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September 2008

Brief Bytes

by Editorial Team

Giving Their Time

More than 48,000 volunteers 55 years old and older contributed their time to Texas Senior Corps programs in 2007.

Texas Senior Corps, which is part of the federal Senior Corps initiative, is a volunteer partnership that oversees three programs – Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

The Foster Grandparents program in 2007 served more than 14,000 young Texans in schools and day care centers. They provided emotional support for children who may have been abused, suffered a severe illness or require other special needs.

The Senior Companions program, meanwhile, helped more than 1,400 homebound seniors and other adults with tasks such as grooming and getting to doctor appointments.

RSVP volunteers performed various functions within the community. They conducted safety patrols for local police departments, participated in environmental projects, tutored and mentored youth and responded to natural disasters. In all, they gave more than 5 million hours of their time.

Texas Senior Corps officials anticipate an influx of volunteers as the baby boomer generation enters its senior years. This generation, they say, is looking for challenges in volunteering that go hand in hand with their career skills.

“It’s important that we have volunteers engaged,” says Diana Corona, president for the Texas Senior Corps. “It improves their mental health, physical health and longevity.”

For more information visit Lamphere)

Execs: Texas has Best Business Climate in the U.S.

Texas has the best business climate in the nation, according to a new survey of U.S. corporate executives.

The “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” survey, conducted every three years by Development Counsellors International, has tracked trends in economic development since 1996. This is the fourth consecutive time Texas has been ranked No. 1 in the survey.

Texas was the favorite among the 281 respondents to the survey, with 40.8 percent identifying the state as having the most favorable business climate. North Carolina ranked second with 30.4 percent.

The corporate decision-makers who named Texas as having the most favorable business climate most frequently cited the state’s tax climate, work force cost and availability, and pro-business climate.

Earlier this year, CNBC ranked Texas as the nation’s top state for business and the best all-around economy in the U.S.

To read the full report, or to see how other states stacked up against Texas in the “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” survey, visit

(Michael Castellon)

Learning by Traveling

When they travel, particularly for educational purposes, seniors want small group size, hands-on learning, “on theme” meals and accommodations, free time to explore and more affordable programs with lots of activities. That’s according to a 2005 research report by Elderhostel, the world’s largest educational travel organization for adults 55 and older.

Launched in 1975, the nonprofit Elderhostel provides learning programs to nearly 160,000 people each year, offering 8,000 trips a year in more than 90 countries.

In Texas, Elderhostel programs are offered by the University of Texas (UT)-Austin, Texas A&M University, the UT Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and the Davis Mountains Education Center, among others.

This year, Elderhostel-sponsored programs include a visit to the Rockport Hummingbird Festival; a tour of San Antonio’s missions, River Walk and museums; and a trip to El Paso and Big Bend, with stargazing at the McDonald Observatory in the Fort Davis Mountains.

“We provide 20 hours of academics in a typical five-night program,” says Nancy Seelig, director of the UT-Austin Elderhostel Program. “Each program includes lectures by experts in their field, field trips and excursions, accommodations, most meals and transportation within the program. The camaraderie of the group is another important component.”

For more information, visit or call (877) 426-8056, or contact the UT-Elderhostel Program at (512) 471-3500.

(Karen Hudgins)

Texas Seniors Are Game

For nine exciting days in September, spectators cheered their favorite competitors in basketball, cycling, dominoes, golf, softball, swimming, tennis, triathlon and a host of other events. The unusual twist on this event? Competitors must be 50 years or older to compete.

The City of Temple hosted the Texas Senior Games Association (TSGA) this year. At the conclusion of the events, the TSGA board identified athletes qualified to represent Texas at the 2009 Summer National Senior Games in the San Francisco Bay Area. Houston is preparing to host the 2011 Summer National Senior Games.

For more information, visit the Texas Senior Games Association at

(David Rivers)

Opportunity 2.0

Senior citizens experience the digital divide in a big way and, as a result, often lack the opportunity to communicate with loved ones, shop online or access customized news and information with the ease of younger generations of Web users.

But thanks to a special collaboration spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), senior residents of the Sandstone Foothills Apartments in Mineral Wells are among the first rural Texas seniors to go high-tech thanks to a new Neighborhood Network Learning Center. The facility at Sandstone Hills is just the latest in a series of similar centers popping up across the state in an effort to bring more seniors online.

The Neighborhood Networks Program, which was created in 1995, encourages property owners and managers in HUD-assisted multifamily housing to provide residents with access to computers, and thus an opportunity for self-sufficiency.

The centers are operated by volunteers who train users in the ways of e-mail and other common Web activities.

A. Cynthia Leon, HUD’s regional director, says the program provides a powerful asset to the community.

“Here in Texas, there are currently 23 properties with Neighborhood Networks computer centers, with four more in the planning stages, and they benefit young and old alike,” Leon says. “Computer literacy is a critical job skill. Computers help people search for a job, they help children with their school work, and allow people to connect with friends and loved ones.”

For more information on participating in the Neighborhood Networks Program, or to become a volunteer, visit

(Michael Castellon)

Retire in Texas

The Texas Department of Agriculture is pitching the joys of retirement in Texas. While Texas has always been big on tourism, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples wants to make those visitors a little more permanent through the GO TEXAN Certified Retirement Community Program.

“Texas presents many reasons that make it easy to GO TEXAN, and people around the globe are pulling up stakes and heading to Texas to spend their golden years,” Staples says. “Not only do retirees have a significant economic impact on retirement areas, but they also bring a wealth of knowledge and energy for community service, employment and business.”

House Bill 1982 established the program, which is administered by Texas Department Agriculture. Its goals are to promote Texas as a retirement destination, assist Texas cities in marketing their retirement communities and encourage tourism trips to Texas in order to evaluate the state as a retirement location.

For more information, visit

(David Rivers)

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