Thursday, November 20, 2014

Explaining Palliative Care in Graphic Format

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has released a great graphic on palliative care. What Should You Know About Palliative Care? has six graphics on topics including scope, function, location, family services and the benefits of palliative care.   The infographic can be downloaded or a poster can be ordered by sending an email.  The webpage also includes a link to the IOM report, Dying In America

November 20, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks"... and the Importance of Safe Sidewalks

If you recognize the quoted language from the title above, you can imagine me humming the lyrics to "Silver Bells" as I type.  Perhaps we should add a new refrain.  As detailed in the Los Angeles Times piece on "Residents Celebrate the 100th Repaired Sidewalk in South L.A. District," safe sidewalks are important to everyone, but particularly to people who have mobility issues, including some older adults.  In the article, a stretch of deteriorated sidewalk outside an 84 year old woman's home prevented her for using her walker to get around her neighborhood. The challenge of accomplishing something as seemingly simple as this infrastructure issue, is demonstrated by the statistics in the article, showing there are 11,000 miles of sidewalks in L.A., and an estimated 40% are in need of repair. 

The question of how to pay for sidewalk repairs is significant for cities.  In Los Angeles, for example, policies on sidewalks can conflict with developers' preference for streets lined with trees.  Tree roots are often the cause of sidewalk damage.  For a number of years in the 70s, the city offered free repairs for sidewalks damaged by tree roots.  But as budgets tightened, public funding was withdrawn, and subsequent efforts to create alternative funding for sidewalk repairs have been controversial.

In my own small community, there is an ordinance that permits the governing body to mark sidewalks in need of repair with a big X (and for some reason they do so with pink paint), and the home or business owner has a fixed amount of time to make the repairs, or be subject to public repairs at a potentially higher price.  Obviously this approach won't work in every community -- and it is probably less than cost effective unless adjacent property owners work together to save money on contractors. 

By the way, while humming along on this topic, I discovered that there is a relevant, highly placed, law review article -- mostly dealing with sidewalk safety in winter weather -- published in 1897 in Yale's legal journal.  See "The Law of Icy Sidewalks in New York State," 6 Yale L. J. 258. In this article I learned the interesting historical fact, that at least in some jurisdictions of the day, "it is not negligence for a person to walk upon an icy sidewalk without rubbers." 

November 20, 2014 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 17, 2014

PA Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force Issues "Bold" Recommendations

On November 17,  2014, following more than a year of study  and consultation, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force issued a comprehensive (284 pages!) report and recommendations addressing a host of core concerns, including how better to assure that older Pennsylvanians' rights and needs are recognized under the law.  With Justice Debra Todd as the chair, the Task Force organized into three committees, focusing on Guardianships and Legal Counsel, Guardianship Monitoring, and Elder Abuse and Neglect.  The Task Force included more than 40 individuals from across the state, reflecting backgrounds in private legal practice, legal service organizations, government service agencies, social care organizations, criminal law, banking, and the courts. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Elder Law Task Force 2014 

From the 130 recommendations, Justice Todd highlighted several "bold" provisions at a press conference including:

  • Recommending the state's so-called "Slayer"  law be amended to prevent an individual who has been convicted of abusing or neglecting an elder from inheriting from the elder;
  • Recommending changes to court rules to mandate training for all guardians, including, but not limited to, family members serving as guardians;
  • Recommending adoption of mandatory reporting by financial institutions who witness suspected elder abuse, including financial abuse.

The full report is available on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court website here.  As a consequence of the Task Force study, the Supreme Court has approved the creation of an ongoing "Office of Elder Justice in the Courts" to support implementation of recommendations, and has created an "Advisory Council on Elder Justice to the Courts" to be chaired by Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Paula Francisco Ott. 

November 17, 2014 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Housing, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Teaching Materials on Lewy Body Dementia

With the most recent news about actor Robin Williams as possibly having Lewy Body Dementia, readers might find free webinar materials from Morningside Ministries useful, at their website mm.learn.org.  Look for the "In the News" link -- the materials strike me as objective and thoughtful. 

November 13, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Therapy Dogs Report for Duty on Veterans' Day

Penn State Dickinson Law's Registrar, Pam Knowlton, has a not-so-secret life as  seamstress, trainer and godmother to several of the most patient dogs on earth.  Newman, Thelma and Roger Honor VeteransNewman, Thelma and Roger will be hard at work again on Veterans' Day, with scheduled visits at nursing homes and care centers around the mid state.  It is pretty much impossible not to smile when these therapy dogs report for duty.

IMAG0225Roger, a French bulldog, apparently has combat training too.  Newman, the boxer, has his own blog....

November 11, 2014 in Current Affairs, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Does Your LTC Facility Have Policies on Intimacy and Sexual Behavior?

Two challenging topics for many families: how to handle death and intimacy for aging family members. We're probably doing better coming to grips with the need to address death than intimacy. When long-term care is required, involving third-parties, the question of sexual behavior can become more important.

Along that line, Bryan Gruley at Bloomberg News wrote a thoughtful series addressing the social, legal, moral -- and just plain tough -- questions connected to sexual behavior that can arise with older persons in congregate settings.

See:

Part 1: Boomer Sex with Dementia Foreshadowed in Iowa Nursing Home.

Part 2:  Sex in Geriatrics Sets Hebrew Home (Riverdale NY) Apart in Elderly Care

Bloomberg Visual Data:  Elder Care Sex Survey Finds Caregiviers Seeking More Training

The Bloomberg series quotes Albany Law School Professor Evelyn Tenenbaum, a civil rights, health care, and bioethics scholar, citing her article "To Be or to Exist: Standards for Deciding Whether Dementia Patients in Nursing Homes Should Engage in Intimacy, Sex and Adultery" from the Indiana Law Review

 

November 7, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lawyers and Yoga: Good Moves....

One of the more positive developments is how many people are devotees of yoga.  I was interested to see a D.C. Bar advertisement for "Cultivating Contentment with Yoga:  Living and Lawyering Series."   At the same time I was amused when I read that following the yoga session there would be an "active discussion on the presented topic."  Lawyers.... we can't stop talking can we?

Dickinson Law - Yoga on the LawnI'm happy to report that at my own law school, a couple of years ago our dean (yes, Dean Gildin -- he's a devotee!) added yoga to our on-campus opportunities. Students, faculty, staff and even family members are welcome. Dickinson Law - Yoga in the CourtroomA great way to help all of us strive for balance, at every age.  In fair weather the sessions are on the lawn; when it gets cold or wet everyone moves into our courtroom. 

Sadly, however, neither the D.C. Bar nor our law school gives educational "credits" for the sessions.  Remember, virtue is its own reward. 

November 5, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day 2014: Are "Elderly" Family Members a Candidate's Best Campaign Resource?

Tommorow we have respite, for at least a few months, from the barrage of political ads. In the meantime, I have to say that this season there seems to be an exceptionally high number of television ads involving the candidates' own family members, and the older the better, it seems. 

Former President Jimmy Carter, age 90, has been campaigning across Georgia on behalf of his grandson Jason.  In Pennsylvania, one governor candidate has his mother on commercials and appearing at campaign stops, explaining how her son knows the importance of protecting seniors.  In Maryland, a judicial candidate for a probate court position, explains that he  decided to run after "caring for several elderly family members for several years." Perhaps you have examples from your state?

It could be that such a strategy reflects a hard truth, that younger voters are largely alienated by the current political scene and unlikely to vote. A core community of potential voters?  Those age 60+.   

November 7, Election Post Script:  Jimmy Carter's son Jason was defeated in his campaign for governor of Georgia.  Tom Wolf's mother joined in the celebration of her son's election to governor of Pennsylvania.  Thomas Walsh was defeated in his general election bid to retain his seat as an Orphans Court Judge in Maryland.  Older relatives are not, it seems, a magic bullit for candidates. 

November 4, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lillian Hyatt and the Importance of Advocacy -- Even In Your 80s

 

While I was in California last summer, a friend introduced me to Lillian Hyatt.  I had already known of her by reputation and it was a real pleasure to speak to her in person and to continue our communications by telephone and mail. She's a dynamo, a person who does not take aging "lying down."  Born in 1925 (believe me, she doesn't mind me disclosing that fact!), Lillian Hyatt is just about as active in "retirement" as she was during her many years as a writer, consultant, advocate, social worker, and university professor. 

So I was especially interested to notice that when I clicked on a hyperlink embedded in a recent New York Times article about the impact of "falling" in an "aging nation," it took me to  a press release about Lillian Hyatt.  Back in 2008, Ms. Hyatt filed suit against a California Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), to prevent it from banning walkers from the dining room of this high-end retirement community.   She needed the walker to maneuver in what was, in essence, her home. 

The lawsuit, asserting violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and other state and federal laws that address discrimination based on disability, was settled in 2010.  Others have pursued similar claims in assisted living settings, public spaces and more.  For more on the continuing impact of Ms. Hyatt's advocacy -- even though, curiously, she is never mentioned by name in the NYT article -- read "Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation."  Advocates such as Ms. Hyatt challenge all of us to work harder to find a better balance between protection and respect for independence.

November 3, 2014 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Housing, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A New Post from the WHCOA Blog

Those of you watching the planning of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging will be interested in the most recent blog post from WHCOA executive director, Nora Super. Director Super mentions in her blog post that some “common threads” are emerging from her community conversations.  Those threads include retirement security, healthy aging, community supports and services, and preventing abuse, neglect and exploitation. “These four issues will provide the focus areas for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. They are intended to support the dignity, independence, and quality of life of older Americans at a time when we’re seeing a huge surge in the number of older adults.”  The entire post can be read here.

October 28, 2014 in Current Affairs, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Debating Fiduciary Duties and Resident Rights in Continuing Care Communities

Last week I was part of a panel hosted by the National Continuing Care Residents' Association (NaCCRA) in Nashville, a component of the larger (much larger!) annual meeting of LeadingAge.  The theme for the panel was "Resident Engagement in Continuing Care Life" and for my part of the panel, I used an interesting Third Circuit bankruptcy court decision, In re Lemington Home for the Aged, to discuss whether residents of financially troubled CCRCs should be treated as entitled to enforce specific fiduciary duties owed by the CCRC owners to creditors generally, even unsecured creditors, fiduciary duties that may give rise to a direct cause of action connected to "deepening insolvency."  NaCCRA LeadingAge Meeting October 2014

Jennifer Young (pictured on the left), a CCRC resident, talked about what it is like to "be" an unsecured creditor in a CCRC's Chapter 11 bankruptcy court proceeding.  Her explanation of how creditors' committees operate in bankruptcy court (including how they hire legal counsel and how that counsel is paid out of the Debtor's estate) was both practical and illuminating.  The closing speaker on the panel was Jack Cumming (below left). Jack's has deep experience as an actuary and a CCRC resident.  He noted the disconnect between the intentions of providers and the realities faced by residents and called for stronger accountability in investment of resident fees.Jack Cumming October 2014  I always come away from my time with Jack with lots to think about. Our moderator was NaCCRA president Daniel Seeger (right), from Pennswood Village in Pennsylvania.  Dan Seeger October 2014

In my final comments, I reminded our audience that even though our panel was focusing on "problems" with certain CCRC operations, including some multi-site facilities, many (indeed most) CCRCs are on sound financial footing, especially as occupancy numbers rebound in several regions of the country.  Both panelists and audience members emphasized, however, that for CCRCs to be able to attract new residents, the responsibility of the CCRC industry must improve.  For more on these financial points, go to NaCCRA's great educational website, that includes both text and videos, here.

Interestingly, during the LeadingAge programming that began on Saturday, October 18 and continued through October 22, I was hearing a lot about a potentially major shift in the long-term housing and service market.  Some of the largest attendance was for deep-dive sessions on new service models for "Continuing Care at Home," sometimes shortened to CCAH or CCaH.  CCAH is often seen as a way for more traditional CCRCs to broaden their client base, particularly in the face of occupancy challenges that began with the financial crisis of 2008-2010.  

As a corollary of this observation about market change, one of the topics under debate within the leadership of LeadingAge is whether Continuing Care Retirement Communities need a new name, and I can see movement to adopt a name that aligns better with the larger menu of non-facility based services that many providers are seeking to offer. 

Of course, as a law professor, I wonder what these market changes mean for oversight or regulation of new models.  Not all states are keeping up with the changes in the Continuing Care industry, and name changes may complicate or obscure the most important regulatory questions.       

October 27, 2014 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Filial Liability + Bankruptcy = Trouble

As regular readers of the Elder Law Prof Blog may recognize, I reside and work squarely in a zone where "filial support claims" are more than just theoretical propositions.  Pennsylvania continues to be Ground Zero for modern complications arising from use of a Colonial era law that permits adult children to be held liable for the cost of an indigent parent's long-term care. 

The latest example is In re Skinner, 2014 WL 5033258, decided by Bankruptcy Judge Madeline Coleman in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on October 8, 2014.

The issue is whether one sibling can prevent another sibling from "discharging" any obligation to pay an assisted living facility for their mother's care.  Both brothers were sued by the facility, resulting in a default judgment against one brother (Thomas) for $32,225, who in turn sought discharge of that debt in bankruptcy court.  Brother William, probably facing the prospect of picking up the full tab for his defaulting brother, initiated an adversary proceeding, seeking to prevent the discharge.   The court concludes that Brother William "lacks standing" to prevent Brother Thomas' discharge of the debt to the assisted living facility.

In dismissing Brother William's claim, the Bankruptcy Judge addresses both the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act and Pennsylvania's filial support law.  According to the opinion, Brother William alleges that Thomas used a Power of Attorney executed by their mother in 2007, to access her bank accounts in a "scheme [with his wife] to use the Mother's assets, including her interest in long-term care benefits, to fund approximately $85,000 of their personal expenses." However, the court concludes that even accepting the truth of allegations that "suggest that the Mother was injured by the [Thomas'] conduct, that conduct was directed at the Mother and her property. The conduct was not directed at [William]."  The Bankruptcy Court also rejected any theory of "derivative standing."  

Continue reading

October 26, 2014 in Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Worst Waiting List?

I've heard about the backlog for SSD appeals, but I had no idea how much of a backlog exists until I read the story in the October 19, 2014 Washington Post. Waiting on a Social Security disability appeal? Get in line — a very long line brings a new perspective on waiting lists.  The story reports that there are  990,399 (you read that right, 990,399)  SSD appeals waiting for ALJ hearings.  We have been hearing a lot about the backlog with the VA (526,000 according to the story) so why haven't we heard about the SSDI case backlog?   Want to know how long it takes for a backlog of almost one million cases to occur? According to the Post story, the backlog has been going on since President Ford's administration, but a significant increase occurred between 2008-20014.  Why did this occur?  "[T]he system became, in effect, too big to fix: Reforms were hugely expensive and so logistically complicated that they often stalled, unfinished. What’s left now is an office that costs taxpayers billions and still forces applicants to wait more than a year — often, without a paycheck — before delivering an answer about their benefits." As well, factor in the "Great Recession" and Boomers.  The article also mentions budget cuts to SSA as well as the government shutdown in 2013.

A sad irony-the story quotes one of the ALJs in S. Florida who had 2 claimants die before their appeals were heard, but the ALJ still had to hear the case of one, because if the decedent were determined to have been disabled, then the decedent's surviving child might receive benefits.

Although SSD waiting lists outnumber both VA and Patents, according to the story, the  wait time to decision is shorter than that for the VA and Patent office.  The SSA ALJs "are the moral centerpiece of this system: a symbol that the government intends to apply the old American ideal of due process before the law to the vast new caseloads of the American welfare state. They are also the system’s biggest problem — a 40-year-old clog in the pipe." A law prof at GW, Richard Pierce, takes the position "that the government should eliminate the judges altogether and just let the bureaucrats with the paperwork decide. [Professor Pierce] said that the main thing these hearings bring to the process — that face-to-face interaction between judges and applicants — often adds only pathos, not useful information."

A push to shrink the backload resulted in a drop of both cases and wait time in 2010 but a review of the decisions noted an uptick in the award of benefits.  It would seem, from reading this article, that part of the problem is outdated requirements and resources available to the judges (or lack thereof).  SSA has lessened the pressure on the ALJs to some extent, so now the ALJs are  "limited ... to 720 cases a year and [SSA] imposed new checks to make sure the “yes” decisions are as well thought-out as the 'noes.'"  The uptick in benefits awards has dropped, with the award of benefits at 44%.  Despite the fact that SSSA has hired more ALJs, the backlog is pushing one million. The Post reports that there were an additional 13,000 added in the first two weeks of October!  The story concludes by noting that the backlog isn't limited to just the ALJs.  The Appeals Council also has a backlog: "There are 150,383 people waiting for an Appeals Council decision. The average wait there is 374 days."

October 22, 2014 in Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

White House Conference on Aging Website Launch

Planning for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA)  is in full swing. The website has been launched and there is also a WHCOA blog available. You can also sign up for email updates to stay in the loop on WHCOA developments.

October 16, 2014 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Psychiatric Boarding"

Governing ran a story about a recent court ruling, Mental Health Ruling in Washington State Could Reverberate through the Country. The article concerns the practice of "psychiatric boarding" or     "[w]ith increased demand on proper mental health facilities, the practice known as psychiatric boarding -- temporarily holding mentally ill patients in hospital ERs until beds become available at certified treatment centers..." A national issue, the practice is unconstitutional in Washington state as a result of a lawsuit filed last year by a number of patients. Not only did experts testify that patients who are psychiatrically boarded get little, if any, mental health treatment, in fact, one government report shows that the patients will actually deteriorate.  Implications of state laws that require involuntary detention:  "states also regularly lack the space to place individuals in certified facilities. As a result, patients are held for days -- in some cases literally strapped to beds -- in emergency departments at acute-care hospitals until a bed opens up."

In August, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled this practice unconstitutional, despite the state's arguments regarding insufficient budgets and available beds. The article notes that Washington state is not alone in facing this issue, with a number of states admitting to psychiatric boarding. However, just increasing beds isn't the solution to this issue, the article goes on to discuss.  Quoting the executive director of the Bazelon Center, the better solution is more beds plus broad-based community care.

 

October 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cognitive Decline in Aging Brains-New Research

Kurzweil Accelerating Intelliegence (Kurzweil AI) ran a story that got my attention. The signature of aging in the brain reports on the results of a study that looks at a "signature" in the brain "that may be the “missing link” between cognitive decline and aging and that may in the future lead to treatments that can slow or reverse cognitive decline in older people..."

This is a technical article and perhaps not the type we typically cover in our blog, but I thought it important enough to mention. Since I don't have a scientific background, I decided to excerpt some of the findings

they identified a unique “signature of aging” that exists solely in the choroid plexus. They discovered that one of the main elements of this signature was interferon beta, a protein that the body normally produces to fight viral infection.

Turns out this protein also appears to have a negative effect on the brain. When the researchers injected an antibody that blocks interferon beta activity into the cerebrospinal fluid of the older mice, their cognitive abilities were restored, as was their ability to form new brain cells.

Why this is important? It may lead to different treatments to help with cognitive decline-the researchers "hope that this finding may, in the future, help prevent or reverse cognitive decline in old age by finding ways to rejuvenate the immunological age of the brain."

October 9, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

HelpAge International Releases Index of Best, Worst Countries for Elders' Well-Being

Via Reuters:
Afghanistan is the worst country to live in as an older person, an annual index on the wellbeing of the elderly showed on Wednesday.  The Asian country was ranked bottom for the second consecutive year in HelpAge International's Global AgeWatch Index, its health situation in particular the poorest in the world.  Norway topped the index - up one place from last year - followed by Sweden, Switzerland, Canada and Germany, all of which remained in the top 10. Apart from Japan - ranked ninth - the 10 best performers were again in western Europe, North America and Australasia.  The report, which focused on pensions and warned that half the world’s population faces a bleak future without one, comes at a time when life expectancy continues to rise. Toby Porter, chief executive of HelpAge International, said governments worldwide need to implement specific policies to respond to "this unequovical demographic shift".  "Only if they act now will they have a chance to meet the needs of their citizens and keep their economies going," Porter told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
 
Source/more:  Reuters

October 2, 2014 in Current Affairs, International, Statistics | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

On the Escalator of An Aging Society?

A few days ago I blogged about an article in The Atlantic explaining one person's thinking of 75 being his optimal "old age". In that same issue of The Atlantic is another article--about longevity and 100 year olds--what it will mean for society as more of us reach that age.  What Happens When We All Live to 100? was published on September 17, 2014.

The article starts with a history of sorts of life expectancies from human origins and notes that

Viewed globally, the lengthening of life spans seems independent of any single, specific event. It didn’t accelerate much as antibiotics and vaccines became common. Nor did it retreat much during wars or disease outbreaks. A graph of global life expectancy over time looks like an escalator rising smoothly. The trend holds, in most years, in individual nations rich and poor; the whole world is riding the escalator.

Projections of ever-longer life spans assume no incredible medical discoveries—rather, that the escalator ride simply continues. If anti-aging drugs or genetic therapies are found, the climb could accelerate. Centenarians may become the norm, rather than rarities who generate a headline in the local newspaper.

The article then moves to a discussion of those institutions intentionally working on increasing life spans, the Buck Institute, the U of Michigan, the U of Texas, UC-San Francisco, and the Mayo Clinic for example. Long-term readers of this blog may also remember a post about CALICO (Google's "spin-off called the California Life Company (known as Calico) to specialize in longevity research."). The article has a fascinating section about the research being done, including some interesting consideration of other life forms that excel in longevity (worm genes, anyone?).

I particular enjoyed reading the quote of one of the leaders in the field in describing the nascent nature of the research. "'[M]edically, we do not know what ‘age’ is. The sole means to determine age is by asking for date of birth. That’s what a basic level this research still is at.'”  There seems to be some debate amongst the experts about whether life expectancy will continue to rise at the steady escalator-smooth rate as in years past.  The article also mentions some of the theories advanced over time on increasingly longevity: vitamins, low calorie diets, education, exercise, etc.

One section of the article bears significant possibilities for class discussion, the political implications of an older society.

Society is dominated by the old—old political leaders, old judges. With each passing year, as longevity increases, the intergenerational imbalance worsens. The old demand benefits for which the young must pay, while people in their 20s become disenchanted, feeling that the deck is stacked against them. National debt increases at an alarming rate. Innovation and fresh thinking disappear as energies are devoted to defending current pie-slicing arrangements.

The author reveals this is a description of what is actually occurring in Japan. Consider as the author does, what increased longevity may also do to the judicial branch--especially the Supreme Court with lifetime appointments.

This article may be viewed as a bit of a wake-up alarm, although I suspect many of the folks in the US will just hit the snooze button

People’s retirement savings simply must increase, though this means financial self-discipline, which Americans are not known for. Beyond that, most individuals will likely need to take a new view of what retirement should be: not a toggle switch—no work at all, after years of full-time labor—but a continuum on which a person gradually downshifts to half-time, then to working now and then. Let’s call it the “retirement track” rather than retirement: a phase of continuing to earn and save as full-time work winds down.

Widespread adoption of a retirement track would necessitate changes in public policy and in employers’ attitudes. Banks don’t think in terms of smallish loans to help a person in the second half of life start a home-based business, but such lending might be vital to a graying population. Many employers are required to continue offering health insurance to those who stay on the job past 65, even though they are eligible for Medicare. Employers’ premiums for these workers are much higher than for young workers, which means employers may have a logical reason to want anyone past 65 off the payroll. Ending this requirement would make seniors more attractive to employers.

Back to the reasons for increasing longevity. One in the list above, education, seems to have a solid correlation and maybe not as obvious as other reasons that come to mind (vaccines, antibiotics, improved health care, public services, etc.).  The author considers the role of education in longevity and examining budget cuts by states, suggests

Many of the social developments that improve longevity—better sanitation, less pollution, improved emergency rooms—are provided to all on an egalitarian basis. But today’s public high schools are dreadful in many inner-city areas, and broadly across states ... Legislatures are cutting support for public universities, while the cost of higher education rises faster than inflation. These issues are discussed in terms of fairness; perhaps health should be added as a concern in the debate. If education is the trump card of longevity, the top quintile may pull away from the rest

The last section of the article hypothesizes on the impact of an aging society if the escalator continues its ascent, achieving perhaps a "grey utopia" of sorts. The article is well worth reading, but it makes me think about how society values, or devalues, aging. Is getting old a challenge or disease to be conquered?  For example, the author writes, "[i]f the passage of time itself turns out to be the challenge, interdisciplinary study of aging might overtake the disease-by-disease approach. As recently as a generation ago, it would have seemed totally crazy to suppose that aging could be “cured.” Now curing aging seems, well, only somewhat crazy."  Read this article and have your students read it, too.

October 1, 2014 in Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Different Housing Bubble? Elders Selling Homes.

Kudos again to my friend and colleague, Professor Mark Bauer (current chair of the AALS Aging & Law section, btw) for sending me this article, The Great Senior Sell-Off Could Cause the Next Housing Crisis.  The article appeared in The Atlantic's CityLab, and although the article was published in 2013, I think it is still important to read (if you didn't when it was first published) because it predicts the busting of another housing "bubble" starting in 2020, just 6 years from now.

The article opens with looking at the various names of animals being swallowed by the python (that is, the Boomers and the American population). (As an aside, the article lists a number of animals--I'd only heard of the pig, but now I know we Boomers might also be compared to a bunny (cute) or "a really big rat" (ugh)). But I digress.

The focus of the article is on what will happen when the Boomers reach a certain age where they decide to sell their homes...and hope there are buyers galore for them. A researcher quoted in the article indicates that in certain larger metro areas, there should be buyers, but in less populous areas, not so much.  He describes what he calls "the “great senior sell-off” .... sometime later this decade ... [that] he predicts that it could cause our next real housing crisis."

Changing demographics will also affect the housing market and demand will not be in sync with supply as housing preferences change with age and demographics.  There is something of a bleak housing future ahead for many elders, according to the expert, who predicts "there will be two classes of seniors in America: those “aging in place” voluntarily, and those “aging in place” involuntarily because they can’t sell their homes."  His concerns about aging in place are best summarized by how a person's abilities change once s/he gets to an advanced age and becomes unable to do basic upkeep or maintenance yet the housing market will tumble, leaving some only the choice of abandoning their homes.

September 30, 2014 in Current Affairs, Housing, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Add This to Your Vocabulary: The Grey Belt

I always love learning new lingo.  I've heard parts of the US described as the "sun belt", the "rust belt" and the "corn belt" to name a few. Now I've learned that I live in the "sun belt" and next door to the "Grey Belt."  Thanks to my friend and colleague Professor Mark Bauer for sending me the Associated Press article, Fla.'s 'Gray Belt' a glimpse at nation's future. 

According to the article, Citrus County, Florida is the heart of the "Grey Belt"  in which "more than a third of residents are senior citizens, one of the highest rates in the nation... The county isn't simply a stereotype of Florida, where in just 15 years, one in four residents will be 65 or older. It's a peek into the not-too-distant future of the nation, where the number will be one in five."

So what's the implication of living in the "Grey Belt?"  The article notes that the businesses reflect the population and the economy shows the effect of such a population. For example, the story notes that the "economy based on low-skill jobs such as health-care aides, retail clerks and food service workers."  The result of a community where people move in to retire, rather than age-in place?  "[Those who move into an area generally aren't eager to fund schools ... whereas those who remain in the communities where they worked and raised their families tend to support education and other public spending that doesn't benefit them directly. Citrus County voters lived up to that thesis as recently as two years ago when they decisively rejected a referendum to raise property taxes to fund schools."

The article discusses the dilemma these cities face-they need younger folks to work in the service jobs that cater to the elder residents, but these folks don't always want to move to a community that is primarily elder residents.   One pastor even described his church as a "hospice church" because "congregants either die or move back north to spend their last years near relatives. Changes that might attract younger families for the almost 500-member congregation often meet resistance..."

Although Citrus County might be the center of the Florida Grey Belt, the phrase actually refers to a swath of 8 counties  with "among the oldest populations in the nation, not to mention in Florida, which has long had the highest rate of seniors in the nation, and will for decades yet... [with] Sumter [county] ...  home to the largest concentration of seniors of any county in the nation..."

Ok but really--is Florida the only location of the "Grey Belt"? We all know the US population is aging, so what about it--do we have more grey belts?  Depends on how you look at it. According to the AP article, "North Dakota, Texas, and Michigan have pockets of seniors on par with the Gray Belt counties in Florida. But unlike the Florida counties, which have grown from the migration of new seniors, they have gotten grayer as a result of younger residents leaving."

Keep in mind that the Florida grey belt only encompasses 8 counties. The state is a bit of a hodgepodge, demographically speaking, since the grey belt "contrasts starkly with the state's younger and more diverse major metro areas ...  and the interests of Gray Belt residents will diverge politically, socially and economically from Florida's more youthful cities."  Competing interests based on age will show up at the ballot box as well--talk about a tightrope for state leaders!

According to an economist with the U. of Florida ("in the nieghborhood" of the grey belt), "[s]ince voting power will tilt in favor of the older residents because of their higher voter-participation rates, the key to keeping both sides happy is to devolve all kinds of governmental decisions on taxes, planning and education from the state level to the local level so that residents in areas with both high and low concentrations of seniors will feel like their voices are being heard."

Here we go....and please, no jokes about Florida and voting. Deal?

September 26, 2014 in Current Affairs, Housing, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)