Tuesday, January 30, 2018
The New York Times ran an article about recent research regarding the correlation between early retirement and longevity. The Connection Between Retiring Early and Living Longer looks at a number of studies here and abroad.
That retirement promotes health and prolongs life isn’t obvious. After all, work provides income and, for some, health insurance — both helpful for maintenance of well-being. It also can provide purpose and camaraderie. Evidence is mounting that loneliness and social isolation are linked to illness, cognitive decline and death. One study of American retirees found them less likely to be lonely or depressed.
For some, retirement doesn't have a healthy impact. Developing, or continuing, good eating habits and exercise are critical. "Retirees are more likely to exercise, and those who do are better off for it. One study found retirees get more sleep and spend more time doing household work and gardening — both of which are more active than a desk job. Another study found that better health in retirement may be because of the reduced likelihood of smoking." Those are all good things, but for many, retirement is outside of their financial ability. "[A]ccording to a recent national survey by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, many Americans don’t have the resources to retire. About 20 percent of Americans over 44 years old have no retirement savings. Half of Americans are at risk of being unable to maintain their standard of living in retirement. If you want to retire, whether for health benefits or otherwise, you’ll have to start preparing when you’re still young."
Monday, January 22, 2018
The National Center on Law & Elder Rights has announced their next webinar, this one on elders and bankruptcy. Legal Basics: Debt Collection Protections for Older Consumers is set for February 13, 2018 at 2 p.m. est. According to the email announcement, here is the description:
An increasing number of older consumers are struggling with unmanageable debt as Americans carry more credit card, student loan, and other debts into retirement than in past decades. Debt collectors often aggressively pursue older adults to repay debt from fixed incomes.
This free webinar, Legal Basics: Debt Collection Protections for Older Consumers, outlines the issues facing older consumers and offers strategies to help address the challenges. This session will highlight federal protections for older consumers from abusive debt collection practices.
The webinar is free. Click here to register.
Friday, January 19, 2018
We have previously blogged about the concept of shared housing. It can take many forms and can be a great option for certain elders. The New York Times ran an article about it in NY. Getting a Roommate in Your Golden Years explains that
The concept of pairing older people with younger ones, particularly those who are not family members, is not a new one: It was popularized by Maggie Khun, an elder-rights activist who opened up her Philadelphia home to others for more than 20 years before she died in 1995. Today’s home sharing, however, is as likely to be between those of the same age as it is to be intergenerational. The crucial thing is that it involves two or more people sharing an apartment or a house to their mutual benefit. And finances often play a big role.
The article focuses on the win-win, cost savings on both sides among others. The article features one New Yorker who is running low on funds and turned to a service in Manhattan that matches folks. "The New York Foundation for Senior Citizens connected her with a licensed social worker who asked a host of questions, including details about her sleeping habits, personality, interests and daily schedule. She also had to provide three personal recommendations and her rental agreement, to prove she was on the lease. And she was asked to describe what she considered the ideal roommate. Her response: someone who wasn’t home much."
Another expert quoted in the story notes that shared housing can be a way to fight homelessness amongst elders. Don't think homelessness is an issue for elders? Think again. "Statistics show that the number of older Americans who are homeless is growing. In 2007, homeless people 62 and older who sought shelter accounted for 2.9 percent of the country’s homeless population. By 2016, the percentage had risen to 4.7, according to estimates from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group."
Does an elder need to go through an organization to find a roommate? No, but there are certainly advantages to doing so! For example, one elder interviewed for the story detailed her travails in finding the right match. Another expert in the article highlighted the benefits of using an agency.
She advises those interested in home sharing not to go about it on their own: Go through a nonprofit service, she said, or ask a trusted eldercare professional, friends or family to help properly vet the prospective roommates. And before you sign a lease with a boarder, make sure to do a background check... “You need a huge amount of trust and to be very clear with your expectations,” she said. . . “But if you have the help you need to stay in your home — and the tenant gains affordable housing in exchange — I think there’s much to gain socially and spiritually when young and old live together.”
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
FINRA has released FAQs specifically to address elder financial exploitation. Frequently Asked Questions Regarding FINRA Rules Relating to Financial Exploitation of Seniors explains the new rules that take effect on February 5, 2018. "[T]he SEC approved: (1) the adoption of new FINRA Rule 2165 (Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults) to permit members to place temporary holds on disbursements of funds or securities from the accounts of specified customers where there is a reasonable belief of financial exploitation of these customers; and (2) amendments to FINRA Rule 4512 (Customer Account Information) to require members to make reasonable efforts to obtain the name of and contact information for a trusted contact person (“trusted contact”) for a customer’s account."(citations omitted) FAQs 1 and 2 deal with temporary holds, 3 with trusted contacts, and 4 with disclosures. The FAQ are available here.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Those Boomers (or should I say, more accurately, we boomers). We invented lots of things (if you ask us) including rock 'n roll and now we are experiencing hearing loss. It was only a matter of time.... after years of playing all that rock music so loudly (of course our parents warned us), we are reaping the after effects-hearing loss (this is a tongue in cheek statement, BTW). Baby boomers destroyed their hearing. Biotech is trying to fix it
opens with these paragraphs
Baby boomers grew up with music blasting from dorm room turntables, car stereos, and arenas where the sound of a band at full throttle could rival the roar of a jet engine. Volume became an act of generational defiance. As rocker Ted Nugent put it: “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” ... Turns out, it was too loud. Millions of boomers are now grappling with hearing loss — some of it caused by turning the volume to 11 — prompting companies to develop treatments that improve upon the expensive and often limited-value hearing aids and surgical implants that have been around for decades.
Intrigued. Find yourself amongst those who maybe played your music at "11"? Want to read more? The Boston Globe also an the article. The article looks at the frequency (no pun intended, honestly) of hearing loss and it's a lot, the treatments being researched, and more. And before you go off to tell your children to turn down the volume on their music, the article notes noise isn't the only reason for hearing loss. Some of it is genetic and another is age related. Technology plays a role as well, with one expert noting the impact of leaf blowers and ear buds. Different devices and developing drugs are being studied as an option for those with hearing loss.
Friday, December 29, 2017
2017 has been a bit of a wild ride, and I thought it would be good to end the year on a happy news item. So, check out this article in the New York Times.
Want to Be Happy? Think Like an Old Person. is an update on a series that follows six New York elders who at the time of the first article were " over the age of 85, one of the fastest-growing age groups in America. The series of articles began the way most stories about older people do, with the fears and hardships of ...." In this article, the author is examining happiness. "Older people report higher levels of contentment or well-being than teenagers and young adults. The six elders put faces on this statistic. If they were not always gleeful, they were resilient and not paralyzed by the challenges that came their way. All had known loss and survived. None went to a job he did not like, coveted stuff she could not afford, brooded over a slight on the subway or lost sleep over events in the distant future. They set realistic goals. Only one said he was afraid to die."
This attitude, the article explains, has a name: "the paradox of old age: that as people’s minds and bodies decline, instead of feeling worse about their lives, they feel better. In memory tests, they recall positive images better than negative; under functional magnetic resonance imaging, their brains respond more mildly to stressful images than the brains of younger people."
Two of the six have died, and the updates on the remaining four show some ups, downs, adjustments, and changes.
So ends another year for four members of New York’s oldest old: not with a whimper, but with small joys to ease their aches. Each lost a little and moved a year closer to death, as we all did. But each welcomed another morning, the start of another year to come. All had beaten the odds just to get this far.
Resilience and perseverance matters.
Happy New Year
Monday, December 18, 2017
The New York Times The Daily 360 series did a story about the long-term care program in Hawaii. You know the old saying-a picture is worth a 1000 words? A video must be worth many more words. So, click here and watch the video!
Thursday, December 14, 2017
There's been a lot of attention of late regarding the very serious opiod crisis. But I think it's important to keep in mind the issue of polypharmacy and elders. The Washington Post ran this article, The other big drug problem: Older people taking too many pills, which opens with this "[c]onsider it America’s other prescription drug epidemic." The article offers sobering statistics
Researchers estimate that 25 percent of people ages 65 to 69 take at least five prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions, a figure that jumps to nearly 46 percent for those between 70 and 79. Doctors say it is not uncommon to encounter patients taking more than 20 drugs to treat acid reflux, heart disease, depression or insomnia or other disorders.
In fact, some elders have health issues from polypharmacy, some which are preventable, according to the article. The polypharmacy problems can create a vicious cycle for some folks for whom "the side effects of drugs are frequently misinterpreted as a new problem, triggering more prescriptions, a process known as a prescribing cascade." Often, a hospitalization and new meds on top of the existing ones contribute to the problem. Evidently the problem of polypharmacy, although not new, is increasing. The article explains that some doctors are engaging in what is referred to as "deprescribing" which is explained as "systematically discontinuing medicines that are inappropriate, duplicative or unnecessary." The article explains a number of hurdles to this goal, including lack of research, time constraints, advertising and just changing the status quo.
This is a really interesting article and worth the read!
I recall a children's song I learned about the importance of keeping your old friends while making new friends. So the Kaiser Health News story about friends caught my eye. Good Friends Might Be Your Best Brain Booster As You Age reports on a new study from Northwestern regarding the connection between "brain health and positive relationships." The Northwestern Study, Psychological well-being in elderly adults with extraordinary episodic memory is an open source article available as well as a pdf. Here is the abstract from the study
The Northwestern University SuperAging Program studies a rare cohort of individuals over age 80 with episodic memory ability at least as good as middle-age adults to determine what factors contribute to their elite memory performance. As psychological well-being is positively correlated with cognitive performance in older adults, the present study examined whether aspects of psychological well-being distinguish cognitive SuperAgers from their cognitively average-for-age, same-age peers.
Want to live longer and happier, then be nice to your good friends (maybe call them up now and tell them hi!). The article's concluding summary offers this
SuperAgers endorse higher levels of Positive Relations with Others compared to their cognitively healthy but average-for-age same-age peers suggesting that this aspect of psychological well-being may be an important factor for exceptional cognitive aging. Investigation of the longitudinal effects of psychological well-being on subsequent cognitive performance and investigation of the conceivable relationship between psychological well-being and von Economo neurons in SuperAgers represent intriguing future directions.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
I was reading the article, Things I’ll Do Differently When I’m Old, in the New York Times. The author writes about a do and not do list. What is this type of list? "It was a highly judgmental, and super secret, accounting of all the things I thought my parents were doing wrong. . . It was all too easy to call them out, and I recognized over and over just how awful it is to become feeble, sick and increasingly absent-minded, or worse."
Why such a list? According to the author, it arose out of watching the impact of their poor decisions on his parents. For example, his mother continued driving past the time of her capability or his father's refusal to use an assistive mobility device. Learning from our elders' "mistakes" is nothing new, but making a list that applies specifically to one's older age is an interesting concept. Wonder what is on the author's list? Items include driving ability, accepting help to maintain independence, maintaining physical appearance, not lash out at others and treat them with respect and kindness.
The author notes that his grandmother had a similarly intended list that he found going through his dad's papers. He concludes "I certainly hope to learn from her errors, and my parents’, and avoid making too many of my own. Mostly I hope to be able to judge when to stop adding to the list, and start following its advice."
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Regular readers of this blog know that I will periodically post about identity theft, hacking, etc. even though not specifically elder law issues. With the end of the year looming, I thought it timely to write about a new report from the GAO, Identity Theft: Improved Collaboration Could Increase Success of IRS Initiatives to Prevent Refund Fraud.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) launched an Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) pilot for the 2017 filing season. It aims to allow IRS, states, and tax preparation industry partners to quickly share information on identity theft (IDT) refund fraud. The ISAC pilot includes two components: an online platform run by IRS to communicate data on suspected fraud, and an ISAC Partnership, a collaborative organization comprised of IRS, states, and industry, which is intended to be the governance structure. As of November 2017, the ISAC had 48 members: 31 states (including full members and those receiving alerts only), 14 tax preparation companies, and 3 financial institutions. In addition, IRS is using a Rapid Response Team (RRT) in partnership with states and industry members to coordinate responses to IDT refund fraud incidents that pose a significant threat within 24 to 72 hours of being discovered. IRS deployed the RRT for six incidents in 2016 and once in 2017.GAO found that the ISAC pilot aligns with key aspects of all five leading practices for effective pilot design GAO previously identified, but none fully. For example, IRS has worked to incorporate stakeholder input, but its message about the ISAC's benefits has not fully reached states. Further, IRS does not have criteria for assessing whether the pilot's objectives have been met. Without this assessment and better alignment with leading practices, IRS, its partners, and Congress will have difficulty determining the effectiveness of the pilot and whether to implement it more broadly.
Given the number of folks whose personal identifying information was stolen in the Equifax hack, let's hope that the IRS efforts are effective. Stay tuned.
Monday, November 20, 2017
The Wall Street Journal published an article by Maddy Dychtwald, The Surprising Benefits and Costs of Family Caregiving. A significant number of folks are already serving as caregivers (40 million per the article) and "[a]s the massive baby-boomer generation hits their 70s, the demand for family caregiving will skyrocket—and it’s poised to become America’s biggest off-the-books industry." The author explains about a survey her company did with Merrill Lynch, "The Journey of Caregiving: Honor, Responsibility and Financial Complexity." The author notes one unexpected positive found in the study is the caregivers finding the act of caregiving benefitting them, perhaps as much as those receiving the care.
The majority of respondents (65%) also said that caregiving has brought meaning and purpose to their life. Most (77%) went so far as to say they would gladly take on the role of caregiver for another loved one. More than half (61%) told us the biggest benefit of being a caregiver is feeling that they’re doing the right thing. And often, caregivers begin to take better care of their own health as a result of their caregiving experience (86%).
The article discusses the obstacles encountered in caregiving, including the role reversals that can make the relationship difficult. "Nearly half (45%) of all caregivers say they are struggling with this, while trying to meet what they tell us are their top three goals: preserving the dignity of their loved one, providing the best care possible, and keeping their loved one out of an institution. Many caregivers also believe part of their role is to make sure the recipient does not feel like a burden, even when they might be."
The article stresses the importance of a family conversation--and early. The talk needs to include financial caregiving, which may end up being a big part of the need.
As it turns out, financial caregiving is a critical part of the picture—but one that’s not often discussed. Financial caregivers in our study are contributing to the cost of care, coordinating and managing finances for their loved one, or both. More than half (52%) of respondents have no idea what they have spent on caregiving-related expenses. In fact, many contribute financially to the care of their loved one even when it’s detrimental to their own financial future.
The cost of caregiving is not easy or comfortable to talk about, but finances are an integral piece of the puzzle. Seventy-five percent of family caregivers have never discussed their financial role with their care recipient. It could be that talking about money is taboo, especially in the face of grave illness, or that the care recipient does not have the mental acuity to discuss finances. But the financial burden and emotional toll can be minimized if families talk it through and plan appropriately.
It’s important to get our heads around the costs and benefits of caregiving now, because it’s likely to be in each of our futures. As founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter once said: “There are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers; those who currently are caregivers; those who will be caregivers; and those who will need caregivers.”
Monday, November 13, 2017
Here's the info from my dear friend, Sue Field, co-editor.
Elder Law Review The Elder Law Review is an independent refereed e-journal produced by Elder Law at Western Sydney University. It is the only Australian Journal concerned with Elder Law. The Review publishes articles about legal issues relating to seniors in all areas of law, including wills, powers of attorney, substitute decision-making, guardianship, discrimination, accommodation, contracts, financial management, retirement income, taxation and property. The Review is multi-disciplinary, bringing together professionals working, researching and writing in the aged care area. It is designed to be of interest to academics, practitioners and those involved in the provision of aged care.
The Elder Law Review can be accessed at
Call for submissions for Volume 11 (due for publication early 2018).
Notes to contributors The theme of the forthcoming issue will be “Legal and Financial Issues surrounding Retirement Villages” Original, unpublished contributions are invited for any of the following sections of the Review:
- the Refereed section containing scholarly articles about the legal/social/economic/policy issues associated with “International Perspectives on Elder Law”. While we will consider articles of any length, we prefer them to be between 3000 and 8000 words.
- the Comments section, which consists of contributions from government, lawyers and aged care representatives, commenting on issues which the contributor perceives to be of contemporary significance within elder law.
- News and Current Issues – including legislative changes and case notes.
- Elder Law in Practice which profiles legal practices, community projects, social justice initiatives and pro-bono schemes from all over the world that specifically target the legal needs of older people.
Papers must conform to the Australian Guide to Legal Citation which can be accessed at
In particular, contributors should note the conventions regarding footnotes and bibliographies. Submissions must be received by January 15th, 2018 and should be addressed to Sue Field S.Field@westernsydney.edu.au
For further information please contact Sue Field co-editor S.Field@westernsydney.edu.au Contributors are reminded that papers should be written in clear language accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike and that submission of articles is no guarantee of publication, as the Elder Law Review is a peer reviewed journal and ERA ranked.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
I grew up watching the Smothers Brothers and vividly recall their sibling rivalry...."mom always liked you best." For elder law attorneys, the idea of the parent having a favorite child can be an important bit of information in the representation of the client. I've written about family matters beyond this blog. I was interested in the recent article in Huffington Post covering family favoritism. Parents Really Do Have Favorite Child, No Matter What They Say. Finally, ANSWERS. opens with an amusing observation that if your parents have told you all along they don't have favorites, they weren't being truthful to you. "[S]cience tells a different story. In research that will vindicate self-pitying siblings everywhere, sociologist Katherine Conger’s recently resurfaced longitudinal study found what many have suspected all along: Parents totally have a favorite child." The article discusses the study's hypothesis regarding birth order and who would feel favored. "The research also found that no matter a child’s birth order, every single one was suspicious of their parents liking another better. “Everyone feels their brother or sister is getting a better deal,” Conger said... So what do we make of all of this? For one, siblings have it tough. Always competing for their parents’ love, never knowing who’s ahead. But the good news for brothers and sisters is that the relationship serves tons of benefits: Having a sibling may make you more intelligent, more likely to have a stable marriage as an adult and can serve as a built-in support system. " The study referenced in the article is available for purchase.
Monday, November 6, 2017
PBS NewsHour has been running a series of interviews, Brief but Spectacular, where the subject opines on the question: what vital things make life spectacular. They recently aired their 100th episode, which featured a person who is 92 years old and who has begun to have memory problems. You can read the transcript here or listen to the audio of the interview here. Another interviewee, a 91 year old author, opines on aging with grace. That transcript can be accessed here. You can access the full series here.
Pew Research Center issued a new FactTank report, The share of Americans living without a partner has increased, especially among young adults. The article starts off with these statistics "[i]n the past 10 years, the share of U.S. adults living without a spouse or partner has climbed to 42%, up from 39% in 2007, when the Census Bureau began collecting detailed data on cohabitation." So you are wondering, what does this report have to do with elder law? Well, here you go. "The rise in adults living without a spouse or partner has also occurred against the backdrop of a third important demographic shift: the aging of American adults. Older adults (55 and older) are more likely to have a spouse or partner than younger adults. So it is surprising that the share of adults who are unpartnered has risen even though relatively more Americans are older." The article explains the financial implications of being "unpartnered", not unsurprising to those of us in the field of elder law. This can be an important implication in terms of retirement security as well. The infographic breaking down the data by age is available here.
Thursday, November 2, 2017
You aren't the only one. A number of times elders are targets. The Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on October 4, 2017, "Still Ringing Off The Hook: An Update on Efforts to Combat Robocalls” The testimony came from two committee members and 4 witnesses, including Lois Greisman, the Associate Director, Division of Marketing Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection of the FTC and PA AG Josh Shapiro. You can watch the video of the hearing or download individual testimony as pdfs by clicking here.
Monday, October 30, 2017
You know I've blogged several times about the recent hurricanes (and I have more yet to come). This one is about the fires from the West. Although sheltering in place may be an option in a hurricane, you certainly can't shelter in place when your shelter is in the direct path of the fire. Kaiser Health News recently ran an article highlighting the dilemmas and dangers in such cases. Fires Prey On Frail Residents Living On Their Own focuses on two stories of individuals who didn't get out in time. In one, the caregiver of a couple, both elderly and frail, was unable to get them out in time. In another, the younger person with special needs was found in her home after the fire passed. The story highlights the need and obstacles in responding to fast-moving disasters like wildfires. Many families have turned to social media in an effort to locate relatives in the path of fires.
One expert who heads up a California Council on Aging suggested that residents keep their landlines, that service providers keep hard copies of client addresses and families exchange the contact info with neighbors of the elders. Some areas are training individuals with developmental disabilities on how to respond to an emergency. Everyone needs to be prepared for disasters. Some more vulnerable populations might need to be better prepared then most.
Let's hope we get a break from all of these natural disasters soon. Stay safe.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Have you thought about all the stuff you have accumulated that you will leave behind at your death? You may make specific devises or maybe you will just leave your estate in bulk to beneficiaries to divide up between themselves. Your collection of flamingo salt and pepper shakers may be precious to you but not to your beneficiaries. The Washington Post wrote about this situation in a story titled Americans are pack rats. Swedes have the solution: ‘Death cleaning.’ The article starts off, "[i]f your family doesn’t want your stuff when you’re alive, they sure won’t want it when you’re dead....That’s the blunt assessment of yet another self-help author from abroad who is trying to get Americans, who have an addiction to collecting and storage units, to clean up their acts." The book will be available in the US starting in January of 2018.
The advantage of winnowing down your stuff while alive is it takes a lot of burden off your heirs.
The concept of decluttering before you die, a process called “dostadning,” is part of Swedish culture. (It comes from the Swedish words for death and cleaning.) Karin Olofsdotter, 51, the Swedish ambassador to the United States, says .... “It’s almost like a biological thing to do.” Olofsdotter says part of Swedish culture is living independently and never being a burden to anyone. How you keep your home is a statement of that.
Although this cleaning out can occur at any age, the author suggests 65. She also offers some suggestions such as:
Don’t start with your photos, as you’ll get bogged down in your memories and never accomplish anything. Make sure you keep a book of passwords for your heirs. Give away nice things you don’t want as gifts, such as china or table linens or books, as opposed to buying new items. Keep a separate box of things that matter only to you, and label it to be tossed upon your death. It’s okay to keep a beloved stuffed animal or two.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
The Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) has opened their call for proposals for their 2018 annual conference. If you teach T&E, Elder Law or related courses and are interested, here is some info about proposals for those tracks written by one of the organizers, Deborah Gordon:
We are hoping to encourage more trusts and estates programming at the Southeastern Association of Law Schools conference, which will be held from August 6-12 in Ft. Lauderdale. We will be proposing two discussion groups, described below, one which focuses on pedagogy and one on scholarship; please let us know if you would like to participate.
In addition, please feel free to propose a panel or discussion group yourself; here is the submission information, http://www.sealslawschools.org/submissions/.
PROPOSED DISCUSSION GROUPS Both pedagogy and scholarship within trusts and estates are moving beyond traditional core topics. We are proposing two plenary discussion groups that explore how pedagogy and scholarship are expanding the ways of teaching and studying trusts and estates and related doctrines. One group will address innovations in teaching, including both skills and doctrine, and teaching about topics that overlap with other areas of the law, such as Elder Law, Family Law, Property, and Professional Responsibility; the second group will explore new scholarship.