6 Ways Seniors Can Enjoy The Outdoors

107080542Being outside is a great way to take in some fresh air and simply get out of the house for a change of scenery. While most of us take getting outside of the house for granted, many seniors are stuck inside their homes with limited access to the outdoors.

But there are plenty of ways that seniors can enjoy the outdoors, and the following are six easy ways.

1. Take a walk.

Simply taking a walk around the block or through the courtyard of an apartment complex is a great way to get outside and enjoy the weather. Plus, walks are a great way to get some much needed exercise. To be safe, you may want to have someone accompany you on your walk. Plus, this way, you can enjoy the outdoors and have some great conversations along the way.

2. Eat outdoors.

When the weather is nice, there are plenty of restaurants that offer outdoor seating. If you are going out to lunch with friends, opt to sit in the patio area instead of inside so that you can enjoy the weather. If you’re not going out to eat, you can always enjoy a meal at home by eating outside on a balcony or patio at your own home or place of residence.

3. Take a trip.

Look at your local community center or any organizations that you’re involved in to see if they are offering any day trips for seniors. Many cities or organizations will create a day group for seniors in a nearby outdoor area, such as a local park or state monument or park. This is a great way to enjoy the outdoors with others your own age.

4. Go to a flea market.

Flea markets are a great way for seniors to enjoy the outdoors and find some much-needed bargains along the way. Some local community centers will offer day trips to nearby flea markets, but you can always schedule a day out with friends on your own too. Most flea markets offer shopping and dining, so you can spend an entire day at the flea market without having to leave for any reason.

5. Take a boat ride.

If you know someone that owns a boat, ask him or her to take you out for a day. You can simply enjoy the sights and being on the water for a day, or you may even take in some fun activities, such as photography or fishing. Boat rides are a great way to spend some time outdoors—just make sure you wear sunscreen to protect you from the sun.

6. Play a game.

There are plenty of games that can be played outdoors. If you’re agile enough, play a game of shuffleboard or backgammon with friends or family. If you’re in a wheelchair or just not very active, you can always bring a deck of cards or some board games outside and play them with friends or family outdoors instead of in the home. If you’re crafty, you can also do some of your crafts outside, such as crocheting, instead of inside the home.

Jessica Brown is a personal caretaker and freelance writer.  She has currently been organizing senior activities & events and sharing her ideas via blogging.

Two Rules of Community Engagement – The Secrets of an Evangelist

By  (@trobbins)

Formation of communities is one of the many ways that distinguish humans as social creatures. Communities generate and preserve a common set of value systems that are important to the group. This creates a sense of belonging, dedication and commitment essential to a successful community.

shutterstock_95035678.jpgMembers often need inspiration and a reminder of their shared goals and values. This is why a healthy community builds morale and motivation through consistent engagement. A healthy community, like a family, doesn’t looks to suppress criticism or deny flaws.

Smart companies buy into the importance and value of using online and in-person communities to drive their business and brand. They hire interesting sounding titles like an Evangelist or Community Manager to serve as the main interface. These professionals spend their time engaging and collaborating with the community. They strongly believe that how a company engages with their community is a major factor in long term success.

The truly successful Evangelists and Community Managers live by two simple rules. These rules allow them to tap into the collective energy of a community to improve their company’s brand and market position.

1. Become a Part of the External and Internal Community

Successful Evangelists and Community Managers engage, embrace and extend their external community. Any company that only leverages online community tools enjoys the simple benefits of a push-based social media strategy. However, having a blog or a presence on Twitter, Facebook and Linked in is only good if you are able to support it.

A smart Community Manager starts by finding out where the bulk of their audience is. Once this is understood they can begin investing in a smart engagement strategy. This means you won’t spread yourself thin simplify for the sake of being everywhere your audience may be. True success is going beyond simple social networks and becoming an integral part of the communities where your customers spend their time.

As an active part of the community, Evangelists help to provide a sense of identity, security and a consistent interaction point for all community members. Website visitors need to know that there is someone at the other end of the community who’s listening, who will respond and engage; the Evangelist fills this role.

Successful Community Managers immerse themselves deeply into the community to create lasting and meaningful relationships. This includes bolstering a constant and useful dialogue designed to keep members informed. Not surprisingly this leads to valuable community-driven insights on everything from simple website changes to new products.

Successful Evangelists work towards the long term success of the company through contributions to the internal community. In the near term they provide useful and compelling engagement data and customer feedback. A Community Manager knows if they can’t track an engagement and tie it to the overall goals of the company there is something wrong. They use the data for tracking but also helping the company understand what the right questions may be and delivering what the community needs. They become an essential go-to person for customer feedback.

2. Engage and Engage Some More

An Evangelist knows that dismissing anyone in their audience isn’t going to get their community work very far. Dictating instead of offering choices and acting like the audience doesn’t matter won’t work either. Why would anyone return to a community knowing they are going to be ignored or have their contributions not be appreciated?

Building a stronger community, just like a family, means first being open, honest, transparent and paying attention. For example, user generated site activity (such as a simple count of the number of hits on a site) doesn’t translate into a community. Being able to demonstrate regular, consistent and sustained engagement is the core of a healthy community.

The best communities coalesce around leaders and those leaders inspire leadership in others. Community Managers understand that tools and techniques can help with this. But often the simplest tools are the best.

For example, content curation is one of the most effective techniques to start with in order to maximize company investment. It rewards contributors, identifies influential members, keeps the conversations going, brings in new members and keeps other coming back. An example of this is to assign key engaged audience members to be responsible for specific content generation and upkeep.

5 Reasons to Buy Vacant Properties

The word vacancy strikes fear in many landlords — it smacks of lost profits and stress. But when shopping for a new investment, buying a property vacant can be a good thing.

Sure, occupied properties save the trouble of looking for a tenant, and prove up the earning potential for the rental — or do they?

Savvy investors tend to target rental properties that are underperforming. With a little know-how, that property can be turned around quickly, and profitability will soar.

But that can be much harder to accomplish when the property comes with a tenant.  Here are a few reasons why:

1. Many investors purchase after researching the potential market rent for the property. If the property is leased at a below market rent with several months to go, then the new owner stays in a holding pattern — there may be little they can do to speed up the higher return on investment.

2. By not choosing their own tenants, the new owner may be looking at hours and dollars spent dealing with someone else’s bad decisions. And if just one of those leases goes to eviction, then costs quickly spike and anticipated profits vanish.

3. The lease itself may not include the legal protections that the new owner will insist on with new tenants. Existing tenants get complacent. Coupled with a weak lease agreement, the new owner may get stuck with a problem tenant and not have the teeth they need to cut their losses.

4. Leasing policies like non-smoking or pet rules can make an enormous difference in profitability over the life of the investment. If the current owner is not maximizing profits, it’s likely because their policies are holding them back. The new owner is typically bound by these policies until the existing leases come up for renewal. Even then, long-term tenants tend to dig in their heels and that means headaches for the new owner.

5. Experienced landlords and managers look for ways to damage-proof a rental so it’s easy to maintain and difficult to damage. It’s much easier to install the new owner’s pick of finishes right out of the gate while the property is vacant then it is to work around the existing tenant — or risk damage to a poorly-prepared property.

Occupancy Rate Strengthens, Rent Growth Slows

Axiometrics Inc., the leading provider of apartment data and research, reports that annual effective rent growth for apartments in March — at a rate of 3.22% — was the lowest it has been in the past 31 months.

However, while effective rent growth was weaker than it has been in recent months, the occupancy rate continued to strengthen, reaching a national average of 94.37% in March. Thirty-eight of the top 88 metropolitan areas generated occupancy rates above 95.0%.

“Class A properties have been a drag on the national rent growth numbers over the past several months,” said Ron Johnsey, founder and president of Axiometrics. “Annual effective rent growth for Class A units slowed to 3.1% in March and their annual occupancy growth was slightly negative. We expect Class A assets to continue to underperform for rent growth relative to the other classes for two income-related reasons. First, Class A residents with the highest income levels will be prime targets for developers seeking to fill new units, and second, those with lower income levels will increasingly face affordability issues and may seek to move down in class or push for lower rents at lease renewal.”

Effective Rent Growth and Occupancy
One year ago in March 2012, the annual effective rent growth rate was 4.05%. It has now slowed in ten of the last 11 months, and the March 2013 growth rate of 3.22% was the lowest it has been since measuring 2.88% in August 2010. Class B properties grew effective rents at a rate of 3.3%, while Class C grew at 4.0%.

Occupancy numbers continued to strengthen during March, especially as conditions tightened for Class C properties. While occupancy at Class A properties actually declined slightly from a year ago (from 95.2% in March 2012 to 95.0% this March), Class C properties posted robust occupancy growth, increasing from 92.2% in March 2012 to 93.0% in March 2013. Class B properties increased occupancy modestly over the past year, growing from 94.6% in March 2012 to 94.8% this March.

Sixteen of the top 88 areas saw annual effective rent growth greater than 5.0% in March, including Oakland (7.6%), San Francisco (6.2%), Houston (6.2%), Denver (6.1%), San Jose (5.5%), and Seattle (5.2%). Those underperforming the national average include Las Vegas (0.9%), Washington, DC (1.0%), Boston (2.4%), Los Angeles (2.9%), Orlando (2.9%), Raleigh (3.1%), and Atlanta (3.1%).

Axiometrics is the only multifamily research provider to survey every property in its database at the floor plan level every month. Every property. Every month. Only Axiometrics. Learn more at http://www.axiometrics.com or by calling 214-953-2242.

New Technology Wins The War On Bedbugs, Termites


A breakthrough and innovative solution to the growing plague of bedbugs is about to impact the lives of people suffering from one of the world’s most tenacious pests.

Fibertrap is a New York based firm that has developed a revolutionary new way to stop bedbugs, termites and other pests without the use of harmful and toxic chemicals and instead by using an artificial, micro-fiber spider web.

As the war against bedbugs rages on these nasty insects have become increasingly resistant to pesticides and other common methods of pest control. Fibertrap’s ground-breaking new method addresses the fundamental weakness in all bedbugs and pests: mobility. Utilizing micro-fibers 50 times thinner than human hair, Fibertrap entangles the bugs as they crawl trapping them in the man-made web. Without the ability to move and seek food the creatures will die, ceasing re-production and preventing the establishment of infestation.

Most often, bedbugs move between walls via electrical outlets to unsuspecting home and business owners. To help prevent bedbug migration, Fibertrap intends to produce easy to use traps and insulation products using this innovative new web-like material that will allow the consumer to protect their homes, apartments, offices and dorm rooms with ease and peace of mind.

“We are very excited to move this advancement from the lab to the consumer. Our goal has always been to make a difference for people living in areas where bedbugs are pervasive and difficult to eradicate,” says Fibertrap co-founder, Kevin McAllister . “Our use of cutting edge materials and an out-of-the-box product development approach has allowed us to introduce a brand new weapon in the fight against one of the most difficult pests to kill.”

This new, patent-pending technology was evaluated by a team of researchers from the Materials Science & Engineering Lab at SUNY Stony Brook University. Live bedbugs were used to test the Fibertrap successfully and subsequently live termites were also stopped by the technology. Additionally, the fibers can be infused with Nano-particles bound with pesticides or coagulants which would penetrate the outer shell of the pest and kill it from within.

With AAOA, landlords have resources at their fingertips. Check out our new Landlord Forms Page.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your rental housing investment, including rental forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.

49ers stadium bills top $368M so far



Bills related to the San Francisco 49ers stadium construction in Santa Clara have topped $368.6 million so far.

Thousands of items have been purchased, and that number means the team is spending about $1 million a day, according to the San Jose Mercury News, which reviewed the team’s monthly expense reports from the last year.

A third of the spending has gone toward things like developer fees, overhead costs and “customer incentives” for those buying suites and expensive seats, according to the report, and the team says the stadium is on budget.

The other two-thirds of the money spent has gone toward construction costs like concrete ($30.5 million), steel ($70 million), electrical work ($35.7 million) and plumbing ($20.9 million), according to the report.

The other big news near the stadium this month is the massive entertainment complex that may go in across the street. Negotiations with The Related Cos. wereapproved by Santa Clara on April 10.

Eco Friendly Construction – Bold New Trends For The Coming Year

allaboutenvironmentfrieIn many areas of business and industry, eco-friendliness is becoming a primary concern. Even construction firms now strive to come up with ways to reduce their carbon footprints and curtail the damage to the environment caused by their products and/or processes. Traditional construction methods and materials are widely being discarded in favor of more environmentally-friendly options, and the trend is expected to continue in the coming years. Here’s a look at some of the more promising eco-friendly trends in the construction industry.

Solar energy

An increasing number of structures constructed today have solar energy panels installed on the roof. This trend is expected to continue as more and

more homeowners demand alternative energy sources. In addition to being less harmful to the environment, solar energy fixtures will also help reduce energy costs.

Bamboo flooring

The eco-friendly approach will inform the choice of flooring materials as well, and bamboo is fast becoming a popular option. A durable and widely

available material, bamboo is expected to be a mainstay of home and business construction in the coming years.

Recycled materials

Although recycled and recyclable materials have long been used in the construction industry, this usage is expected to increase as time goes on.

For an increasing number of people, eco-friendliness also extends to the materials used, and recycled materials are fast becoming a popular option.

Energy efficient processes

Eco-friendliness is expected to increase with regard to processes as well. While there will be a continued focus on constructing eco-friendly

structures, many builders will look toward making the construction process itself as environmentally-friendly as possible.

Smaller structures

The trend toward sprawling homes and towering structures over the past several years is expected to give way to the construction of smaller structures. Aside from requiring less space and fewer materials, such structures will also have reduced energy requirements, making them even better suited to eco-friendly applications.

Green roofing

Even roofing materials and processes will be increasingly informed by eco- friendly principles. As with flooring materials, many companies are now

looking for alternatives that are just as effective, but will have reduced negative impact on the environment.

Natural lighting

Designs in which rooms are separated by walls will become less common. Already seen in many recent home and office designs, open floor plans will

reduce lighting and power demands in new structures.

Increased emphasis on the “green” standard

Eco-friendly practices haven’t always been readily accepted in the construction industry, but this is quickly changing. Along with the growing realization of construction’s role in contributing to a more environment friendly industry, consumer demands will necessitate a shift towards providing more eco-friendly options. Some construction companies that have previously been resistant towards such changes may even adopt eco- friendliness as a primary approach.

More efficient heating and cooling

Reducing energy consumption has always been a priority in the industry–

particularly with regard to cooling and heating concerns–and more companies will provide more eco-friendly options in this specific area. Again this will be the result of continued interest in reducing construction and maintain costs, as well as increased consumer demand.

Increased use of natural resources

More and more designs will feature stone as a primary component. Already a popular option in many areas of the industry, stone will play an increasing role in construction due to its widespread availability, comparatively low cost, and reduced environmental impact.

Economy-friendliness in even the small aspects of construction

While most construction projects today are undertaken with some degree of consideration to the eco-friendliness of materials and processes, there will be a noticeable shift toward making such concerns the primary guiding principle. It is expected that eco-friendliness will be considered in nearly all aspects of the business, even in less crucial areas such as painting and fixtures.

Availability of more eco-friendly options

It wasn’t so long ago that eco-friendly options were unavailable in even the largest construction depots and home supply emporiums. While most

people would have had to turn to smaller specialty outlets for their needs, even the bigger chains now offer several eco-friendly alternatives to

traditional construction materials. This trend is expected to continue well into the coming years, heralding a noticeable shift toward a more eco- friendly industry in general.

These are only some of the areas of the construction industry wherein eco- friendliness will become a prominent feature. Various other areas of the business will likely adopt a more eco-friendly approach, and it is definitely worth considering for any future construction projects.


Mikhail Tuknov
Hammers Construction is a commercial construction company in Colorado Springs with 25 years experience in commercial design and building.

New Air Circulation System Debuts on West Coast

By Jessie Fetterling

The $36 million Mediated Learning Center at De Anza Community College debuts the first buoyancy-driven air circulation system in the West.CUPERTINO, Calif. — A buoyancy-driven air circulation system — one of the first in the West — heats and cools the Mediated Learning Center at De Anza Community College in Cupertino.

This is just part of the design that will help the building achieve LEED Platinum certification. The building has acquired all the necessary LEED points but has yet to be actually certified.

The $36 million, 67,000-square-foot facility for anthropology, sociology and world language students was completed in October and was nominated for the 2012 Structure Award for Best Green Project from the San Jose Business Journal. Tempe, Ariz.-headquartered Sundt Construction Inc. was the general contractor, while Emeryville, Calif.-based Ratcliff was the project architect.

San Francisco-based WSP Flack + Kurtz and its sustainable design service, WSP Built Ecology, created the design for the buoyancy-driven air circulation system, which ventilates more than 80 percent of the building without fan power. Using the laws of science and exact placement of materials, the system enhances indoor air quality by drawing outside air into the building with six air changes per hour.

“The thought process was to use something that would really set the building apart,” said Jason Hughes, senior project engineer for Sundt Construction. “As far as the physical reasons [for building the air circulation system], Flack + Kurtz was able to identify that this area could bear this type of construction.”

While the buoyancy-driven air circulation system is perhaps the most unique green element, another one that stands out in the design is the skylight. “One of the neat features of the building that gets overshadowed by the air circulation system is a 10,000-square-foot skylight,” Hughes said. “This thing is gorgeous. You walk into this atrium and you’re bathed in natural light. It’s really something to behold when you’re on site.”

Other highlights include the rooftop photovoltaic panels, rooftop solar hot water panels, water conservation and water runoff control, and radiant heating in the lobby level.

Hughes said the greatest challenge on the project was fine-tuning the air circulation system, as it was the construction team’s first time building a system of this kind; however, he is really proud of how it worked out. “Because it is such a unique system, we’ve been continually fine-tuning this system based on user needs. It’s been a process to make these minor adjustments to the building control system that really optimizes building performance,” Hughes said.

Although timing differentiates depending on the project, Hughes suggests that future projects using this type of system should bring the contractor team on a lot earlier in the design process “so we could really get an understanding of how the thing comes together. If we had a couple more months in preconstruction, we could have had an even better understanding.”

The two-story building includes two large mediated learning classrooms, 11 medium-sized mediated learning classrooms, study tutorial areas, faculty offices and an outdoor study area, among other spaces. The goal of the project was to create a “state-of-the art learning facility that could accommodate distance learning and teach the occupants of the building about the various sustainability initiatives,” Hughes said.

A dedicated television-recording studio, editing suite and broadcast space are available to students, allowing them to access academic content through different digital media formats.

Sundt Construction is also working on a $6.6 million advanced technology center on the De Anza college campus. The project broke ground in December.

Investors Buying Up Homes, Becoming Landlords

iStock_000000679828Smallby  in News

The housing market is slowly improving with investors fueling the recovery. Investors currently make up about 32% of the home sales nationally, according to the National Association of Realtors. Buying $100 million worth of single-family homes a week, Blackstone Group (BX) has spent $3.5 billion to date, according the Wall Street Journal.

Large institutional investors like Blackstone along with individual investors are buying up homes to rent as landlords in order to take advantage of the growing rental market. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 12% of U.S. households rented single family homes in 2011 compared to 9% in 2004.

The surge of investors is helping jump start the housing market, but some see the potentially temporary investor based housing market creating more risks.

“If they decide…they don’t really want to be in this business all of a sudden you could have a ton of new homes coming back into the market and then that supply situation will get flipped very badly against the market itself.” said The Daily Ticker’s Aaron Task.

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Landscaping Resources for Property Managers


Out of the countless ways a conventional landscape can become more “green” and sustainable, we’ve compiled a list of 3 suggestions with the best ROI for property managers.

1. Install a Smart Irrigation Controller (Rebates available in most municipalities)

At a time when cutting edge technology is so prevalent in our daily lives, it makes no sense that your irrigation controller is from the Stone Age. At a minimum, your irrigation controller should be connected to a rain sensor that will shut down any programming if a set amount of precipitation collects in a small basin. Also, your controller should have a “seasonal adjust” feature that allows you to quickly reduce your set watering times by a percentage, making adjustments to your program quick and painless. If you have a larger property, upgrading to a smart controller that accesses weather data, ETo, soil moisture, and other conditions will no doubt save you water, money, and keep your plants healthier.

2. Conduct Quarterly Irrigation System Check-Ups

Odds are if sprinklers pop up or start dripping in the early morning hours, you and your landscape maintenance crew rarely see the system in action. If anything, you see evidence the system ran as you drive past and see the sidewalk and driveway wet. So take 20-30 minutes during daylight to turn on each sprinkler valve to check each head and emitter for proper functioning and alignment. There should be little to no overspray onto pavement, no geysers erupting from drip tubing, and absolutely no puddling. If you see puddling, you are applying too much water too quickly. To remedy, reduce watering times to cycle-soak intervals, replace sprinkler heads with rotary nozzles, and/or install a thick layer of tree trimmings to absorb and retain the moisture. Conduct these irrigation check-ups on quarterly intervals as a poorly maintained irrigation system will eliminate the savings of even the most state-of-the-art irrigation controller.

3. Minimize the Size and Impact of Lawn

As discussed in greater depth by others, the conventional lawn is a remnant of Landscaping 1.0. We are now well into Landscaping 2.0 and the notion that lawns should continue to be front-and-center of our properties is baseless. The percentage of time a maintenance team spends maintaining lawn is disproportionate to the value it provides. And needless to say, the time spent maintaining a lawn is not cheap. The water cost alone in warm climates is enough to make you reconsider its place in the landscape. For a quick illustration on the cost of water for a lawn compared to a drought-tolerant landscape, see the Water Usage Calculator at Landscape Resource.

However, if your lawn is to remain in its current form for practical reasons, consider implementing the following practices for increased health and reduced maintenance costs:

  • Grasscycling: Leave your grass clippings in place to reduce the amount of fertilizers needed to keep your lawn green.
  • Aeration: Using an aerator (mechanical or manual), plug holes throughout your lawn 2”-4” on center. This will alleviate soil compaction and allow moisture and nutrients to be more successfully absorbed into the root zone.
  • Reduce watering times: Statistics show that over 50% of people overwater their lawns by a factor of 1.5-2 times the amount needed. Try cutting back watering times by 3-5 minute increments. If you notice your lawn browning after a few reductions, bump the time up a bit and you’ve found a more accurate schedule and saved some water.
  • Mow High: For most lawns, you can set your sharp mower blade higher. This encourages a stronger, healthier grass that is less dependent on outside inputs