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Celebrating 45 Years


Nov. 2020 Vol. 45 No. 11

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New Horizons old • er 74 adul ts since 19

A publication of the Eastern Nebraska Offce on Aging

Andrea Skolkin, MPA, is the chief executive officer of the OneWorld Community Health Centers in Omaha. OneWorld believes everyone deserves to receive the best healthcare possible regardless of their finances or access to insurance coverage. Nick Schinker takes an in-depth look at Skolkin and OneWorld on pages 8 and 9.

Becka Tom Becka’s resume includes careers as a talk show host on TV and radio, a standup comedian, author, and realtor. See page 16.

What’s inside Vaccines can help prevent diseases ...........2 Nancy Hemesath’s ‘Conscious Aging’ ........2 Stand up straight to breathe easier .............3 Help for persons with vision loss ................4 Get your hearing tested today.....................5 Legal assistance during the pandemic........7 Protect your garden, landscape ................10 Bone loss study participants wanted ........13 A lack of healthcare professionals ............14 Knee osteoarthritis study at UCLA ............15


Check with your physician, pharmacist about Have a grateful heart the importance of vaccines during a pandemic Although times are tough, try ou have the diagnosis. developing a habit of gratitude power to protect While there’s no vaccine for COVID-19 today, you can


yourself against serious diseases like shingles, pneumonia, and flu. Vaccines aren’t just for kids. Adults may need vaccines to protect against whooping cough, flu, pneumonia, and shingles. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about vaccines you may need for your age, health conditions, or lifestyle. The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year. Everyone age six months and older should get a flu vaccine every season, especially high-risk people. Over 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.  This year’s flu season may be complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Testing may be needed to help confirm a

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safely get a flu vaccine at multiple locations including your doctor’s office, health departments, and pharmacies. To protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), people over age 50 should get the Tdap vaccine, if they didn’t receive it as an adolescent. Then you should get a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years.


f you have a condition that weakens the immune system, a cerebrospinal fluid leak, or a cochlear implant, ask your doctor about other important vaccines. As we get older, our immune systems tend to weaken, putting us at a higher risk for certain diseases. In addition to a flu vaccine and a Td or Tdap vaccine, older adults should also talk with their doctor, other healthcare professional, or pharmacist to find out which vaccines are recommended. Ask about vaccines that protect you against: • Shingles (recommended for healthy adults age 50 and older). Almost one of every three Americans will develop shingles in their lifetime. Your risk of shingles increases as you grow older. • Meningitis, pneumonia, and bloodstream infections. This is recommended for persons age 65 or older and for adults younger than age 65 who have certain health conditions. Every year thousands of Americans become seriously ill and are hospitalized because of diseases that vaccines can help prevent. By getting vaccinated, you can help protect yourself and your family from serious, sometimes deadly, diseases. Find out more at vaccines.gov.

New Horizons

November 2020


ave you seen the many jokes and comments about wanting to skip the rest of 2020? This has been a tough year for most everyone — COVID 19, economic stress, quarantines, racial unrest, political bickering, storms, forest fires, and any personal mishaps that add salt to the wounds. It’s not easy to hold one’s head up high and “whistle a happy tune.” It’s hard to not feel burdened by it all.

Conscious Aging By Nancy Hemesath

As in every crisis, we have the capacity to make choices on how to handle the bad news. Modern studies of the brain provide the scientific explanation of how this works. We’ve learned the brain, regardless of age, has the quality of neuroplasticity—which means our brain continues to form and reorganize connections as needed. This the quality that allows us to continue to learn at any age if we put our minds to it. Psychologists tell us that negative experiences stick to our memories more than positive experiences. There’s a bias in the brain that tilts toward negative memories even though most of our experiences are positive. It takes conscious effort to shift attention to positive experiences and memories. We internalize the positive by taking in a good experience and giving it focused attention for five, 10, or 20 seconds. In other words, we take a little time to savor the experience. When we do this, it supplants the mental activity that tilts toward the negative memories and changes our brain to savor the positive memories. A way to manage this process to our advantage is to develop the habit of gratitude. When consciously noticing something positive e.g., a colorful tree, a lovely piece of music, the smile of a stranger, a good meal, or a loving relationship, we feel gratitude. Those who study happiness tell us that people who inwardly feel gratitude are 2 to 4% happier than those who don’t feel gratitude. Those who outwardly express their gratitude are 4 to 19% happier than those who don’t outwardly express their gratitude. The increase in happiness is most pronounced in people who are generally less happy. This is good to know because we can employ this strategy on our down days to change our mood. During November 2020, a month like no other, we may not have the chance to safely enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey dinner with family and friends. Instead of succumbing to this depressing situation, I suggest we have a choice here. Instead of focusing on what we cannot have (the negative), we can train our brain to focus on the positives. By consciously practicing expressions of gratitude, we actually train our brain for happiness. This is done by feeling the emotion of gratitude, extending it to others, and repeating the practice daily. I suggest taking some focused time to write down three things for which you’re grateful each day. Don’t pick the same three things every day. Take a few moments to savor things and express your gratitude inwardly. Then think of telling another person about your gratitude. Thank them for the gift they are to you. If it’s a meal, tell the cook. If it’s a caregiver, show your appreciation. If it’s a sunset, tell someone about it. Just allow the gratitude to flow from you. Using this practice daily to prepare for Thanksgiving will set your brain to enjoy the day no matter what other circumstances you’re facing. By tilting our brain from the negative to the positive, we take charge of our own happiness. Let’s end 2020 on a happier note as we choose to have grateful hearts. Happy Thanksgiving. (Hemesath is the owner of Encore Coaching. She’s dedicated to supporting people in the Third Chapter of Life. Contact her at nhemesath@cox.net.)

Better posture leads to improved breathing


he fear of struggling to breathe or being put on a ventilator due to COVID-19 is driving people to look at how they breathe and to do something proactive. Opening up their posture allows people to breathe deeper and more fully. Strengthening neglected muscle fibers in the diaphragm and the core strengthens important immune functions while reducing stress and relieving many pains. Life today is lived at a different rhythm. Our bodies forget how to breathe fully because we’re living in a folded posture that’s weak structurally, functionally, and aesthetically. Looking down at smartphones, tablets, and other devices folds the head towards the pelvis, bending the spine and compressing the rib cage. Breathing is immediately restricted. You can feel the difference for yourself in how much air you can take in when looking down at a phone versus standing tall. Over time, muscles and ligaments adapt to the weight of the head jutting forward. The shoulders are pulled inward, rolling together and narrowing the chest, which restricts the expansion of the rib cage

and impedes breathing further, while posture gradually collapses. The consequence is called Forward Head Breathing (FHB) and it’s one reason why even people who exercise regularly but then sit for most of their day are at significantly higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. For those who don’t exercise at all, the risk is nearly double. Additionally, early research finds breathing problems in about 25% of COVID-19 cases. Posture should always be recognized as a pillar of health, especially for heavy users of phones, computers, and other technology. Posture professionals, as well as top athletes and active 90-year-olds know posture shapes health, performance, and the ability to take a full, deep breath. You can start improving your breathing and posture with an exercise routine called Five Strong Breaths used by doctors around the world to open up and use more of your diaphragm. Here’s the Five Strong Breaths exercise routine you can try: • Stand a foot away from the wall to release the lower diaphragm. • Align your torso over your pelvis by leaning back so your shoulders and buttocks touch the wall. • Level your head and look straight ahead. • Broaden your chest to open your rib cage by pressing shoulders back and down, keeping elbows to the wall, and palms facing forward. If your flexibility allows, press the back of your hands to the wall. • Stand tall and breathe in for a slow count of five, keeping your head level. • Stand taller and breathe out for a slow count of five, keeping the head level. Repeat the above steps two or three times a day.   Making sure your head stays level is a StrongPosture® must. Have a friend take a picture of you from the side while you’re leaning against the wall doing Five Strong Breaths. A “looking up” posture indicates an imbalance of postural muscles and sets the stage for forward head breathing.  Whether you’re rehabbing post-COVID-19 or proactively strengthening breathing to increase lung capacity, this exercise retrains postural muscles so you can breathe deeper to feel better, relieve stress, and look better. 

New Horizons New Horizons is the official publication of the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging. The paper is distributed free to people over age 60 in Douglas, Sarpy, Dodge, Washington, and Cass counties. Those living outside the 5-county region may subscribe for $5 annually. Address all correspondence to: Jeff Reinhardt, Editor, 4780 S. 131st Street, Omaha, NE 68137-1822. Phone 402-444-6654. FAX 402-444-3076. E-mail: jeff.reinhardt@enoa.org Advertisements appearing in New Horizons do not imply endorsement of the advertiser by the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging. However, complaints about advertisers will be reviewed and, if warranted, their advertising discontinued. Display and insert advertising rates available on request. Open rates are commissionable, with discounts for extended runs. Circulation is 9,000 through direct mail .

Editor....................................................Jeff Reinhardt Ad Mgr................Mitch Laudenback, 402-444-4148 Contributing Writers......Nick Schinker & Leo Biga ENOA Board of Governors: Mary Ann Borgeson, Douglas County, chairperson; Janet McCartney, Cass County, vice-chairperson; Lisa Kramer, Washington County, secretary; David Saalfeld, Dodge County, & Angi Burmeister, Sarpy County. The New Horizons and the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging provide services without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, disability, or age.

November 2020

New Horizons

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Cooking, kitchen tips for persons who have minor vision loss ome view cooking as a joy, while others view it as a necessity for getting food on the table. Even minor vision loss can make cooking seem impossible. However, with some practice and modifications to your cooking space, you can prepare food safely, independently, and

well. Staying safe in the kitchen starts with a few techniques and strategies. A liquid level indicator beeps when your cup or glass is full. Other devices include large print timers and raised and colored markings that maximize usable vision and your sense of touch. A safety turner – two spatulas joined by tongs – offers great control while handling hot food. Thermometers with speech and large print numbers can help you check food temperatures. The thought of chopping vegetables or other items with limited vision might make you nervous. You can do this with a flexible-arm task lamp for extra light and a cutting

board with an attached pivot knife for safety. Select cutting boards in colors that contrast with your food. For example, keep a white cutting board for slicing apples or carrots, and a dark-colored board for onions. In addition to the liquid level indicator, you can also purchase measuring cups and spoons with large print, tactile and contrasting markings. You can also mark your own cups with a 3-D pen, such as a Hi-Mark Tactile Pen or a Spot ‘n Line Pen. The Spot ‘n Line Pen is also a good tool to mark your appliance settings, canned goods, and frozen foods. Labeling items in your kitchen will keep you organized. Put raised dots on your microwave and use tactile indicators to mark your salt and pepper shakers. If you read Be simply confident Braille, purchase Braille labels to stick on serial containers on the go and spices to save time and quickly find items. Order these and many other items online from MaxiAids or Amazon. Call 800-522-6294 (toll free) to order from MaxiAids by phone.

Reclaim Oxygen Freedom With Kohll’s Portable Oxygen Solutions

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Metro Women’s Club of Omaha The Metro Women’s Club of Omaha’s motto is “Extending the hand of friendship.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, all Metro Women’s Club of Omaha events are on hold until further notice. For more information, please go online to metrowomensclub.org.

Elder Access Line


egal Aid of Nebraska operates a free telephone access line for Nebraskans age 60 and older. Information is offered to help the state’s older men and women with questions on topics like bankruptcy, homestead exemptions, collections, powers of attorney, Medicare, Medicaid, grandparent rights, and Section 8 housing. The telephone number for the Elder Access Line is 402-827-5656 in Omaha and 1-800-527-7249 statewide. This service is available to Nebraskans age 60 and older regardless of income, race, or ethnicity. Its hours of operation are 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to noon on Friday. For more information, log on the Internet to legalaidofnebraska.com/EAL.

AARP Nebraska


ue to the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential impact on older adults, the AARP Information Center, located at the Center Mall, will remain closed through the end of 2020.

• Recharges anywhere, and changing batteries is easy. • Five different pulse dose settings for your comfort. • Easy to use and read LCD touch screen. • Meets FAA requirements for air travel*. *RTCA/DO-160G section 21, category M


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New Horizons

November 2020

AARP and its volunteers continue to be engaged in legislative issues, voter campaigns, educational lessons, community events, nursing home reforms, home healthcare, Medicare, and Social Security. AARP encourages its members to stay well and to stay connected.

Charitable contributions don’t always require your checkbook By Jen Beck


hen the dust settles this fall, and you find yourself digging through the end of election mail, you might just find the beginning of the annual fundraising appeals. Given your holiday budget, fixed income, or the year it has been, you may not have as much to give to your favorite charities. Philanthropy during the holiday season is therapeutic and a great way to cap your year of giving, but if your finances don’t allow, there are alternatives to mailing in a check. First and foremost, your favorite charities need volunteers. While organizations may not allow volunteers inside the building, they may have projects you can take home. Virtual volunteerism is also at an all-time high and can be a great way to stay involved even from a social distance. What skills can you bring to the virtual world? Good with computers? Help enter data. Retired lawyer or insurance agent? Provide education on your area of expertise. Speaking of education, if you’re a teacher at heart, almost every kiddo learning virtually could use your help. Determine at what capacity you’re able to give and reach out. If political activism speaks to you, your favorite charities can use your support all year. Health charities, educational organizations, and state policies are impacted by activism. Passion truly leads the cause, and with technology it’s easier than ever to reach out to your representatives. From the privacy of your own home you can call a senator, email a representative, or contact a legislative hopeful through social media. Share with them why it’s important to vote in ways that support older adults, or recycling, or a better future for your grandkids. The beauty of activism is personal choice; wherever your passion may lie, connect with your charity and ask how you can encourage policy on their behalf. Your philanthropic efforts don’t have to extend all the way to the White House. Looking locally, even within your circle, can provide a much-needed bucket filler. In general, families are stretched thin. Working professionals are wondering how they’ll get food on the table before 8 p.m. Neighbors might be concerned with a drive home from an eye appointment next week. Offer to drop off dinner or pick up the kids from football. Check on your circle and see if you can help. It costs nothing to be a good person. The best part of the holiday season is being with friends and family and seeing their faces light up over a homemade dessert might be the literal and figurative “cherry on top.” Giving of your time and talent is just as important as financial gifts. Spend time thinking about what feels right for your holiday season and give as your means allow. Most importantly, enter the holiday season with grace and kindness and carry on your annual traditions of meaningful giving. (Beck is with Midwest Geriatrics, Inc. of Omaha.)


Get tested as soon as possible

Audiology group urges Americans to consider the benefits of wearing a hearing aid at any age


he American Academy of Audiology is urging the public to be aware of the importance of good hearing health. The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders said approximately 28.8 million Americans could benefit from the use of hearing aids. While age is often cited as a factor, there are growing numbers of younger people reporting hearing loss. A study published by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care cited nine risk factors for dementia. Untreated hearing loss is listed as one of those risk factors. The report also said dementia typically starts many years before it’s recognized. Untreated hearing loss impacts the brain and cognitive health.  There’s also a link between untreated hearing loss and falls. According to a study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, an increase in hearing loss in an individual, for instance going from normal hearing to an untreated mild hearing loss, is associated with a three-fold increase in fall risk.   One of the factors in maintaining healthy hearing is being conscious of the degree and amount of loud sound exposure. More than 40 million Americans, age 20 to 69, have some type of hearing loss with approximately 10 million of those attributable to noise-induced hearing loss. Managing sound exposure can protect hearing. Many hearing losses are caused by damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. The damage, which may be permanent, can be caused by too much noise. Steps, however, can be taken to prevent this damage.  The simplest way to protect your hearing if you can’t avoid loud sounds is to wear protection. An audiologist can help you identify the right hearing protection including custom products that can provide a comfortable fit and good sound quality.  The American Academy of Audiology said lengthy or repeated exposure to noise above 85 decibels can damage hearing. To

and other technology tools that are increasingly important for working remotely, learning online, shopping, banking, and engaging with others.


he four main ways for protecting your hearing are E for earplugs, A for avoid loud sounds, R for reduce the level of sounds, and S for shorten time in loud environments “There is no doubt people are concerned about their health. Often, though, they don’t think about the importance of hearing health,” said Catherine Palmer, Ph.D., president of the American Academy of Audiology; at professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and director of audiology for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health System. “An audiologist educates patients about safe versus unsafe levels for listening. They utilize tools and share resources that empower patients to protect their hearing. Additionally, they perform hearing evaluations and facilitate rehabilitation efforts for hearing loss, tinnitus, and certain balance problems.”  Audiologists are equipped to work with the public during the pandemic and are practicing within CDC and local health guidelines.  “Anyone suspecting his or her hearing has diminished, should see an audiologist and get tested as soon as possible,” Palmer said.  The American Academy of Audiology has audiologists listed on its website by location at audiology.org. Click on “find an audiologist.”

A Caring Community Called HOME!

Outlook Enrichment

f you or a loved one with vision loss have found challenges in accessing critical services, Outlook Enrichment can help through its adaptive technology training program. For individuals who are blind or have low vision, assistive technology includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with vision loss/disabilities and also includes the process used in the evaluation and selection of adaptive technology. Outlook Enrichment offers computer and smartphone training remotely. This helps clients learn how to use smartphone apps

put that into perspective, noise from fireworks can reach up to 155 decibels. A jet plane taking off is estimated to be 150 decibels. Shooting a gun is around 140 to 175 decibels depending on the gun. An amplified music concert and an MP3 player with the volume turned all the way up can be as high (or higher) as 120 decibels. Movie action scenes in the theater have been known to reach 100 decibels. Outdoor sounds can pose a risk too. Lawn mowers are around 85 decibels and chain saws can be 115 to 120 decibels. Compare these with normal conversations that are around 60 to 65 decibels.

Independent & Assisted Living

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utlook Enrichment also established a technology help line for people with visual impairment at 531-365-5334. The organization’s adaptive technology trainers respond to messages within 24 hours with technology solutions to help their blind neighbors stay connected and to conduct business. Call 531-365-5314 to schedule a phone appointment.

49th & Q Street • 402-731-2118 www.southviewheightsomaha.com

November 2020

New Horizons

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Intercultural Senior Center (ISC) You’re invited to visit the Intercultural Senior Center (ISC), 5545 Center St., for the following: • Morning exercise classes. Mondays: Tai Chi. Wednesdays: Zumba. Fridays: Tai Chi. Classes are held from 9 to 9:45. Bring water. Masks, which are available upon request, are required. • Tuesday, Nov. 3: The ISC is a voting site on Election Day. The ISC is closed on Nov. 11 for Veterans Day and on Nov. 26 and 27 for Thanksgiving. In late August, the ISC began opening its doors one day a week for nine people from 9 to 11:30 a.m. These men and women are encouraged to join exercise classes, do arts and crafts, play Bingo, and receive a Grab and Go meal they can take home. They are then driven home in an ISC van that has barriers between each row of seats to separate the passengers for safety during the pandemic. The ISC is looking for home delivered meals volunteers Wednesday and Friday at 10:30 a.m. More information is available at interculturalseniorcenter.org The ISC is a site for ENOA’s Grab-n-Go meals Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Reserve your meal before 10 a.m. the day prior. Recipients must be age 60 or older. A contribution is suggested. For more information, please call 402-444-6529. A monthly food pantry and hot meals are also available at the ISC for persons age 50 or older. Call 402-444-6529 to learn more. For more information about the ISC, call 402-444-6529.

VAS offering phone sessions during Medicare’s open enrollment period


edicare’s annual open enrollment period runs through December 7. This is the time of year to review your Medicare Part D coverage or your Medicare Advantage coverage. By reviewing your coverage, you may be able to save money on your prescription drug costs in 2021. Volunteers Assisting Seniors (VAS) will be available – even during the COVID-19 pandemic – to help

you review your plan. This year, drug and Medicare Advantage plan reviews will be done over the phone, not in person, in an effort to minimize exposure to COVID-19. Phone counseling sessions will be available daily. Limited evening and weekend appointments are also available. Please call VAS at 402444-6617 to schedule your phone session with one of VAS’ trained and certified Medicare counselors.

Portable oxygen concentrators can provide freedom away from home for persons needing oxygen therapy By David Kohll, PharmD & Dylan Sherrill, PharmD


on’t let your oxygen therapy hold you back. Stop planning your life around how many oxygen tanks you can carry or worrying about how you’re going to breathe when you’re away from home. Get your freedom back with a modern-day portable oxygen option that works for many Americans.

Charge the concentrator on any outlet and get back to a full charge in no time. Oxygen and portability haven’t always been compatible. Oxygen tanks have been around for more than a century, but they were heavy, unwieldy, and unsightly. They were also a fire hazard, and to get them refilled you had to bring the tank to an oxygen supplier for exchange. Oxygen tank users have to keep track of how many oxygen tanks they have left, and if they’re busy living an active lifestyle, they might have to cancel plans because they don’t have enough oxygen tanks to leave home safely. Don’t you think humans who invented the iPhone, robots that vacuum by them-

selves, and sliced bread would have come up with something better by now? Well, they have. Portable oxygen concentrators have been available for more than a decade but recent advances in battery and oxygen concentration technology have vastly improved their abilities. Most portable oxygen concentrators weigh only four to six pounds and are easily carried by most people. They come with stylish shoulder carrying bags, offer other options for mobility such as backpacks and pull-behind carts, and are quiet and hardly noticeable in public. Most portable oxygen concentrator devices are Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved, meaning they may be brought on commercial airflights with no special waiver or documentation. The battery life of most concentrators range between six and 12 hours, depending on how much oxygen the consumer needs. Many concentrators offer extended battery options for longer lasting charges, external batteries for when the concentrator needs a boost, and easy-to-swap batteries for a quick reload in a pinch. Get away to visit family and only pack your portable concentrator and charger. Take a road trip to see the world and charge your concentrator with a car charger. Was your flight delayed at the airport and you worried you would run out of oxygen before you made it home? Charge the concentrator on any outlet and get back to a full charge in no time. The best part is that portable oxygen concentrators are easy to use. Simply change the setting to what you and your healthcare provider decide is best for you, turn the concentrator on, and begin breathing easier. There are many portable oxygen concentrators on the market that offer different advantages. It’s important to discuss your options with your local oxygen provider so he or she can get you set up with the portable oxygen concentrator that works best for you. Most oxygen providers don’t rent used oxygen concentrators through insurance, and instead only sell them, offering deals that are often much cheaper than going through insurance. Portable oxygen concentrators last for years and can be used every day, so what are you waiting for? (Kohll and Sherrill are with Kohll’s Rx in Omaha.)

Denture Project scheduled for Dec. 2 at Creighton University School of Dentistry


en and women without teeth or who have ill-fitting upper and lower dentures are invited to the Creighton University School of Dentistry’s Complete Denture Project on Wednesday, Dec. 2, Patients will be screened at 8 a.m. at the Creighton University School of Dentistry, 2109 Cuming St. Second-year dental students will make new dentures under the guidance of the dental school’s faculty. The cost for the upper and lower denture is $200. Payment in full to the Creighton University School of Dentistry will be due on March 3, 2021. No insurance or Medicaid will be accepted. For more information, please call Carrie Ann at 402-280-5990, ext. 4147 or Gina at 402-280-5990, ext. 5073.

The Sierra Group, LLC FREE Book & CD Call Us: (800) 309-0753

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New Horizons

November 2020

Omaha Fire Department


he Omaha Fire Department’s Public Education and Affairs Department will install free smoke and/or carbon monoxide detectors inside the residences of area homeowners. To have a free smoke and/or carbon monoxide detector installed inside your home, send your name, address, and telephone number to: Omaha Fire Department Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Requests 1516 Jackson St. Omaha, Neb. 68102 For more information, please call 402-444-3560.


COVID-19 Disaster Relief Hotline

ebraskans who have questions or who are experiencing legal problems due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 public health emergency can get legal advice and help through the free COVID-19 Disaster Relief Hotline. Hosted by Legal Aid of Nebraska, working closely with the Nebraska State Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), this hotline aims to make key legal assistance easy and accessible. If you’re a Nebraskan facing legal issues related to the virus, or the owner of a small, locally-owned business (less than 50 employees, and not a franchise) that’s closed, in risk of permanent closure due to the virus, and where the payment of fees would significantly deplete your resources, the hotline may be reached at 1-844-2685627. Callers will be connected to the hotline’s voicemail.

Callers should leave their name, phone number, brief details of the problem and the assistance needed, and in what county they’re located.


allers will receive a call back from an experienced Legal Aid staff member. Individuals and businesses that don’t qualify for Legal Aid’s free services will be directly referred to the VLP. The VLP will work to place cases with Nebraska volunteer lawyers who will provide free legal assistance. The types of legal issues associated with COVID-19, and focused on by the hotline include: • Tenants with rent issues, including those facing eviction. • Debt problems, including debtors with garnishments or who are ordered to appear at a debtor’s exam. • Mortgage foreclosures, including advising on options for delinquent payments. • Unemployment insurance denials. • Employee rights, including sick leave and wage payments. • Government benefits available to low-income persons such as ADC, SNAP, AABD, and SSI. • Medicaid and medical insurance claims. • Drafting wills, health care power of attorney, and transfer on death deeds. • Domestic abuse and safety issues. • Elder abuse and exploitation. • Access to education. • Helping small, locally-owned businesses with business and employment related matters, including human relations issues, unemployment benefits, and contracts. More information on these legal issues is available at legalaidofnebraska.org.

November 2020

Call 402-444-6536 ENOA is recruiting volunteers for its Ombudsman Advocate Program


he Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging is looking for men and women age 21 and older to join its Long-term Care Ombudsman Program which is co-sponsored by the Nebraska State Ombudsman Program. ENOA’s Long-term Care Ombudsmen volunteer in local long-term care facilities and assisted living communities to protect the residents’ rights, well-being, and quality of life. Long-term Care Ombudsmen must complete 20 hours of initial classroom training and 12 hours of additional training every two years. During the training, the volunteers learn about the residents’ rights, aging issues, Medicare, Medicaid, communication skills, how to investigate the residents’ complaints, the importance of confidentiality, and about the federal and state rules, regulations, and laws regarding Nebraska’s long-term care facilities and assisted living communities. Before being assigned to a long-term care facility or an assisted living community, new volunteers will make four visits to a site with an experienced Ombudsman Advocate to learn more about what the program entails. After a threemonth probationary period, the new volunteers are certified as Ombudsman Advocates. Certified Ombudsman Advocates will be assigned to a long-term care facility or an assisted living community where they’ll visit for two hours a week to meet with administrators, residents, and the residents’ family members to address concerns. For more information about ENOA’s Long-term Care Ombudsman Program, please call Beth Nodes at 402-4446536.

New Horizons

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OneWorld’s CEO Skolkin has social justice in her heart By Nick Schinker

Later, it was a college Contributing Writer class and a book she read by Robert Butler, an Amerindrea Skolkin believes every person deserves accan physician, gerontolocess to the best health care possible. gist, and psychiatrist whose Last year, as CEO of OneWorld Community work, Why Survive? Being Health Centers, Inc., she directed a legion of physicians, Old In America, won the nurses, and healthcare staff who delivered medical, dental, Pulitzer Prize for General behavioral health, pharmacy, and support services to more Non-Fiction in 1976. Butthan 50,000 patients in the Omaha area. ler recognized discriminaShe credits her family upbringing and personal values for tion against older adults as her willingness to meet a challenge that continually grows early as 1968, coining the in size and scope. kinder term “ageism” and “I am a second-generation immigrant,” Skolkin explains. becoming an advocate for “Growing up, my father would always bring home strangthe needs and rights of older ers who had no place to go so they could share our holiday persons through research meals. I guess that just rubbed off on me.” and social action. Every year, more and more people are grateful that it did. “It won me over,” Skolkin says. “I just knew that was it resno, Calif. was the birthplace of Andrea Richtel for me.” (Skolkin), one of three children born to Melvin RichShe earned her bachtel, a pharmacist, and his wife, Bettie. Andrea lived elor’s degree in sociology in in Fresno until she was about 3, when her family moved to 1977 and went on to earn a Salt Lake City to be closer to her mother’s family, and so Master’s in Public Adminisher father could open a pharmacy there. tration from Loyola MaryShe remembers life as a Jewish family in a predominant- mount University in 1983. ly Mormon community. Caring and close-knit, her family Skolkin worked in health lived in a neighborhood with many adult friends and chilcare and aging in California, dren who played together outside. then moved in 1990 with her “We went on family vacations in a car with no seat belts husband, Michael, to live in and no air conditioning,” Skolkin says. “We took trips to the Twin Cities in MinneDenver, because that is where my father was from.” sota for 9-1/2 years, where She says Salt Lake City and the surrounding region was she served as executive beautiful, and during her middle school and high school director of the Metropolitan years, she became an avid skier. Area Agency on Aging. The Though her first choice for college was to return to couple have two daughters, California, instead she attended the University of Colorado Marlee and Maddison. in Boulder. “I was a wannabe hippie,” she says. “I was too Andrea’s husband worked late for the ’60s, but I wanted to be in that kind of environ- with mortgage loans, and ment. I found that in Boulder.” when his company decided In addition to her parents, she had several influences that to open an office in Omaha, likely steered her toward a career of community service. he asked if she would be “One was my Aunt Sadie,” she recalls. “Her husband had willing to move. They came died, and she had to raise two children on her own. I always to Omaha and she worked admired her independence and perseverance.” from 1999 until 2004 as



Skolkin earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Colorado and a Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University. executive director of Hope Medical Outreach Coalition, which provided specialty care for uninsured persons. “I got to know about OneWorld during that time, and I actually worked to create some programs for them,” she says. In August 2004, Skolkin accepted the position of chief executive officer at OneWorld, a community service organization with a strong history that has become increasingly robust and relevant under her leadership.

“When I think that I have some small role in making sure 50,000 people get the help they need, that’s an incredible feeling.”


n the late 1960s, leaders from Omaha’s Hispanic and Native American communities united with members of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, medical students from Creighton University and the Creighton School of Dentistry, and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries to address the needs of people who were struggling to afford health care after most major meatpacking plants in South Omaha closed. This led to the establishment in 1970 of the IndianChicano Health Center, a volunteer-staffed free clinic providing patients facing financial, cultural, and linguistic barriers better access to quality health care services. Physicians and students from Creighton University’s dental, nursing, medical, and pharmaceutical schools; the Clarkson College of Nursing; and the University of Nebraska Medical Center staffed the clinic as volunteers. The clinic incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1973, and one year later received its first funding from United Way. In 1979, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, now Lutheran Family Services, purchased a building at 2702 S. 20th St. It was renovated and the organization provided administrative support as the health clinic continued to grow. The clinic hired a three-person staff and added community outreach, translation, and transportation services. Eventually, the clinic’s board of directors decided it was time to become a freestanding organization, hiring its --Please turn to page 9.

Page 8

New Horizons

November 2020

Andrea, staff working hard to meet pandemic’s challenges --Continued from page 8. first full-time executive director, Sister Mary Kay Meagher, APRN. Mary Lee Fitzsimmons, R.N., Ph.D., became the second executive director and would lead the center through nine years, while the staff grew to 15 employees. In 2003, the Indian-Chicano Health Center was renamed OneWorld Community Health Centers, Inc., to better reflect its changing patient base. In 2004, with a budget of $4 million and a staff of 60 employees, Skolkin was hired as OneWorld’s CEO. In the 16 years since, OneWorld has grown to 520 employees, 13 clinic locations, and a budget of $50 million. Each year, Skolkin says, the needs and the challenges have grown, too.

There are joys with the challenges, Skolkin says. “Meeting people and making sure everyone we bring aboard shares in the vision; that is the part of my job I love the most.” So many joys, she says, that retirement is at least five to seven years away, “although my family tells me, ‘You’ll be there forever, Mom.’” “No matter what I do, I have to do something meaningful,” she says. “I

have social justice in my heart, and I have been blessed with a wonderful board of directors that has given me the opportunity to serve. When I think that I have some small role in making sure 50,000 people get the help they need, that’s an incredible feeling.” There are many days, she says, that she drives up to the OneWorld headquarters at the Livestock Exchange Building and sits in awe of

what has happened in the past 16 years. “I remember when we wanted to move into this building and I met with a donor,” she recalls. “They told me that my greatest job would be to translate the needs I see into a language people would buy into and invest in. “I hope that if I saw them today, they would say I’ve done that,” Skolkin says.


neWorld was set to mark its 50th anniversary in 2020. It was going to be a year of celebration. Then came Covid-19. “We had no idea the pandemic would take over everyone’s lives like it has,” Skolkin says. Operations changed, she explains, and OneWorld, like the nation and the world itself, had to adapt. “Still, we never closed. We’ve not missed one day. “We had to secure personal protective equipment for everyone and provide testing,” she says. “We adopted telehealth, and we delivered medicines to people 50 and older, and people with high-risk factors. We added windows on our pharmacy so people would not have to come into the building, and we added staff to test people and the equipment to do it safely outside.” Patients who test positive are advised on isolation, while a team of OneWorld case managers conducts follow-up checks during the twoweek quarantine period. Transportation service was suspended, and literacy center services were conducted online. When the pandemic first hit, Skolkin says, “there was not enough information being shared in Spanish, and many in the community did not understand what was taking place. It took a few weeks for people to understand. “Luckily, we have built a lot of trust within the Hispanic community, and because immigration status has never been a condition for care, they have continued to come see us.” Many of the challenges Skolkin faces as CEO are the same as they were before the pandemic. “You’re always worried about the money,” she says. “Our greatest needs are always financial and personnel. Trying to hire the right people is challenging. It’s even more pronounced now, because if someone is exposed or tests positive, you have to be able to fill in those spots while they isolate and quarantine.”

During Skolkin’s 16-year tenure as CEO, OneWorld Community Health Centers, Inc. has grown to 520 staff members, 13 clinical locations, and an annual operating budget of $50 million.

November 2020

New Horizons

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Researchers are studying why some lung Coexisting with the critters cancer patients develop brain metastases Animals can cause damage, so adjust your garden tasks niversity of Nebraska biomarkers and specific directed therapeutic


Medical Center researchers have received a four-year, $710,000 grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to study why some patients with lung cancer develop brain metastases. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the world, accounting for about 24% of cancer-related deaths. The predicted five-year survival rate of one type of lung cancer – non-smallcell lung cancer – is 21%, said Apar Ganti, MD, the study’s principal investigator and an oncologist specializing in lung cancer at UNMC and the Nebraska-Western Iowa VA Medical Center in Omaha. Once cancer has spread to the brain, the outcomes are poor as most chemotherapy drugs can’t penetrate into the brain in high enough concentrations to be effective, he said. “There is an urgent need to discover new

strategies for this central nervous system metastasis,” Dr. Ganti said. “We have found a mucin, a protein – mucin 5AC (MUC5AC) – that is seen in high levels in the lung tumors of patients whose brain lesion has been removed due to spread. We believe this protein somehow promotes the spread of cancer into the brain.” Dr. Ganti and his collaborators will try to identify the mechanism by which the protein stimulates the spread of lung cancer to the brain. “We hope we will be able to identify the pathways by which non-small cell lung cancer spreads to the brain. Since this is a very common site of spread of lung cancer, this will impact a large number of patients.” The team will use lung cancer cells and lung cancer animal models to decrease the MUC5AC protein level and evaluate the spread of lung cancer to the brain. (UNMC provided this information.)


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As the seasons change, we adjust our gardening tasks and plantings to match. Animals also make changes this time of year, often changing their eating habits and dining locations. These adjustments can impact your gardens. Reduce the risk of damage by starting in fall to protect your landscape from hungry animals this winter. Take a walk around your landscape to evaluate plants and plantings for their susceptibility to animal damage. Look for pathways that animals use to access your landscape and areas of potential damage. Note new plantings, animal favorites, and those special plantings you’d hate to lose. Make sure these are protected. Check mulch around trees and shrubs. Deep layers of mulch and mulch piled around the tree trunks and the base of shrubs provide shelter for mice and voles. These rodents like to gnaw on the bark of trees and shrubs in winter. Pull mulch off tree trunks and stems and spread out deep mulch so it’s only two to four inches deep. Protect young trees and shrubs with a four-feet-tall fence of hardware cloth sunk several inches into the ground to prevent vole damage at ground level and most rabbit damage. Mature trees are usually only bothered during years where the vole and rabbit populations are high and food is scarce. Fencing around garden beds filled with animal favorites is another option. Make sure your fence is high enough, tight to the ground, and the gates are secure. You’ll need a four-feethigh fence to protect your garden from rabbits. Repellents are another less obtrusive option. These use smell or taste to discourage animals from dining in your landscape. Check the label to see if the repellent works on the animals and rodents you’re trying to manage. Apply repellents before animals start feeding for best results. Then reapply as recommended on the label. Look for a repellant, like organic Plantskydd, that’s rain and snow resistant. It will last up to six months on dormant plants over the winter so you’ll need to apply it less often. Scare tactics may be effective depending on where you live. In urban and suburban areas animals are used to human scents and sounds. Gardeners often hang old CDs and shiny ribbons in tree branches to scare hungry animals. If you opt for scare tactics, be sure to employ a variety of options and change their location to increase your chance of success. Constantly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the methods used and check all plantings for damage. When animal populations are high and hungry, they’ll eat about anything. Be willing to change things up if one method isn’t working. Using multiple tactics will help increase your success level. Protect your landscape from hungry deer, rabbits, and voles this winter. Start preparing in fall before their winter dining habits begin. If you’re vigilant and persistent, you can coexist with these creatures and still have a beautiful landscape. (Myers has written more than 20 gardening books.) Charles E. Dorwart Massih Law, LLC

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Page 10

By Melinda Myers

New Horizons

November 2020

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Stay in your residence longer

It’s never too late to make your home more accessible


By Chris Holbert t may seem silly for someone in their 60s or 70s to begin adapting their home to make it more accessible and easier to navigate for someone who uses a walker, is in a wheelchair, or who can’t reach high shelves. Before you have any of these conditions may be the right time to make these adjustments and something many Americans should seriously consider. In a survey conducted by the National Council on Aging, older Americans overwhelmingly indicated they’d prefer to remain living in their residence as they grow older. Nine of 10 older adults planned on living in their home for at least five to 10 more years, which should make planning ahead for future mobility challenges a priority. Interestingly, 85% of the older adults surveyed didn’t think their homes would need any significant renovations to enable them to continue living there. This might be true when in good health and mobility is unimpaired, but the reality is many men and women will experience a fall after age 65. Modifications in key areas such as bathrooms and long hallways will reduce the risk of falling and greatly enhance the ability to move about the home safely. For example, a shower with a small step up or down poses no hurdle in younger years, but as the years pass, those few inches could really matter. Preparation doesn’t always call for massive structural renovations like knocking out walls. There are practical changes that can be made for reasonable costs and without massive disruption to everyday life. For example, installing grab bars in bathrooms or at door thresholds where a step down or up is required. Quick, low-cost changes like this can lessen the risk for falls that could lead to more complicated health problems. In addition, there are easy-to-use technologies that can make life easier for older

UNMC studying a stem cell treatment to fight glaucoma


ndividuals with glaucoma might one day benefit from a University of Nebraska Medical Center study published recently in which a “disease in a dish” stem cell model was used to examine the mechanism in glauadults and provide peace of mind for family coma that causes retinal ganglion cells and optic nerve to degenerate, resulting in vision loss. The study could result members. in new therapeutic approaches for this leading cause of While some people may find it overly blindness worldwide. invasive, there are companies that offer “This is one more monitoring services via in-home Wi-Fi constep in finding new nected cameras and sensors. These devices can detect falls, lack of movement, or other methods to help treat glaucoma in people characteristics that who suffer from this may indicate a health disease,” said Iqbal problem. Ahmad, Ph.D., a proThis triggers an fessor in the departalarm that allows a ment of ophthalmoloprofessional emergy and visual sciences gency response team, at UNMC. He and caregivers, or family colleagues Pooja Teomembers to perform tia, Ph.D., and Meng a visual or voice check-in. These solutions are limited to the home and while they serve Niu, Ph.D., conducted the study. a purpose, the safety net doesn’t extend to Located in the out-of-home mobility. For mobile older adults, there are Mobile retina, retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are nerve cells that send images to the brain via the optic nerve and enable a Personal Emergency Response Systems person to see. Glaucoma attacks these cells, which aren’t (PERS) that can be worn like a pendant or a watch the user will press if he or she falls replaced once they die. Researchers are trying to understand why and how glaucoma causes RGCs and the optic nerve to and need assistance. degenerate. PERS devices work inside and away Stem cell modeling of the disease may shed light on this. from the home and may also detect falls and “These models allow us to test whether or not defects call for help without any action from the seen in glaucoma have their roots in the development of person wearing or carrying the device. RGCs,” Dr. Ahmad said. “We generate RGCs and their These devices may offer two-way voice subtypes through normal developmental time and stages communication with professionally trained against which the developmental aspects of RGC abnormalemergency response operators, 911 operaity can be evaluated in controlled conditions.” tors, loved ones, or caregivers depending To study the developmental onset of the disease and upon how they’re setup. subtype abnormality, Dr. Ahmad and his research team Often the service providers can offer examined the molecular makeup of each of the cells generloved ones and caregivers access to a mapated in the POAG patient and healthy donor iPSCs using a ping tool that shows the location of the technique called single cell transcriptome analysis. older adult with the PERS device in real Dr. Ahmad said POAG-patient RGCs, as compared to time. healthy donor controls, expressed fewer genes that make Aging in place is an admirable goal and some RGCs preferentially resistant to degeneration. one anyone can pursue. It’s important to “The immature features of POAG-patient RGCs, deficient be realistic about the health challenges one in genes that make them degeneration resistant, if persisted could face down the road and plan for the in adulthood may make them susceptible to degenerative unexpected. There could be an upfront cost and it may changes that we observe in glaucoma,” he said. (Nebraska Medicine and UNMC provided this informarequire dealing with aging issues that many prefer to ignore, but the benefits of planning tion.) ahead outweigh the disappointment of having to move out of the home you’ve loved for years. ( Holbert is the CEO of SecuraTrac.)

We want to hear from you.

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NH Club gains new members

• Do you have questions about the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging, its programs, or services?

$100 Colleen McLaughlin (in memory of Joseph Martinez)

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November 2020

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New Horizons

Page 11

Douglas County Health Department The Douglas County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention want to educate Nebraskans about COVID-19. The DCHD, working with colleagues at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine, has created a COVID-19 information line at 402-444-3400. The information line will be open seven days a week (until further notice) from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Callers will be able to have their questions answered in Spanish and English. Dr. Pour said the best advice to avoid the COVID-19 is to practice good hygiene like you would with the seasonal flu. Good hygiene includes: • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer is a second option. • Don’t touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, especially with unwashed hands. • Avoid contact with people who are sick. • Stay home while you’re sick. • Wear a mask when around other people. • Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands. • Clean and disinfect your home, car, and workplace. Most people have recovered from COVID-19 by drinking lots of fluids, resting, and taking pain and fever medication. If symptoms worsen, medical care might be needed.

Actual tests can cost $10,000

ACL warns consumers about scams that offer DNA tests to Medicare beneficiaries


ver the past few years, DNA tests have become more popular across the country. However, unscrupulous people are taking advantage of the buzz around these tests to scam Medicare beneficiaries. Scammers target Medicare beneficiaries through telemarketing calls, booths at public events, health fairs, and door-to-door visits. They offer “free” genetic testing to help recipients avoid diseases or find the right medications. The scammers claim the testing is covered by Medicare, and therefore is free to the beneficiary. In reality, Medicare covers genetic testing in limited situations, and only when ordered by the beneficiary’s physician. If a company bills Medicare for genetic testing, and Medicare denies the claim, the beneficiary could be responsible for the entire $10,000 cost of the test. In other cases, the scammers are trying to obtain Medicare numbers they can use to steal a beneficiary’s medical identity or to fraudulently bill Medicare for services they didn’t provide. Such fraud can hurt not just Medicare beneficiaries, but taxpayers who contribute to Medicare.  To avoid being scammed, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) offers this advice to beneficiaries: • Don’t accept genetic testing services, including a cheek swab, from someone at a community event, local fair, farmer’s market, parking lot, or other large event. • Always be cautious about giving out your personal information including your Medicare number. • If you receive a genetic testing kit in the mail, don’t accept it unless it was ordered by your physician. Refuse the delivery or return it to the sender and keep a record of the sender’s name and the date you returned the item. • Always review your Medicare Summary Notice or explanation of benefits. The terms “gene analysis” or “molecular pathology” may indicate questionable genetic testing. If you received a cheek swab or screening that wasn’t ordered by a trusted provider or have concerns about billing errors or possible fraud, contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). The SMP program, funded by ACL, helps Medicare beneficiaries protect themselves from fraud, errors, and abuse. To find your local SMP, visit smpresource.org or call 1-877-808-2468. (The ACL provided this information.)

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New Horizons

Encourages enjoying the passage of time

Older Minnesota author steps back to treat herself well because of her age By Lucy Rose Fischer, PhD


ll summer, I enjoy cherries and peaches—the luscious summer fruits which dribble juice on our chins, necks, and fingertips. Peaches and cherries are pricey, even when they’re in season— costing more than apples or even the lovely clementines we get in winter. I treat myself to lots of cherries and peaches because I’m old. Actually, I don’t think of myself as old. I’m always a little surprised when I look in the mirror and see my gray hair and crinkled face or when someone refers to me as old. I hate when my doctor reminds me: “At your age, this complaint (with eyes, joint, skin, heart, etc.) is normal and to be expected.” I didn’t expect to have this problem. It doesn’t seem normal to me if my joints are worn or my eyes get spots. Like my old car, my body parts seem to be rusting and wearing out from too much use. Sometimes it’s my knees, neck, or shoulder. Not long ago, it was my knees. If I sat too long or walked too much, my knees throbbed. The nurse recommended ice packs and ibuprofen. The knees are better now. Is the breakdown of moveable parts just part of the aging process?  Of course, I forget words. I especially forget proper nouns, like names. Walking on a path by the lake one morning, I met two sets of friends. I wanted to introduce these friends to each other, but I couldn’t remember their names. It’s as if their names are floating in the blue air around me but I

can’t retrieve them—at least not at that moment. I stand by feeling foolish as my friends introduce themselves to one another. These friends seem to understand and tolerate my forgetting problems. They’re about my age.

As we grow older, we have a different perspective on life. A gerontologist put it this way: “At a certain age, we start counting years, not so much in chronological age, but in how many more years we might live. Of course, the number of our years is a mystery. But what old people know is that our time is finite.” Theoretically, young people know this too. But when we’re young, time seems like it will go on forever. We dream about what we might be and what we might accomplish. Anything and everything seem possible. We jog on hard surfaces, play tennis or football, and use our fingers, elbows, and knees as if they would never rust. When we’re old, we understand finiteness in a visceral way. We’ve loved and lost. We’ve had our share of successes and failures. Various body parts have broken down. What old people understand is the passage of time. We’ve seen how babies grow into middle aged men and how accidents or sickness can come with no warning. Or how good things can happen, too. History is something we’ve experienced. We’ve seen men walking on the moon, lived through the Vietnam War, and watched the fall of the Berlin Wall. The current pandemic is one more major historical event in our lives.  I used to teach classes on the Sociology of Aging to college students, most of whom were 19-year-olds. For them, aging was something that happened to their grandparents. It wasn’t real for them. They could learn the facts, the statistics, and the theories. But old age was like a far-off planet they never planned to visit.  I’ve been extraordinarily lucky, had a wonderful life, and I’m grateful. Now in my mid-70s, I still have dreams and work to do like the books I’m writing, the art I’m creating, and the places I want to go. So, I’m not preparing my epilogue quite yet.  Somewhere there’s a stopwatch with my name on it. My number of summers is finite. So, I’m going to eat lots of peaches and cherries in the summer.  (Lucy Rose Fischer, PhD, is an award-winning Minnesota author, artist, and social scientist.)

Senior Companions, Foster Grandparents are needed


en and women age 55 and older who want to earn a tax-free stipend while making an impact in their community are encouraged to join the Senior Companion Program and the Foster Grandparent Program. Sponsored locally by the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging, the SCP and FGP are national programs of the Corporation for National and Community Service through the Senior Service Corps. Senior Companions help other older adults maintain their independence by visiting them at home to discuss the news, read mail, play cards, run errands, etc. Foster Grandparents serve as positive role models for children who need special attention with education, healthcare, and

November 2020

social development in schools, Head Start programs, and child development centers. SCP and FGP volunteers must meet income guidelines and complete an enrollment process that includes references and background checks. In exchange for volunteering 10 hours or more per week, Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions receive a $3 an hour tax-free stipend, mileage reimbursement, an annual physical examination, supplemental accident insurance coverage, and other benefits including an annual recognition luncheon. The stipend does not interfere with rent, disability, Medicaid, or other benefits. For more information on the FGP and SCP, please call 402-444-6536.

UK study: Older adults who consume lots of Vitamin C have the best skeletal muscle mass


itamin C could be the key to better muscles in later life, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the United

Kingdom. Research shows older adults who eat plenty of Vitamin C – commonly found in citrus fruits, berries, and vegetables – have the best skeletal muscle mass. This is important because people tend to lose skeletal muscle mass as they get older leading to sarcopenia (a condition characterized by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function), frailty, and reduced quality of life. “People over age 50 lose up to 1% of their skeletal muscle mass each year, and this loss is thought to affect more than 50 million people worldwide,” said lead researcher Ailsa Welch, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School. “It’s a big problem, because it can lead to frailty and other poor outcomes such as physical disability, type-2 diabetes, reduced quality of life, and death. “We know Vitamin C consumption is linked with skeletal muscle mass. It helps defend the cells and tissues that make up the body from potentially harmful free radical substances. Unopposed, these free radicals can contribute to the destruction of muscle, thus speeding up age-related decline.” Few studies have investigated the importance of Vitamin C intake for older adults. The study wanted to find out whether people ingesting more Vitamin C had more muscle mass than others.

The research team studied data from more than 13,000 people ages 42 to 82 who are taking part in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Norfolk Study. Researchers calculated their skeletal muscle mass and analyzed their Vitamin C intakes from a seven-day food diary. They also examined the amount of Vitamin C in their blood. “We studied a large sample of older Norfolk residents and found that people with the highest amounts of Vitamin C in their diet or blood had the greatest estimated skeletal muscle mass compared to those with the lowest amounts,” said Dr. Richard Hayhoe, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School. “We are very excited by our findings as they suggest dietary Vitamin C is important for muscle health in older men and women and may be useful for preventing age-related muscle loss. “This is significant as Vitamin C is readily available in fruits, vegetables, or supplements, so improving intake of this vitamin is relatively straightforward.” The study found nearly 60% of men and 50% of women participants weren’t consuming as much Vitamin C as they should, according to the European Food Safety Agency recommendations. “We’re not talking about people needing mega-doses. Eating a citrus fruit, such as an orange, each day and having a vegetable side to a meal will be sufficient for most people,” Dr. Hayhoe said. (The University of East Anglia provided this information.)

Participants asked to wear a Spry Belt

Women needed for UNMC bone loss study


he University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Allied Health Professions is collaborating with Theranova, LLC, an experienced medical device development company, to conduct a federally funded research study to evaluate the effectiveness of the Spry Belt in preventing bone loss in post-menopausal women. The Spry Belt is worn for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and delivers energy that may help prevent bone loss. Laura Bilek, Ph.D., a professor and physical therapist in the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions is the principal investigator. Nancy Waltman, Ph.D., a professor and advanced practice registered nurse in the UNMC College of Nursing, is a co-investigator on the project. Ten million Americans have severe bone loss or osteoporosis, and 34 million have low bone mass known as osteopenia. Four of five patients with osteopenia and osteoporosis are women.

Without treatment, women with low bone mass will likely continue to lose bone, develop osteoporosis, and have a greater risk of fractures. “One in every two women will suffer an osteoporotic fracture during her lifetime,” said Dr. Bilek. “Despite the high prevalence of low bone mass, few treatment options exist.” Participants will be randomly assigned to wear an active Spry Belt or a placebo Spry Belt. After 12 months, outcomes measured will include lumbar bone strength and hip and spine bone mineral density. Women also will be asked to take study supplied calcium and vitamin D supplements. “Fractures are devastating to older adults. A non-invasive treatment for women at risk would be a dramatic contribution to health care decreasing the number of fractures as well as the associated disability experienced by older adults,” Dr. Bilek said. Women age 50 or older are being recruited for the study. Study information can be found by contacting Kara M. Smith at beltstudy@unmc.edu or 402-559-6584.


Regulating body temperature, hydration becomes more difficult as we get older


ur ability to regulate body temperature and keep our bodies from becoming dehydrated declines as we get older. New research published recently in The Journal of Physiology improves our understanding of the relation between temperature regulation and dehydration. This research can help us better tailor strategies for managing body temperature regulation and hydration during heat exposure in older adults. For example, because of reductions in thirst and our ability to preserve body fluid as we age, we may require more frequent reminders to drink water when working in the heat or during heatwaves. Exercise, especially when performed in a hot environment, exposes the body to heat stress, which causes body temperature to increase. In these situations, we rely on sweating to help remove heat from the body and prevent continued rises in body temperature which may increase the risk of heat-related illness or injury such as heat stroke. Prolonged sweating, however, can cause too much fluid to be lost from the body. Unless the person drinks water or a sports drink, this can lead to dehydration. Dehydration also reduces the volume of circulating blood and increases the blood’s salt content. Not only does dehydration make our mouths dry and make us want to drink water, it also impacts the regulation of body temperature. When we become dehydrated, we sweat less and, as a result, lose less heat and become less able to cool the body. While this can be disadvantageous to regulating body temperature, these adjustments limit further fluid losses and slow the rate of dehydration. Thus, our body’s response to dehydration acts to balance the body’s fluid and temperature regulatory needs. Until recently, however, our understanding of the effects of dehydration on body temperature regulation came primarily from studies conducted in younger adults. Dehydration didn’t reduce heat loss or increase body temperature in the older adults during exercise. At first glance this seems like a beneficial response. However, this meant the older adults didn’t attempt to adjust the rate of sweat loss to prevent further dehydration. As a result, they experienced greater strain on the heart as evidenced by a more pronounced increase in heart rate compared to younger men. Previous literature indicates as we age, our body responds less efficiently to dehydration. Some have suggested this is due to an impaired ability of the body to sense increases in salt levels in the blood (i.e. lack of water) that would normally trigger thirst and drinking. A group at the University of Ottawa’s Human and Environmental Physiology Research Unit had younger and older men perform exercise in the heat. Before exercise, blood salt content was increased artificially by giving them infusions of saline (saltwater). The participants performed the exercise in a device called a whole-body direct calorimeter, which precisely tracks the amount of heat lost from the entire body caused by increases in sweating and blood flow to the skin. The study’s primary finding was in contrast to younger adults, the regulation of body temperature in the older adults wasn’t influenced by increases in the saltiness of the blood.

211 telephone network

he 211 telephone network has been established in parts of Nebraska to give consumers a single source for information about community and human services. By dialing 211, consumers can access information about human needs resources like food banks, shelters, rent and utility assistance,

physical and mental health resources, support for older Americans and persons with a disability, support for children and families, as well as volunteer opportunities and donations. The 211 network is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The information is also available online at ne211.org.

November 2020

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New Horizons

Page 13

Local group will collect, share Totals broken down county by county COVID-19 related patient data UNMC report: Rural areas of Nebraska


he Great Plains Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Clinical & Translational Research (CTR) Network headquartered at the University of Nebraska Medical Center has received a $180,000 grant to participate in a national effort to collect and share data on COVID-19-related patient outcomes for use in research.

need additional healthcare professionals


2020 healthcare workforce report by the University of Nebraska Medical Center reveals the number of physicians and nurse practitioners increased slightly in Nebraska since the last survey in 2018. Despite these positive developments, rural areas of the “The exciting thing is that we state still lag in the number of needed now have a robust framework healthcare professionals. The report examined 21 healthcare proto gain new knowledge to fessions ranging from physicians and physiface down future cian assistants to nursing, dental, and allied health professionals.  health challenges It also looked at the sex, age, race, and beyond COVID.” ethnicity of each healthcare professional, as well as measured the number and rate of healthcare professionals per 100,000 people The funding from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences will support data transfer to the National in Nebraska by county.  “The delivery of comprehensive, highCOVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) Data Enclave; a regisquality, team-based care is getting more try of COVID-19-related information from patients across difficult in rural communities that have the country. The enclave will enable researchers with data to use agreements from UNMC and seven other IDeA-CTR limited or no access to the key healthcare specialists and nursing professionals needed networks – with support totaling more than $1.4 million – to case-manage and care for increasingly to track the disease in patients across the country. complex patients,” said Nicole Carritt, di N3C will help scientists develop insight into potenrector of the UNMC Office of Rural Health tial risk factors, protective factors, and long-term health Initiatives.  consequences. Fifty-seven sites across the country will “Healthcare professions are high demand, share data from the electronic health records of individuhigh skill, and high wage occupations,” als (identity of individuals will not be included) tested for COVID-19, including demographics, symptoms, laboratory said Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, the chancellor of UNMC and the University of Nebraska at test results, procedures, medications, medical conditions, Omaha. physical measurements, and more. “These professions are critical to the  Matthew Rizzo, MD, Frances & Edgar Reynolds Chair overarching healthcare system as they and professor in the UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences, in collaboration with James McClay, MD, said he facilitate access to quality healthcare and and his team rapidly responded to the challenge recently by have a significant impact on Nebraska’s health, economy, and the sustainability and being the first in the region to contribute to the enclave. Dr. McClay is principal investigator of UNMC’s research vibrancy of the state’s rural communities.”  The study, commissioned and funded by data warehouse and director of the Biomedical Informatics the Office of Rural Health Initiatives and Core of the Great Plains IDeA-CTR. the Nebraska Area Health Education Center “Being nimble, pivoting quickly, and marshalling reProgram, used the most recent data from the sources to face down COVID helped create this gold mine for all kinds of answers for all kinds of questions,” Dr. Riz- UNMC Health Professions Tracking Serzo said. “Some of the questions we want to answer are what vice and the state of Nebraska.  “This report helps to measure the progtreatments work, what are the long-term side effects, is ress we have made in the state in dealing there a greater rate of cognitive problems, who’s at greater with some of the workforce issues in rural risk, will the virus have consequences down the road? Nebraska and in planning for the future,” “It’s unprecedented to get so many networks together quickly so we can pool data to help figure out what is going said Nizar Wehbi, MD, assistant professor and deputy director for the UNMC Center on with this disease and the pandemic.”  By aggregated counts of anticipated positive COVID-19 for Health Policy. Several programs have helped increase patients, the N3C Data Enclave is anticipated to be one of the number of rural health professionals in the world’s largest collections of data on COVID-19 paNebraska.  tients. “Grow Your Own programs encourage,  Dr. Rizzo said the registry also ensures the data repreincentivize, and support students from rural sents the diversity of the country so researchers can underand disadvantaged backgrounds who enroll stand and address geographic and population disparities in pre-health and health profession training during the pandemic. programs and are committed to returning to  “There are many opportunities in the future,” Dr Rizzo rural areas to practice,” Carritt said. “More said. “We could apply this national strategy for gathering information on COVID to gain comprehensive information than 71% of graduates from the UNMC’s Rural Health Opportunities Program and the on critical areas such as mind and brain health and many Kearney Health Opportunities Program are medical disorders. The exciting thing is that we now have practicing in rural Nebraska.”  a robust framework to gain new knowledge to face down future health challenges beyond COVID.” till, challenges remain including the  (UNMC provided this information.) reality that nearly one-fourth of the physicians in Nebraska are more Alzheimer’s Association offers free webinars than 60 years old, and thus likely to retire in the near future; 17 of 93 Nebraska The Alzheimer’s Association is offering a variety of counties have no pharmacist; and 14 of 93 free educational webinars. Nebraska counties have no practicing priTopics include the warning signs of Alzheimer’s, mary care physician. dementia research, healthy living, legal and financial Demographics in many Nebraska counties planning, early stage care partners, late stage caregivers, are becoming more diverse, but the current and understanding and responding to dementia-related health workforce doesn’t necessarily reflect behavior. the populations being served. To register or for more information, please call 800“In partnership with stakeholders across 272-3900 or go to alz.org/crf. UNMC’s 500-mile campus, we’ve made


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New Horizons

November 2020

progress over the years. But the landscape of healthcare is rapidly changing, and we must remain diligent to sustain the progress we’ve made and close the gaps,” Carritt said.

“The time is right for new and innovative community-based ideas and policy solutions that incentivize healthcare providers to practice in high-need areas and attract private investment to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure in rural Nebraska.” Other key findings of the report include:  • Out of 93 Nebraska counties, only 39 have active OB/GYN physicians in 2019 compared to 49 in 2017.  • There are 1,335 nurse practitioners in Nebraska. That’s a 16.3% increase since 2017 when there were 1,148.  • The number of registered nurses increased by 1,137 between 2017 and 2019.  • The number of practicing pharmacists decreased slightly between 2017 and 2019 while the number of pharmacy technicians increased by 83.  • There are substantial gaps in the distribution of allied health professionals across the state, particularly in north central Nebraska. Based on the findings, the report issued the following recommendations:  • Enhance existing pipeline programs and educational initiatives that incentivize healthcare professionals to practice in rural communities.   • Enhance the availability of scholarships and student loan repayment programs for health profession students and practitioners at all levels, especially those interested in working in rural and underserved urban areas to assist students with unmet financial needs and encourage students to remain in the state after completion of their training programs.  • Increase the number of medical residency training positions in Nebraska to include significant training in rural and underserved areas.   • Expand the capacity of the telecommunication infrastructure to support the adoption and utilization of telehealth for expanding access to healthcare.   • Develop innovative healthcare delivery solutions and related policy interventions to mitigate gaps in healthcare access due to health profession shortages as well as support rural training programs. • Perform targeted, ongoing data collection to monitor the healthcare workforce and forecast future needs and requirements.   • Establish and streamline existing public-private partnerships aimed at health professions education, workforce development, and healthcare delivery. (UNMC provided this information.)

UCLA looking at a new way Study: Pain symptoms worsen during pandemic being, both to younger and older people. with bone, joint, to treat knee osteoarthritis andPeople “When the lockdown happened, we were worried this muscle pain have seen


or the millions of people living with the pain and stiffness of knee osteoarthritis, there are few effective options short of joint replacement surgery which requires months of recovery and physical therapy. Even then, many men and women can’t be considered for surgery because of their age or other medical conditions.

Now, doctors at UCLA Health are offering a promising minimally invasive option that may delay or prevent the need for a knee replacement while offering significant pain relief, reduced inflammation, and improved mobility.  More than 100 people have undergone the procedure at UCLA with more than 70 percent reporting improvement.  “Although more study is needed, the preliminary results have been overwhelmingly positive. Patients who have lived with debilitating pain for years are able to improve within weeks without any major side effects and without physical therapy,” said Sid Padia, MD, an interventional radiologist at UCLA Health who refined a similar procedure first developed in Japan.  “The outpatient procedure takes two hours, and patients are up and walking a few hours later.”  The painless procedure, called genicular artery embolization, involves injecting tiny particles into the arteries leading to the knee to reduce blood flow and, in turn, inflammation. “While this is revolutionary for the treatment of osteoarthritis, it is a method that has been used in other areas of medicine for years, especially to shrink liver tumors and to treat uterine fibroids,” Dr. Padia said. “We use the same particles, the same materials, and the same practices, but instead of treating tumors, we’re treating inflammation.” UCLA will start clinical trials later this fall, and the procedure should be available at other institutions in the U.S. in 2021. UCLA has also begun using the procedure to treat arthritis pain in other areas of the body such as the shoulder and elbow with promising results.

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their symptoms worsen during the pandemic, according to research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the United Kingdom. A new study published shows the majority of people with musculoskeletal pain reported increased symptoms as the world adhered to new restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19. Individuals who experienced the most social isolation and loneliness were less likely to access healthcare during this time. The findings are the result of a survey of more than 600 people across the UK to see how people with bone, joint, and muscle pain coped in lockdown. The study was led by Dr. Toby Smith from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, and Professor Alex MacGregor from UEA’s Norwich Medical School. “Bone, joint, and muscle pain is a major cause of disability for people across the UK,” Dr. Smith said. “People with these problems often experience pain, joint stiffness, fatigue, and muscle weaknesses.” Dr. Smith said study results show the coronavirus pandemic is a major challenge for health and well-

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may become a much greater problem – particularly for those with bone, joint, and muscle pain. “We wanted to know how the new restrictions might affect pain, and better understand who is most at risk of experiencing flare-ups or reduced wellbeing due to social isolation and loneliness.” The research team launched an online survey in late April, five weeks after the start of lockdown, in a group of 678 patients with a range of musculoskeletal diseases to see how the restrictions impacted their wellbeing and ability to access healthcare. “We found the majority of survey participants, just over 53%, reported their musculoskeletal symptoms had worsened since the start of lockdown,” MacGregor said. “A third of patients reported needing to access either their general practitioner or a hospital rheumatology department. As might be expected, those who accessed healthcare reported significantly greater pain, stiffness, and poorer general health.” The study also indicated those who reported greater social isolation and loneliness were less likely to access healthcare. “Most respondents, just over 88%, reported little difficulty accessing medication, but 44% needed the assistance of others to do this,” MacGregor said. He said patients have been able to access primary care and hospital rheumatology departments. However, those with higher levels of social isolation access healthcare the least. “Should further isolation measures need to be enforced as we have seen in some part of the UK as the pandemic continues, particular efforts should be made to protect and support the socially isolated as a vulnerable group. “Healthcare providers should reach out to individual patients who do not come forward for advice, and who might be silently struggling with their disease,” he added. (The University of East Anglia provided this information.)

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Becka has informed, entertained audiences since 1976 Upon returning to Nebraska – confident in his gift for gab and ability to inform and entertain – Tom approached the management at KFAB about doing a radio talk program in Omaha. For the next five years, The Tom Becka Show and its unique perspective on life was heard weekdays at 1110 on the AM radio dial. “The audience and I discussed what was happening in Omaha,” Tom said. “I loved the people I met and the conversations I had with them.” The Tom Becka Show moved to Kansas City’s KMBZ in 1999 where Becka stayed until his father became ill in 2004. Tom moved back to Omaha and returned to KFAB where he worked through 2012. Then, for the next three years, Becka hosted a radio talk show on Omaha’s KOIL. n 2015, Becka successfully pitched the idea of doing a nightly commentary on TV to the folks at Fox 42. Television is a welcome media diversion for Becka. “Radio has become so vitriolic and angry,” he said. Shortly after the pandemic began in March, Breakfast with Becka debuted. “I want to get people to think about things in a different light than they may have otherwise,” Tom said. “I try to be informative and entertaining, and I try to make sense out of this crazy world.” Becka also keeps busy these days selling real estate for Better Homes and Gardens. He feels there’s a direct correlation between talking to people on the radio and TV and marketing homes to them. Sales have always come naturally to Tom, who in 2008 wrote a book titled, There’s No Business Without the Show: Using Showbiz Skills to Get Blockbuster Sales.

I A 1974 Omaha Benson High School graduate, Becka does a two-minute commentary on the evening news and a half-hour morning show on Fox 42. By Jeff Reinhardt

New Horizons Editor


rowing up in Cleveland and later in Omaha, Tom Becka enjoyed listening to the radio. “I’ve always loved communication and the art of conversation,” Becka, age 65, said during a recent interview on the front porch of his Dundee-area home. Take a time machine to 2020, and Becka has spent the last 44 years speaking with, listening to, and entertaining audiences across the country. These days, Tom’s high-energy style can be seen twice daily Monday through Friday on Omaha’s Fox 42. Each weeknight Becka’s Beat features a two-minute commentary on current events during the station’s 9 p.m. newscast. Weekday mornings from 7 to 7:30, viewers can tune in to Breakfast with Becka. “It’s basically a drive-time radio show on TV for people who are working at home,” Tom said, as he removed an I Believe in Science mask to reveal his omnipresent smile. A 1974 Omaha Benson High School graduate, Becka got his first job in radio two years later while studying broadcasting at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He spent five years spinning records and selling ads for KUGR in

Tom has hosted radio talk shows on KFAB and KOIL in Omaha and KMBZ in Kansas City.

Page 16

New Horizons

Green River, Wyo. During the next several years, Tom sold advertising for radio stations in Greeley, Colo; Phoenix, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque. While living in Albuquerque, Becka participated in an open microphone night at a local comedy club. The friendly, conversational style Tom displayed that evening on stage led to a career on the road as a standup comedian opening for names like Jerry Seinfeld, Sam Kinison, Lewis Black, and the rock band Chicago. Becka said he was “funny most nights” performing at venues like the Gladstone Amphitheater in Kansas City, The Punchline in Atlanta, and The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. While seeing the country and interacting with audiences were the best parts of being a standup comic, Becka said those joys were at times offset by the isolation he endured traveling from club to club. Tired of living out of his car, Tom gave up standup comedy and moved back to Omaha in 1994 in part to spend more time with his parents, Ray and Anna Mae and siblings Joan, Maureen, and Michael. He had also grown weary of creating new material for his act. “The creative muscle needs to be exercised every day. I had my run and I didn’t want to take opportunities away from young comedians.”

November 2020


t the traditional age for retirement, Becka said he doesn’t plan to slow down. “I feel like I have another 30 years in me.” When reviewing his life and career, Tom doesn’t have any regrets. “I want people to think of me as someone whose heart was in the right place, who was honest, and who tried to make things better.” When he does step away from the microphone and camera, Becka said he’d like to travel more and live out his dream of playing center field for his beloved Cleveland Indians. “I’ve done a lot of cool stuff, but I have a lot more cool stuff I want to do.” For more information, go to tombecka.com.

Becka on the front steps of his Dundee-area home.

Profile for Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging

New Horizons November 2020