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Mary Mastroeni
Mary Mastroeni
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Blue Bell  PA 19422
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O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
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Mary's Blog

Helping Seniors Drive Safer, Longer

May 17, 2012 5:44 pm

Since January 2011, nearly 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, joining the fastest growing age group in the nation. According to a recent American Automobile Association (AAA) survey of that booming population, nearly half of seniors worry about losing their freedom and mobility when the time comes for them to transition from driver to passenger. 

From understanding how vision changes can affect one's ability to drive at night, to researching the effects certain medications can have on one's driving ability, it's important to get the facts about driving for seniors. Use these tips from AAA to help ensure you and your family members are driving safely: 

Evaluate your driving
While most seniors are experienced drivers, it's important to take time to consider one's driving "health" and habits. For instance, how frequently do you wear a seatbelt? Do you use your signal and check for nearby traffic before changing lanes? Does traffic cause you to feel anxious? When was the last time you had an eye exam? You can take a Driver 65 Plus self-assessment at to get a clear picture of just how good your driving skills really are, and you'll also get suggestions for improving your driving. 

Be aware of how aging affects driving habits
From hearing and vision loss, to mental fitness and reaction time, seniors may not notice the gradual differences that can impact their driving ability. For instance, by age 60, your eyes need three times the amount of light to see properly as they do for people 20 years old, which means it's more difficult to see at night. Likewise, one-third of Americans suffer from hearing loss by age 65. This can pose a problem, as senior drivers may be unable to hear high-pitched noises such as emergency response vehicles while on the road. 

Reaction times can be slower for seniors as well. But preventative measures can go a long way.
-- When following other vehicles, seniors should increase the distance between their car and the car in front of them, to allow more time to react to sudden braking.
-- Eliminating distractions in the vehicle and avoiding heavy traffic can also help seniors identify emergency sirens, and avoiding driving at night is another safer option for seniors. 

Find the right fit
With the wide array of vehicles offering all sorts of convenience features, seniors may not realize that their car may not be optimally adjusted to fit them. For example, sitting too close to the steering wheel can interfere with steering and cause fatigue, as well as injury, should the airbag deploy during a collision.
-- Make sure you have at least 10 to 12 inches between your chest and the steering wheel.
-- When seated properly, you should be able to see the ground in front of your car within 12 to 15 feet and 1 1/2 car widths left and right.
-- Visit to assess the safety of your vehicle, find the proper seat and mirror adjustments and more. 

Take a refresher course
No matter how many years a driver has been on the road, a refresher course can help reinforce the basics such as identifying road signs, as well as provide information on updated driving rules and new vehicle technologies. 

Talk with your doctor and pharmacist
Ensure that the medications you take -- both prescription and over-the-counter -- will not impair your ability to drive safely. In addition, make sure all your medications go through one pharmacy, so the pharmacists on staff can better assess any potential drug interactions. 

Top 5 driving tips for seniors
1. Prepare for a drive by adjusting your mirrors and seat to ensure you can see properly. Always wear a seatbelt.
2. Eliminate distractions, such as the car radio, which can interfere with your ability to hear emergency response vehicle sirens and other important sounds.
3. Avoid driving in bad weather, heavy traffic or at night.
4. Making left-hand turns can be difficult for people with limited vision. Avoid left-hand turns at intersections with signals by making three right hand turns around the block when possible.
5. Manage slower reaction times by increasing the amount of space between your vehicle and the car in front of you, allowing for more time to react to sudden braking. 

Tips for family members
If you're concerned about the safety of a senior family member, look to resources such as their doctor or your local DMV, that can help identify their capacity to drive, and find transportation resources to help them manage daily needs:

-- If your family member has received two traffic citations, warnings or been involved in two collisions or "near misses" within a two year period, it may be time to look for other forms of transportation.
-- Make sure your family member speaks with their doctor and pharmacist about prescription and over-the-counter medications that may impair their ability to drive safely.
-- Talk with family members, friends and neighbors about organizing a car pool to help seniors who need rides find transportation. Look to local public and supplemental transportation options as well. 



Q: What Factors Should Determine whether I Decide to Move or Remodel?

May 17, 2012 5:44 pm

A: Your personal needs, preferences and finances are all factors. If you’ve lived in your home awhile and prefer to stay in your school district or neighborhood, improving your existing space may work best for you. If a second bathroom is what you desire, it may also be cheaper to convert existing space than to relocate to another home. According to the American Homeowner Foundation, you can expect to spend 8-10 percent of your current home’s value when you move. Ask yourself if that money could be better spent on a remodeling project instead. Chances are you’d increase your home’s value, derive more pleasure from your home than you did previously, and save yourself the time, expense and headache of a move.


Big Ideas for Small Kitchens

May 16, 2012 5:44 pm

No room is too small for a fabulous kitchen! All it needs is some cleverly thought through tricks to ensure every corner of the room is used, whilst still looking great.
Take a look at these top tips on how to make a big kitchen impression in your small space.

• If your space is small, make use of light. With the combination of clever lighting, glass and mirrors, you can make the room seem much more spacious by choosing a pantone which works with the space.

• Try to avoid clashing colors and bold patterns, as these generally work best in larger rooms. You don't want the room to have too many different colors or points of focus. Instead choose something practical and let the accessories do the talking.

• Storage should be top of the list when it comes to making a small kitchen space work. Consider talking to a designer about the best ways to increase your storage capacity.

• If you have always longed for an island in your kitchen but don't have the space, write it down on your kitchen wish list and speak to your designer. You may be able to have a breakfast bar, or even a pull out table solution which means you can have a separate eating or working area, even in a small kitchen.

SOURCE Kutchenhaus


Summer Water Sport Safety Tips

May 16, 2012 5:44 pm

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), statistics show that approximately 10 people die each day from unintentional drowning, and there are thousands of injuries from water-related incidents each year. Common factors that increase accident and injury risk while partaking in water activities include lack of supervision, alcohol use, failure to use a life jacket and/or other personal floatation devices (PFD).

“Just using a pfd or life jacket isn’t enough, you should also be aware of potential hazards and know how to address them in order to enjoy leisure time around water”, said Chief Donald Colarusso, a firefighter for over 24 years and one of the nation’s leading suppliers of Fire and Water Rescue Equipment through the website, .

To enjoy water activities and reduce the risk of danger there are safety guidelines that can be followed:
• Children should always be supervised by an adult while in or around water. This includes swimming pools, the ocean, lakes and rivers, even the bathtub. A child can drown in less than 1” of water.
• Regardless of age or ability, swimmers should always use the “buddy system” and take care never to swim alone. Supervised areas with lifeguards on duty can reduce risk and make water fun safer.
• It is important not to push oneself by attempting activities beyond one’s skill level while swimming, surfing, skim boarding, etc.
• Extreme caution should be used when diving. Water may be shallow and there could be rocks, dead submerged trees, or other obstructions that could injure divers.
• Barriers and safety zones are enacted for a reason and must be respected.
• When swimming off a boat, being aware of water depth and safety considerations of the water should be taken seriously. Also a dependable way to get back onto the boat, such as a mounted ladder should be in place.
• A Life Jacket / PFD should always be used when kayaking, on a jet ski or other similar settings. Referring to US Coast Guard and local rules and guidelines is of utmost importance.
• Always being aware of water conditions and weather is vital.
• While in the ocean, staying clear of jetty rocks and being aware of riptide currents should be a priority.
• Those venturing outdoors on a hot, sunny day should be aware of the potential for sunburn and heatstroke. Applying an appropriate degree of sun block and staying hydrated even while in the shade is helpful.
Although many of these safety tips may seem to be common sense, reviewing these tips each summer with loved ones can significantly reduce the chances of serious accident or injury in and around water related activities.


Hot Wheels vs. Smart Wheels: How to Find a Safe Car for Your Teen

May 16, 2012 5:44 pm

(ARA) - When the time comes to purchase a car, your teenagers might be dreaming of hot wheels. They may be thinking sporty, while you're looking for reliability and affordability.

In fact, 81 percent of parents put reliability first when choosing a vehicle for a teen, followed by a high safety rating and affordable auto insurance, according to a recent survey commissioned by USAA.

Mother of two and automotive expert Lauren Fix understands those results. "I can replace cars, but I can't replace a kid," says Fix.

Use these tips to help you and your teen settle on a car that fits your budget and offers you peace of mind.

New or used?
The price may be right for used cars, but they may lack technological safeguards. Newer cars tend to have the high-tech safety systems that reassure parents. Electronic Stability Control (ESC), which helps drivers maintain control of a vehicle, is standard in all 2012 cars. Front air bags are mandated, and though not required by the government, side air bags are standard in many new cars. Some models have back-up collision intervention that can apply the brakes before the driver does.

There's no retrofitting for most safety features, notes Fix. "You can always tint windows and add seat covers," she says. "You can't add ESC or air bags." Rearview cameras can be installed after the fact, but Fix warns the monitor is typically smaller than manufacturer-installed versions.

The bigger picture
Looking beyond technology, enlist your young drivers to help with a little more research before you make a purchase.

Whether new or used, make sure the price is right. Use online resources to compare the sticker price, which the dealer wants you to pay; the invoice price, which is what the dealer paid; and the true market price. USAA Car Buying Service offers research tools and a network of dealers to help you find the right car at the right price for you.

USAA's top 10 cars for teens on its Best Value vehicles list highlights cars for teens based on factors like reliability, safety and affordability.

• Check crash-test ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety releases its Top Safety Picks each year.
• Get the CARFAX Vehicle History Report, if you're buying a used car. This report, found through a car's VIN or license tag number, can alert you if a car's been totaled in a previous accident or damaged in a flood.
"Do not buy a flood-damaged car under any circumstances," warns Fix, noting that catastrophic water damage voids any warranties and recall notices.
• Ask a trusted mechanic to inspect a used car. While CARFAX serves as a valuable tool, Fix warns that not every car makes it into the database. "If a person had a flood-damaged car, they could air it out and you'd never know," she warns. Have an Automotive Service Association-certified mechanic check the car inside, outside and underneath.
• Investigate insurance costs. While affordable insurance ranked third as a key factor in the USAA survey, some aspects are out of your control. Boys typically cost more than girls to insure, and teens more than adults. But good grades and driving records can bring down overall costs for your family, as can some of the safety features available in today's vehicles.

Teach responsibility
Once you and your teens have decided on a car, explain the final requirements before your young drivers take the wheel. For instance, insist they learn basic car maintenance, such as how to check the oil and tire pressure, change a tire or at least use tire-inflating products.

Also discuss how teens can help pay for insurance and gas, and together establish the rules they'll follow on the road.

You want your children to drive a car that's not in and out of the repair shop and that's safer on the road. But you also want them to take responsibility for the vehicle. "You want to make sure your teen has a vested interest in the car," Fix says.


Word of the Day

May 16, 2012 5:44 pm

FHA. Acronym for Federal Housing Authority, an agency created within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that insures mortgages on residential property, with downpayment requirements usually lower than prevailing ones.


Q: What Should I Do to Prepare My Home for Sale?

May 16, 2012 5:44 pm

A: Start by finding out its worth. Contact a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Or get a certified appraiser to provide an appraisal. 

Next, get busy working on the home’s appearance. You want to make sure it is in the best condition possible for showing to prospective buyers so that you can get top dollar. This means fixing or sprucing up any trouble spots that could deter a buyer, such as squeaky doors, a leaky roof, dirty carpet and walls, and broken windows. 

The “curb appeal” of your home is extremely important. In fact, it is the first impression that buyers form of your property as they drive or walk up. So make sure the lawn is pristine – the grass cut, debris removed, garden beds free of weeds, and hedges trimmed. 

The trick is not to overspend on pre-sale repairs and fix-ups, especially if there are few homes on the market but many buyers competing for them. On the other hand, making such repairs may be the only way to sell your home in a down market.


Water Safety Rules in May

May 15, 2012 5:40 pm

Every year around this time, I issue the reminder that May is Water Safety Month. This year is no different as we turn our attention to a safety awareness program sponsored by the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP).

According to APSP President and CEO Bill Weber, the best way for adults and children to have a safe and enjoyable time around the pool is by employing what the APSP calls "layers of protection."

Layers of protection is about multiple safeguards, starting with continual supervision, and carrying through to alarms, fences, self-latching gates, close availability of life-saving equipment and other precautions that can prevent drowning.

Safety precautions also encompass prevention of slips and falls, monitoring water chemistry and taking steps to eliminate hazards related to electrical, heating or other equipment, according to the APSP.

Weber says while many safety precautions are completely voluntary, some are mandated by law. One of the most recent is the enactment of safety codes designed to prevent entrapment dangers caused by suction from spa and pool drains.

The codes require new residential pools and spas to have updated drain covers, as well as a dual drain Suction Vacuum Release System (SVRS). Owners of older pools and spas can ask their pool service provider to install drain covers that meet safety requirements.



How-To: Keep Bees Away from Hummingbird Feeders

May 15, 2012 5:40 pm

Each spring when hummingbird feeders go up, the bees rejoice. Consumers begin to wonder how they can keep bees away from the sweet nectar in their feeders. If bees or wasps are a problem, these tips can help: 

• Use a hummingbird feeder with bee guards or bee guard tips so the bees can’t get into the nectar.
• Try feeders that have no yellow in them. The color yellow could be attractive to bees.
• If the “bees” are actually yellow jackets, a kind of wasp, you may be able to reduce the population with yellow jacket traps.
• Move your hummingbird feeder to a very shady location. Bees prefer to eat in sunny areas. Distract bees with a saucer of nectar where the feeder used to be.
• Make the nectar less sweet. Try 5 parts of water to 1 part sugar instead of the usual 4 parts water to one part sugar.
• Spraying a very light coating of cooking oil on the feeder may stop bees from landing on it. But use caution not to overdo it. Oil on hummingbird feathers can be harmful to them.
• A very small amount of petroleum jelly on the feeder flowers might also help stop bees from landing.
 Be sure to wipe off the excess so hummingbirds don’t get it on their feathers.
• After hanging with fresh nectar, be sure to clean off sugary drips or spills on the outside of the feeder so bees won’t be attracted to the sugary scent.
• Never use insect-killing chemicals around hummingbird feeders! It’s bad for the hummingbirds and may also kill beneficial honey bees! 

Source: Duncraft


Estate Planning 101

May 15, 2012 5:40 pm

(ARA) - There's a common misconception among the American public that estate planning is only the domain of the elderly or the very wealthy. However, that's far from the truth. The fact is estate planning is something that can be done by people of any income level, and should be considered by everyone.

If you haven't considered yourself as a candidate for estate planning, you might be underestimating the value of your assets. In fact, you might think of items like your home, your car and your life insurance simply as part of the background of your life, but they are, in fact, assets - and valuable ones at that. And if you've underestimated your need for putting together an estate plan, you're not alone. The unhappy result of failing to plan may be unnecessary fees, expenses and delays at a time when your loved ones are struggling to cope with loss.

"As many as 120,000,000 Americans do not have up-to-date estate plans," says Clark McCleary, president of the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC). "That makes it one of the most overlooked areas of personal finance, but it's also one of the most important. Estate planning protects you, your family and your family's future, so it shouldn't be put off."

The complex nature of planning your estate might put some people off, but in that situation, a professional, Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) can simplify the process. Working with a team of professionals ensures that your plans are streamlined, understandable and clear-cut, to avoid confusion down the road. The NAEPC makes it easy to find vetted professionals in your area with a search tool on its website

The economic challenges of the past few years have shown many Americans the importance of saving and making well-considered financial decisions. Even as awareness has grown, programs that support the development of financial literacy have also gained traction. As important as it is to create and maintain a household budget and use credit wisely, it's equally essential to include estate planning as part of an overall understanding of personal finances.

For most people, the human element of estate planning is key, but it sometimes gets lost in the discussion of accounts and numbers. The most important thing to remember is that planning your estate well ahead of time - when you're feeling your best and when you're calling the shots - ensures that your goals will be accomplished.

Though young people often don't feel the need to take action, a well thought out plan is the best way to ensure that your wishes, from guardianship of young children to charitable intents to caring for older parents, are carried out the way you want them to be. Your plans can always be updated as life's inherent changes alter the landscape, but establishing a starting point that clearly represents your wishes is the first step that needs to be taken.

Giving yourself and your family peace of mind about the financial concerns of the future is a great gift. If you've never considered an estate plan, speaking to an Accredited Estate Planner can help shed light on how a plan can benefit you and your loved ones for years to come.