Sunday, March 25, 2018

Single? No Kids? Don’t Fret: How to Plan Care in Your Later Years

Sarah Peveler moved to Tarboro, N.C., a few years before retiring. Living alone, she uses a network of friends and social groups, as well as a cellphone app, to make sure she is checked on periodically.CreditJeremy M. Lange for The New York Times
Sarah Peveler lacks a support system that many older people count on: their adult children.
But Ms. Peveler, 71, who is divorced and childless, said she was determined not to let fear of an uncertain future get the best of her.
To help avoid the potential perils of a solitary old age, Ms. Peveler is carrying out a multipronged, go-it-alone plan. A key part of it was to find a small community where she could make friends and walk nearly everywhere, without worrying about the hazards of ice and snow.
A friend from North Carolina suggested that she look at Tarboro, in the eastern part of the state, about 75 miles from Raleigh. The city of 11,400filled the bill, and she moved there several years before retiring in 2012 from her job as an executive at a Philadelphia-based nonprofit.
“At some point, I am not going to be able to drive,” she said. From her downtown home, “I can walk to Main Street, the library, the church, the drugstore and the Piggly Wiggly.”
Ms. Peveler paid $135,000 cash for a one-story house with longevity in mind. One of the three bedrooms, she said, can be converted into an apartment if she needs a caretaker to move in. She is thinking of checking out assisted-living facilities in case she ever needs more than home care. (There is a family history of dementia, she said.) Several mini-strokes caused some cognitive impairment, so her doctor monitors her regularly.
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With a brother on the West Coast and no nieces or nephews to step in, Ms. Peveler has, through her church and several civic activities, developed a surrogate family of friends and neighbors, many of them several decades younger, who keep tabs on her. For added protection, she signed up for a service, EyeOn App, that signals three friends if she does not reply within a half-hour to scheduled alerts on her cellphone.
“Once, I didn’t respond, and everyone called me,” she said. “My next-door neighbor sent her daughter over.”
Although no plan is foolproof, Ms. Peveler said she was as confident as she could be. “I know people would have my back,” she said.
Ms. Peveler is among a growing number of older Americans who are unmarried and childless. By 2030, about 16 percent of women 80 to 84 will be childless, compared with about 12 percent in 2010, according to a 2013 report by AARP.
Ms. Peveler, 71, said she felt confident about the network she had created. “I know people would have my back,” she said. CreditJeremy M. Lange for The New York Times
While Ms. Peveler is trying to control the risks of aging alone, many so-called elder orphans may not fare as well. Older single and childless people are at higher risk than those with children for facing medical problems, cognitive decline and premature death, according to a 2016 study led by Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at the Northwell Health system on Long Island. The study noted that about 22 percent of people 65 and older either are childless or have children who are not in contact.
Adult children typically help elderly parents negotiate housing, social-service and health care options. Without such a fallback, elder orphans can reduce their risks by building their own support structures, Dr. Carney said.
“People who are aging alone need to make plans when they are independent and functional,” she said. “They need to learn about the resources in the community and the appropriate time to start using them.” Those services could include senior-friendly housing and the growing number of home-delivered products and services aimed at the aging-solo market, such as healthy meals and doctors who make house calls, she said.
One of the first steps childless people should take is to hire an elder law lawyer, who can draw up documents that will protect them if they become incapacitated. Childless people typically turn to a friend, a lawyer, clergy, or a niece or nephew to make medical decisions, according to experts. A bank’s trust unit can take on financial tasks, with a friend, a relative or a lawyer monitoring the bank’s decisions.
Christina Lesher, an elder law lawyer in Houston, suggests appointing a “micro board,” which includes the lawyer, the health care and financial agents, an accountant and a geriatric care manager. “The board can step in if a client cannot make decisions,” Ms. Lesher said. The client could assign a network of friends and neighbors to call the lawyer in an emergency or if they notice any cognitive decline.
As for housing, Dr. Carney recommends that people aging alone consider a senior-friendly “congregate living” arrangement. Besides offering a variety of services, such housing can lessen isolation, which her research shows can lead to physical and cognitive decline. If that is not possible, she said, elder orphans should move closer to shopping, medical care, recreation and senior support services.
One housing option with a built-in support system is a continuing care retirement community. Residents usually start in an independent living unit and, depending on the care needed, move to an on-site assisted-living unit or a skilled-nursing facility. Entrance and monthly fees tend to be hefty, however. Typical entry fees range from just over $100,000 to more than $400,000 while monthly services fees can range from $2,000 to $4,000, according to MyLifeSite, which tracks the pricing and financial information of more than 800 C.C.R.C.s.
With no one to oversee their care, elder orphans who want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible could enlist a geriatric care manager, who monitors elderly clients and coordinates care.
In Washington, D.C., clients of Iona Senior Services, for example, can arrange for a care manager to be on call as their health deteriorates, said Deborah Rubenstein, director of consultation, care management and counseling programs. If a client is discharged from a hospital, for example, the care manager, in consultation with the designated health care agent, would arrange for rehabilitation or home care, she said.
“More and more people were coming to us and saying, ‘I’m O.K. now, but I’m realistic enough to know my health status could change,’” Ms. Rubenstein said. Iona charges $150 an hour.
Carol Marak of Dallas created a Facebook group two years ago for so-called elder orphans. What stood out, she said, was the number of members concerned about being “isolated and disconnected.”CreditDylan Hollingsworth for The New York Times
Meanwhile, a growing number of volunteer neighborhood groups are providing both social connections and practical help to older people who are at home alone. More than 200 organizations in the Village to Village Network, including “villages” in the New York area, provide rides to medical appointments, snow removal, home repairs and computer support. Villages in 150 additional neighborhoods are in development. Tax-deductible membership fees can range from $100 to $400.
Entrepreneurs and companies, many nationwide, are moving into the so-called longevity market. On-demand services, accessible by a phone app or a computer, can connect people to personal assistants and food delivery.
“The on-demand marketplace will be the best friend of elder orphans,” said Mary Furlong, a Silicon Valley consultant to companies that cater to seniors.
For example, the ride-hailing service Lyft is working with health care systems and retirement communities to provide rides to nonemergency medical appointments and other destinations. And because financial acuity often declines with age, childless singles can enroll in a service such as EverSafe, which monitors accounts for unusual spending and alerts the client or a trusted advocate of possible fraud.
In-home technology, like medication reminders, also can help people live alone safely longer, experts say. Besides her EyeOn home-monitoring system, Ms. Peveler uses an Amazon Alexa device.
“If I am reading a recipe, I can tell her what to put on a shopping list,” said Ms. Peveler, who has a harder time remembering some details since her mini-strokes. And just for fun, she may tell Alexa “to make cat noises, and one of my cats goes nuts.”
For those aging solo, expanding a social network is essential, according to experts on aging. Two years ago, Carol Marak, who is in her mid-60s and lives alone in Dallas, started the Elder Orphan Facebook Group.
“I wanted a place to feel less lonely and to connect with others in the same situation,” said Ms. Marak, who is also the spokeswoman for, a site that provides information on local care options. About 6,500 childless singles, mostly women, are members, she said.
Ms. Marak said she was struck by the number of members who worried about being “isolated and disconnected from the community.” She said she was trying hard to create her own social connections. She moved from a suburban house to a downtown condominium building, where she is making new friends. And she has organized brunches for Dallas members of the Facebook page.
Determined to stay healthy for as long as possible, Ms. Marak said she walks six miles a day and eats mostly vegan meals. “I need to keep stronger because I am totally responsible for myself,” she said.
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Friday, March 23, 2018

U.S. Speedskaters Modify Their Suits,

Joey Mantia in the new Under Armour suit that United States speedskaters will wear at the Pyeongchang Games. CreditUnder Armour
The speedskaters summoned to Santa Rosa, Calif., last spring for the United States Olympic team’s annual strength and conditioning camp found a curious item on their schedules: a tai chi lesson.
Unsure of how the skaters would react, Shane Domer, the team’s sports science director, watched the first session with some apprehension.
“We were like, ‘O.K., this could go south,’ ” Domer said with a laugh. “Our guys could make fun, or not buy in.”
But the skaters took to it, and soon Mark Cheng, the tai chi instructor, became a regular presence around the team. When the group departs later this month for Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the start of the 2018 Games, Cheng will be part of the official traveling party.
U.S. Speedskating has embraced this and other outside-the-box ideas in a bid to return to glory after a disastrous showing at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Perhaps just as notable has been the fact that many of these new ideas, including the tai chi sessions, have come directly from the apparel giant Under Armour, whose speedskating suit famously became a scapegoat for the American team’s shortcomings four years ago.
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Rather than receding after that public relations catastrophe, Under Armour became determined to take a more hands-on approach in the team’s development. The company accounts for about 20 percent of the organization’s $1.2 million in sponsorship revenue — roughly on par with the federation’s other top sponsor, Toyota — but in this cycle Under Armour is providing resources and expertise in addition to money.
“Adversity is the best teacher,” Kevin Haley, Under Armour’s executive vice president for strategy, said about the company’s experience in 2014. “It forced all of us to realize that we actually needed to do more. We needed to expand our relationship.”
The hubbub over the suits began midway through the 2014 Games. The American speedskaters were scuffling and would ultimately fail to win a single medal. Soon questions arose about, and fingers were pointed at, Under Armour’s so-called Mach 39 suit, which had been developed with the help of Lockheed Martin and released with much fanfare. Some members of the American team came to believe that a set of vents on the back of the suit was letting in air — creating drag that was slowing them down.
Ted Morris, the executive director of U.S. Speedskating, said that a coach from another country planted the idea in one of the American skaters’ heads, and from there it infected the team like a virus. The issue exploded publicly when The Wall Street Journal published an article in which members of the team anonymously cast doubt on the suit’s technology.
Under Armour to this day has stood by the science of the suit, and U.S. Speedskating, in a post-Olympics review, determined that the suits were not the problem. Kevin Plank, Under Armour’s chief executive, at the time called the controversy “a witch hunt,” though he stopped short of ever criticizing the athletes.
Before the Sochi Games ended, though, Under Armour and U.S. Speedskating renewed their contract through the 2022 Olympics. Then they sat down to reimagine their working relationship. The stakes are high for Under Armour, which stumbled through a dismal 2017, reporting losses for two straight quarters and seeing its share price fall 45 percent.
“We basically did what I would call a performance audit,” said Paul Winsper, the vice president for athlete performance, who previously worked for Nike and multiple professional soccer teams. “We looked at their staffing. We looked at their technology. We looked at how we can help with training support, how we can help educate the athletes.”
Tai chi was just one part of the equation. Under Armour hired Jens Voigt, a German cyclist who competed in the Tour de France 17 times, to lead brutal bicycle workouts at the speedskaters’ conditioning camps in 2016 and 2017. It brought in Pete Naschak, a former Navy Seal, to lead team-building activities. The company supplied chefs and nutritionists to modify the athletes’ diets, and sleep specialists to tailor their nighttime rituals.
Shani Davis at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The United States team did not win a medal in those Games, and several team members raised concerns about their suits. CreditJames Hill for The New York Times
It has been a holistic relationship, Winsper said, “not just dropping products off.” Under Armour will have six people with the speedskating team in Pyeongchang, including two garment alteration specialists and Cheng, whose official title will be “mindfulness and recovery specialist.”
And then, of course, there is the matter of the team’s new suits. Clay Dean, Under Armour’s chief innovation officer, said the design team tested 100 different fabrics in more than 250 blends, spending at least 100 hours in wind tunnel tests with the help of the bicycle manufacturer Specialized.
The boldest feature of the suit, Dean said, was the use of an asymmetrical design, with seaming that runs diagonally along the body instead of evenly across, meant to minimize tension in the suit when the skaters are navigating turns in crouched positions.
When U.S. Speedskating conducted its own intensive review after the 2014 Olympics, a picture emerged of an organization resting on its laurels. American speedskaters won 31 medals combined at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Games before being shut out in Sochi.
To start, the review determined that the degree of disappointment experienced in Sochi was a matter of perspective. The racers were simply not as good as they thought and said they were.
Morris said that going into 2014, it had become the expectation that the team was good for another 10 medals.
“When we finished this review, one of our main conclusions was that our expectations were unrealistic,” he added. “When you really look at the data and the results and where we were, we bought into our own hype.”
Morris said the report also faulted the team’s strategy of using last-minute “game-changers,” an idea favored by Finn Halvorsen, the former high-performance director, who was let go shortly after the 2014 Games. The Mach 39 suits were given to the skaters one month before Sochi, as was a new skate polish.
“His philosophy was to introduce these as late as possible in the process because then they’d go to the line feeling like they had a jetpack on their back,” Morris said. “In hindsight, that was the wrong decision.”
This Olympic cycle, the team is striving for comfort and continuity. The current suits were introduced to the skaters last February, specifically tailored to each athlete with the help of body-scanning technology.
“We’ve had ups and downs with the suits since Sochi, and I think Under Armour has done a pretty good job going all in,” said Mitch Whitmore, who specializes in the 500 meters. “We’ve tested these personally instead of just them testing them.”
Before the Sochi Games, the team went through a punishing travel schedule that culminated with an outdoor training camp in Collalbo, Italy. It was an odd choice — many of skaters had never trained outdoors before, and the Sochi races were indoors — and it looked even worse after the camp was marred by inclement weather.
This year, the skaters will gather in Milwaukee until departing for South Korea, recreating the ice conditions they expect to find at the Games. They also are sleeping in and training in the evenings, to align themselves with the unusual nighttime competition schedule.
These were significant, positive changes, Morris said. But he thought better of making any bold predictions.
“I think it got us in trouble in ’14,” Morris said, “and I don’t want to go down that road again.”
Correction: January 22, 2018 
An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of the speedskating team’s sports science director. He is Shane Domer, not Dormer.
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