Thursday, May 26, 2016
The percentage of older Americans living below the federal poverty line has decreased by two-thirds since 1966. That year, according to data from the Pew Research Center, 28.5 percent of Americans age 65 and over were poor. By 2012, that number had declined to just 9.1 percent.
But we may be at the end of that happy trendline. I think that over the next five to 10 years we will see a dramatic reversal in the economic fortunes of millions of our oldest residents. That has profound implications for governments at all levels.
Discussing how we fund retirement (the 3-legged stool), the author notes the changes in pension plans, the low amounts saved and the higher amount of debt. This is not particularly new to those of us who teach elder law. But consider the following from the author:
You can put off retirement, and many are. The labor force participation rate for those 65 and older increased from 12.4 percent in 1994 to 18.6 percent in 2014. But you can’t put off aging. The collapse of incomes for this group when they no can longer work is going be a double hit for government, decreasing the taxes they pay just as they need more public services.
The author calls on local governments to be planning for this scenario: "the consequences of dramatic increases in the older poor, including looking at affordable housing, transit and health care." Noting the potential power of the ballot box, the author concludes "Given the size of the baby boom population, a return to the poverty rates that existed among aging Americans before the War on Poverty would result in more than 8 million newly impoverished seniors. They’re not going to sit quietly on a street corner with a tin cup."
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
The Wall Street Journal ran an article on May 2, 2016 that working past 65 may be good for the worker's longevity. Retiring After 65 May Help People Live Longer covers a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. "The risk of dying from any cause over the study period was 11% lower among people who delayed retirement for one year—until age 66—and fell further among people who retired between the ages of 66 and 72, the study found." One limit on the study-individuals studied were limited to those born between 1931-1941. The study noted "[postponing retirement may delay the natural age-related decline in physical, cognitive and mental functioning, reducing the risk of chronic illness...."
Here is an excerpt from the abstract:
Background Retirement is an important transitional process in later life. Despite a large body of research examining the impacts of health on retirement, questions still remain regarding the association of retirement age with survival. We aimed to examine the association between retirement age and mortality among healthy and unhealthy retirees and to investigate whether sociodemographic factors modified this association. .....
Conclusions Early retirement may be a risk factor for mortality and prolonged working life may provide survival benefits among US adults.
The full article is available for purchase here.
Thanks to Professor Dick Kaplan for sending us the link to the article.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Southern California attorney and mediator Jill Switzer, who writes columns for Above the Law as "Old Lady Lawyer," uses lyrics from Kenny Rodger's The Gambler as part of her theme in a recent essay. She asks whether lawyers prepare themselves, not just financially, but emotionally, to retire at the right time. Suggesting the answer is "probably not," Switzer draws on data from a recent California State Bar survey:
On its website, the State Bar of California recently asked its lawyers “how long do you plan to keep practicing law?” The poll was completely unscientific, as it didn’t tally the results by age, years in practice, or any other criteria whatsoever. However, the result was not surprising, at least to this dinosaur: more than fifty percent of the responding lawyers said they would continue to practice as long as they are able. (Ten percent or so said they were looking to switch careers as soon as possible, approximately twenty percent said that they hoped to take early retirement, and approximately fifteen percent said they’d practice until they turned sixty-five. Note to millennials: the retirement age at which you can start receiving full Social Security benefits is creeping upward.)
And speaking of "farewell," did you notice that Above the Law recently terminated the "comments" option for readers of the frequently sharp-tongued blog? Details here, and I suspect a few readers might view this change as somewhat ironic.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
I was bemused to realize that I was on my way to vote today in the primaries in Pennsylvania without knowing in advance the outcome of a dispute over language to be used on an a referendum issue on the ballot. The issue was mandatory retirement ages for judges in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, state judges are elected.
An early formulation of the referendum question was as follows:
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges, and magisterial district judges be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years?
An alternative proposal for the wording was:
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges and justices of the peace (known as magisterial district judges) be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years, instead of the current requirement that they be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 70?
Interesting, yes? The wording does appear to potentially influence the outcome on the referendum, particularly in a state where there has been a fair amount of turmoil about behavior of members of the judiciary, unrelated to age issues, but also unlikely to make the average member of the public eager to vote to extend time in office. From an education-of-the-voter standpoint, I was relieved when I saw the latter version on the ballot.
For more, read Penn Live's recent coverage on the "age" issue here. Plus, look for the outcome on the issue in news coverage after Tuesday's primary election.
4/26/16 Noon UPDATE: It turns out that even though "my" precinct's electronic ballot contained a referendum regarding the mandatory retirement age for judges, any vote on that issue doesn't actually count. The Pennsylvania legislature voted to take the judicial age question off the primary ballot. So, despite my own preference for an "educate-the-voter" version for such a referendum, on November 8 the "first" version of the language quoted above will appear. Hmmmmm. Here's more on this topic.
Friday, April 15, 2016
The New York Times ran a story recently about a new trend in housing for elders---multigenerational homes. Multigenerational Homes That Fit Just Right are homes that, as the name implies, are designed for multiple generations of a family that live in the same house. "[A] growing number of families ... are seeking specially designed homes that can accommodate aging parents, grown children and even boomerang children under the same roof. The number of Americans living in multigenerational households — defined, generally, as homes with more than one adult generation — rose to 56.8 million in 2012, or about 18.1 percent of the total population, from 46.6 million, or 15.5 percent of the population in 2007, according to the latest data from Pew Research. By comparison, an estimated 28 million, or 12 percent, lived in such households in 1980."
But how does one accommodate family dynamics when living together under one roof? In fact, the story notes, many of the multigenerational households do live in an "ordinary" home. But, it appears that the building industry has developed an option that is catching on, "responding quickly to this shifting demand by creating homes specifically intended for such families." For example, one builder's homes "don’t offer just a spare bedroom suite or a “granny hut” that sits separately on the property or a room above a garage. The NextGen designs provide a separate entranceway, bedroom, living space, bathroom, kitchenette, laundry facilities and, in some cases, even separate temperature controls and separate garages with a lockable entrance to the main house. Family members can live under the same roof and not see one another for days if they so choose."
The article explains the drivers for the trend, baby boomers (of course), the 2008 recession, tough job market and higher rents facing millenials, the boomerang children and again, those baby boomers, "[m]any [of whom] are planning ahead in hopes that they can devote more attention to their children and grandchildren — and spend little, if any, time in a nursing home."
Expect to see more of these multigenerational homes over the next years. From a legal perspective, it seems that ground rules, a family contract and a care would be important to the success of the venture (whose turn is it to cut the grass this week? No loud music after 11 p.m. as a couple of an examples). What an interesting concept of the market changing to accommodate demand.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
A specialized area of "law and aging" is accountability for retirement investments, including public employee pension funds. In Massachusetts there has been a long feud between the Boston Globe media company and the Massachusetts Bay Retirement Authority (MTBA) Pension Fund over access to pension records, especially after the loss of some $25 million in employee retirements assets following the collapse of a hedge fund holding MTBA money. Last month, a Massachusetts judge rejected key arguments by the MTBA's that the records in question were not subject to state public records law:
"The Court will ALLOW the Globe's motion for summary judgment and DENY the Retirement Board's cross-motion. The Retirement Board's preliminary assertions that the Supreme Judicial Court has already resolved the central question of statutory interpretation in the Board's favor, and that in any case the Globe may not press its claims because it failed to join other necessary parties, are both incorrect. On the merits, the Court concludes that the Board does indeed receive public funds from the MBTA, and thus that the Board's records are now subject to mandatory disclosure under the public records law unless they fall within one of the statutory exemptions. The Board's assertion that the 2013 statutory amendment only applies to records created after its effective date is also incorrect."
For more on the reasoning, see Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC v. Retirement Bd. of Massachusetts Bay Transp. Authority Retirement Fund, 2016 WL 915330 (Superior Ct. Suffolk County, Mass, March 9, 2016).
See also Boston Globe media reports, including Judge Calls for Open MBTA Pension Files, detailing some of the related allegations by whistleblower Harry Markopolos and Boston University finance professor Mark Williams. See also a consulting firm's March 9, 2016 Report for the MBTA that concluded MBTA had accurately reported accounting data on the pension funds during the years in question.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
The Washington Post ran an interesting piece recently, using one couple's history of retirement savings to demonstrate the benefits from coordination and, perhaps, redistribution of assets or payments in advance of actual retirement. The couple then invited commentary from two different financial advisers. From one adviser, they learned:
Having different types of savings accounts can give the couple more control over their tax bill when they retire, [Financial Adviser] Sewell says. Money withdrawn from the tax-deferred accounts, such as the TSPs and the traditional IRAs, will be taxed as ordinary income when retirement withdrawals are made – a tax rate that could be as high as 39.6 percent for workers in the top tax bracket. The Roth IRA, on the other hand, can provide tax-free income in retirement. And money withdrawn from their taxable investing account could be taxed at lower rates, such as the long-term capital gains rate of 20 percent, she says. Adding to that account over time can also provide a separate pool of savings and allow them to hold off on tapping their tax-deferred accounts until they are required to do so at age 70.5, Sewell says. That would give those retirement savings more time to grow tax-free.
They also learned:
But consolidating accounts would make it easier for the couple to track where their money is invested and what fees they are paying, Porter says. They can look into rolling over some or all of their IRA savings into their TSP accounts, which typically have more affordable index-based investment options, Porter says. For example, the average expense ratio for a TSP fund, including target-date funds, stock funds and bond funds, was 0.029 percent in 2015, or 29 cents for every $1,000 invested. In contrast, the average 401(k) investor pays an expense ratio of 0.89 percent, or $8.90 for every $1,000 invested, according to a report by BrightScope and the Investment Company Institute. “I have not seen a lower cost plan, so I think you can’t beat that,” Sewell says.
Our thanks to George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn for sending this link.
Monday, April 4, 2016
Maddy Dychtwald, co-founder of AgeWave wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal on happy retirements. In Where People Find the Most Happiness in Retirement, she explains about a survey AgeWave conducted with Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. She explains they found that
While many of us still think of retirement as a time to wind down and take time for ourselves, two-thirds of today’s retirees have found that retirement is, in fact, the best time in life to give back: their time, their talent and their money. (This finding also echoes in many ways what Marc Agronin describes in his article in The Wall Street Journal this week–that people are happier when they are connected to family, friends and community, than spending on the latest adventure.)
Volunteerism and giving seem to play a role in whether a person has a happy retirement.
Even retirees’ definition of success relates strongly to giving back. When we think about retirement and planning for it, too many of us focus almost exclusively on money: “Will I have enough money to do the things I want for as long as I live?” There’s no doubt this is an important question. But, as it turns out, at all income levels, the study shows that retirees are almost six times more likely to define their own personal success in retirement by their generosity rather than their wealth.
The recommendation from Ms. Dychtwald? Consider what will give retirement meaning and reason. "When it comes to happiness in retirement, it seems generosity trumps wealth." The study is available here.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Our thanks to George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn for passing on this item from the Washington Post:
“I speak to a lot of big audiences of people over 50 looking for jobs,” says Kerry Hannon, career expert and author of “Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies.” “I feel and I see the palpable fear. The job market has not improved for this set of people.”
“It’s not a pretty scene,” she says. “What happens is people say they will keep working, but for various reasons, including health, they don’t keep working.”
Employment consultant Sara Rix says surveys show that up to 80 percent of people think they will work in retirement. A much lower percentage of people actually do (19 percent, according to the AARP).
People don’t continue working for many reasons: layoffs, health and unexpectedly becoming a caregiver are just a few.
Those still able to work can face tremendous difficulties finding a new job. The elephant in the room is age discrimination....
For the full article by Columnist Rodney Brooks, see "Not Ready to Retire, But Not Finding Work."
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
The New York Times ran a story at the end of February about the appeal of a Continuing Care Retirement Community or CCRC. (Just a note that LeadingAge, a group of aging service organizations is using Life Plan Communities). The Everything-in-One Promise of a Continuing Care Community examines the appeal of CCRCs. Looking at how it works, the article discusses the often-times hefty entrance fee and compares that to a "fee for service model". The article explains what one gets (and what one doesn't) when one is signing a CCRC contract: "[k]eep in mind that few of these contracts involve direct, conventional purchase of a housing unit. In most cases, the resident buys only the lifetime right to live in a community, take advantage of its range of amenities and services, and receive care there. The units generally are not bought and sold on the open market."
My co-blogger, Professor Pearson is quoted in the article discussing regulatory oversight and transparency:
“There’s a lack of transparency with C.C.R.C.s that’s resulted in weaker trust,” said Katherine C. Pearson, a professor at the Dickinson School of Law of Pennsylvania State University who has testified before Congress on the issue. “You need to visit several facilities, talk to residents, look at past cost increases and five years of financial records.”
Professor Pearson, who talks with continuing care community residents around the country, said there was no one rule of thumb to use when evaluating these communities. A prospective resident generally wants a community that is active and engaged and “supports healthy living,” she said. But given the magnitude of the decision (after all, it is often the last major purchase someone will ever make), it deserves very careful consideration.
“Get as much financial information as you can,” she said. “This is not an impulse buy.”
The article offers some practical advice when considering a CCRC. The article notes it isn't as easy as an apples to apples comparison since there is no government rating system of CCRCs and "[t]he major drawback in evaluating continuing care communities is the complexity of their contracts, which come in a number of variations. Some may require a deposit of up to $1 million, while others may charge only monthly fees. Refunds may be difficult to obtain and depend upon the length of stay and other requirements. Contract details have to be read carefully and financial statements reviewed." The article suggests
- review of the contract by a team of professionals, and look specifically at the contract regarding refunds of the entrance fee, whether there is a rescission period, how a decision is made if the resident needs a higher level of care and the financial stability of the company.
visiting the CCRC and talking to residents and staff. Visit all areas of the CCRC.
compare several CCRCs and check with the appropriate state agency for any complaints filed vs. the CCRC. Ask around-the article suggests the local senior center might be a good place to find out more.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Stakeholders and Policymakers Collaborate on Proposals for Better Approach to Financing Long-Term Care
On February 22, 2016, a diverse collection of individuals, representing a broad array of stakeholders interested in long-term care, released their report and recommendations for major changes. In the final report of the Long-Term Care Financing Collaborative (LTCFC) they propose:
•Clear private and public roles for long-term care financing
•A new universal catastrophic long-term care insurance program. This would shift today’s welfare-based system to an insurance model.
•Redefining Medicaid LTSS to empower greater autonomy and choice in services and settings.
•Encouraging private long-term care insurance initiatives to lower cost and increase enrollment.
•Increasing retirement savings and improving public education on long-term care costs and needs.
ElderLawGuy Jeff Marshall wrote to supplement this post by providing details of the report, written by Howard Glecknan of the Utban Institute. Thanks, Jeff!
Members of the Collaborative included:
Gretchen Alkema, The SCAN Foundation; Robert Blancato, Elder Justice Coalition; Sheila Burke, Harvard Kennedy School; Strategic Advisor, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz; Stuart Butler, The Brookings Institution; Marc Cohen, LifePlans, Inc.; Susan Coronel, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP); John Erickson, Erickson Living; Mike Fogarty, former CEO, Oklahoma Health Care Authority; William Galston, The Brookings Institution; Howard Gleckman, Urban Institute; Lee Goldberg, The Pew Charitable Trusts; Jennie Chin Hansen, immediate past CEO, American Geriatrics Society; Ron Pollack, Families USA; Don Redfoot, Consultant; John Rother, National Coalition on Healthcare; Nelson Sabatini, The Artemis Group; Dennis G. Smith, Dentons US LLP; Ron Soloway, UJA-Federation of New York (retired); Richard Teske (1949-2014), Former U.S. Health and Human Services Official; Benjamin Veghte, National Academy of Social Insurance; Paul Van de Water, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (CBPP); Audrey Weiner, Jewish Home Lifecare, immediate past Chair, LeadingAge; Jonathan Westin, The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA); Gail Wilensky, Project HOPE;Caryn Hederman, Project Director, Convergence Center for Policy Resolution; Allen Schmitz, Technical Advisor to the Collaborative, Milliman, Inc.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
In 2010, I spent several months of my sabbatical in Northern Ireland. I soon learned that older people there are highly organized and very visible, working together on issues such as protection from abuse, housing, utility costs, elder care options, access to benefits and more.
They knew that their best chances for success were to band together to tackle problems. They knew that they could not depend on a few to keep the work going, and they consciously brought "younger" seniors into leadership positions to keep the advocacy teams well staffed and to provide continuity of effort. Plus, they were not shy about presenting a unified national platform of concerns and recommended solutions -- as suggested by that year's "Pensioners' Manifesto," promoted at parades and public gatherings. The advocacy plan was supported by AgeNI, Age Sector Platform, Changing Ageing Partnership and other "separate" organizations.
In the US, seniors' concerns often cross jurisdictional boundaries, including state boundaries. The distances are farther apart in the U.S. than in Northern Ireland, but again there can be power in organizing. As part of my research, I've been watching several groups across the country using the power of the internet to share information and "gather " in order to advocate for solutions to common problems. A key to success seems to be advocating from a position of strength in numbers and shared concerns.
One of the U.S. organizations I've watched closely has been the National Continuing Care Residents Association or NaCCRA, a national body that grew out of early advocacy on behalf of residents in life care and continuing care residences in Florida. Residents came to recognize that as much as they appreciate and even love their individual communities, there are often common concerns about matters such as provider accountability for entrance fees and service fees paid by residents, understanding Fair Housing and ADA rules for residents with disabilities, residents' rights during changes of "ownership," resident rights during provider insolvency, reorganizations or bankruptcy, transparency of management decision-making and more.
NaCCRA has both individual members and state chapters, and recently, resident-members in the State of Washington recognized that stronger funding of the national organization through the state chapters is needed to support effective advocacy at every level. By comparison, the senior housing providers certainly share information (and money) on a national basis -- see e.,g., LeadingAge and American Seniors Housing Association -- especially when addressing their advocacy positions with regulators and government leaders.
It will be interesting to see whether residents in CCRCs and Life Care communities in other states join Washington residents in supporting a strong national team through NaCCRA.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Many of you recognize the name Diane Rehm, from NPR, where she has had her show, The Diane Rehm Show, for many years. "Retiring" at the end of 2016 doesn't mean she will be out of the public eye, according to a recent article in the Washington Post. Diane Rehm’s next act: Using her famed voice to fight for the good death is a profile of Mrs. Rehm that also summarizes her writings. Her 2014 memoir relates how her husband ended his life on his own by refusing food and fluids, since physician-aided dying is not legal in their state.
Mrs. Rehm is quoted "[I]t’s time for me to retire, especially on the issue of right-to-die, to be able to speak out and to speak freely....” In addition to supporting the right to die, she plans to champion research on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
February 16, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Health Care/Long Term Care, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, February 15, 2016
My friend, colleague and renaissance guy, Mark Bauer, keeps an eye out for interesting articles for me, including those that focus on a community's livability for elders. He sent me this great article that looks at how a vibrant, walkable community can increase one's longevity once one reaches 80. The article, Land use mix and five-year mortality in later life: Results from the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study, appears in volume 36 of Health and Place at pages 54-60 (Mar. 2016). Here's the abstract
This study explores the potential modifying effect of age and mediation effect of co-morbidity on the association between land use mix, a measure of neighbourhood walkability, and five-year mortality among the 2424 individuals participating in the year-10 follow-up of the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study in England. Postcodes of participants were mapped onto Lower-layer Super Output Areas, a small area level geographical unit in the UK, and linked to Generalised Land Use data. Cox regression models were fitted to investigate the association. For the younger older age group (75–79 years), the effect of high land use mix on an elevated risk of mortality was mediated by co-morbidity. For older old age groups (80–84, 85+ years), a higher land use mix was directly associated with a 10% lower risk of five-year mortality. The findings suggest differential impacts of land use mix on the health of the younger and older old.
I thought this quote from the implications/future research section persuasive: "[P]olicy planning should take note of such variation within older populations, and in particular the needs of the middle and oldest old cohorts. This observation is particularly relevant to the recent movement toward age-friendly environments, which have been advocated worldwide to create inclusive and supportive living environments for active ageing... improving the mix of land uses in local areas may be a potential approach to reduce limitations in activity of daily life and support active ageing for these older age groups."
A pdf of the article is available here.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
We have posted several times on how much one needs for retirement and whether folks are saving enough to have a financially secure retirement. An article in the Washington Post on January 12, 2016 features a new report from Fidelity Investments that shows savers need to get much more aggressive with saving for a financially secure retirement. How big your retirement fund should be at every age, according to one guide explains that Fidelity revised its guidelines at the end of last year using a more conservative return rate. Here is an example of their recommendation:
people save one times their salary by their 30th birthday. By the time they’re 35, savings should add up to double their annual pay. By 40, a retirement account should hold three times a person’s salary. The numbers keep growing, all the way to age 67, by which retirement savings should add up to 10 times a person’s pay.
The article notes that this guide may seem aggressive and intimidating to some, but emphasizes that it is just one guideline, and if nothing else, should be the catalyst to get people saving for retirement. Get out that piggy bank.....
Monday, February 8, 2016
Yes, another Social Security Scam is making the rounds. The AARP Fraud Watch Network alerted folks about a new scam that the FTC has discovered. According to the Fraud Watch explanation, people are being sent
an email with the subject line “Get Protected.” ... The email describes that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is supposedly offering great new features to help taxpayers protect their personal information and identities. It sounds so good that you may be tempted to click on the link provided — [don't do so] ...It’s a SCAM!
The scammers pose as SSA employees and to be even more authenticate-sounding, may even mention the “SAFE Act of 2015.” Of course, the email includes a link, and we all know what happens when one clicks on a link in a scam email....bad things.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Prolific scholar Richard Kaplan, from Illinois Law, has a new article with a clever title. Here's a taste from the abstract for “What Now? A Boomer’s Baedeker for the Distribution Phase of Defined Contribution Retirement Plans:”
Baby Boomers head into retirement with various retirement-oriented savings accounts, including 401(k) plans and IRAs, but no clear pathway to utilizing the funds in these accounts. This Article analyzes the major factors and statutory regimes that apply to the distribution or “decumulation” phase of defined contribution retirement arrangements. It begins by examining the illusion of wealth that these largely tax-deferred plans foster and then considers how the funds in those plans can be used to: (1) create regular income; (2) pay for retirement health care costs, including long-term care; (3) make charitable donations; and (4) provide resources to those who survive the owners of these plans.
This very practical article appears in NYU's Review of Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation, Chapter 4, for 2015.
Sunday, January 31, 2016
The Social Security Administration posted on its blog about a Social Security scam involving phishing. According to the post, the scam focuses on "protecting" yourself from identity theft and financial fraud. "The subject line says “Get Protected,” and the email talks about new features from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that can help taxpayers monitor their credit reports, and know about unauthorized use of their Social Security number. It even cites the IRS and the official-sounding “S.A.F.E Act 2015.” It sounds real, but it’s all made up." The post offers a couple of tips to suss out a scam. If the email ended up in your junk folder, it could be a scam. Also, mouse over the URL and see if it is really from SSA, or from a .com site instead.
Always remember-if in doubt, don't click on the link and don't provide personal information.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Isn't that a great thought. Students learning for thee sake of learning! The New York Times ran at article on January 1, 2016 on that exact topic. Older Students Learn for the Sake of Learning explains those "the 150,000 men and women nationally who participate each year at more than 119 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. The institutes, affiliated mostly with colleges and universities, are among the best-known advanced adult educational programs in the country. Along with an array of other such programs fitting under the “lifelong learning” umbrella, they tend to attract educated, passionate people who are seeking intellectual and social stimulation among peers who often become new friends."
The article distinguishes this type of learning from the more traditional adult ed classes, since "lifelong learning programs position themselves as communities where the participants not only take on challenging subjects but also seek to engage more deeply with their fellow students." The article runs through the research on the advantages to ongoing education to a sharp brain.
Keep on learning everyone!
Monday, January 25, 2016
I think I might like winter better, if it always happened "conveniently" and with plenty of notice, as did Saturday's snow in Pennsylvania. For once, I was prepared to be at home, with a stack of good reading materials for catching up when the joys of house-cleaning and snow shoveling faded.
I am intrigued by the Fall 2015 issue of the NAELA Journal that focuses on how advances in genetic testing and medicine may be reflected in the roles of lawyers who specialize in elder and special needs counseling. A leading article in the issue introduces the three primary uses of modern genetic testing -- for diagnosis of disease, for determination of carrier status, and for predictive testing -- while reminding us there are limits to each function. In looking at age-related issues, the authors note:
Genetic testing is beginning to reveal information regarding susceptibilities to the diseases associated with old age: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and cancer. Genetic test results showing a higher risk of such diseases can result in a cascade of consequences. Francis Collins, mentioned at the beginning of this article, responded to his test results thoughtfully by making lifestyle changes to reduce the probability that the increased genetic risk would be expressed in actual disease. It is important to note that, for some conditions, lifestyle factors’ influence on disease risk is understood; however, for many of the conditions that affect seniors, this influence is not yet known.
Other reactions to a high-risk test result may be more aggressive than diet and exercise changes. A well-publicized example is Angelina Jolie’s bilateral mastectomy. She was cancer-free but learned that she carries a BRCA1 mutation, which increases her lifetime risk for breast and ovarian cancer. She chose to undergo prophylactic mastectomy to reduce her breast cancer risk, whereas other women choose to increase breast cancer surveillance, such as undergoing more mammograms and breast MRIs. Both options are available to women who carry a BRCA1/2 mutation.
Will those found to be at elevated risk for more complex conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease make premature life choices, such as early retirement or marriage, based on perceived risk? Earlier in this article it is explained that an individual’s genotype rarely determines his or her medical destiny. For example, many people with a higher genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease will not actually develop it, while many with no apparent higher genetic risk will. Is the risk that members of the general public will misunderstand and overreact to the results of a genetic test sufficient reason to prevent them from obtaining the information gleaned from such a test? Should we be ensuring that those undergoing genetic testing are aware of its benefits and limitations through individualized genetic counseling? This, of course, presents its own challenges of access and availability.
In reading this, it seems likely that lawyers may encounter complicated issues of confidentiality, especially when counseling "partnered" clients, while also increasing the significance of long-range financial planning and assets management.
For more, read Genetic Testing and Counseling Primer for Elder Law and Special Needs Planning Attorneys, by CELA Gregory Wilcox and Rachel Koff, Licensed Certified Genetic Counselor.
January 25, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Retirement, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)