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Peter Patkos
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 215-327-7491
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Fax: 267-354-6879
Peter Patkos

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New Study Looks at What Defines Happiness

June 5, 2012 5:44 am

Most Americans age 35+ are happy, but compared to historical General Social Survey (GSS) data, levels of happiness are on the decline and at their lowest levels (due in part to the economy), according to a new study recently released by AARP. In an effort to find out what happiness means to adults and what it takes to thrive as they age, AARP surveyed more than 4,000 adults age 35+. The study, titled, "Beyond Happiness: Thriving," provides a unique view of today's modern family with a robust understanding of happiness, how it changes over time and how age affects the drivers that enable people to thrive.

"We're always looking to get a more robust understanding of the contributors and barriers to happiness in people's lives," said Steve Cone, Executive Vice President of Integrated Value &Strategy, AARP. "Building on previous AARP research, which shows the importance of happiness and peace of mind to 50+ families, these new results affirm that we are on the right track—advocating to ensure basic health and financial security and making available everyday discounts that let people enjoy time with family and friends."

The results of this study support the finding of a U-shape curve of happiness by age. The early 50s is the lowest point from which happiness builds. Thus, if you missed happiness in your 30's, there is still another chance to achieve it in your 60's. The results also provide four key insights around the drivers of happiness.


The Current State of Happiness

Overall, the strong majority (68 percent) of respondents report being happy, although intensity of happiness is somewhat tempered as the largest percent report being somewhat happy (49 percent) versus very happy (19 percent). Almost half of respondents feel they are just as happy as others (49 percent) and the rest tend to believe that they are happier than others (31 percent) as opposed to less happy than others (13 percent). Part of this may be attributed to the perceptions of people being the masters of their own happiness destiny. There is noted concern for the happiness of the next generation. Less than half feel they will be as happy or more (45 percent). Most are either not sure (19 percent) or believe they will be less happy (35 percent).

Relationships are the Key Driver of Happiness
Regardless of age, good relationships with friends, family, and even pets, were found to be universally important. Activities rooted firmly in relationships contributed most to happiness. The most significant were:

- Kissing or hugging someone you love
- Watching your children grandchildren or close relative succeed
- Being told you are a person who can be trusted or relied upon
- Spending time with your family or friends such as a meal or social gathering
- Experiencing a special moment with a child

Relationships with pets were especially important to women, singles and older individuals. However, relationships did have to be real: "connecting with friends or family on a social media site like Facebook" came in 37th out of 38 activities in contributing to happiness. Importantly, none of the top contributors require a lot of money to achieve; they are "simple pleasures" that can be had by all.

Health Perceptions, Rather than Reality, May Enable Happiness
Without health it is difficult to achieve happiness: people in "good or excellent" health are three times more likely to report being "very" happy. Health however, may be more a state of mind than objective reality: the percentage of those reporting good health is relatively stable over the 35-80 age range, varying only seven percentage points, even as reported chronic or serious medical conditions increase 400 percent in the same age range.

People Believe they can Control their Own Happiness
The majority of those surveyed feel they have control over their personal level of happiness. Interestingly, this sense of control increases with age. Moreover, people who feel in control are clearly happier—reporting that they are 2.5 times happier than those who believe happiness is out of their control. A sense of control is linked to higher income, higher education, good health and the lack of having experienced a major life event in the past year.

Money Does Not Guarantee Happiness
Money matters but how one spends it seems to matter more. Happiness increases with income and conversely, lack of financial resources was tied to unhappiness. While less than a third of participants said money contributed to happiness, when asked how they would spend $100 on something to increase happiness, most respondents said they would spend it on their family or going out to dinner. Money is only a resource, that when applied to meaningful areas of one's life, can provide experiences that can increase happiness.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Play It Safe: Tips for Outdoor Adventurers

June 5, 2012 5:44 am

Outdoor adventures have become the latest craze in travel, and with the summer travel season right around the corner, outdoor enthusiasts are getting ready to hit the road. If you’re looking for adventure this summer and plan on taking the family for a hike or two as the temperatures heat up, the following tips from will enable you to enjoy the beauty of the natural environment while hitting the trails.

1. First, it is important to eat a good breakfast. Morning meals that include hot cereal or energy bars will provide carbohydrates to help you maintain energy while on the trail. This is especially important for anyone who is concerned about being physically fit enough to participate in an outdoor travel adventure.

2. Second, it is a necessity that you tell friends or family where you are going and when you will be returning. If you are going into a national park, it is important to check in with the park’s rangers and let them know you will be hiking in the area.

3. Third, be aware of the area’s weather. When going on an outdoor travel adventure, weather can be a crucial element to your party’s safety and level of enjoyment. Being prepared to face potentially dangerous weather situations is vital in keeping your family’s outdoor adventures safe and memorable.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


When It Comes to Fire Safety, Don't Overlook Outdated Smoke Alarms

June 5, 2012 5:44 am

More than a quarter of U.S. homes built prior to 2002—approximately 17 million—may require updated fire safety equipment, according to a new survey conducted by Qualtrics on behalf of Kidde, a leading manufacturer of residential fire safety products. The survey, launched in conjunction with Home Safety Month in June, found that 20 percent of respondents had never replaced a smoke alarm, and another six percent hadn't replaced alarms in the last decade. Kidde is a part of United Technology Climate, Controls & Security, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

Aging smoke alarms may not operate efficiently and often cause nuisance alarms. A Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center study found that by the time a smoke alarm is 10 years old (the age which the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends replacement), it has a 30 percent chance of not alarming due to age-related factors, such as dust accumulation, insects and airborne contaminants.

"The survey revealed that many people believe smoke alarms should be replaced more often than recommended, however, sales data shows consumers aren't actually doing that," said Chris Rovenstine, vice president, sales and marketing, Kidde. "This disconnect demonstrates a clear need to educate homeowners. What a tragedy it would be to inadvertently risk the lives and well being of a family by failing to ensure alarms are functioning properly due to aging factors."

Additional survey findings include:
-Most families are under protected. Sixty-seven percent of homeowners had four or fewer smoke alarms in their home, and 12 percent of those respondents only had one alarm. The average U.S. single-family home should have at least five alarms.
-The majority of Americans take for granted the constant protection that working smoke alarms provide. Only 17 percent of respondents named smoke alarms as a home appliance that operates 24 hours/day, seven days/week.
-People are more concerned about their electronics than home fire safety. Fifty-two percent are more likely to upgrade or replace a home entertainment-related product (television, game console) than they are to replace their smoke alarms.
-When asked which appliance they would replace if they knew it wasn't functioning properly, very few Americans stated a smoke alarm. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they would replace their home furnace, heater or air conditioning system if they knew it wouldn't work tomorrow, while less than five percent said they would replace their smoke alarm.

The NFPA reports almost two-thirds of residential fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms or with non-working alarms and recommends installing smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.

"As we focus on Home Safety Month in June, there is an urgent need to educate families about fire safety," explained Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. "Fire and burns remain a leading cause of unintentional injury and death for children, particularly those under the age of five. Replacing older smoke alarms is a simple way for parents to help protect their families. If you don't know how old your alarms are—even if you have just moved into a home—take precaution and replace them."

When replacing alarms, consider a model containing a long-life sealed lithium battery which offers maintenance-free protection for 10 years and never needs its battery replaced. A combination smoke/CO alarm offers protection from fire and carbon monoxide in one unit.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Tips to Protect Your Home This Summer

June 4, 2012 5:44 am

With the summer season right around the corner, families across the country are getting ready to hit the road for some rest and relaxation. Here are a few tips for making sure your possessions are still there when you get back:

1. Do not post about your vacation online until after you get back. If that takes more discipline than you can muster, at the very least keep your location status off any public social networking pages. Many burglars use these sites to identify "safe" targets.

2. Make your home look lived in. A light on a timer is a great first step. You can even buy a small device called "FakeTV" that simulates the light output of a television, making it look like you are home watching TV each evening.

3. Don't leave obvious signs that the house is unoccupied. Stop the mail and paper, or have a neighbor take it in. Arrange for lawn care as needed, and don't leave notes on the door.

4. Make your home hard to get into. You need good locks. Your hidden outdoor key is probably not as cleverly hidden as you think it is. Get to know your neighbors, and leave the key with them. Let them know you will be gone, and have them keep an eye on your house during your absence. If you have an alarm system, by all means use it. Amazingly, many people forget to set the alarm. Conversely, do not think that an alarm system makes you invulnerable. Burglars can still cause you a great deal of misery in a smash-and-grab robbery, leaving before the police can respond. Park a car in the driveway, but be sure to take out the garage door opener first.

5. Remove obvious temptations. Take a walk around your property and make sure you cannot see any easily pawned valuables through uncovered windows. Are there any ladders left out, or particularly easy or well-concealed access points?

6. Prepare for the worst. If your computer were stolen, what might the consequences be? For most of us, this would be dire indeed. Make sure to back up and password protect. Make a quick run-through around the house with a video recorder, listing off the valuables. This could save a lot of hassle with the insurance company if you need to file a claim.

7. Strike the right balance. Only you can make the trade-off between security measures and the burdens they impose. You may wish to place irreplaceable items in a secure location, such as a fireproof safe. This can include expensive jewelry, family photos, and financial records. Make sure your insurance policy is up-to-date. Also, label your possessions with your name.

The good news is that only two out of a hundred homes will be burglarized in any given year. The bad news is that for those two homes that are burglarized, the effects of the intrusion are often devastating. The average burglary costs $1,750, and an invaluable amount of peace of mind. Take a few simple steps to improve your home's security and ensure that your getaway is that much more relaxing.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Tips to Prepare Your Home and Windows for Hurricane Season

June 4, 2012 5:44 am

Living in a coastal state means living with hurricanes, and now that hurricane season is underway, it’s crucial that homeowners be prepared for storms that can strike on a moment’s notice. When a powerful storm is in the forecast, plan a trip to the grocery store and buy enough non-perishable food, water and supplies for two weeks. Once you have done this, it’s time to prepare your home’s windows.

Avoid the rush to nail plywood to window frames by installing special storm panel frames that will be ready to hold the plywood in place. Pre-measure and cut 5/8-inch plywood to fit the frames before a hurricane is on the way. When the hurricane watch is issued, simply slip the plywood panels into the frames.

But if you find yourself in a rush, you can still secure your windows before the storm strikes.

How to Prepare Secured Plywood Panels
If you don’t have storm panel frames, you must secure plywood directly to the window frames.

1. Cut the plywood to fit at least six inches around the window frame.
2. Make sure there are at least two inches from the edge of the window pane to the outer edge of the exterior wall to prevent damaging the window when the plywood is installed.
3. Special clips that fasten to the window frame or brick veneer can be used to secure the plywood to the exterior wall.
4. Secure the plywood using clips or by drilling screws 18 inches apart around the plywood perimeter.

Source: Glass Doctor, Rainbow International

Published with permission from RISMedia.


National Homeownership Month Highlights Opportunities to Support the American Dream

June 4, 2012 5:44 am

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) wants current and future homeowners to know about the many opportunities they have to show their support for the American Dream of homeownership during National Homeownership Month in June. For anyone looking to buy their first home, or to move up to a space that is better suited for their current lifestyle, market conditions make it a great time to buy a home. And a new website from NAHB ( helps the public take action to protect the many benefits of owning a home that are being threatened by legislative and regulatory proposals.

"Anyone thinking of buying a home shouldn't wait any longer," said NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. "Housing markets around the country are improving, home prices have stabilized, there is a great selection of available homes for sale, and interest rates are at near historic low levels."

Current and future homeowners can also take action to protect homeownership. In May, NAHB launched, a website that educates the public about the threats to the American Dream of homeownership, including proposals to scale back or eliminate the mortgage interest deduction and make mortgages and small business loans unaffordable and even more difficult to obtain.

The site empowers visitors to make sure their support is heard with an online petition that urges policymakers to keep housing a national priority, and information about how to participate in homeownership rallies that are being held in a number of communities in 2012. There are also links to stay informed by joining social media communities on and

Even with the recent economic downturn, American families still value the American Dream of homeownership. A January 2012 study conducted on behalf of NAHB found that 96 percent of homeowners said they are happy with their decision to own. Nearly seven out of 10 American adults who are not currently homeowners said it was a goal of theirs to buy a home.

"Homeownership remains a core value to American families," said Rutenberg. "Even more important than the financial advantages of homeownership, is that first and foremost, a home is where your family can relax, spend quality time together and build lifelong memories."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fire Prevention Tips to Keep in Mind as the Summer Season Heats Up

June 1, 2012 5:42 am

Safety is important all the time, but each year the National Safety Council designates June as National Safety Month to help focus the public's attention on critical safety issues. In support of this national awareness event, SERVPRO® reminds homeowners to review all of the safety tips from the National Safety Council, including tips on preventing home fires.

"While most homeowners take at least the basic steps to protect against a fire," said Rick Isaacson, Executive Vice President of Servpro Industries, Inc., "there are fire sources in homes that are frequently overlooked. For National Safety Month, we want to shine a spotlight on some of the causes of home fires associated with the coming summer season."

Clothes Dryers
According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), these everyday appliances are responsible for about 15,500 home fires every year, causing an average of 10 deaths each year, and more than $84.4 million in damage. Summer's warmer weather and outdoor activities can create additional laundry. Help prevent dryer fires by:

1. Controlling lint buildup on the lint filter, the back of the machine and in the venting system.
2. Replacing plastic or vinyl vent hoses with a rigid or flexible metal venting system.
3. Drying only items that are approved and safe to be put in a dryer (not foam-backed rugs or athletic shoes).

Fire Pits
These outdoor fireplaces add a warm touch to the season's al fresco entertaining, but they need to be handled with respect and caution. In their Seasonal Safety Tips, Underwriter's Laboratories (UL) recommends that homeowners keep the glow confined by:

1. Keeping these fireplaces at least 10 feet from any structure or flammable items.
2. Placing the unit on a solid surface, in an open area, away from overhanging trees or rooflines.
3. Never leaving the fireplace unattended. Keep a fire extinguisher close at hand, avoid using lighter fluid to start or restart the fire and ensure any embers are completely extinguished before going inside.

Gas Grills
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports fire departments in the U.S. respond to an average of 8,200 grilling-related fire calls per year. Five out of six of these fires involved gas grills. As summer grilling season heats up, SERVPRO® recommends that outdoor chefs keep these tips from UL in mind:

1. Position the grill outside, at a safe distance from the house. Never grill inside a garage or enclosed porch or under a breezeway, awning, carport or overhang that might catch fire.
2. Check the grill's propane hoses for cracks and brittleness then trickle soapy water over the hoses and fittings. Look for bubbles that would indicate a propane leak, and address the problem before using the grill again.
3. Never light a gas grill with the lid closed. Keep a spray bottle filled with water handy to suppress flare-ups and a fire extinguisher close by for emergencies.

"House fires can happen anytime, in any season, so it's important to understand all the possible sources for a fire in your home," said Isaacson. "Prevention is still the best way to protect your home, your family and your investment.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Master Bedroom Design Ideas to Maximize Comfort and Space

June 1, 2012 5:42 am

For some, the master bedroom is not only a place to sleep; it also doubles as a favorite reading spot, an entertainment hub, or even a yoga studio. But with limited space, how can you make this popular room a more flexible space, without sacrificing style and comfort?

"Your bedroom should be the ultimate reflection of your personality, as well as your hobbies and passions," says Ben Thorud, Senior Vice President of Ashley Sleep. "Whether you want to curl up with a good book, watch a movie on your home entertainment system, or help the kids with their homework, you can add some simple designer touches that help maximize your comfort and space."

The following simple bedroom design ideas can easily transform any master bedroom, no matter how big or small:

1. Upgrade your bed. Whether your mattress has seen better days, or you just want to upgrade to a bigger size with more space to spread out, a new bed is one of the most important investments you'll ever make.

2. Choose a comfortable headboard. If you spend a lot of time sitting up in bed, consider trading out your old headboard for one with a tufted, padded or sloped design. It makes it easier to lean back while watching TV, reading a book or surfing the Web.

3. Don't scrimp on the pillows. Adding lots of pillows to your bed is not just more comfortable for sleep, it's also more inviting and compels us to spend the day in bed (or at least initiate a good pillow fight!)

4. Add a media chest. A media chest provides a place to tuck away the TV, DVDs and games when they're not in use. Plus, a media center usually stands high enough so you can see over the footboard. You could also use your dresser as a TV stand, with a top drawer reserved for storage, and install a floor-length mirror to replace the one that once sat on your dresser.

5. Extra seating. If the kids spend a lot of time in your bedroom, consider adding a bench at the foot of the bed, or a cozy chair in the corner of the room. It provides more space for people and for storing your things.

Source: Ashley Sleep

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fixed Mortgage Rates Fall to New All-Time Record Lows

June 1, 2012 5:42 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing fixed mortgage rates following bond yields lower to new all-time record lows. The 30-year fixed averaged 3.75 percent setting a new all-time record low for the fifth consecutive week. The 15-year fixed averaged an unprecedented 2.97 percent bringing three of the four benchmark mortgage rates below 3 percent for the first time in Freddie Mac's weekly survey.

Additional details from the PMMS include:

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.75 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending May 31, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.78 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.55 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.97 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.04 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.74 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.84 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.83. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.41 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.75 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.13 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Swim Safely at Home

May 30, 2012 5:42 am

As the weather warms up, Consumer Reports shares several important and practical pool safety tips. Whether you have a pool on your own property or are visiting and using a friend or family member’s pool, the following procedures are essential to ensuring everyone’s safety, especially that of young children. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), there was an annual average of 5,200 pool or spa-related emergency department-treated submersion injuries for children younger than 15 from 2009 to 2011.

Consumer Reports recommends implementing several protective layers of pool safety, including CPR and first aid skills. Of course, children in and around pools should be under constant adult supervision, and young children should take swimming lessons as early as possible.

Make sure the following safety tips from Consumer Reports are put in place at your pool this summer:
  • Alarms: Any door leading from the house to the pool area should have an alarm that sounds when the door is opened. Pools should also have pool alarms that sound both at the pool and in the house if a child falls into the water.
  • Covers: When not in use for extended periods of time, pools should be securely covered.
  • Drains: Pool drains should have safety covers that prevent entrapment.
  • Fencing: A non-climbable fence, a minimum of 4 feet high, should surround the pool. The gate on the fence should be self-closing, self latching, and lockable.
Lastly, Consumer Reports advises being wary of pool toys that could potentially pose a safety hazard. A recent Consumer Reports recall, for example, involved inflatable pool slides sold at Walmart and Toys R Us that could deflate while in use and trigger a serious injury. According to the CPSC, there had been at least three cases where the pool slides maimed or killed swimmers.

Published with permission from RISMedia.