Society is continuing its shift towards the digital.

Society is continuing its shift towards the digital. A recent study in the UK shows that people do more texting than talking on phones. “While 58% of people communicated via texts on a daily basis in 2011, only 47% made a daily mobile call, said the country’s communications industry regulator.”

This is only a little surprising to me. I certainly text more than I talk on the phone, by a good margin. I will use a phone call if I am busy or need a quick response from someone, but it is usually more convenient to text. By texting, I am imposing less upon the recipient’s time – they can respond when convenient. It takes less of my time, as I don’t feel the need to make small talk, or ask the polite questions (How are you? How’s the weather? This is Minnesota, after all). I also find it more private that speaking on the phone in public. In fact, two of my biggest pet peeves are related to this: Women making phone calls in public restrooms when they are not the only occupant and individuals who make mobile calls, on speaker phone, in public places, such as the store or bus.

This weekend, I heard my grandmother express a similar sentiment regarding texting – it is more convenient, quicker, for when she just needs a short response or is multitasking. When I was in high school, most kids had cell phones. Now, most kids’ parents have cell phones, and grandparents are more and more likely to own a mobile device. I have also seen a strong shift towards smart phones and texting by those over 40, rather than voice-focused cells.

While technology is becoming more and more widely used, there are still a number of Americans that have no access to or choose not to use the internet. I found that pretty interesting. I go to the internet for so many things, recipes, social networking, news, and more, not to mention work and research.

Posture to Productivity

A number of our previous posts focused on the benefits of good computer and work space ergonomics. Ergonomics refers to “the study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body, its movements and its cognitive abilities.” It is widely accepted that improved ergonomics can help raise and sustain productivity in the workplace and educational settings.  This can include positioning of desk, computer, and keyboard.  It can take the form of particular adaptive items, like the Chester Mouse, which fits smaller or weaker hands more easily than a standard sized mouse.  One of the most basic applications of ergonomics deals with posture.  Looking at this diagram from St. Kilda Road Chiropractic, check yourself for good computer posture.
Good posture not only improves your productivity, it should also make you feel better in the long run, even if a certain stance may feel awkward at first.

Duluth, MN – Flood of 2012

As you know, Chester Creek takes its name from a local waterway. Duluth is a strong part of our identity as a company, and is even represented in our logo. Last week, Duluth experienced its largest and most damaging floods in over a century. As a city on a hill in the northern half of the northern-most state in the 48 contiguous states, Duluth is prepared for many eventualities, including hail, blizzards, ice storms, and even the occasional landslide. And of course, we are prepared for the rigors of constant road construction and repair. However, floods have never been part of the occasion here. And a flood of this magnitude was – until recently – unimaginable. Chester Creek itself flooded in a very impressive fashion. Here are a few photos from the 2012 flood:

National Safety Month Continues

National Safety Month continues into the third and fourth weeks of June. The third week is dedicated to the theme of “preventing slips, trips, and falls.” While important for all of us, this theme is perhaps particularly notable for senior citizens.

Falls can be the result of clumsiness or lack of care, but they can also be caused by physical surroundings, obstacles, and health conditions. Common environmental hazards can include clutter on the floor or stairs, lack of handrails, spills, and poor lighting. Often, more than one of these things can combine to “trip up” someone who would otherwise rarely fall. Besides just maintaining a clear walking area in home and work, older adults can take extra precautions. Staying active can improve strength and balance, reducing the risk of a fall. Checking on your medicines and vision can also help prevent falls. Additional steps can be taken to remove tripping hazards or add extra non-slip strips or mats and hand rails. See this fact sheet for more detailed information. month wraps up with Diving Safety week. More Americans die in car accidents than in plane crashes annually, though we so seldom see car accidents on the national news. There are some simple things you can do to make your driving time as safe as possible:
• Buckle up. This is an easy step and can save your life. If that isn’t enough motivation, in some states, you can be pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt and issued a ticket — even if you are only a passenger.
• Don’t use your cell phone while driving, particularly to text. It is distracting, and most calls or texts can wait until you are stopped.
• Be a defensive driver. Assume those around you may make poor driving choices, and always be ready to act defensively.

Computers and Seniors

Studies going back to 2005 have shown the benefits of computer usage by the elderly, particularly regarding mental health. ( ) However, for many seniors, computers are just too complicated. They may need someone to walk them through their use.
Let’s look at a few basic concepts for computer use:


• Computers can help you stay organized and in touch with people you don’t see every day.

• The CPU or processor of a computer is like the brain. Dual Core processors are common. This just means the computer is smarter and can handle more complex tasks more quickly.

• RAM is the memory in a computer. The above article compares it to a desk – you can pull all sorts of information to look at on the top of the desk, but you can only have as much information as you can fit on the desk. You should have 1-2 GB minimum these days.
• 1 byte is the smallest unit of data. You can store, say, one letter of the alphabet with one byte.
• 1024 bytes = 1 kilobyte (KB) or roughly 1 page of writing
• 1024 KB = 1 megabyte (MB) or about 1000 pages.
• 1024 MB = 1 gigabyte (GB)

• A hard drive is like a filing cabinet; it’s where you store all sorts of information, files, pictures, videos, etc… You can put folders inside other folders to create a sort of filing hierarchy. A decent computer should have a 128 GB hard drive (HDD) at minimum. This may seem like a lot, but remember that pictures and the like can be large, but programs and applications (and your operating system) are even larger

• An Operating System is how you interact with the computer. Without some sort of interface, the computer is just a box full of stuff, sitting under or on your desk. The operating system lets you interact with the files, see the filing hierarchy, use your programs, and connect to the internet. It is the environment you do all of these things in and is what makes it possible for you to do so with ease. Examples include Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome.

• You will use a keyboard or mouse (link?) to interact physically with the computer. Most keyboards have the same key layout as an old typewriter would.

For the elderly, problems or trepidation may be related to more than just lack of knowledge; it may be physically difficult. Luckily, there are a number of aids available today to help! These include mice that are easier to grip, text-magnification software to make the screen easier to see, keyboards with larger, clearer keys/labels, and even abbreviated programs that slim down some of the superfluous options involved in most operating systems, making the computer less confusing.

Take Care

June is National Safety Month. Safety can refer to many different areas of one’s life. There can be home safety, road safety, gun safety, internet safety, information safety, etc… Each June, the National Safety Council designates weekly themes for the month. The first weeks’ theme was “Employee Wellness.”

This will mean different things in different settings. In an office, for instance, this may mean encouraging employees to be more active, binding loose cords that might trip someone, even starting a long-term plan to help support healthier eating. The NSC (National Safety Council) provides this fact sheet on Employee Wellness.

The second week of the month is dedicated to Ergonomics. The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics as: “Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”

The Council also offers a fact sheet on ergonomics here – In the fact sheet, they outline some signs of poor ergonomics, like pain, swelling, tingly, etc, and some causes, such as awkward positioning, sitting or standing too long, over exertion, or other things that cause the body to move or rest in positions that are not biomechanically sound. Some office place ergonomics can be improved by getting a monitor stand, a wrist rest, a better chair, or new mouse.

You Are Never Too Old to Play

Continuing with our theme of the month, May is Older Americans month.  According to the official website of Older Americans Month, from the Administration on Aging (,
this year’s theme is “Never Too Old to Play.”  As the body ages, certain tasks may become more difficult or even dangerous – free running, for example – but the act of playing can help keep you healthy longer.  It’s all about finding an activity that works for and with you.  This is easier than ever now-a-days.

  • Try something like Wii Bowling for a fun group activity that gets you moving without being overly strenuous.
  • Charades is another easy, indoor option. A fun scavenger hunt can get people interacting, playing, and moving outdoors, too.
  • For a more sedate option, why not try a game like Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit.  As bonus, games that make you think can help fight symptoms of aging, even reducing risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Other great multi-generational options including park activities like kite flying and bocce ball; crafts like scrapbooking, quilting, or painting;  musical options like dancing (old- or new-fashioned) or singing;  and more active options like yoga or tai chi. Have fun and remember you are “never too old to play.”


Is Social Media Accessible?

Social media is pervasive in our society.  We see it in ads; use it to keep touch, share special moments, compare prices, and much more. But for some individuals, social media is simply not a practical means
of communication.  And it’s not just because they’re using dial-up.

For the visually impaired, along with a number of other users with special needs, the internet can be a difficult maze to navigate.  Pictures might not be clear; text may be too small; moving items; poor contrast; generally poor usability.  The W3C, or World Wide Web Consortium, has published web content accessibility guidelines, which set the standards for usability.  They outline the following guidelines:


  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content.


  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Give users enough time to read and use content.
  • Do not use content that causes seizures.
  • Help users navigate and find content.


  • Make text readable and understandable.
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.


  • Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.

Unfortunately, the largest names in the social media game don’t score very well on those points.  According to, “Research conducted in September 2011 by Denis Boudreau of Accessibilité Web compared five social media tools against the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and created a customised percentage score of accessibility. Of the five tools, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and the recently launched Google+, LinkedIn received the highest score of 29% accessible followed by YouTube on 18%, Google+ on 9%, Facebook on 9% and Twitter receiving no accessibility score due to every element on the website having accessibility issues.”

While social media has a lot of potential for the disabled user in particular, as a means to
spread information and educate, at this point, the usability has hardly been considered.  Simple changes could make a world of difference to a large chunk of the potential user base of these networks.

High Blood Pressure Awareness Month

May is high blood pressure awareness month, and on this blog I have touched on stress more than once. Stress and high blood pressure are closely linked, and high BP can be harmful to your health. Today we’ll discuss the basics of what one’s blood pressure is, what that means for one’s health, and some basic
rules of thumb to avoid developing high blood pressure.

Your blood pressure is exactly what it sounds like – the amount of pressure acting upon your arteries and veins by your heart as it pumps your blood. High blood pressure [Arterial Hypertension] is a risk because it places strain on the walls of your arteries and veins and can contribute to a wide variety of ills, anything from migraines to heart attacks. High blood pressure is also a factor that increases your risk of stroke later in life.

Stress is something I’ve talked about on this blog from time to time, and is generally a terrible thing for your body. Today’s high stress, hurly-burly lifestyle means that a great many Americans are more stressed than is healthy for them, and your blood pressure is one of the first things that gets worse
as you become more stressed. So try to relax! Some great activities to lower high blood pressure are:

  • If you smoke, stop! Smokers generally have a much higher BP than non-smokers, and it can also cause cancer.
  • Limit your sodium and alcohol intake! Having a diet rich in salt can – you guessed it – raise your BP.
  • Really, relax. Take a moment for yourself during your day, grab a book, or go for a walk outside when the weather is nice…
  • Maintain a healthy weight/lifestyle. Small changes in your day-to-day activities can improve your blood pressure as well as your overall health.

Big Grips Available

A friend of mine just bought her first tablet.   She takes it everywhere.  Lucky for her, she’s much easier on
electronics than I am.  Considering the number of times I’ve dropped my phone, I am lucky it still works.  For this reason, I make a point of buying a rubbery case for my phones.  The grip is easier for me to hold on to, doesn’t fall out of my pocket, and cushions it somewhat when I drop it on the floor, sidewalk, or stairs.

For those of you who are like me, or who share a household with someone like me, Chester Creek now offers Big Grip iPad cases.  They’re large, soft cases that grip the iPad, so you can grip it. The foam material is squishy which makes it easy to hold. This means the Big Grip is helpful for seniors who might not have the grip they used to and for children with small hands.  I don’t exactly fit into either category, but I know plenty of people like me who just can’t seem to keep a good hold of things. My butterfingers make me a liability where expensive tech is involved.  Thankfully, the squishy foam material in the Big Grip case also offers protective cushion around the iPad, just in case you do happen to drop it.

Below are some specifications from our website:

  • 9.47″ x 11.57″ x 1.5″ (240 mm x 294 mm x 38 mm)
  • 7.125 oz. (.20 kg)
  • Easy access to all ports and controls
  • Unobstructed cameras (iPad 2 version), Wi-Fi antenna and ambient light sensor