Monday, February 16, 2015
ABA's Litigation magazine's Winter 2015 issue has an interesting theme -- "regrets" -- and I encourage all attorneys and law professors to track it down. Lots of gems here, offering plenty of stimulus for conversation.
Famed trial attorney Gerry Spence starts off one of the articles in this way:
"Like most old men looking back, I tend to forget the major regrets in my life. Mine may been becoming a trial lawyer in the first place. I learned how to try case by failing. I regret I wasn't taught in law school the first rudimentary principles of a jury trial. But how could that happen when most of the professors had never been in a courtroom?....
"In short, the justice system is broken.... I've labored in the system for over 60 years, and I regret, not winning, but in contributing to the myth that there's liberty and justice for all. I regret aiding and abetting the 'appearance of justice' that continues to defraud most Americans who have never awakened one day to find themselves crunched in the system...."
Abe Krash, with a 50 year career at D.C.'s Arnold & Porter law firm, shares his thoughts, thoughts that are on the whole, more positive that Spence's, but include:
"The bloom on the Washington legal rose began to fade somewhat in the mid-1980s during the era of deregulation. At about the same time, the legal profession began to change in significant ways. I applaud a number of the changes... such as the widening opportunities afforded to women and minorities. But like many others of my generation, I regret some of the changes, including the shift among large law firms from a partnership mode to a corporate mode."
Elder Law, which as a specialization is still relatively young, is now "old enough" to see a first generation of long-time practitioners contemplating their own retirements. I wonder how the theme of "regrets" might play out for these individuals?
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Sunday, February 15, 2015
George Washington University Law Professor Naomi Cahn sent us a link to an interesting study that seeks to demonstrate the impact of income equality -- and wage stagnation for low and middle income workers -- on the long-term solvency of Social Security.
In a release accompanying the release of its study, the Center for American Progress (CAP) explains:
"Specifically, CAP’s issue brief finds that the trust funds would be $753.8 billion larger had the average worker’s wages kept pace with productivity growth between 1983 and 2013, thereby reducing the expected 75-year shortfall of the trust funds by 6.8 percent. The brief also shows that the trust funds would be greater by more than $1.1 trillion had the maximum taxable wage base remained fixed at 90 percent of earnings over the same time period, reducing the expected 75-year shortfall by 10.1 percent. Both scenarios would have added years of additional solvency to the Social Security trust funds. These findings come on top of Social Security trustees’ projections that, looking ahead, freezing the taxable wage base at 90 percent today would on its own close more than one-quarter of the projected 75-year shortfall....
CAP’s brief outlines how, as a result of the [existing] cap on taxable earnings--$118,500 for 2015—Social Security’s funding is tied directly to the full wages that low- and middle-income workers earn—but not to the full wages that higher-earning workers receive. The brief finds that in 2013, the top 1 percent of earners took home nearly the same share of the nation’s total wage income as the entire bottom half of workers. As a result, income has shifted away from workers whose full earnings are subject to payroll taxes and toward high-income workers whose additional dollars are exempt."
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
With the shift from defined benefit pensions to 401(k)plans, the welfare of retirees increasingly depends on their ability to make sound financial decisions. This situation has raised concerns that the cognitive decline that comes with age could compromise the elderly’s decision-making ability and thereby their financial well-being. This brief, based on a recent study,1 addresses this issue using a unique dataset that follows a group of elderly individuals over time.
The report is divided into four parts: literature review, data, analysis and conclusion. The conclusion paints an interesting picture
The findings confirm that declining cognition, a common occurrence among individuals in their 80s, is associated with a significant decline in financial literacy. The study also finds that large declines in cognition and financial literacy have little effect on an elderly individual’s confidence in their financial knowledge, and essentially no effect on their confidence in managing their finances. Individuals with declining cognition are more likely to get help with their finances. But the study finds that over half of all elderly individuals with significant declines in cognition get no help outside of a spouse. Given the increasing dependence of retirees on 401(k)/IRA savings, cognitive decline will likely have an increas-ingly significant adverse effect on the well-being of the elderly.
Monday, February 9, 2015
Recently Elder Law Attorney Bob Anderson from Marquette, Michigan, spoke to law students at Dickinson Law on the theme of "planning" and his presentation stressed the importance of understanding long-term care insurance or, because our world loves acronyms, "LTCI."
Bob used his thirty years of experience in counseling families to outline key points, and to explain factors that have impacted the LTCI industry. I asked the students to summarize what they found to be most interesting and important. Their "takeaway" highlights included:
- LTCI is an important consideration, part of the same evaluation for insuring against "unacceptable" losses, that should take place in deciding whether to insure against home fires or early death, recognizing that such events are "unlikely" to happen, but can happen to a significant percentage of the population;
- LTCI has a "cost of waiting," both in terms of the potential to become "uninsurable" because of a disqualifying medical condition arising, and because of the cost increase in first time premiums as you get closer to the age of potential need; and
- The cost of LTCI has several important variables, which lawyers can help families understand when advising about planning options, including the term of coverage (e.g., 1, 3 or 5 years), the "elimination" period, the interaction with Medicare's 100 day maximum for post-acute care, and the need to consider inflation protection for the daily benefit.
Bob also talked about "hybrid" insurance products, combining life insurance with an LTCI option. I think it is safe to say that regardless of their goals after graduation, all of the law students came away with an appreciation for the need to understand all available options, including LTCI, in planning or advising for post-retirement needs.
One of our students, who is thinking about general practice, said that he can see clients asking questions about LTCI. Bob was excellent at reminding all of us that effective elder law and estate planning attorneys address more than just what happens after death.
Bob, whose diverse interests include cross-country ski racing and hockey, also provided a bit of surprise during his visit when he began speaking Russian -- and, I think, Ukrainian -- with our Russian and Ukrainian Law expert, Bill Butler.
We especially appreciate Pennsylvania elder law attorney Amos Goodall and the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) for their roles in making this interactive program possible; the recording will be available to practitioners in the future through NELF's educational arm. Amos also addressed our students, adding important Pennsylvania specifics to the discussion.
In a timely coincidence, AARP has a newly published Money Column, on "Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?"
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Driving home last evening, I had one of those "driveway" moments, where you don't want to shut off the car -- and thus the radio -- because a program on NPR is so compelling.
This time it was the Invisibilia story of Iggy Ignatius, born in India, but living in Florida. He decided to create a retirement community that looked like home, with low buildings, a courtyard, Bollywood movies, lots of Indian food, and lots of ... Indians. At first, his creative timing seemed all wrong, as he was opening the doors in 2008, on the threshold of what turned out to be a deep recession, hitting many Florida housing ventures hard. But, in fact, he sold out the first condo wing almost immediately, and success has apparently continued. Iggy has a theory for the popularity of his Indian retirement community:
"And at that time, he thinks, it's beyond your control. No matter who you are, you'll experience a deep primal desire to withdraw, like a salmon swimming upstream to the place of its birth to spawn and die. 'I think that is an animal instinct which we as human beings seem to have.'"
Hmmm. I'm not sure spawning salmon are experiencing the same motivations as elderly individuals, regardless of ethnicity. But, the story continued with a potential science-based explanation:
"Iggy is absolutely right, according to Jeff Greenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona. If you raise the specter of death in a person's mind, he says, Christians like Christians better; Italians like Italians better. Even Germans, who are usually pretty lukewarm about other Germans, if you get them to contemplate their own mortality, suddenly they really like Germans...."
Thus, if true, there is a potential dark side to a "return to kind," both in terms of the subconscious fears that may drive it, and the impact on community and society.
Does this make sense to you? To read or listen to the whole story, go to "Being With People Like You Offers Comfort Against Death's Chill."
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Third Circuit: Officers & Directors of Bankrupt Nursing Home Liable for "Deepening Insolvency" But Punitive Damages Not Proven re Directors
We reported in December 2013 about the long saga of the Lemington Home for the Aged, a troubled nursing home that sought bankruptcy court protection in 2010. Now, in a 2015 decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, following an appeal from the March 2013 jury verdict that awarded the Home's unsecured creditors a total of $5.75 million, key issues about that damage award are addressed.
Judge Vanaskie, who had taken the lead on an earlier appellate opinion regarding the officers and directors, provided some relief for the five former directors on the nonprofit organization's board, who faced joint and several liability for more than $3.5 million in punitive damages. The opinion begins with a concise summary of the outcome:
"This lawsuit, which concerns the mismanagement of a Pittsburgh-area nursing home and its ensuing bankruptcy, comes before the Court for a third time on appeal. In the present appeal, the Defendants, two former Officers and fourteen former Directors of the nursing home, present several challenges to the jury's verdict, which found them liable for breach of fiduciary duties and deepening insolvency. The jury also imposed punitive damages against the two Officers and five of the Directors.
We will affirm the jury's liability findings and the punitive damages award imposed against the Administrator and the Chief Financial Officer of the nursing home. We will, however, vacate the jury's award of punitive damages against the Defendants who served on the nursing home's Board of Directors. We conclude that the punitive damages award against those Defendants was not supported by evidence sufficient to establish that they acted with 'malice, vindictiveness and a wholly wanton disregard of the rights of others .' Smith v. Renaut, 387 Pa. Super. 299, 564 A.2d 188, 193 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1989) (citations omitted)."
Thursday, January 22, 2015
We have written many posts about underfunded benefit programs at the federal and state levels (see e.g., here), but another looming problem is underfunding of pension programs at the local levels. The potentially affected employees include firefighters and sanitation workers and police officers.
This week WITF-Radio's Smart Talk program explored the issue in Pennsylvania:
"More than 500 Pennsylvania municipalities' pension funds are considered "distressed" because they're funded at less than 90%. Some Pennsylvania cities, boroughs, and townships currently have pension funds at lower than 50%. State law impacts public employees' ability to negotiate their contracts, making this issue of particular concern to lawmakers in Harrisburg.
Last week, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced that in total Pennsylvania's municipal pension funds have a $7.7 billion liability. Legislation is expected to be proposed this year that will seek to eliminate some of the liability over the long term."
It seems unlikely that Pennsylvania is the only state with a local-level pension funding problem.
The primary speaker on the program, Pennsylvania Municipal League Executive Director Richard Schuettler, pointed to an interesting aspect of the problem, what he sees as unrealistic decisions by arbitrators in collective bargaining labor disputes over pay and retirement benefits.
Monday, January 19, 2015
If you were retiring, would you want marketers of insurance products and funeral services -- or similar products -- obtaining your name and address from your former employer? Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law could be permitting just such access to information on a large number of state retirees.
In a decision issued January 9, 2015, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, an intermediate court, ruled the Pennsylvania State Retirement System (SERS) failed to satisfy its burden to prove "a substantial and demonstrable risk" arising from a request for 15 years' worth of records containing the "names and addresses of all retirees" from the state. Therefore, the names and contact information of more than 1,000 retirees, or if deceased, the information on their beneficiaries, must be disclosed by SERS. And if SERS "failed" in carrying the burden of proving why this should not happen, as the opinion demonstrates, it was not for lack of trying.
The Court recognized an exception from disclosure for retired judges and law enforcement officers on the grounds of specific "personal safety and security" language tied to those positions, contained in Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
The University of Michigan's Retirement Research Center regularly releases working papers and policy pieces that explore issues relevant to lawyers and legal academics. From MRRC's most recent news release, here are some interesting topics:
- “Does Protecting Older Workers from Discrimination Make It Harder to Get Hired?” by David Neumark, Joanne Song and Patrick Button. Abstract
- “Will They Take the Money and Work? An Empirical Analysis of People’s Willingness to Delay Claiming Social Security Benefits for a Lump Sum” by Raimond H. Maurer, Olivia S. Mitchell, Ralph Rogalla and Tatjana Schimetschek. Abstract
- “Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transfers” by John Karl Scholz, Ananth Seshadri and Kamil Sicinski. Abstract
On the last item, I was intrigued by the opening lines for the abstract:
"Understanding whether the elderly are saving adequately is fundamental to understanding whether elderly households are able to maintain reasonable living standards. One factor that affects wealth accumulation is the extent to which parents need to support children and the extent to which children need to support parents. The presence of Social Security may affect intergenerational transfers, but the extent to which it ‘crowds out’ transfers from parents to children is controversial...."
For more studies from MRRC, you can review the longer list of current publications and upcoming programs here.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Who amongst us have not heard of a senior discount? They are ubiquitous in some areas, such as movie tickets or dining out. Here is one program that allows the recipient of a senior discount to donate it to a charity. The NY Times ran a story about this program, Getting a Senior Discount? Here’s How to Give It Away, which allows the recipient of a discount to donate it. The article tells the story of the Boomerang Giving Project which allowed senior moviegoers to pay full price for their movie tickets and to donate their senior discounts to a charity of their choosing.
More information about the Boomerang Giving Project is available on their website. According to the website, "BOOMERANG GIVING is a national movement of Baby Boomers who dare to imagine the impact we can make as a generation if Boomers with the means reinvest some or all of our senior discount savings back into our communities through charities we each choose ourselves..." The project was also the subject of a story on PBS.
The Boomerang Giving website provides some history on the project. Originating in Washington state, "seven community leaders from Bainbridge Island and Seattle Washington, all dedicated to bolstering future generations through support of nonprofit organizations" created the project with the mission "[t]o redefine Baby Boomers as the generation that gives back. By inventing multiple ways to give back, Boomerang Giving is committed to creating opportunities for the 3.5 million persons who turn 65 each year to increase their charitable giving and join others in supporting their communities."
Returning to the NY Times article, the story notes the upward trend in charitable giving and the benefits of doing so. The obvious, of course, is the help to the charity, but as well, the donor benefits
- "A crucial conclusion from a study published last year in the International Journal of Happiness and Development ... concluded that people feel good when they make a charitable donation — especially through a friend, relative or social connection."
"Harvard researchers found in an experiment that donating to charity can increase physical strength. .. " and
"An increasingly popular way for retirees to stay active mentally and socially is to join a local giving circle."
The article also offers some advice on checking out a charity's legitimacy before committing to a financial contribution and basic charitable planning.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Recently I have encountered several thoughtful articles about the language we use, and the approaches taken, when talking with older persons. This seems to be an especially appropriate topic for the holiday season, when families often come together, sometimes from great distances. Whether we are talking with clients or family members, some of the same dynamics may be in play, especially when the question is about planning for the future.
From the ABA Commission on Law and Aging's Bifocal publication, comes David Solie's "The Wrong Signals: Shutting Down the Planning Conversation Before It Starts." He encourages us to "consider the psychological landscape of older clients -- it is a world embedded with two dominant agendas posing significant resistance to change. Together, these psychological currents create a deep inertia to disrupting the status quo." He labels these barriers to change as:
- Ambivalence and the "Righting Reflex," and
- The Need for Control
He suggests approaches, including the use of open-ended questions, reflective listening, and making a conscious decision about what words to use. For example, he suggests that when we start to discussion options, we explain more clearly that advance planning helps to "preserve choice" and avoids "loss of control."
Another potential problem may arise from "Elderspeak," a label social scientists use to refer to a tendency to use "patronizing" tones or words when speaking to anyone who is older. One recent article in McKnight's News made me chuckle, as it points to the well-meaning but potentially misguided use of words such as ""honey" by professionals when working with elders.
My father, a federal judge for more than 30 years, at age 89 may have forgotten many things -- but he does not take kindly to being called "honey" by strangers. He now has an entire assisted living campus, even a few of the other residents, calling him "Judge" or "Your Honor." I bet you might know a judge or two like that? When it comes to control, I'm not sure who is teaching whom about holding court.
Here's to more humor in all of our holidays -- and more opportunities for effective communication -- both within the family and beyond. Happy Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Ramping up into Thanksgiving celebration, thinking about the things for which we are thankful---how about adding caregivers to that list? Huffintong Post Third Metric ran a three-part series earlier this month on Unsung Heroes: The Face of American Caregiving. The Unsung Heroes Who Give Up Everything To Take Care Of A Sick Partner, the first installment in the series, focused on eleven extraordinary caregivers providing care to spouses/partners. The second, The Unsung Heroes Who Give Up Everything To Take Care Of A Sick Parent covers 10 family members providing care for their parents., 9 of whom are over the age of 50. The final installment, The Unsung Heroes Who Give Up Everything To Take Care Of Multiple Loved Ones covers ten amazing individuals who have provided care for multiple generations.
Knowing the statistics on caregiving, a number of us will be called upon to provide the care. These folks will inspire you. Happy Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
AARP's Research released a new report on saving for retirement: Planning for Health Care Costs in Retirement: A 2014 Survey of 50+ Workers. According to the introduction, the reason AARP did this research was to understand how health care costs factor into retirement planning. This is not only an interesting point, it's an important one and worthy of research.
The key findings for this report show that as far as this issue, the news isn't good. Almost 40% aren't saving for health care costs and a bit over 40% relate they have no plans to do so. Slightly over a quarter of respondents do plan to begin to save...within the next few years.
Why aren't these folks saving? According to the findings, right now it's unaffordable, either because they're currently caring for another or they have other expenses. Although over 60% are saving for health care costs, almost half worried they won't be able to afford health care.
The study also shows a disconnect-between the belief of the need for saving and when the belief translates into action. I thought this finding quite interesting--this group plans to pay their own way when it comes to health care costs, with almost 90% replying that they will not rely on family for help with the costs of health care.
The survey also inquired into retirement readiness. The key findings show results that aren't particularly surprising, with about 75% respondents reporting they are "somewhat confident" while only slightly over 30% being "very confident". Concomitantly, 75% have saved to some extent while 1/3 saved "to a large extent." The full report is available here as a pdf.
Monday, November 3, 2014
While I was in California last summer, a friend introduced me to Lillian Hyatt. I had already known of her by reputation and it was a real pleasure to speak to her in person and to continue our communications by telephone and mail. She's a dynamo, a person who does not take aging "lying down." Born in 1925 (believe me, she doesn't mind me disclosing that fact!), Lillian Hyatt is just about as active in "retirement" as she was during her many years as a writer, consultant, advocate, social worker, and university professor.
So I was especially interested to notice that when I clicked on a hyperlink embedded in a recent New York Times article about the impact of "falling" in an "aging nation," it took me to a press release about Lillian Hyatt. Back in 2008, Ms. Hyatt filed suit against a California Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), to prevent it from banning walkers from the dining room of this high-end retirement community. She needed the walker to maneuver in what was, in essence, her home.
The lawsuit, asserting violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and other state and federal laws that address discrimination based on disability, was settled in 2010. Others have pursued similar claims in assisted living settings, public spaces and more. For more on the continuing impact of Ms. Hyatt's advocacy -- even though, curiously, she is never mentioned by name in the NYT article -- read "Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation." Advocates such as Ms. Hyatt challenge all of us to work harder to find a better balance between protection and respect for independence.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Last week I was part of a panel hosted by the National Continuing Care Residents' Association (NaCCRA) in Nashville, a component of the larger (much larger!) annual meeting of LeadingAge. The theme for the panel was "Resident Engagement in Continuing Care Life" and for my part of the panel, I used an interesting Third Circuit bankruptcy court decision, In re Lemington Home for the Aged, to discuss whether residents of financially troubled CCRCs should be treated as entitled to enforce specific fiduciary duties owed by the CCRC owners to creditors generally, even unsecured creditors, fiduciary duties that may give rise to a direct cause of action connected to "deepening insolvency."
Jennifer Young (pictured on the left), a CCRC resident, talked about what it is like to "be" an unsecured creditor in a CCRC's Chapter 11 bankruptcy court proceeding. Her explanation of how creditors' committees operate in bankruptcy court (including how they hire legal counsel and how that counsel is paid out of the Debtor's estate) was both practical and illuminating. The closing speaker on the panel was Jack Cumming (below left). Jack's has deep experience as an actuary and a CCRC resident. He noted the disconnect between the intentions of providers and the realities faced by residents and called for stronger accountability in investment of resident fees. I always come away from my time with Jack with lots to think about. Our moderator was NaCCRA president Daniel Seeger (right), from Pennswood Village in Pennsylvania.
In my final comments, I reminded our audience that even though our panel was focusing on "problems" with certain CCRC operations, including some multi-site facilities, many (indeed most) CCRCs are on sound financial footing, especially as occupancy numbers rebound in several regions of the country. Both panelists and audience members emphasized, however, that for CCRCs to be able to attract new residents, the responsibility of the CCRC industry must improve. For more on these financial points, go to NaCCRA's great educational website, that includes both text and videos, here.
Interestingly, during the LeadingAge programming that began on Saturday, October 18 and continued through October 22, I was hearing a lot about a potentially major shift in the long-term housing and service market. Some of the largest attendance was for deep-dive sessions on new service models for "Continuing Care at Home," sometimes shortened to CCAH or CCaH. CCAH is often seen as a way for more traditional CCRCs to broaden their client base, particularly in the face of occupancy challenges that began with the financial crisis of 2008-2010.
As a corollary of this observation about market change, one of the topics under debate within the leadership of LeadingAge is whether Continuing Care Retirement Communities need a new name, and I can see movement to adopt a name that aligns better with the larger menu of non-facility based services that many providers are seeking to offer.
Of course, as a law professor, I wonder what these market changes mean for oversight or regulation of new models. Not all states are keeping up with the changes in the Continuing Care industry, and name changes may complicate or obscure the most important regulatory questions.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The New York Times ran a story on October 11, 2014 about the Dutch pension system. No Smoke, No Mirrors: The Dutch Pension Plan focuses on the straightforward way that the Netherlands runs their pension program. "The Dutch system rests on the idea that each generation should pay its own costs — and that the costs must be measured accurately if that is to happen." The Dutch system works well, but it isn't without costs. The workers put away almost 2% more than U.S. workers but the Americans are including Social Security, which is not intended to fully replace pre-retirement earnings, but instead should "provide just 40 percent of a middle-class worker’s income in retirement."
The article notes that Dutch employers, like those in the U.S., contribute as well, but usually with a ceiling on contributions. Seem odd to have it capped? The article offers that this is actually an incentive for employers to stay with the plans. There's also another advantage to the Dutch system-if the markets do well and the pension has a surplus, the employer can't access it.
There are additional provisions that ensure success and checks and balances put into the system. Check out the article.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Kudos again to my friend and colleague, Professor Mark Bauer (current chair of the AALS Aging & Law section, btw) for sending me this article, The Great Senior Sell-Off Could Cause the Next Housing Crisis. The article appeared in The Atlantic's CityLab, and although the article was published in 2013, I think it is still important to read (if you didn't when it was first published) because it predicts the busting of another housing "bubble" starting in 2020, just 6 years from now.
The article opens with looking at the various names of animals being swallowed by the python (that is, the Boomers and the American population). (As an aside, the article lists a number of animals--I'd only heard of the pig, but now I know we Boomers might also be compared to a bunny (cute) or "a really big rat" (ugh)). But I digress.
The focus of the article is on what will happen when the Boomers reach a certain age where they decide to sell their homes...and hope there are buyers galore for them. A researcher quoted in the article indicates that in certain larger metro areas, there should be buyers, but in less populous areas, not so much. He describes what he calls "the “great senior sell-off” .... sometime later this decade ... [that] he predicts that it could cause our next real housing crisis."
Changing demographics will also affect the housing market and demand will not be in sync with supply as housing preferences change with age and demographics. There is something of a bleak housing future ahead for many elders, according to the expert, who predicts "there will be two classes of seniors in America: those “aging in place” voluntarily, and those “aging in place” involuntarily because they can’t sell their homes." His concerns about aging in place are best summarized by how a person's abilities change once s/he gets to an advanced age and becomes unable to do basic upkeep or maintenance yet the housing market will tumble, leaving some only the choice of abandoning their homes.
Friday, September 26, 2014
I always love learning new lingo. I've heard parts of the US described as the "sun belt", the "rust belt" and the "corn belt" to name a few. Now I've learned that I live in the "sun belt" and next door to the "Grey Belt." Thanks to my friend and colleague Professor Mark Bauer for sending me the Associated Press article, Fla.'s 'Gray Belt' a glimpse at nation's future.
According to the article, Citrus County, Florida is the heart of the "Grey Belt" in which "more than a third of residents are senior citizens, one of the highest rates in the nation... The county isn't simply a stereotype of Florida, where in just 15 years, one in four residents will be 65 or older. It's a peek into the not-too-distant future of the nation, where the number will be one in five."
So what's the implication of living in the "Grey Belt?" The article notes that the businesses reflect the population and the economy shows the effect of such a population. For example, the story notes that the "economy based on low-skill jobs such as health-care aides, retail clerks and food service workers." The result of a community where people move in to retire, rather than age-in place? "[Those who move into an area generally aren't eager to fund schools ... whereas those who remain in the communities where they worked and raised their families tend to support education and other public spending that doesn't benefit them directly. Citrus County voters lived up to that thesis as recently as two years ago when they decisively rejected a referendum to raise property taxes to fund schools."
The article discusses the dilemma these cities face-they need younger folks to work in the service jobs that cater to the elder residents, but these folks don't always want to move to a community that is primarily elder residents. One pastor even described his church as a "hospice church" because "congregants either die or move back north to spend their last years near relatives. Changes that might attract younger families for the almost 500-member congregation often meet resistance..."
Although Citrus County might be the center of the Florida Grey Belt, the phrase actually refers to a swath of 8 counties with "among the oldest populations in the nation, not to mention in Florida, which has long had the highest rate of seniors in the nation, and will for decades yet... [with] Sumter [county] ... home to the largest concentration of seniors of any county in the nation..."
Ok but really--is Florida the only location of the "Grey Belt"? We all know the US population is aging, so what about it--do we have more grey belts? Depends on how you look at it. According to the AP article, "North Dakota, Texas, and Michigan have pockets of seniors on par with the Gray Belt counties in Florida. But unlike the Florida counties, which have grown from the migration of new seniors, they have gotten grayer as a result of younger residents leaving."
Keep in mind that the Florida grey belt only encompasses 8 counties. The state is a bit of a hodgepodge, demographically speaking, since the grey belt "contrasts starkly with the state's younger and more diverse major metro areas ... and the interests of Gray Belt residents will diverge politically, socially and economically from Florida's more youthful cities." Competing interests based on age will show up at the ballot box as well--talk about a tightrope for state leaders!
According to an economist with the U. of Florida ("in the nieghborhood" of the grey belt), "[s]ince voting power will tilt in favor of the older residents because of their higher voter-participation rates, the key to keeping both sides happy is to devolve all kinds of governmental decisions on taxes, planning and education from the state level to the local level so that residents in areas with both high and low concentrations of seniors will feel like their voices are being heard."
Here we go....and please, no jokes about Florida and voting. Deal?
Thursday, September 18, 2014
My colleague and dear friend Mark Bauer (current chair of the Aging & Law AALS section) sent me a link to an article published in CityLab. The article is titled Where Are the Baby Boomers Going to Live Out Their Golden Years? The article mentions a recent report from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, Housing America's Older Adults. The Harvard website for this project includes a number of resources, including the report, an interactive map, an infographic, videos of the keynote address and panel discussion. If you don't have time to read the entire report, be sure to read the executive summary, available here.
The CityLab article mentions some other helpful sources, including an AARP survey on preferences regarding aging at home. The article references aging and disability, looking at the suitability of Boomers; homes for them in the future
The housing stock built for Baby Boomers largely wasn't designed with accessibility in mind. There are five universal-design housing features that tend to address a variety of disabilities that residents face as they age: no-step entries; single-floor living; switches and outlets set at lower heights; extra-wide hallways and doors; and lever-style doors and faucets. Nearly 90 percent of existing homes have one of these features, according to the report—but just 57 percent have two.
The article notes that more recently built homes are more likely to include at least some of these universal design features, but concludes
Yet these detached, single-floor, single-family homes—and the automobile-centric society that comes with them—are only going to fall further out of step with the needs of residents over time. And sooner rather than later. Homes can be retrofitted with lever-style handles and no-step entries (albeit at great expense). It's much harder to turn exurban and rural communities where older Americans live into places that nurture seniors rather than isolate them.
Friday, September 12, 2014
In a GAO study titled "Inability to Repay Student Loans May Affect Financial Security of Small Percentage of Retirees," researchers reveal that a significant -- and growing -- proportion of "student loan" debt is owed by Americans aged 65 or older. In addition to the growth in the total amount of "senior" student loan debt, from $2.8 billion in 2005 to $18.2 billion in 2013, the GAO findings include:
- Relatively few households headed by individuals 65 or older hold student loan debt -- the number is about 706,000 households in the U.S. -- but the amount they owe may be significant, with estimates that the median debt owed is around $12,000, as compared to a median for those aged 64 and younger of $13,000.
- Most -- about 82% -- of this debt was for the individual's own education. It is not known whether how "old" the loans are.
- Older borrowers hold defaulted federal student loans at a higher rate -- and defaults can have conquences, including offsets on Social Security payments. Generally speaking, student debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy; however adjustments may be possible to keep the individual's monthly income above the poverty threshold.
For more discussion on the GAO report, see "Senior (Citizen) Student Debt Rising," in Inside Higher Ed by Michael Stratford. Hat tip to Professor Laurel Terry for pointing out this new study.