Vehicle modifications and the “right fit” can help protect aging drivers


two women in car. An older woman driver with a younger woman.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, drivers age 65 and older accounted for 18% of all traffic fatalities, higher rates of fatal crashes, based on miles driven, than any other group except young drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 40.1 million licensed older drivers in 2015 — a 33% jump from 10 years earlier. To understand how remarkable that spike is, consider that the general population of drivers only increased by 8% in the same time.

Older drivers are often very safe drivers: more likely to wear seat belts, less likely to speed and less likely to drink and drive. But when involved in accidents, they are generally more fragile than younger drivers and more susceptible to serious injuries. The good news is that there are ways for cars to be adapted and to help older drivers reduce their risk of injury during a crash.

CarFit is a free educational program created by the American Society on Aging and developed in collaboration with AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association. It offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them, and it provides information and materials on community-specific resources to enhance their safety as drivers and increase their mobility in the community. CarFit offers local events, but if there are none scheduled near you, they also offer tools, videos, information and resources.

You can download a helpful Carfit brochure (PDF) with tips to find the right fit and ways that cars can be adapted. An article from AARP talks more about Carfit, offering an excellent video that shows the checklist used to help get the right fit for older drivers.

Other resources to help older drivers

The American Occupational Therapy Association has a variety of tools and resources related to driving and mobility for seniors. You can also search a database to locate a Driver Specialist for driver evaluations or Drive Safe and Adaptive Driving programs near you.

The Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety or CHORUS – search for older driver resources by state.

State Drivers License Renewal Laws Including Requirements For Older Drivers – scroll to see a chart that summarizes laws related to age by state.

Home maintenance: Clean that clothes dryer to prevent fires!


woman looking into a cloehtes dryer

When you tackle your spring and fall home maintenance, is cleaning your clothes dryer on the list? If not, it should be. As we approach the fall, it’s a good time to check your lint filters and venting systems to make sure they have no lint buildup. According to FEMA, 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. The leading cause (34%) of home clothes dryer and washer fires was failure to clean.

Dryer lint is highly flammable. It’s important to clean your dryer lint trap before and after every load of clothes, but you should also regularly use a long handled, flexible lint brush to root around deeper under the filter to extract any lint. These can be purchased inexpensively in any hardware store or online. There are also heavier brushes for cleaning your vents – this video shows the two styles:

The US Fire Administration offers the following Do’s and Don’ts for clothes dryer maintenance:

Clothes dryer do’s

Installation

  • Have your clothes dryer installed by a professional.
  • Make sure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used and that the dryer is connected properly.
  • Read manufacturers’ instructions and warnings in use and care manuals that come with new dryers.

Cleaning

  • Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. In addition, clean the lint filter with a nylon brush at least every six months or more often if it becomes clogged.
  • Clean lint out of the vent pipe every three months.
  • Have your dryer cleaned regularly by a professional, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry.

Maintenance

  • Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
  • Put a covering on outside wall dampers to keep out rain, snow and dirt.
    Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on.
  • Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
  • Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to ensure that the gas line and connection are together and free of leaks.
  • Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.
  • Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn.
  • If you will be away from home for an extended time, unplug or disconnect the dryer.

Clothes dryer don’t’s

  • Don’t use a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged or clogged.
  • Don’t overload the dryer.
  • Don’t use a wire screen or cloth to cover the wall damper. They can collect lint and clog the dryer vent.
  • Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. An example of an item not to place in a dryer is a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
  • Don’t dry any item for which manufacturers’ instructions state “dry away from heat.”
    Don’t dry glass fiber materials (unless manufacturers’ instructions allow).
  • Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
  • Don’t leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.

Consider having a professional dryer and vent cleaning annually. Or if you are handy at home maintenance, here are two videos that offer detailed instructions about taking your dryer apart to clean the inside, and another on how to use a LintEater kit to clean your vents.

DYI: How to clean out a dryer

DYI: LintEater rotary cleaning system

Go meet your local food growers for Farmers’ Market Week!


Be sure to stock up on fresh, delicious locally grown food for National Farmers Market Week (August 6-12) sponsored by The Farmers Market Coalition. Buying locally pays dividends back to your community in so many ways. It supports local small farm businesses. American farmers and ranchers receive only 15.6 cents of every food dollar consumers spend on food in the normal food distribution system, but Farmers markets offer an alternative that allows growers to retain more of the food dollar. Plus, growers selling locally create 13 farm jobs per $1 million in revenue, versus 3 jobs when not selling locally. It also helps to keep a greener planet. Getting your food locally rather than having it shipped from the other side of the country – or from other countries – saves on transportation and infrastructure costs and reduces the associated ecological toll.

Plus, at a Farmers Market you can ask questions and interact with the growers. It’s a win-win. See more benefits in the infographic below.

Here are some resources for finding a New England Farmer’s Market near you!

Infographic with reasons to suport local Farmers Markets

Posted in Events

Great road trip idea: Visiting New England Lighthouses


Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Looking for a fun summer weekend activity that combines history and scenic splendor? Plan a road trip to visit a few of New England’s many lighthouses – there are almost 200 up and down the coastal states, and even Vermont gets in on the act with lighthouses on the shores of Lake Champlain. This would be a good weekend to make that trip since Sunday is National Lighthouse Day.

Here’s a resource to help you plan your trip: New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Tour is a site compiled by tour guide, lecturer, historian, photographer and author Jeremy D’Entremont, who is an expert on New England’s lighthouses and other maritime subjects. The site offers a breakdown of lighthouses by state. Each lighthouse has a dedicated page with maps, photos, key facts, history, public accessibility info and more. If you’d like to visit the lighthouses by sea rather than by land, the site offers a list of Lighthouse Cruises in New England.

You can also head for the Maine Lighthouse Museum on the waterfront overlooking the scenic harbor of Rockland, Maine. It houses the nation’s largest collection of lighthouse artifacts and mementos, as well as exhibits on exhibits paying tribute to the United States Coast Guard and United States Life-Saving Services. Maine is often called the “Lighthouse State,” but it is not the state with the most lighthouses – Michigan is!

If historical landmarks are your thing, Boston Harbor is also a good destination. It boasts the Boston Lighthouse on Little Brewster Island, Boston Harbor, MA. You can take a tour and actually climb the 76 open spiral stairs and two ladders with hatches to get to the top.

According to Lighthouse Digest:

“This is the oldest light station, but not the oldest tower. The original tower, built in 1716, was destroyed during the Revolutionary War. The tower that stands there today was built in 1783.”

It’s also the only lighthouse that isn’t automated:

“All lighthouses in the United States are automated with the exception of Boston Lighthouse. Because Boston Light is the oldest station in the United States, Congress has declared that Boston Light always be a staffed station where the keepers must still turn the light on at night and turn it off at daybreak. Boston Light is the only official lighthouse with a keeper. However, there are many other light stations around the United States that have people living at them, however they are not keepers, and the lighthouses at these locations are automated and do not require a keeper to turn them on and off.”

Here are some other resources for planning your trip.

Handy Tool: Consumer Action Handbook


cover of Consumer Action Handbook

If you’ve ever wondered what services to expect from a bank, how to choose a new doctor, scams to avoid when buying a new car, or how to deal with an unanswered complaint on a faulty product, USAGov has a handy free tool that just may help. They’ve just issued a 157-page Consumer Action Handbook (alert: 3 mb PDF) with many valuable tips, how-tos, scam avoidance advice and directories.

Here’s how they describe the resource:

“The Consumer Action Handbook brings together consumer information from across government. It includes practical questions to ask and factors to consider when you buy products and services. The Handbook features topics that affect everyone, such as credit reports and identity theft. It also addresses specific issues, like managing someone else’s finances and gas pump skimming. You’ll also find tips for detecting and reporting scams, throughout the book. Use our consumer assistance directory and sample complaint letter to file a consumer complaint.”

The guide is broken into four sections:

Part I — Be a savvy consumer – advice before you make a purchase. Covers general tips, banking, cars, credit, education, employment, food & nutrition, health care, housing, insurance, investing, privacy & identity theft, telecommunications, telemarketing & unwanted mail, travel, utilities, wills & funerals

Part II — key information resources – a list of public resources for seniors, persons
with disabilities, military families, and also for emergency preparations.

Part III — File a complaint – Suggestions on resolving consumer problems, including a sample complaint letter (page 60)

Part IV — Consumer Assistance Directory – Find contact information for corporate offices, consumer organizations, trade groups, government agencies, state authorities and more in a 70+ page directory.

You can also search for topics in the Index beginning on page 138.

You can download a copy or order a free print copy of the Consumer Action Handbook here.