Thursday, January 19, 2017
Do you use social media? You aren't alone if you are. Pew Research released a new social media fact sheet that breaks down social media use, with 69% of Americans using social media at some time. But since this is an elderlawprof blog, I know you want to know more--specifically the percentage of older persons using social media. Wait no longer! 34% of those 65 and older used social media as of the time of the survey, with 64% of those age 50-64 using social media. But which social media are older persons using? That 50-64 age group has a significant presence on Facebook, 61%, compared to 36% of those 65 and older. Pinterest and LinkedIn came in close seconds for those 50-64 (24% and 21% respectively). LinkedIn was a distant second for those 65 and over. Another report from Pew breaks out usage by social media platforms.
Monday, January 16, 2017
So Meals on Wheels has an idea. We all know the dangers of isolation and how important it can be to check in with an elder on a regular basis. Kaiser Health News explains the idea, Meals On Wheels Wants To Be The ‘Eyes and Ears’ For Hospitals, Doctors. "Meals on Wheels, which has served seniors for more than 60 years through a network of independent nonprofits, is trying to formalize the health and safety checks its volunteers already conduct during their daily home visits to seniors. Through an ongoing campaign dubbed “More Than a Meal,” the organization hopes to demonstrate that it can play a critical role in the health care system."
Many nonprofits face challenges, including funding challenges, and Meals on Wheels is no exception. There are competitors now, less funding and increasing demand for services. So how would this work? "Meals on Wheels America and several of the local programs around the country have launched partnerships with insurers, hospitals and health systems. By reporting to providers any physical or mental changes they observe, volunteers can help improve seniors’ health and reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and nursing home placements, said Ellie Hollander, CEO of Meals on Wheels America." It's a very cost-effective system according to the article and has the potential for bigger savings in health care costs.
There has already been some research done on the effectiveness and advantages of Meals on Wheels. Consider this:
Studies conducted by Brown University researchers have shown that meal deliveries can help elderly people stay out of nursing homes, reduce falls and save states money.
Kali Thomas, an assistant professor at Brown University School of Public Health, estimated that if all states increased the number of older people receiving the meals by 1 percent, they would save more than $100 million. Research also has shown that the daily meal deliveries helped seniors’ mental health and eased their fears of being institutionalized.
There are projects taking place, with one between Meals on Wheels, Brown U and West Health Institute. Another is with Meals on Wheels, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, which will attempt "to keep seniors at home and reduce their need for costly health services after hospitalization. The idea is to have trained volunteers report red flags and ensure, for example, that patients with congestive heart failure are weighing themselves regularly and eating properly." The Maryland project is being run by Dr. Dan Hale (friend and former colleague at Stetson U).
Sounds like a great idea!
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Who doesn't want to be a super "something"? How about a Superager? What is a Superager anyway? (and no, capes and tights are not needed). According to a recent story in the NY Times, Superagers are "those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds." How to Become a ‘Superager’ reports on a study of the brains of Superagers to figure out what makes them so.
How do you become a Superager? Well, the researchers aren't quite ready to tell us that yet.
Of course, the big question is: How do you become a superager? Which activities, if any, will increase your chances of remaining mentally sharp into old age? We’re still studying this question, but our best answer at the moment is: work hard at something. Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort.
There is a downside to becoming a Superager, according to the story. The author explains
The road to superaging is difficult, though, because these brain regions have another intriguing property: When they increase in activity, you tend to feel pretty bad — tired, stymied, frustrated. Think about the last time you grappled with a math problem or pushed yourself to your physical limits. Hard work makes you feel bad in the moment. The Marine Corps has a motto that embodies this principle: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” That is, the discomfort of exertion means you’re building muscle and discipline. Superagers are like Marines: They excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort. Studies suggest that the result is a more youthful brain that helps maintain a sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.
This means that pleasant puzzles like Sudoku are not enough to provide the benefits of superaging. Neither are the popular diversions of various “brain game” websites. You must expend enough effort that you feel some “yuck.” Do it till it hurts, and then a bit more.
The author points to the desire of Americans to pursue happiness, which leads us to" consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain. All brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it."
So shall we all work on becoming Superagers? The author closes the article with this bit of advice, "make a New Year’s resolution to take up a challenging activity. Learn a foreign language. Take an online college course. Master a musical instrument. Work that brain. Make it a year to remember."
Also remember, capes and tights are optional!
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
I always have a discussion with my students about the name we use to refer to our clients: "senior citizen", "elderly", "elder" or "person who is older." I know there's been discussions periodically about whether elder law attorneys should describe themselves (and their practices) in that way. So I was very interested in a recent study from researchers at the National University of Ireland, Gallway. Trends in the use of terms to describe older people in the medical literature 1950 - 2015 explains the researchers study and their conclusion that over time the word used has changed, with "older" being the current favored term. Here is a brief explanation:
Background: There has been much debate about the most appropriate terms to use when describing older people. We examined changes in the popularity of different terms in the medical literature from 1950 to 2015.
Methods: The advanced search facility in PubMed was used to search titles and abstracts of the clinical English-language literature for use of ‘geriatric’, ‘aged’, ‘old’, ‘older’ and ‘elderly’ to describe older people.
Results: ‘Aged’ was the most popular term from 1950 to 1961 but declined to 3.4% of references to older people in 2015. ‘Geriatric’ was relatively common (more than 10% of references) from 1955 to 1976 but occurred in only 1.8% of references by 2015. ‘Elderly’ was the most popular term for all but one year from 1962 to 2007 and accounted for 37.8% of references in 2015. ‘Older’ was been the most popular term from 2008 to 2015, when it accounted for 54.6% of references.
Conclusions: The preferred descriptive terms for older people have changed greatly over the last 65 years. ‘Older’ is now the most common descriptor and is increasingly displacing ‘elderly’ which had dominated for four decades.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
The Wall Street Journal ran an article earlier this month, Collapse of Long-Term Care Insurer Reflects Deep Industry Woes. The article focuses on "[t]wo insurance units of Penn Treaty American Corp., which have combined assets of about $600 million and projected long-term-care claims liabilities topping $4 billion,[which] are on track to be liquidated early next year, according to filings in a state court in Harrisburg." The article explains that "a liquidation is likely to be the second-largest life-health-insurance insolvency in U.S. history by assessments, according to officials with a network of industry-funded guarantee associations. An assessment is the amount other insurers are required under state laws to pay to cover policyholders of a defunct firm."
Why do long term care policies have issues? According to the article, "most actuaries badly underestimated costs, and the insurers then met resistance in many state insurance departments when trying to push the pricing miscalculation onto policyholders through steep rate increases. Some states did allow double-digit-percentage increases, distressing the often-elderly policyholders. Sales have collapsed amid the turmoil, and fewer than a dozen insurers sell any significant volume today."
The state has been working on the problem since 2009, seeking resolution through the courts, including, ultimately, liquidation of the companies., on which agreement was reached this year.
The assessments in this case will be primarily assigned to health care companies since "long-term care is considered a type of health insurance under most state laws." The article also offers some reactions from policyholders.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
We all need a little good news right now. So this one caught my eye. Dementia rates have declined amongst elders (yay). Kaiser Health News reported Dementia Rates Decline Sharply Among Senior Citizens citing to a study recently published in the AMA Journal of Internal Medicine. A Comparison of the Prevalence of Dementia in the United States in 2000 and 2012 reports on a drop from 11.6% to 8.8% on the years of the study.
Here's the abstract:
Importance The aging of the US population is expected to lead to a large increase in the number of adults with dementia, but some recent studies in the United States and other high-income countries suggest that the age-specific risk of dementia may have declined over the past 25 years. Clarifying current and future population trends in dementia prevalence and risk has important implications for patients, families, and government programs.
Objective To compare the prevalence of dementia in the United States in 2000 and 2012.
Design, Setting, and Participants We used data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative, population-based longitudinal survey of individuals in the United States 65 years or older from the 2000 (n = 10 546) and 2012 (n = 10 511) waves of the HRS.
Main Outcomes and Measures Dementia was identified in each year using HRS cognitive measures and validated methods for classifying self-respondents, as well as those represented by a proxy. Logistic regression was used to identify socioeconomic and health variables associated with change in dementia prevalence between 2000 and 2012.
Results The study cohorts had an average age of 75.0 years (95% CI, 74.8-75.2 years) in 2000 and 74.8 years (95% CI, 74.5-75.1 years) in 2012 (P = .24); 58.4% (95% CI, 57.3%-59.4%) of the 2000 cohort was female compared with 56.3% (95% CI, 55.5%-57.0%) of the 2012 cohort (P < .001). Dementia prevalence among those 65 years or older decreased from 11.6% (95% CI, 10.7%-12.7%) in 2000 to 8.8% (95% CI, 8.2%-9.4%) (8.6% with age- and sex-standardization) in 2012 (P < .001). More years of education was associated with a lower risk for dementia, and average years of education increased significantly (from 11.8 years [95% CI, 11.6-11.9 years] to 12.7 years [95% CI, 12.6-12.9 years]; P < .001) between 2000 and 2012. The decline in dementia prevalence occurred even though there was a significant age- and sex-adjusted increase between years in the cardiovascular risk profile (eg, prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity) among older US adults.
Conclusions and Relevance The prevalence of dementia in the United States declined significantly between 2000 and 2012. An increase in educational attainment was associated with some of the decline in dementia prevalence, but the full set of social, behavioral, and medical factors contributing to the decline is still uncertain. Continued monitoring of trends in dementia incidence and prevalence will be important for better gauging the full future societal impact of dementia as the number of older adults increases in the decades ahead.
The authors offer these findings from their study "Population brain health seemed to improve between 2000 and 2012; increasing educational attainment and better control of cardiovascular risk factors may have contributed to the improvement, but the full set of social, behavioral, and medical factors contributing to the improvement is still uncertain."
The Kaiser article offers some perspective about what this drop means: "The number of Americans over age 65 is expected to nearly double by 2050, reaching 84 million, according to the U.S. Census. So even if the percentage of elderly people who develop dementia is smaller than previously estimated, the total number of Americans suffering from the condition will continue to increase, said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach, medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association."
So with the end of the semester, and we are grading exams, just think how good this will be for us in the long run!
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Mark your calendars for the Institute for Law Teaching & Learning 2017 Summer Conference. The topic is Teaching Cultural Competency and Other Professional Skills Suggested by ABA Standard 302. The conference is scheduled for July 7-8, 2017 at the U. of Arkansas Little Rock Bowen School of Law. Proposals are now being accepted, including specifically on:
addressing the many ways that law schools are establishing learning outcomes related to “other professional skills,” particularly the skills of cultural competency, conflict resolution, collaboration, self-evaluation, and other relational skills. Which, if any, of the outcomes suggested in Standard 302(d) have law schools established for themselves, and why did they select those outcomes? How are law professors teaching and assessing skills such as cultural competency, conflict resolution, collaboration, and self-evaluation? Have law schools established outcomes related to professional skills other than those suggested in Standard 302(d)? If so, what are those skills, and how are professors teaching and assessing them?
Proposals are due by February 1, 2017 and should be sent to Kelly Terry, firstname.lastname@example.org. Proposals are limited to 1 page and must include a title, the presenters names and contact info, a summary of the presentation and the interactive teaching methods to be used.
More information, visit the website or contact Professor Terry. Thanks to Professor Terry for sending us info about this conference.
Monday, November 14, 2016
CareConnection is a new site aimed at connecting caregivers with information, other caregivers and helpful services. We’re listening firsthand to understand the concerns and challenges facing caregivers today, and we’d like to include you in the design of this site and its offerings. Explore the information, tools and solutions available, and share what works— and what doesn’t—so that we can build the best experience for caregivers like you.
The website lists articles and resources on a variety of topics, will offer a caregiver community that allows a caregiver to connect with other caregivers, provides an "ask-the-expert" free 30 minute consult with UnitedHealth care managers, and "caregiving tips and hacks" ("simple and inexpensive ways to use household items to solve every day problems, such as for those who have limited hand mobility, turning rubber bands into grips for a slippery glass or running a pen through a tennis ball to enhance the grip while writing") that are searchable by topic.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Apple kicked off an event last week to unveil its latest lineup of MacBook Pros and other new offerings with a video showcasing the unique ways that people with disabilities use their products.
The brief clip shows individuals with physical and developmental disabilities using technology to overcome basic challenges — from speaking to learning, engaging with others and taking photographs.
Apple also unveiled its accessibility website, the landing page of which explains: "[t]he most powerful technology in the world is technology that everyone, including people with disabilities, can use. To work, create, communicate, stay in shape, and be entertained. So we don’t design products for some people or even most people. We design them for every single person." The page offers links to accessibility features for each Apple product.
This you have to see. Check it out!
Monday, October 17, 2016
I was reading recently the following report, Gauging Aging: Mapping the Gaps between Expert and Public Understandings of Aging in America from the Frameworks Institute. The report comes from a collaboration of aging organizations, with the purpose "to develop a new, evidence-based narrative around the process of aging in our country, and the roles and contributions of older Americans. This first phase of the project identifies the patterns of thinking that Americans use to reason about issues related to aging, and compares those patterns with the knowledge of experts in the aging field." Why is this report different from others?
The research presented here is distinct from most public opinion research that documents what people say by conducting polls or focus groups. In this report, we take the analysis a level deeper to document the assumptions and thought processes that inform what people say and structure their judgments and opinions. This cultural-cognitive approach is powerful because identifying ways of thinking is key to developing more effective and strategic communication. By understanding the various ways that people are (and are not) able to think and reason about an issue, communicators can craft messages that avoid unproductive understandings, activate productive ones, and elevate new ways of thinking that are better aligned with policy goals. In short, an understanding of how people think is a powerful tool in identifying the specific perceptual challenges that require reframing.
The executive summary covers the experts' views on aging (what is it, what is older, policy needs). The executive summary offers these characteristics of older adults: "Experts explain that, as a group, older adults vary greatly with respect to health, financial situation and functional status. Adults over the age of 60 are living and staying productive longer, and represent the fastest-growing segment of our population. This unprecedented trend represents a long-term shift in the age structure of our society. Older adults have an enormous economic and social impact on American society — an impact that is often not well accounted for in our discourse, media and public policy."
The public view of aging section is particularly interesting as is the section on gaps in understanding. The report is written in a way that makes it a useful tool for classroom discussion. A pdf is available here. Check it out!
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Ok, ok, I know I've blogged several times about self-driving cars and how I can't wait to try one. I know they are being extensively tested. But in the meantime, it looks like I don't have to wait for a self-driving car for drivers to be safer. Driving tech is already supplementing many driving tasks for drivers as reported in an article published in the NY Times. Tech May Help Steer Older Drivers Down a Safer Road explains that tech is making cars smarter, allowing cars to do things that make driving safer (for the driver, passengers and other drivers).
[S]marter cars ... can detect oncoming traffic, steer clear of trouble and even hit the brakes when a collision appears imminent.... A few of these innovations, such as blind-spot warning systems, are already built in or offered as optional features in some vehicles, primarily in more expensive models....But more revolutionary breakthroughs are expected in the next few years, when measures such as robotic braking systems are supposed to become standard features in all cars on U.S. roads.
Sure, sure drivers of all ages will benefit from smart cars. But, as the article notes, the application for elders has great value.
[T]hose in their 70s and older are more likely to become confused at heavily trafficked intersections and on-ramps. Aging also frequently limits a body's range of motion, making it more difficult to scan all around for nearby vehicles and other hazards. And older drivers tend to be more fragile than their younger counterparts, suffering more serious injuries in traffic accidents.
"Anything that reduces the likelihood or severity of a collision is really a technology that is primed for helping tomorrow's older adults," says Bryan Reimer, research scientist for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab and associate director of the New England University Transportation Center. "We are moving toward an ecosystem where older adults will increasingly be supported by the technology that may help enhance their mobility."
Thinking about buying a car in the near future. Well consider this. "The presence of safety technology will be a key consideration for three-fourths of the drivers older than 50 who plan to buy a car in the next two years, according to a recent survey by auto insurer The Hartford and MIT AgeLab. In an indication that priorities are shifting, only one-third of the surveyed 50-and-older drivers who bought a car during the past two years focused on safety technology."
Some of the driving technology is already available, with rear view backup cameras proliferating. There are cars that can parallel park for the driver, and as seen on commercials, do other tasks to make driving safer. The article mentions several that are either in use, can be added to a vehicle, or will be available before much more time passes.
[T]he auto industry vowed to make automated emergency brakes a standard feature by September 2022, but it won't be that long before the technology is widely available. Toyota plans to build it into most models, including its Lexus brand, by the end of next year....Cameras on a dashboard screen that show what's behind the car have become commonplace in recent years and will be mandatory on all new cars by May 2018. The equipment is expected to be especially helpful for older drivers with a limited range of motion....Other technology expected to assist older drivers includes automated parking, and adaptive headlights that swivel in the same direction as the steering wheel and adjust the beams' intensity depending on driving conditions and oncoming traffic. ...Robotic systems that temporarily assist with highway driving already are available, most notably in Tesla Motors' high end Model S. The electric-car maker released its Autopilot feature last fall, prompting some Model S owners to entrust more of the driving to the robot than Tesla recommends while the system is still in testing mode. For instance, some drivers have posted pictures of themselves reading a newspaper or book with the Model S on Autopilot, or even sitting in the back seat.
(On that last point, Yikes and should I point out that we're talking about driving technology, not self-driving cars). All of these safety innovations are great, and maybe they will allow people to continue driving longer than they would be able to do without the innovations. Of course, we still want to be sure that unsafe drivers are off the road. At least it looks like I have some cool options while waiting for my self-driving car.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Stetson's 18th annual National Conference on Special Needs Trusts & Special Needs Planning takes place on October 19-21, 2016 at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. Early Bird Registration rates end September 23, 2016. The national conference spans two days, with general sessions in the mornings and three tracks of breakout sessions in the afternoons (basics, advance and administration) Information about the conference, including the agenda, speakers, and links to register is available here. (Full disclosure, I'm the conference chair. Hope to see you at the conference!)
Sunday, September 18, 2016
I was reading an article in the Washington Post about a young woman who was bullied at school. Drawing on her experiences, she created an app for kids who don't have anyone to sit with at lunch. This once-bullied teen has a simple solution so no one has to eat alone in the cafeteria ever again describes this app and her motivation in creating it.
[She] came up with an idea that would allow students a judgment-free way to find lunch mates without the fear of being rejected. She developed an app called “Sit With Us,” where students can sign up as “ambassadors” and post that there are open seats at their lunch table. A student who doesn’t have a place to sit can look at the app and find an ambassador’s table and know they are invited to join it. When signing up as an ambassador, the student takes a pledge that they’ll be kind and welcoming to whoever comes to sit with them.
Kudos to this inventor!
Although we may think of bullying as a problem faced primarily by children and young adults, happening in schools or in cyberspace. Of course, that is not the case. Elders can be bullies as well. So I was thinking-this app could have use beyond lunch at a school cafeteria. What about its use for an event at a senior center, independent living facility, CCRC, ALF or SNF. It seems it could be incredibly useful in providing a boost to socialization. I realize not every elder is tethered to her smart phone, but that surely may change over time. So, what do you think? Would this be helpful? Is this already being done?
Friday, September 2, 2016
My dear friend and colleague Professor Mark Bauer sent me this article from the Huffington Post about the newest market share for Uber and Lyft: Boomers! Once The Domain Of Millennials, Uber And Lyft Are Now Pursuing Seniors includes my favorite line of the day about Boomers: "It’s the Baby Boomers’ world. We’re just living in it."
"Ride-hailing services want to make sure Grandma Betty can get to bridge club just as easily as her 22-year-old grandson travels to and from ... whatever it is young folks are doing these days. ... Once the domain of 20-somethings who might have a drink or two and need a safe ride home, companies like Lyft and Uber have set their sights on a different age range entirely: senior citizens."
The article explains how the 2 companies have entered into agreements with companies-Uber with a home care company and Lyft with a company that books rides for elders without smart phones. The article notes that there are also other ride-hailing companies beyond these 2 that are providing ride-sharing services for those elders who don't have smart phones.
The companies are boldly moving into this market demographic. In fact they've started "offering non-emergency medical transport services, specifically targeting customers whose rides would be reimbursed by Medicaid."
Consider also what Lyft is doing with the city of Centennial, Colorado, "where 15 years from now at least 30 percent of the population is projected to be over the age of 65....[C]ity officials are exploring replacing current dial-a-ride services with less expensive, more efficient rides via Lyft."
“We call Centennial the Silver Tsunami,” Centennial Mayor Cathy Noon told The Atlantic blog CityLab. “As people age, one thing to go is the ability to drive. That means losing your freedom to get to doctor’s appointments and to stay social with friends. We really want to help keep the people who started Centennial engaged in it.”
We all know how the loss of driving ability can impact a person on a number of levels. I wonder whether this transportation option will be financially feasible enough to become a widespread solution. If so, it will be great, because not only does this provide transportation, but has the added benefit of socialization. I am still holding on for the availability of self-driving cars.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
A recent report about Boomers and voting made be stop for a moment and go "hmmmm". Pew Research Center's latest FactTank offered that this may be the last presidential election where the Greatest Generation, the Silents and the Boomers have a significant impact at the polls.
This may be the last presidential election dominated by Boomers and prior generations explains that although these demographic groups have dominated at the polls, that may no longer be true; "their election reign may end this November, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data."
[T]he ranks of Millennial and Generation X eligible voters have been growing, thanks to the aging-in of Millennials and naturalizations among foreign-born adults. These generations matched Boomers and previous generations as a share of eligible voters in 2012 and are now estimated to outnumber them. As of July, an estimated 126 million Millennial and Gen X adults were eligible to vote (56% of eligible voters), compared with only 98 million Boomers and other adults from prior generations, or 44% of the voting-eligible population.
However, keep in mind that eligible and actual are not synonymous. In fact, the article reminds us what ultimately matters is who casts ballots. Looking at the data and focusing on actual votes, the report offers that the Boomers and prior generations voted at a rate of about 70% of eligible voters. The younger generations percentage turnout was lower, according to the article.
Not that the generations are in competition or anything. It's just interesting to think about the changing demographics at the ballot box and wonder at the impact on laws and policies as a result.
Among those in the oldest living generation, the Greatest Generation, turnout crested in the 1984 election at 76% before declining. Similarly, turnout among eligible voters in the Silent Generation peaked at 76% in the 1992 election. The Millennial and Gen X generations are likely still on the upswing in terms of their turnout rates, so it is a reasonable guess that at least 54.5% of these adults will vote, and perhaps more.
We won’t know until after November if Boomers and their elders will pass the torch to Gen X and Millennials as a share of voters, but all the available data suggest that the 2016 election will mark the beginning of a new era for U.S. presidential elections.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
I was happy to see Nike's latest commercial for its Unlimited campaign featuring the triathlete dubbed the Iron Nun. According to an article in the Huffington Post, "Buder said that she manages to fit her training for these races in with her daily life. The sister, who is part of a nontraditional religious order called the Sisters for Christian Community, runs to her church in Spokane, Washington. She also runs to the local jail, where she volunteers to chat with inmates." I suspect the narration for the commercial is intended as amusing since it relies on aging stereotypes, but the Sister's accomplishments blow those stereotypes out of the water. Ad of the Day: Nike Celebrates the 'Iron Nun', an 86-Year-Old Triathlete With God on Her Side features the ad, as well as the behind the scenes interview with the sister without the narration. The quote I liked from Sister Buder: "the only failure is not to try". Huffington Post quotes from an article on her in Cosmo, "Don’t pay attention to how old you are, only focus on how old you feel ... And be patient — one of my worst enemies is patience, I’m still trying to fine-tune it so that I’m able to stop and smell the roses.”
Kudos Sister for your accomplishments!
Last week we blogged about those elders who have no kids to be their caregivers. The Washington Post featured an article on the topic of "aging solo". Aging Solo: Okay, I don’t have a child to help me, but I do have a plan, told from the perspective of the author, is an attention-grabber from the beginning
“The trouble is: You think you have time.” That Buddhist-sounding quote from a fortune cookie rattled around the back of my head for decades, seemingly for no reason. Now that I find myself living with my 94-year-old mother in a Florida city where preacher Billy Graham got his start and being a never-wed 60-something has made me a tourist attraction of sorts, I finally understand why I thought the repercussions of growing old without a child or two would not apply to me: I was just plain delusional.
As a New Yorker flush with friends, freelance work, Broadway tickets and great Botox, I had apparently existed in some sort of fun, singles bubble. It was a lifestyle so rewarding that I never read even one article about the stresses of the “sandwich generation.” (Hey, the writers all seemed to be married women with children, so even on a boomer-to-boomer level, I could not relate.)
Of course she's not alone. The article provides statistics--almost 33% of the Boomers have no kids. "That doesn’t count boomer parents who have lost a child or have one who is severely impaired. The Aging Solo pool also includes countless members of families plagued by addiction, disease, cults, rapacious children, even married progeny who much prefer their in-laws. While millions of Aging Soloists have siblings and other kin, many of us can’t imagine (or abide) having them shepherd us to our final rest."
The author calls for an aging plan with friends rather than kids, and using her parents' story as educational, she offers this advice "When you’re past 50 and single, location is 75 percent of the enchilada. Subways matter. Proximity to friends matters. Suburban seniors communities felt to me like slow death. I found senior centers and assisted-living facilities profoundly lonely because, it seems, the art of making friends does not grow as we age, and not everyone likes endless bingo and dominoes on Tuesdays, followed by a prayer service."
She goes on to offer further tips
It’s better to plan a more personal assisted-living future with your own friends while in your 50s or 60s. That will give you time to choose a location with diverse people and culture, with neighborhoods that have sidewalks and public transit....
Sharing resources can spawn all sorts of possibilities. Maybe my posse grabs several apartments in rental, condo or co-op buildings, or we share a group house in D.C., Manhattan or L.A. Heck, maybe we can find a way to lease a floor in one of the many overbuilt office buildings around the country. Perhaps (if yours is an anti-urban posse) you can hire an architect to design space-age yurts in Arizona. Each madly hip structure would be self-contained, but the colony would have a common dining hall, gym and tech-support center, or whatever your future selves desire.
New to the finances of aging, I had no idea how much control I gained by holding my mother’s durable power of attorney. Had I been less ethical, I could have taken her money and run. Therefore, I’ll never give that power to any one person; it will be held by at least three younger and devoted friends because elder fraud is one of the most horrifying aspects of aging solo. Trust me: That charming new friend who offers to manage your money so you don’t have to deal with “all those bills” is probably well known to the local police.
So what is the author doing to prepare for her aging without kids? She explains
What am I doing? Well, I’ve started small, using Skype dialogues with my pals to research and download the legal papers — from wills to end-of-life instructions — that we will need, sooner or later. Now we’re aiming higher. Should we learn what to look for in a nurse’s résumé so we can find the right person to help us in our collective dotage? Should we hire a visionary architect to create a high-tech trailer park or a cluster of tiny homes built around communal buildings? Our ideas are still all over the map.
We hope we have time to execute our most appealing visions. Mostly, however, we pledge to be our own Best Friends. United. Forever....
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
With summer winding down, and the fall semester bearing down on us, hopefully everyone had a fabulous summer. For many of us, summer vacation included a trip to a national park. I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Rocky Mountain National Park. One day I was walking along an accessible trail, and noticed 4 folks using wheelchairs within the first 100 feet of the trail. This particular trail also offers an accessible campsite. That got me thinking about how many trails in national parks are accessible. That led me to an internet search (yay Google) which led me to this report, All In! Accessibility in the National Park Service 2015-2020. The report explains the creation of a task force on accessibility which developed a "strategic plan with specific strategies on how to make parks and programs accessible to a broader range of audiences. These strategies are focused on actions needed to build momentum, augment capacity, and accelerate real improvements over the next five years (2015–2020)."
The parks are definitely not as accessible as they could be-or should be for that matter. "[T]he National Park Service is underserving people with varying abilities and their traveling partners. Without accessible parks, the National Park Service loses an opportunity to reach the widest possible audience and share a spectrum of experiences. This lost opportunity is a direct failure to carry out our mission. Both long- and short-term solutions are needed to build momentum and advance the program." The report sets out 3 goals for the NPS:
- "Create a welcoming environment by increasing the ability of the National Park Service to serve visitors and staff with disabilities."
"Ensure that new facilities and programs are inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities."
"Upgrade existing facilities, programs, and services to be accessible to people with disabilities."
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
My friend and colleague, Professor Mark Bauer sent me this recent article (thank you!) Can car-centric suburbs adjust to aging Baby Boomers? We want to age in place, but neither or houses, or their locations, are always designed for us to do that.
In fact, the American suburbs, built for returning GIs and their burgeoning families, are already aging. In 1950, only 7.4 percent of suburban residents were 65 and older. By 2014, it was 14.5 percent. It will rise dramatically in the coming decades, with the graying of 75.4 million baby boomers mostly living in suburbia.
But car-centric suburban neighborhoods with multilevel homes and scarce sidewalks are a poor match for people who can’t climb stairs or drive a car.
“Most [boomers] are in a state of denial about what really is possible and what’s reasonable for them as they age,” said John Feather, a gerontologist and the CEO of Grantmakers in Aging, a national association of foundations for seniors.
Staying put is not without costs, and not just for retrofitting the house to make it accessible. Instead, the article notes, "[r]etirees who want to stay in the suburbs will have to cover the rising costs of property taxes and utilities, and they may have to shell out big sums to retrofit their homes if they become frail or disabled. One study found that it can cost $800 to $1,200 to widen a doorway to accommodate a wheelchair, $1,600 to $3,200 for a ramp, and up to $12,000 for a stair lift. Major remodeling, such as adding first-floor bedrooms or bathrooms, can cost much more."
Then of course, there is the issue of transportation. Out in the suburbs, we may not be able to walk to the stores and services we need, and some of us may no longer be able to drive. Transportation is critical and we all know about Americans' love of automobiles. So, what's the answer?
Even if a suburb has a regional transit system, the routes are often limited and geared to help commuters get to and from work in the city. The nearest bus or train stop may be miles from the subdivisions where aging boomers live. And while the Americans with Disabilities Act requires most public transit systems to provide pickup “paratransit” for people with disabilities who are unable to use regular bus or train services, that applies only to people who meet certain criteria.
One alternative is transportation services overseen by a federally funded network of local agencies that offer services and support to older adults to help them age at home and in the community. In many regions, these Area Agencies on Aging contract with local providers that offer door-to-door van services to older adults who qualify. But those programs, often geared to taking seniors to medical appointments and grocery stores, usually offer little flexibility and require clients to make reservations.
The article examines whether such an option will work for Boomers and what local governments need to do to prepare for this demographic change in suburbia. Of course, some elders choose to move to communities that provide the services and amenities they want and the article discusses these briefly.
But what about transportation? Doesn't that remain the elephant in the room? So, off on a tangent...I read another article this morning about Uber selling passes in NY for ride-sharing. Lyft is partnering with GM so drivers can rent cars. Are we going to see ride-sharing services as an option (or solution) for elders who have had to give up driving? But will this only be an option for those elders who can afford ride-sharing services? I'm still hopeful about self-driving cars....
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Good news for consumers! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on June 27, 2016 that the telemarketing sales rule (TSR) prohibitions went into effect in June.
The changes to the TSR will stop telemarketers from dipping directly into consumers’ bank accounts through checks and payment orders that have been remotely created by the telemarketer or seller. Since they’re remotely created, they’re never actually signed by the account holder – and that makes it easy for telemarketers and sellers to dip directly into consumers’ bank accounts. And it’s then hard to reverse the transactions with consumers’ banks (again, a reason why con artists love using these methods).
In addition, with the updated rule in place, telemarketers now can’t get payments through traditional cash-to-cash money transfers – the type provided by companies like MoneyGram and Western Union. Scammers use these cash transfers as a quick, anonymous, and irrevocable way to get money from consumers. Once the seller picks up the transfer, the money is gone.
The TSR changes also prohibit telemarketers from accepting as payment cash reload PIN numbers. That means no requests for payment by using MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload, or Reloadit packs, used to add funds to existing prepaid cards. Because scammers use the cash reload PIN numbers to apply the funds to their own prepaid debit cards – and disappear with the money. Except not anymore, under the updated TSR.
Good news all around for consumers! More information for businesses about complying with the TSR is available here. Thanks to blog reader Mike Polk for alerting me to this update!