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Mature Focus: April 4

By: Lisa Russell

The Better Business Bureau of Greater St. Louis recently warned of a recurring telephone scam targeting grandparents.

Grandparent scam alert 

The Better Business Bureau [BBB]of St. Louis recently issued a warning to older area residents about the springtime resurgence of “grandparent scams.” These upsetting scams target grandparents whose grandchildren are traveling on school breaks, study abroad programs or other spring trips.

“Scammers will call family members and pretend to be a child, grandchild or a friend of the child who has run into a difficult situation while traveling. The scammer may claim to have been arrested, mugged or hospitalized and make urgent pleas for money,” explained BBB St. Louis President and CEO Michelle Corey. “This scam tends to pop up in the spring when students travel away from home, and family members tend to worry about their general safety.”

Because these scammers either have stolen personal information or have obtained it from online sources, they often can be very convincing.  However, the BBB encourages older adults who receive such calls to remain calm and resist the urge to send money immediately.  Instead, they should ask for a phone number to call the person back, then check with other relatives to determine whether the emergency is real. Asking personal questions only their actual grandchildren would know the answers to is another recommended way to verify their identities. Unless they are absolutely certain their grandchildren actually are in trouble, grandparents should never wire money – especially to overseas locations, the BBB advises. To report a scam or to learn more about the latest scams trending in the St. Louis region, visit bbb.org/scamtracker.

Seeking West County drivers, riders

A new door-to-door transportation service for St. Louis County seniors, ITNGateway, is set to debut on Wednesday, May 9. The service will provide rides 24 hours a day, for any purpose, to people age 60 and older or the visually impaired who reside within 13 county zip codes, which includes most of the West County area.

ITN, which stands for Independent Transportation Network, already has provided more than 50,000 rides in the St. Charles area since 2010 as ITNStCharles;  the name change to ITNGateway accompanies the organization’s major service area expansion. The nonprofit was started with a goal of helping to meet the aging population’s need for transportation services in a dignified and affordable manner while creating a unique “riding with a friend” experience for seniors.

To keep costs to a minimum for users, ITNGateway will rely on volunteer drivers who will provide rides in their personal vehicles on a regular basis, and actively is seeking new volunteers.

“There is a high demand for this service, and no amount of time you’re able to give as a driver is too small,” said Libbey Tucker, chairperson of ITNGateway’s steering committee. “I’ve been volunteer driving for them in the Wentzville area, and can attest that it’s a very rewarding experience and is so appreciated by our riders.”

Two initial training sessions for new drivers will take place in Chesterfield at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, Tucker added. Driver applications can be completed online at itngateway.org/#/volunteer-app, and more information about the application process can be obtained by calling (314) 724-2117.

ITNGateway users will deposit funds for their rides into personal accounts they set up with the service, so no money ever will change hands in the vehicles. Riders will be charged $1.50 per mile plus a $2.50 pickup fee per day, with no vehicle wait charges and no tipping permitted. The fares charged only are about half the true cost of each ride, Tucker said. And the friendly service will extend well beyond the ride itself – the volunteer drivers will be available to open doors, help with packages or even lend an arm when needed.

Full details about how the ITNGateway service will operate, the zip codes it covers, online rider registration and more are available on the organization’s website,  itngateway.org.


The reasons behind many seniors’ resistance to technology are complex, a recent survey found

Turning away from technology

It’s widely believed that older people spend less time online and use fewer digital technologies than their younger counterparts. While this has in fact been proven true, many seniors shun technology for different reasons than commonly thought, according to a recent study.

Through interviews with older adults, researchers from Lancaster University in the U.K. found that the “digital divide” between young and old is not due to lack of access to technology, as many have assumed. Most of those surveyed did use the internet, and also have previously used and/or currently own computers. Instead, a sense of social responsibility may be a more important reason behind older people’s rejection of technology. For example, those interviewed expressed a common belief that online shopping takes business away from brick-and-mortar retailers, causing people to lose their jobs. Some also expressed a distaste for social media, because they said it leads to societal problems like cyberbullying and social isolation.

Fear of making mistakes online and compromising their personal security were other major issues causing older people to turn away from technology, the survey found. Many said they lacked confidence in their own knowledge of how to use online tools properly, particularly online banking, and expressed concern that their personal information could be exposed or stolen.

The researchers also found some older people use their age as a “cover” for these and other personal reasons not to engage with technology. The study’s authors referred to this as “playing the age card,” where seniors blame their age for shying away from digital technologies. “Doing so allows older adults a privilege not available to most working-age adults, to take personal stands against the aspects of technology they find worrying, threatening or just plain annoying,” they wrote. The study was published online in the journal Communications of the ACM.

Middle-aged women who are very fit may be dramatically less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life, research suggests.

Fitter body, fitter brain

Adding to the already compelling evidence in favor of women making physical fitness a top priority as they age, newly published research found that women who were “highly fit” at midlife were a whopping 88 percent less likely to develop dementia at older ages than those who didn’t exercise as vigorously. When the women in the highly fit study group did develop dementia, the onset of disease happened an average of 11 years later than women who were moderately fit [age 90 vs. age 79].

The study included 191 Swedish women, with an average age of 50, who were given a bicycle test to measure their cardiovascular fitness and were placed into categories of high, medium and low fitness. Over the next 44 years, the women were tested for dementia at six intervals. During that time, just 5 percent of the highly fit women developed dementia, compared to 25 percent of moderately fit women and 32 percent of the women with low fitness. Among a subgroup of the low-fitness women whose initial fitness tests had to be stopped due to chest pain or other problems, 45 percent developed dementia decades later.

“These findings are exciting because it’s possible that improving people’s cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia,” said study author Helena Hörder, Ph.D., of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Although the study was limited by the small number of study participants, the fact that the women involved all were Swedish, and the single initial measurement of their fitness levels rather than accounting for variations over time, the authors claim it establishes an important potential relationship between cardiovascular health and dementia risk. The study was published online in Neurology®, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Moving forward against brain disease

A team of neuroscientists at the University of Missouri are making progress toward developing new types of treatments for patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The team recently published a paper detailing how a newly discovered class of proteins that are turned on by heat can be used to regulate the activity of individual neurons in the brain through changes in temperature.

“Thermogenetic tools, which utilize heat to act as a ‘switch’ to turn neuron functions on, are expanding the horizons of brain research by allowing us to control specific neurons in the brain and measure behavioral changes,” said Troy Zars, professor of biological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. Their continued study of thermogenetics could lead to the development of deep brain stimulation tools to treat brain disease, as a part of the national Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies [BRAIN] project, Zars said.

On the calendar

Missouri Baptist Medical Center presents a free monthly program for caregivers, Practical Tips for Day-to-Day Home Care, from 1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10 in Auditorium 1 on the hospital’s campus, 3015 N. Ballas Road. The program offers helpful advice on daily home care from healthcare professionals including a registered nurse, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist. To register, visit classes-events.bjc.org/wlp2/ or call (314) 996-5433.

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AARP sponsors Smart Driver courses at several West County locations during the month of April. The course covers safe driving strategies, information about the effects of medications on driving, preventing driver distractions, proper use of technology and more. The cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Course dates and locations include:

• Wednesday, April 11 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at St. Luke’s Hospital, 232 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield, in the North Medical Building. To register, call (314) 780-8465.

• Tuesday, April 17 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Ellisville Parks and Recreation Building, 225 Kiefer Creek Road in Ellisville. To register, call (636) 227-7508.

• Thursday, April 19 at the Dielmann Recreation Center, 11400 Olde Cabin Road in Creve Coeur. To register, call (314) 442-2075.

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A grandparents class is offered from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 12 at St. Luke’s Hospital, 232 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield, in the third-floor conference room. This class for expectant grandparents reviews current hospital care for mother and baby, infant safety information and tips on being helpful as grandparents. A tour of the hospital’s birthing suites is included.  The class fee is $20 per person or couple. To register, visit stlukes-stl.com, or call (314) 205-6906 for more information.

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The third annual Celebrating Art for Senior Engagement festival [CASEfest] runs from Thursday, April 19 through Sunday, April 29. The festival features a variety of arts events focused on older adults and is presented by area nonprofit Maturity and its Muse, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of seniors through the arts. CASEfest events and shows, ranging from music and dance to painting, photography, film, lectures and more, are presented in venues across the St. Louis region, including several in West County. The majority of events are free of charge.  For a daily schedule of CASEfest events, with ticket prices where applicable, visit maturityanditsmuse.org/calendar/.

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Join an orthopedic physician for Knee Replacement: Is It Right for Me?, a discussion about minimally invasive knee replacement surgery and other treatment options for arthritic knees. The free session is from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25 at St. Luke’s Hospital, 232 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield, in the third-floor conference room.  Register online at  stlukes-stl.com.

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I Have Hip Pain. What Are My Options?, a free information session with an orthopedic physician, is from 6-7 p.m. on Monday, April 30 at St. Luke’s Hospital,  232 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield, in the third-floor conference room.  Learn about the many causes of hip pain, from less severe to more serious issues, along with treatment options. Register online at stlukes-stl.com.

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