviously isn’t possible,” she said.

One of her most difficult travel days was waiting for a ferry in Ireland during low tide. The only way to reach the boat was a perilous descent across moss-laden stone steps without a railing. A fellow passenger and Witt’s mother stood on either side of her as she navigated the slippery path. On the last step, a crew member picked Witt up and deposited her onto the deck.

“Even if we don’t necessarily see places the same way someone without a disability does, it’s so worth getting out there,” she said.

Three out of every 10 Americans with a disability traveled outside the continental United States within the last five years, according to a 2015 national survey by the Open Doors Organization (ODO). Experts predict the demand for accessible travel will only increase as the boomer generation ages.

While there are bound to be some snags you can’t anticipate if you’re disabled, it is possible to minimize them with careful planning.

Here are seven tips for making the most of your next adventure:

1. Choose the Right Destination

“People might be surprised to learn you can take an accessible trip to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands or the Amazon rainforest,” said Timothy Holtz, the group travel coordinator for Flying Wheels Travel, an agency specializing in accessible trips. On his recent travels, Holtz saw the addition of ramps at temples in Japan, a wheelchair stair climber lift at the Acropolis in Athens and an elevator at the Roman Forum.

The world is a big place and many destinations are making huge strides to become barrier-free. Just last year, Germany launched a nationwide accessibility standard and certification program. The country is heavily promoting nearly 185 accessible things to do and places to visit in its online brochure, “Enjoy with Ease.”

Cities that are hundreds of years old will naturally be more difficult to navigate. But don’t make the mistake of assuming a destination is inaccessible. Instead, consult with a travel agent, especially when considering a multi-country trip or cruise.

2. Do Your Research

Individuals who opt to orchestrate their own trips will need to ask specific questions. For example, inquire about the width of hotel elevator doors; some are not wide enough for a wheelchair. When booking a cruise, review the cruise line’s policies regarding accessibility; some require passengers with disabilities to travel with a companion.

Begin researching destinations by visiting official tourism offices online. Be aware the terminology varies from one place to another. When conducting Internet searches, try a variety of terms, such as “handicapped,” “barrier-free,” “disabled,” “reduced mobility” and “special needs.”

3. Hire a Pro

Planning a trip abroad is a time-consuming task. Specialized travel agencies can book flights, cruises, accommodations, tours, shore excursions and transportation. Some will even arrange for a travel companion, rental of medical equipment and the purchase of travel insurance.

Before hiring an accessible travel agent, ask about his or her experience.

John Sage, the founder of two accessible travel companies — one focused on Europe (Sage Traveling) and one on the Caribbean (Accessible Caribbean Vacations) — spends days scouting destinations. Sage, who was injured in a snow skiing accident and uses a wheelchair, has visited 42 countries on four continents. Common obstacles he finds in foreign countries include a lack of ramps at curbs, steps at the entrance to buildings and narrow bathroom doors.

His thorough first-hand exploration informs clients on details like how many feet it is from their hotel to the nearest bus stop, routes that avoid cobblestones, and how to access the elevator at the Eiffel Tower.

4. Prepare for Air Travel

One of the biggest hurdles for people with mobility disabilities is flying. Maneuvering large airports, carrying medical equipment and navigating security can be exhausting. Passengers needing extra assistance should inform the airline when booking a reservation and upon arrival at the airport.

Most airlines board wheelchair users first, but these passengers will exit the plane last. Allow plenty of extra time to catch connecting flights —90 minutes is usually sufficient. Wheelchairs and scooters are frequently damaged by baggage handlers; to prevent this, carry any detachable parts, such as a seat cushion, onto the plane.

5. Book Hotels Wisely

Make room reservations early at hotels located in the city center and near major sights.

“You are competing with the rest of the people who have disabilities from around the world for a handful of rooms. The longer you wait, the worse the location and you’ll have to take a bus or taxi to see the attractions,” said Sage, whose Sage Traveling business typically reserves European hotels nine months in advance.

6. Plan How You’ll Get Around

Transporting mobility devices usually requires getting around in an accessible vehicle. In London, where the black cabs come with small ramps built into the floorboards, it’s fairly easy to hail an accessible taxi. Other destinations may have only a small number of accessible taxis and frequently must be booked 24 hours or even days in advance.

Typically, subways are not a good choice for wheelchair users, since elevators are nonexistent or inoperable. Many cities do have accessible city buses with ramps, though.

7. Be Flexible

Traveling has given Witt a new feeling of independence. Along the way, she’s learned it’s OK to ask others — even strangers — for assistance.

“Having a disability makes you resourceful and you learn to adapt to your physical environment,” she said. Now, she knows traveling requires pacing herself. Sometimes, she opts to stay on the tour bus and view the sights from afar.

“I’m stressed before I go, but I feel really good when I get back — I’ve seen the world,” she said.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2017. All rights reserved.



Friday, October 20, 2017

5 Tips to Stay Safe Online

The Internet is a vast sea of resources: it’s where we get our news, connect with friends, work, shop and conduct business. But as we increasingly depend on an interconnected world, we also have an important responsibility to practice safe internet behaviors.

The number of adults 65 and older using connected devices continues to rise, so does the population of individuals most at risk for cyber-crime. Consider these statistics affecting older Americans today:                   

In recognition of Cyber Security Awareness Month, the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing is highlighting the importance of good internet “hygiene.” Here are our top five cyber safety tips:

1. Choosing a password

Passwords are important “keys” to give us access to specific resources on the Internet (like email or bank accounts), and to help let the websites we’re doing business with know who we are. It can sometimes be a challenge keeping track of passwords, but it’s important that we protect this information and avoid re-using them. Here are suggestions on creating a secure password:
  • Focus on having a strong password rather than changing passwords regularly.
  • Create passwords that are 12-15 characters: focus on length rather than complexity.
  • Strategically place special characters or symbols in your password to avoid patterns rather than grouping them at the end.
  • Using different passwords on each of your online accounts will prevent hackers from accessing additional accounts.
  • Add another layer of protection, if available, such as finger prints or security questions.
Don’t panic. These guidelines can go a long way to keep you safe. Most websites, applications, and software limit the number of password guesses, which prevents someone from “nonstop guessing” your password.

Here are some additional tips on passwords from Wired Magazine.

2. Keep that antivirus software up to date!

Your antivirus company is doing its part to be a step ahead of hackers, but in order to get the best use of the software, stay up-to-date on your updates! Antivirus software can:
  • Help to prevent people from hacking your computer, laptop, smartphone, and even, in some cases, your smart home device (like Amazon Alexa or Google Home).
  • Alert you to websites and downloads that could be an entry point for suspicious software.
  • Reduce the likelihood that malicious software is installed on your computer.
Check out some more tips about antivirus software from Norton.

3. Use only trusted Wi-Fi resources

Who doesn’t like free Wi-Fi? Many of our mobile devices come with wireless internet capabilities to help us stay connected while we’re travelling and wherever we go--but be wary. Hackers also love free or less secure Wi-Fi networks because they can use tools to intercept your internet communications.
  • Not all free Wi-Fi connections are created equal. Confirm that the business Wi-Fi connection you want to join belongs to the business you know and trust. If you aren’t sure, ask.
  • Avoid conducting personal business on community devices such as public computers. Software may have been installed to track what you type and where you go on the Internet in an effort to steal your information.
  • When in doubt, try to use your personal Wi-Fi, hotspot, or the network connection on your smartphone.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has some great tips on staying safe with wireless connections.

4. Google It! Yahoo It! Bing It!

Regardless of what search engine you use, make sure to use it to research an unfamiliar website before giving up your information. Oftentimes, hackers create a link that may appear, at first glance, to be a legitimate website to trick you in to giving up your personal data.

5. Safeguard your personal information

Personal information such as date of birth, social security numbers, bank account numbers, and passwords are like gold to nefarious hackers, so treat and protect them as such. Be wary of unsolicited phone calls and emails. Did you know that most banks are not allowed to ask you for passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs)? Asking for password/pin information is a breach of “terms of service.” Ask questions before providing personal information: 
  • Which websites have your personal information that you have provided?
  • Who else can access your information?
  • Be careful where you put your current or past information and dispose of everything as safely as possible (whether online or on paper).
Here are some more tips from the FCC.

The Internet is a lively, expansive world of information, resources, and experiences. As many more older adults increasingly find themselves online taking advantage of these conveniences and powerful tools, it’s important that we all use responsible and safe internet practices!
For more information download our Cyber Safety Toolkit
The Piers Project
Through education, training, and the use of technologies that promote internet safety the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing facilitates greater awareness of cyber security issues affecting older adults. The Piers Project is funded by a gift from the  estate of Ellie Piers to benefit the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing’s (CIW) ongoing mission of using technology to enhance wellbeing among older adults. Piers lived at Carlsbad By The Sea, a Front Porch retirement community in Carlsbad, CA.