Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Be Cyber Safe This Holiday Season

The Piers Project, an internet safety awareness campaign of the Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, offers helpful tips on how to stay safe online.
Are you planning a trip this holiday season? Understanding how, when, and where to use your mobile devices are important factors in keeping yourself protected during your travels. The Piers Project, an internet safety awareness campaign of the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, has gathered some helpful hints from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Stop. Think. Connect.TM initiative.

Before You Leave:

  • Update your mobile software and/or computer
  • Back up your information on an external drive or cloud system
  • Keep your devices locked when they are not in use
While Traveling:

  • Avoid automatically connecting to public wireless networks
  • Exercise caution before you connect to public wireless hotspot(s)
  • Steer clear from clicking any unknown or suspicious links
  • Be mindful of what you post while you are away on vacation—the more you share on websites like Facebook, the more likely you’ll be offering hints that nobody’s home!
  • Avoid participating in data-sensitive activities, such as online shopping or viewing your bank/credit card accounts on publicly accessible computers and unsecured wireless networks
  • Protect your mobile device(s) by keeping them near you at all times, especially in public spaces
Learn of more helpful tips and suggestions on protecting yourself online here. Happy and safe holiday travels!

The Piers Project is funded by a gift from the family estate of Ellie Piers to benefit the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing’s (CIW’s) 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. Her contribution allows the CIW to address Cyber Security through education, training, and the use of technologies that promote Internet safety, especially in the Greater San Diego Area.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How to Recover Your Footing When Things Go Awry


“A woman at 20 is like ice," famed Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida once said. "At 30 she is warm and at 40 she is hot.”

So, by that logic, at 50 or 60 she must be red-hot. In fact, the only characteristic she may still have in common with ice is how solid she is — how she reveals her inner self and the degree to which she's had to contend with people trying to walk all over her.

Yet the obvious depth and shimmering emotional intelligence that many mature women possess may not always be enough to let them keep their footing on thin ice.

There will be times when they’ll still feel as if they’re slipping and sliding across a frozen pond, trying to outpace the cracks opening up behind them.

I was feeling like that a few weeks ago, just as the chill of winter set in. Crucial things that had lent definition to my life were shifting and despite all the “practice” I’d had in negotiating big changes, restoring a sense of stability was proving to be a bit of a challenge.

Right around this time, I found myself at New York City’s Rockefeller Center, where I paused to watch the ice skaters. That place is always magical to me and it's especially captivating at holiday time.

But this day, it was a whole lot more — it served as a reminder that when pathways get slippery we may need to learn new ways of navigating them.

My eyes drifted to the center of the rink where a middle-aged skater traced the motions of her apparent instructor — a radiant woman whose long, gray hair sliced through the cold air as she spun around. The two women whirled in perfect synchrony, their torsos taut and erect and their arms stretched out elegantly to their sides.

I imagined myself not as a southerner who had always done her best to avoid treading on icy surfaces, but as an Olympic figure skater — steady on her feet and able to traverse the terrain with grace and confidence.

Truth is, marble tile is the only slick white substrate I’d ever set foot on that hadn’t scared me. Texan-tall with creaky knees and a long way to fall, the notion of balancing on thin blades to cross frozen water always seemed impossible and inadvisable.  

But now it seemed to be just what I needed. A few days later I signed up for a skating lesson with the instructor with the great hair and spent the first 20 minutes squeezing the life out of her hand.

My teacher (I’ll call her Heidi), a former top competitive skater, quickly sized up her mission: She needed to make a sizable dent in my fear before I’d be able to make any real progress. It was also important that I learn to stop, that I feel as comfortable falling and getting up from the ice as walking onto it.

She devoted the first lesson to communicating basic techniques while I held on to her for dear life. I’d only committed to taking one lesson, but she convinced me to take another. By the end of the second session my fear was all but gone and I was skating — really skating — gliding on one leg with bent knee while smoothly lifting the other out behind me.

After the lesson was over, I continued skating alone for a couple more hours to the mental prompts Heidi had provided: “Bend and glide, bend and glide, bend and glide.” I kept my gaze fixed on where I wanted to go and had a great time.

Heidi’s other instructive phrases went on reverberating through my mind long after our sessions. “Let loose,” she’d urged. She meant of her hand, but her guiding words have helped me release other inessential emotional "props," like frustration and worry. “Glide it out,” she’d said, reminding me that coasting is a legitimate means of progress, especially on the heels of conscientious effort.

Over and over she prompted me to stand upright but make myself soft, find the fun and skate around problems like ruts and people. And that’s exactly what I did — on the rink and off — and it’s made a world of difference. The old status quo that fueled my former sense of stability now seems far less necessary than moving forward (with at least one foot on the ground).

Interestingly, Rockefeller Center was never supposed to have a skating rink. To quote the landmark's official site: "The Sunken Plaza, as the area was originally called, was lushly landscaped and boasted high-end shops and restaurants, but few people could be enticed down the stairs leading from the Channel Gardens. In the winter of 1936, in an effort to attract attention to the Plaza, Rockefeller Center’s managers contracted an engineer from Cleveland to build a temporary rink. It became a permanent fixture.”    

Which just goes to show — when life feels like a deep pit or you find yourself standing on uncertain ground, a bit of willpower and creativity can go a long way.

Copyright© 2014 Next Avenue, a division of Twin Cities Public Television, Inc.


Friday, December 11, 2015

How Boomers Can Sell Their Homes to Millennials

This real estate broker suggests four projects to snag a sale

Sabine H. Schoenberg for Next Avenue

Newsflash to
retiring boomers: Millennials account for 32 percent of real estate buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s why it’s essential to know what Millennials want in homes. Their values and desired lifestyles are very different than their boomer parents.

Millennials, perhaps more than boomers, have very specific criteria when choosing homes. Make your house fit their criteria and you will expand buyer interest, which means your home will sell faster and probably at a higher price.

What Boomers Wanted, What Millennials Want

Generally speaking, boomers who bought homes to start families purchased what their budgets allowed and fixed them up over time. Nothing could be further from the minds of typical
Millennial buyers.

For the most part, Millennials are looking for the finished product and will pay for it. They want what they see in magazines — nothing less. They don’t seem to view themselves living in any one place for a very long time, so there’s no time for gradually rolled out home improvements.

The bottom line: To capture the highest selling price, undertake some key home renovations before listing your house for sale.

Here are four projects to consider:

Open the kitchen to a family room and combine them into one space. Millennials want
kitchens that are great places to hang out with everyone while cooking. Even if the removal of a wall creates fewer cabinets and, in your mind, reduces the functionality of the kitchen, do it and increase the desirability of your home.

For the same social reason, if at all possible, give your kitchen a center island with room for stools, because that’s where Millennials want to congregate. (If you have a dining room, they may well turn it into their home office.)

Be certain your home has easy
WiFi access throughout the house. Millennials demand the ability to use their smartphones and tablets everywhere. So make sure cell signals are strong and, if they’re not, install WiFi boosters. A faltering cell signal can be a deal breaker for Millennials.

Fill your home with eco-friendly materials. Boomers taught Millennials that recycling was a big “green” idea. Millennials take this a giant step further, viewing themselves as “members of the planet.” Consequently,
eco-friendly materials and lifestyle choices are a part of Millennial DNA.

Fast-grown materials like bamboo in flooring and wood with FSC (Forestry Stewardship Certification) in kitchen and bath cabinets are important considerations, and thus clear selling points.

Oh, and save yourself from any conversation about underground oil tanks: if you still have one, remove it before listing your house.

Make sure your house is healthy for its inhabitants and visitors. Millennials want to see health-focused
home improvements such as no-VOC off-gassing from paint; mold- and fungus-free basements and good air quality. They also prefer wood flooring over carpet and look for super energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.

Home Location and Size

That said, there are two other things you should know about Millennial buyers that you can’t do much about.

One is that
accessibility to an urban center will figure into the pricing of your home. Millennials want to be walking distance or minutes from town. Being out in the boonies and spending lots of time driving is not appealing to them. If your house isn’t near a city, discuss with your listing broker how best to offset this negative.

Unlike boomers, who often opted for more property in exchange for slightly more remote locales, Millennials will accept smaller lots just to be near the city.

The other issue you can’t do much about is that a
large house may be a turn-off to Millennials. The-bigger-the-better mansion-sized homes were status symbols for super-successful boomers. But that concept is antithetical to Millennials, no matter how successful they are. Many of them reject size over efficient use of space.

As a real estate broker, I frequently hear statements from Millennial buyers like: “I don’t want to be in separate parts of the house and never see my family.”

For them, compact, well-designed “open concept” and “connected” floor plans are the order of the day.

Every seller can improve the selling value of his or her home. A bit of good planning, based on key trends, and the right upgrades can position yours for the broadest audience. In real estate, “good luck” is generally created.

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