Monthly Archives: May 2017

Senior concierge services

“Elder concierge”, or senior concierge services, are blossoming as baby boomers age:

CREDIT: New York Times Article on Senior Concierge Services

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpearl/2017/06/22/concierge-medicine/amp/

The concierges help their customers complete the relatively mundane activities of everyday life, a way for the semi- and fully retired to continue to work.

Facts of note:
“Around 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States, and by 2030, there will be 72 million people over 65 nationwide.
Some 43 million people already provide care to family members — either their own parents or children — according to AARP, and half of them are “sandwich generation” women, ages 40 to 60. All told, they contribute an estimated $470 billion a year in unpaid assistance.”
“elder concierges charge by the hour, anywhere from $30 to $70, or in blocks of time, according to Katharine Giovanni, the director of the International Concierge & Lifestyle Management Network”

Organizations of note:

“One start-up, AgeWell, employs able-bodied older people to assist less able people of the same age, figuring the two will find a social connection that benefits overall health.
The company was founded by Mitch Besser, a doctor whose previous work involved putting H.I.V.-positive women together in mentoring relationships. AgeWell employees come from the same communities as their clients, some of whom are out of reach of medical professionals
until an emergency.”

The National Aging in Place Council, a trade group, is developing a social worker training program with Stony Brook University. It wants to have a dedicated set of social workers at the council, funded by donations, who are able to field calls from seniors and their caretakers, and make referrals to local service providers.
The council already works with volunteers and small businesses in 25 cities to make referrals for things like home repair and remodeling, daily money management and legal issues.”

Village to Village Network, has small businesses and volunteers working on a similar idea: providing older residents and their family or caretakers with referrals to vetted local services.
In the Village to Village Network model, residents pay an annual fee, from about $400 to $700 for individuals and more for households. The organization so far has 25,000 members in 190 member-run communities across the United States, and is forming similar groups overseas as well.”

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Baby Boomers Look to Senior Concierge Services to Raise Income
Retiring
By LIZ MOYER MAY 19, 2017

In her 40 years as a photographer in the Denver area, Jill Kaplan did not think she would need her social work degree.
But when it became harder to make a living as a professional photographer, she joined a growing army of part-time workers across the country who help older people living independently, completing household tasks and providing companionship.
Elder concierge, as the industry is known, is a way for the semi- and fully retired to continue to work, and, from a business standpoint, the opportunities look as if they will keep growing. Around 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States, and by 2030, there will be 72 million people over 65 nationwide.
Some 43 million people already provide care to family members — either their own parents or children — according to AARP, and half of them are “sandwich generation” women, ages 40 to 60. All told, they contribute an estimated $470 billion a year in unpaid assistance.

Seven years ago, Ms. Kaplan, 63, made the leap, signing up with Denver-based Elder Concierge Services. She makes $25 to $40 an hour for a few days a week of work. She could be driving older clients to doctor’s appointments, playing cards or just acting as an extra set of eyes and ears for family members who aren’t able to be around but worry about their older relatives being isolated and alone. Many baby boomers themselves are attracted to the work because they feel an affinity for the client base.
“It’s very satisfying,” she said of the work, which supplements her photography income. Like others in search of additional money, she could have become an Uber driver but said this offered her a chance to do something “more meaningful.”
“We see a lot of women,” Ms. Kaplan said, “who had raised their families and cared for their parents out there looking for a purpose.”

Concierges are not necessarily social workers by background, and there isn’t a formal licensing program. They carry out tasks or help their customers complete the relatively mundane activities of everyday life, and just need to be able to handle the sometimes physical aspects of the job, like pushing a wheelchair.
Medical care is left to medical professionals. Instead, concierges help out around the house, get their client to appointments, join them for recreation, and run small errands.
While precise statistics are not available for the elder concierge industry, other on-demand industries have flourished, and baby boomers are a fast-growing worker population.
Nancy LeaMond, the AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy officer, said: “Everyone assumed the on-demand economy was a millennial thing. But it is really a boomer thing.”
Ms. LeaMond noted that while people like the extra cash, they also appreciate the “extra engagement.”
A variety of companies has sprung up, each fulfilling a different niche in the elder concierge economy.
In some areas, elder concierges charge by the hour, anywhere from $30 to $70, or in blocks of time, according to Katharine Giovanni, the director of the International Concierge & Lifestyle Management Network. Those considering going into the business should have liability insurance, Ms. Giovanni said.

One start-up, AgeWell, employs able-bodied older people to assist less able people of the same age, figuring the two will find a social connection that benefits overall health.
The company was founded by Mitch Besser, a doctor whose previous work involved putting H.I.V.-positive women together in mentoring relationships. AgeWell employees come from the same communities as their clients, some of whom are out of reach of medical professionals until an emergency.
The goal is to provide consistent monitoring to reduce or eliminate full-blown crises. AgeWell began in South Africa but recently got a grant to start a peer-to-peer companionship and wellness program in New York.
Elsewhere, in San Francisco, Justin Lin operates Envoy, a network of stay-at-home parents and part-time workers who accept jobs like grocery delivery, light housework and other tasks that don’t require medical training. Each Envoy employee is matched to a customer, who pays $18 to $20 an hour for the service, on top of a $19 monthly fee.
The inspiration for the company came from Mr. Lin’s work on a start-up called Mamapedia, an online parental wisdom-sharing forum, where he noticed a lot of people talking about the need for family care workers. He decided to start Envoy two years ago, after his own mother died of cancer, leaving him and his father to care for a disabled brother.
The typical Envoy employee works a few hours a week, so it won’t replace the earnings from a full-time job. But it nevertheless involves more interpersonal contact than simply standing behind a store counter.
“It’s not going to pay the rent,” Mr. Lin said. “They want to be flexible but also make a difference.”

Katleen Bouchard, 69, signed up with Envoy three years ago, after retiring from an advertising career. She gets $20 an hour working a handful of hours a week with older clients in her rural community in Sonoma County, Calif. She sees it as a chance to be civic-minded. “It’s very easy to help and be of service,” Ms. Bouchard said.
Companies like AgeWell and Envoy are part of the growing on-demand economy, where flexibility and entrepreneurship have combined to create a new class of workers, said Mary Furlong, a Silicon Valley consultant who specializes in the job market for baby boomers. At the same time, many retirees — as well as those on the cusp of retirement — worry that market volatility may hit their savings.
The extra income from the job, Ms. Furlong said, could help cover unexpected expenses. “You don’t know what the shocks are going to be that interrupt your plan,” she added.
Other organizations are looking to help direct older residents to vetted local service providers.
The National Aging in Place Council, a trade group, is developing a social worker training program with Stony Brook University. It wants to have a dedicated set of social workers at the council, funded by donations, who are able to field calls from seniors and their caretakers, and make referrals to local service providers.
The council already works with volunteers and small businesses in 25 cities to make referrals for things like home repair and remodeling, daily money management and legal issues.
Another group, the Village to Village Network, has small businesses and volunteers working on a similar idea: providing older residents and their family or caretakers with referrals to vetted local services.
In the Village to Village Network model, residents pay an annual fee, from about $400 to $700 for individuals and more for households. The organization so far has 25,000 members in 190 member-run communities across the United States, and is forming similar groups overseas as well.
“We feel like we are creating a new occupation,” said Marty Bell, the National Aging in Place Council’s executive director. “It’s really needed.”
Twitter: @LizMoyer

Smuggling, Capitalism and the Law of Unintended Consequences

To me, this article seems to be about the border wall with Mexico, but it instead is about 1) the law of unintended consequences, and 2) the nature of capitalism.

The law of unintended consequences can never be underestimated; nor can the ability of capitalism to bring out the creativity of entrepreneurs and organizations when there is big money to be made.

A few notes:

“But rather than stopping smuggling, the barriers have just pushed it farther into the desert, deeper into the ground, into more sophisticated secret compartments in cars and into the drug cartels’ hands.”

“A majority of Americans now favor marijuana legalization, which is hitting the pockets of Mexican smugglers and will do so even more when California starts issuing licenses to sell recreational cannabis next year.”

The price of smuggling any given drug will rise proportionate to the difficulty of smuggling.

52 legal crossings
Nogales (Mexico) and Nogales (US) and the dense homes on border

Tricks:
Coyotes (small drug smugglers)
Donkeys (the people who actually carry the drugs)
“Clavos” Secret compartments whose sophistication grows
Trains (a principal means of smuggling)
“Trampolines” (gigantic catapults that hurl the drugs over any wall)
Tunnel and new technologies (216 discovered since 1990)

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CREDIT: New York Times Article: mexican-drug-smugglers-to-trump-thanks!

Mexican Drug Smugglers to Trump: Thanks!

Ioan Grillo
MAY 5, 2017

NOGALES, Mexico — Crouched in the spiky terrain near this border city, a veteran smuggler known as Flaco points to the steel border fence and describes how he has taken drugs and people into the United States for more than three decades. His smuggling techniques include everything from throwing drugs over in gigantic catapults to hiding them in the engine cars of freight trains to making side tunnels off the cross-border sewage system.

When asked whether the border wall promised by President Trump will stop smugglers, he smiles. “This is never going to stop, neither the narco trafficking nor the illegals,” he says. “There will be more tunnels. More holes. If it doesn’t go over, it will go under.”

What will change? The fees that criminal networks charge to transport people and contraband across the border. Every time the wall goes up, so do smuggling profits.

The first time Flaco took people over the line was in 1984, when he was 15; he showed them a hole torn in a wire fence on the edge of Nogales for a tip of 50 cents. Today, many migrants pay smugglers as much as $5,000 to head north without papers, trekking for days through the Sonoran Desert. Most of that money goes to drug cartels that have taken over the profitable business.

“From 50 cents to $5,000,” Flaco says. “As the prices went up, the mafia, which is the Sinaloa cartel, took over everything here, drugs and people smuggling.” Sinaloa dominates Nogales and other parts of northwest Mexico, while rivals, including the Juarez, Gulf and Zetas cartels, control other sections of the border. Flaco finished a five-year prison sentence here for drug trafficking in 2009 and has continued to smuggle since.

His comments underline a problem that has frustrated successive American governments and is likely to haunt President Trump, even if the wall becomes more than a rallying cry and he finally gets the billions of dollars needed to fund it. Strengthening defenses does not stop smuggling. It only makes it more expensive, which inadvertently gives more money to criminal networks.

The cartels have taken advantage of this to build a multibillion industry, and they protect it with brutal violence that destabilizes Mexico and forces thousands of Mexicans to head north seeking asylum.

Stretching almost 2,000 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, the border has proved treacherous to block. It traverses a sparsely populated desert, patches of soft earth that are easy to tunnel through, and the mammoth Rio Grande, which floods its banks, making fencing difficult.

And it contains 52 legal crossing points, where millions of people, cars, trucks and trains enter the United States every week.

President Trump’s idea of a wall is not new. Chunks of walls, fencing and anti-car spikes have been erected periodically, particularly in 1990 and 2006. On April 30, Congress reached a deal to fund the federal budget through September that failed to approve any money for extending the barriers as President Trump has promised. However, it did allocate several hundred million dollars for repairing existing infrastructure, and the White House has said it will use this to replace some fencing with a more solid wall.

But rather than stopping smuggling, the barriers have just pushed it: farther into the desert, deeper into the ground, into more sophisticated secret compartments in cars and into the drug cartels’ hands.
It is particularly concerning how cartels have taken over the human smuggling business. Known as coyotes, these smugglers used to work independently, or in small groups. Now they have to work for the cartel, which takes a huge cut of the profits, Flaco says. If migrants try to cross the border without paying, they risk getting beaten or murdered.

The number of people detained without papers on the southern border has dropped markedly in the first months of the Trump administration, with fewer than 17,000 apprehended in March, the lowest since 2000. But this has nothing to do with the yet-to-be-built new wall. The president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric could be a deterrent — signaling that tweets can have a bigger effect than bricks. However, this may not last, and there is no sign of drug seizures going down.

Flaco grew up in a Nogales slum called Buenos Aires, which has produced generations of smugglers. The residents refer to the people who carry over backpacks full of drugs as burros, or donkeys. “When I first heard about this, I thought they used real donkeys to carry the marijuana,” Flaco says. “Then I realized, we were the donkeys.”

He was paid $500 for his first trip as a donkey when he was in high school, encouraging him to drop out for what seemed like easy money.
The fences haven’t stopped the burros, who use either ropes or their bare hands to scale them. This was captured in extraordinary footage from a Mexican TV crew, showing smugglers climbing into California. But solid walls offer no solution, as they can also be scaled and they make it harder for border patrol agents to spot what smugglers are up to on the Mexican side.

Flaco quickly graduated to building secret compartments in cars. Called clavos, they are fixed into gas tanks, on dashboards, on roofs. The cars, known by customs agents as trap cars, then drive right through the ports of entry. In fact, while most marijuana is caught in the desert, harder drugs such as heroin are far more likely to go over the bridge.
When customs agents learned to look for the switches that opened the secret compartments, smugglers figured out how to do without them. Some new trap cars can be opened only with complex procedures, such as when the driver is in the seat, all doors are closed, the defroster is turned on and a special card is swiped.

Equally sophisticated engineering goes into the tunnels that turn the border into a block of Swiss cheese. Between 1990 and 2016, 224 tunnels were discovered, some with air vents, rails and electric lights. While the drug lord Joaquin Guzman, known as El Chapo, became infamous for using them, Flaco says they are as old as the border itself and began as natural underground rivers.

Tunnels are particularly popular in Nogales, where Mexican federal agents regularly seize houses near the border for having them. Flaco even shows me a filled-in passage that started inside a graveyard tomb. “It’s because Nogales is one of the few border towns that is urbanized right up to the line,” explains Mayor David Cuauhtémoc Galindo. “There are houses that are on both sides of the border at a very short distance,” making it easy to tunnel from one to the other.

Nogales is also connected to its neighbor across the border in Arizona, also called Nogales, by a common drainage system. It cannot be blocked, because the ground slopes downward from Mexico to the United States. Police officers took me into the drainage system and showed me several smuggling tunnels that had been burrowed off it. They had been filled in with concrete, but the officers warned that smugglers could be lurking around to make new ones and that I should hit the ground if we ran into any.

Back above ground, catapults are one of the most spectacular smuggling methods. “We call them trampolines,” Flaco says. “They have a spring that is like a tripod, and two or three people operate them.” Border patrol agents captured one that had been attached to the fence near the city of Douglas, Ariz., in February and showed photos of what looked like a medieval siege weapon.

Freight trains also cross the border, on their way from southern Mexico up to Canada. While agents inspect them, it’s impossible to search all the carriages, which are packed with cargo from cars to canned chilies. Flaco says the train workers are often paid off by the smugglers. He was once caught with a load of marijuana on a train in Arizona, but he managed to persuade police that he was a train worker and did only a month in jail.
While marijuana does less harm, the smugglers also bring heroin, crack cocaine and crystal meth to America, which kill many. Calls to wage war on drugs can be emotionally appealing. The way President Trump linked his promises of a wall to drug problems in rural America was most likely a factor in his victory.

But four decades after Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” despite trillions of dollars spent on agents, soldiers and barriers, drugs are still easy to buy all across America.

President Trump has taken power at a turning point in the drug policy debate. A majority of Americans now favor marijuana legalization, which is hitting the pockets of Mexican smugglers and will do so even more when California starts issuing licenses to sell recreational cannabis next year. President Trump has also called for more treatment for drug addicts. He would be wise to make that, and not the wall, a cornerstone of his drug policy.

Reducing the finances of drug cartels could reduce some of the violence, and the number of people fleeing north to escape it. But to really tackle the issue of human smuggling, the United States must provide a path to papers for the millions of undocumented workers already in the country, and then make sure businesses hire only workers with papers in the future. So long as illegal immigrants can make a living in the United States, smugglers will make a fortune leading them there.

Stopping the demand for the smugglers’ services actually hits them in their pockets. Otherwise, they will just keep getting richer as the bricks get higher.

Ioan Grillo is the author of “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields and the New Politics of Latin America” and a contributing opinion writer.

Four Daily Well-Being Workouts

Marty Seligman is a renowned well-being researcher, and writes in today’s NYT about four practices for flourishing:

Identify Signature Strengths: Focus every day on personal strengths exhibited when you were at your best.

Find the Good: Focus every day on “why did this good thing happen”?

Make a Gratitude Visit: Visit a person you feel gratitude toward.

Respond Constructively: Practice active, constructive responses.

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CREDIT: Article Below Can Be Found at This Link

Get Happy: Four Well-Being Workouts

By JULIE SCELFO
APRIL 5, 2017
Relieving stress and anxiety might help you feel better — for a bit. Martin E.P. Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, does not see alleviating negative emotions as a path to happiness.
“Psychology is generally focused on how to relieve depression, anger and worry,” he said. “Freud and Schopenhauer said the most you can ever hope for in life is not to suffer, not to be miserable, and I think that view is empirically false, morally insidious, and a political and educational dead-end.”
“What makes life worth living,” he said, “is much more than the absence of the negative.”

To Dr. Seligman, the most effective long-term strategy for happiness is to actively cultivate well-being.

In his 2012 book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being,” he explored how well-being consists not merely of feeling happy (an emotion that can be fleeting) but of experiencing a sense of contentment in the knowledge that your life is flourishing and has meaning beyond your own pleasure.

To cultivate the components of well-being, which include engagement, good relationships, accomplishment and purpose, Dr. Seligman suggests these four exercises based on research at the Penn Positive Psychology Center, which he directs, and at other universities.

Identify Signature Strengths
Write down a story about a time when you were at your best. It doesn’t need to be a life-changing event but should have a clear beginning, middle and end. Reread it every day for a week, and each time ask yourself: “What personal strengths did I display when I was at my best?” Did you show a lot of creativity? Good judgment? Were you kind to other people? Loyal? Brave? Passionate? Forgiving? Honest?

Writing down your answers “puts you in touch with what you’re good at,” Dr. Seligman explained. The next step is to contemplate how to use these strengths to your advantage, intentionally organizing and structuring your life around them.

In a study by Dr. Seligman and colleagues published in American Psychologist, participants looked for an opportunity to deploy one of their signature strengths “in a new and different way” every day for one week.

“A week later, a month later, six months later, people had on average lower rates of depression and higher life satisfaction,” Dr. Seligman said. “Possible mechanisms could be more positive emotions. People like you more, relationships go better, life goes better.”

Find the Good
Set aside 10 minutes before you go to bed each night to write down three things that went really well that day. Next to each event answer the question, “Why did this good thing happen?”
Instead of focusing on life’s lows, which can increase the likelihood of depression, the exercise “turns your attention to the good things in life, so it changes what you attend to,” Dr. Seligman said. “Consciousness is like your tongue: It swirls around in the mouth looking for a cavity, and when it finds it, you focus on it. Imagine if your tongue went looking for a beautiful, healthy tooth.” Polish it.

Make a Gratitude Visit
Think of someone who has been especially kind to you but you have not properly thanked. Write a letter describing what he or she did and how it affected your life, and how you often remember the effort. Then arrange a meeting and read the letter aloud, in person.

“It’s common that when people do the gratitude visit both people weep out of joy,” Dr. Seligman said. Why is the experience so powerful? “It puts you in better touch with other people, with your place in the world.”

Respond Constructively
This exercise was inspired by the work of Shelly Gable, a social psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has extensively studied marriages and other close relationships. The next time someone you care about shares good news, give what Dr. Gable calls an “active constructive response.”

That is, instead of saying something passive like, “Oh, that’s nice” or being dismissive, express genuine excitement. Prolong the discussion by, say, encouraging them to tell others or suggest a celebratory activity.

“Love goes better, commitment increases, and from the literature, even sex gets better after that.”

Julie Scelfo is a former staff writer for The Times who writes often about human behavior.