News Briefs: October 2011


Heads up: Medicare open enrollment starts Oct. 15

Seniors and others relying on Medicare are reminded that Medicare's annual open enrollment period starts and ends earlier this year.

Open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, during which all Medicare beneficiaries are allowed to make changes to their Medicare coverage for the coming year. This includes anyone using traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage, prescription drug and Medigap supplemental coverage.

  and #8232; and #8232;The earlier Medicare open enrollment period may take people by surprise, but it will help ensure they have their updated Medicare membership cards at the start of 2012.

Wells Fargo donates $1,000 to nonprofit on supporter's behalf

Wells Fargo is donating $1,000 to the Senior Citizens Council of Clackamas County in Oregon City in honor of Tom Unger, who works for the company in Portland as its regional corporate communications manager.

Unger won the grant for the local nonprofit group through Wells Fargo's Volunteer Service Award program.

The Senior Citizens Council provides services not available anywhere else for home-bound, frail, vulnerable and geographically isolated individuals. Its programs promote independence, improve quality of life and prevent or end abuse, neglect (including self-neglect) and exploitation of at-risk seniors and adults with disabilities. Unger serves on its board.

The 33-year-old Volunteer Service Award program gives cash grants to nonprofits on behalf of Wells Fargo employees to recognize the valuable contributions they make to local organizations and schools. This year the financial services company will donate $400,000 to organizations through this program in the name of 241 employees.

'Tom has shown an extraordinary commitment to his community,' said Don Pearson, Wells Fargo's Oregon Region president. 'His giving spirits not only help communities but also help us better determine how our company can support and enhance this region.'

Wells Fargo employees are encouraged to nominate their co-workers or themselves to recognize the outstanding efforts of the volunteer and the nonprofit organization. Winners are selected by an internal selection committee, which evaluates the employee's personal commitment to the organization, effectiveness of their work and the value of their work to their community.

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Homeowners preparing for trips overseas are turning to the Internet to find people willing to mow the lawn, take the dog for a walk or feed the goldfish in their absence. In return, the house-sitter can save thousands in accommodation costs.

The concept has been around for some time, and today there can be stiff competition for jobs.'s guide reveals how to get ahead of the pack of would-be house-sitters.

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Fall-prone older adults often fail to adjust to diminished eyesight

Falls are a common problem among older adults - about one-third of those over age 65 fall once each year. Visual information helps us to coordinate our movements so that we can successfully navigate our surroundings. In fall-prone older adults, however, the ability to collect visual information is compromised, and this group is not adequately compensating for this effect.

The current issue of the journal Insight: Research and Practice in Visual Impairment and Blindness reports on an experiment comparing three groups: older adults who had fallen at least once in the past 12 months, older adults who had not fallen and younger adults.

Participants completed a walking course that consisted of an invisible equilateral triangle. One side of the triangle was a mat with sensors that recorded the gait of the participants. Researchers also tested the subjects' ability to navigate this unmarked course. After following the course under normal conditions, the participants then attempted to walk the course again wearing safety goggles wrapped with masking tape. The tape blurred the participants' vision but still allowed light in.

Blurred vision took its toll on the performance of all three groups, but especially the fall-prone older adults. When the vision of the other two groups was reduced, they reduced their walking speed. They were compensating for their impairment by proceeding more slowly. The fall-prone group, however, did not walk more slowly. They also made more errors in returning to the starting point of the course.

Performance in older adults has generally been found to be less than that of younger adults in tasks involving the use of spatial memory to guide movement. In this study, the fall-prone older adults displayed an over-reliance on visual information for spatial cognition, but at the same time they did not adjust their behavior to compensate for their lack of visual information. The results of this research suggest that spatial cognition may be more greatly compromised among fall-prone older adults.