Thursday, April 21, 2016
All of us who use social media, raise your hands. Ok, so that is a lot of us. And social media isn't just the province of the young, even though some of us may be digital immigrants. The New York Times ran a recent article about elders on Facebook. Why Do Older People Love Facebook? Let’s Ask My Dad explains about a recent survey done by Penn State.
The press release about the study, Sorry kids, seniors want to connect and communicate on Facebook, too explains "[o]lder adults, who are Facebook's fastest growing demographic, are joining the social network to stay connected and make new connections, just like college kids who joined the site decades ago, according to Penn State researchers." The study looks at the reasons why elders would be drawn to use Facebook, including curiosity, keeping in touch with friends, and connecting with family, as well as communicating with those with shared interests, what the authors refer to as social bonding, social bridging and social surveillance.
The authors suggest that the social media designers need to look at making the media more elder-friendly, and "emphasize simple and convenient interface tools to attract older adult users and motivate them to stay on the site longer." The volume of elder users is growing, so "[d]evelopers may be interested in creating tools for seniors because that age group is the fastest growing demographic among social media users. In 2013, 27 percent of adults aged 65 and older belonged to a social network, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, according to the researchers. Now, the number is 35 percent and is continuing to show an upward trend."
Returning to the New York Times article, the author asked her dad about his Facebook use; "he wanted to be better at keeping in touch with family and with the friends he remembers from my childhood. He told me over Facebook chat (naturally) that his curiosity about what others were up to was his main motivator in finally learning to navigate Facebook." The author quotes one of the co-authors of the study: "[a]s Facebook continues to be a bigger part of American life, the ever-growing population of older Americans is figuring out how to adapt. As people grow older, peer communication through chatting, status updates and commenting will become more important ... and Facebook will need to adapt tools that are suited for an aging audience."
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
As law profs, that title doesn't surprise us. Learning is something we continually do (and so too, hopefully, our students). The Pew Research Center released a new report, Lifelong Learning and Technology. The report looks at learning from a variety of points, including learners who learn for employment and learners who learn for personal reasons.
As far as age for the personal learners, the report provides a breakdown for the percentage "of adults in each group who participated in at least one of a variety of activities in the past 12 months related to personal growth and enrichment...." for those age 65 and older, the percentage engaged in personal learning was 72%. For professional learners ("[a]mong employed adults, % of those who took a course or got extra training in the past 12 months for job-related reasons...") the percentage for those 65 and older was 47%.
The study doesn't just look at age of the learner, but looks at a number of variables, including education, income, ethnicity, race, access to and ownership of tech devices and internet, etc. A pdf of the report is available here.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Network, JAMA Psychiatry ran an article about a study looking at depression and dementia. Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms in Older Adults and Risk of Dementia considers that "[d]epression has been identified as a risk factor for dementia. However, most studies have measured depressive symptoms at only one time point, and older adults may show different patterns of depressive symptoms over time." The study came to the conclusion that a time line of consideration of a patient's depression may give a better picture of the patient's future potential for dementia ("Older adults with a longitudinal pattern of high and increasing depressive symptoms are at high risk for dementia. Individuals’ trajectory of depressive symptoms may inform dementia risk more accurately than one-time assessment of depressive symptoms.")
Sunday, April 3, 2016
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released it's updated international population report, An Aging World: 2015. Lots of interesting numbers in this 135 page report (plus tables), with analysis indicating trends. To highlight a few:
- Growth of world's older population will continue to outpace that of younger population over the next 35 years
- Asia leads world regions in speed of aging and size of older population
- Africa is exceptionally young in 2015 and will remain so in the foreseeable future
- World's oldest countries are mostly in Europe, but some Asian and Latin American countries are quickly catching up
- Some countries will experience a quadrupling of their older population from 2015 to 2050
The document compares India and China as two "population giants" that are on "drastically different paths of population aging."
In 2015, the total population of China stands at 1.4 billion, with India close behind at 1.3 billion. It is projected that 10 years from now, by 2025, India will surpass China and become the most populous country in the world. . . . Although both China and India introduced family planning programs decades ago [graphic available in report], the fertility level in India has remained well above the level in China since the 1970s. By 2030, after India is projected to have overtaken China in terms of total population, 8.8 percent of India’s population will be aged 65 and older, or 128.9 million people. In contrast, in the same year, China will have nearly twice the number and share of older population (238.8 million and 17.2 percent).
The report also introduced me to a new acronym - HALE - for "healthy life expectancy," as an important measurement of population health across the life span. For example, while among European countries France has the longest life expectancy, Norway has significantly better projections for healthy life expectancy, the number of years older adults can be expected to live without activity limitations.
Monday, March 28, 2016
Kaiser Health News ran a story on March 18, 2016 about co-insurance trends in drug coverages. Coinsurance Trend Means Seniors Likely To Face Higher Out-Of-Pocket Drug Costs, Report Says explains that a new report shows that "Medicare beneficiaries may get dinged with higher prescription drug bills this year because more than half of covered drugs in standalone plans require them to pay a percentage of the cost rather than a flat fee...." This report notes that over half of the Part D covered drugs have a coinsurance payment rather than a fixed copayment. This means greater out of pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries. As a result, predicting a beneficiary's out of pocket costs is more difficult.
The report, Majority of Drugs Now Subject to Coinsurance in Medicare Part D Plans is available here. A pdf of the report is available here.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
My colleague Becky Morgan shared a good item this week on statistics about the number of elderly inmates, with growth of needy inmates increasing the burden on state prisons.
Another perspective on the issue comes this week via the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on California's Elderly Parole Program:
The Elderly Parole Program was instituted by a federal three-judge panel after a 2013 class-action lawsuit successfully argued that conditions in California's overcrowded prisons, including poor health care, amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. As a result, the court ordered California to reduce its inmate population. The Elderly Parole Program and a realignment program to move nonviolent convicted felons back to county jails are among the solutions. The Elderly Parole Program will be in effect at least until California meets its prison population targets.
In Sacramento, prosecutors and victims rights groups have been working to prevent this temporary program from becoming state law. They scored a small victory last week when, after a call from this newspaper, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, gutted Senate Bill 1310, which he introduced last month. The original bill would not only make the Elderly Parole Program state law, but it would also lower the eligibility age to 50 and the time in prison to 15 years.
The withdrawal was unexpected and came with little explanation. Leno said in a statement Thursday that the bill would be used as a place holder for "other criminal justice reforms" and that "the bill will not deal with the issue of elder parole."
The article reports that since the Elderly Parole Program began in February 2014, more than 1,000 inmates have had parole hearings, with 371 granted parole, 89 deemed "not ready," and 781 denied release. In the article, the reality of the hearings is seen through the eyes of one victim, who faced the trauma of attending a parole hearing to argue that the man who sexually assaulted her and others some 30 years ago, should serve his full sentence or die in prison -- 141 years.
No easy answers here. For more read, "California's Elderly Parole Program Forcing Victims to Face Attackers Decades Later."
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Legal Service programs around the country have constant challenges in securing adequate funding for operations and I'm often struck by the ingenuity needed to keep programs afloat. I was struck by a recent "Access to Justice" panel report in Montana that highlighted the needs of rural persons, including older persons at or near the poverty line, living in isolated circumstances. Even with pro bono hours contributed by law firms, under-funding remains a serious problem. KTVQ.com from Billings, Montana reported:
One witness, identified only as Vicky, said she fought a two-year battle with Medicare before obtaining a $3,000 scooter that helps her carry on daily life while coping with cerebral palsy. “I didn’t know where to go or what to do,” she said. Vicky was among the lucky few Montanans who get legal help through the Montana Legal Services Association, said Alison Paul, director of the association....
Elderly Montanans face similar problems, said Todd Wood, director of the Area II Agency on Aging, which provides services over an area larger than West Virginia. Federal funding for the program has declined in recent years while state funding has slowly increased so that the agency now gets about two-thirds of its funds from the federal government and a third from state government.
But those sources account for only $5 million of the agency’s $9 million budget. The rest comes from contributions by clients for such services as meals and transportation. Without those contributions, the program probably would fold within five months, Wood said. He noted that many elderly residents live in deep rural areas, some without electricity or telephones. They often need help with such legal matters as wills, power of attorney and guardianship problems, he said, but they often are unaware of their rights or unable to find help.
“Their mailman might be the No. 1 contact in the course of the day,” he said.
Providing legal help for seniors is especially critical in Montana, which faces a coming tidal wave of elder care needs, said Gary Connelley, a fulltime pro bono attorney for the Crowley Fleck law firm. By 2020, Montana is expected to be third in the nation in the number of people per capita age 65 or older, he said. But even though Crowley Fleck donated nearly 5,000 hours of free legal help in 2015, Connelley said, it turns away eight or nine of every 10 requests it gets for free legal assistance.
For more read, "Legal Help for Poor, Disabled Often Hard to Come By."
For another perspective on the intense consequences for entire families from under-funding of legal services, this time on the criminal justice side of the bar, see the New York Times' recent article, "In Louisiana, the Poor Lack Legal Defense." Are you getting a tax refund this year? An opportunity to make a tax-deductible contribution to a Legal Aid or Service program near you!
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.
Only Limited Authority as Health Care Agents? The Latest Grounds to Challenge Dreaded Arbitration Clauses in NH Cases
The New York Times offers another window into concerns about pre-dispute binding arbitration provisions that are routinely found in nursing home agreements. This is a long-simmering war, with many battlefronts and tactical arguments, as documented in the article. However, the article also focuses on a narrow group of cases where courts have rejected a binding effect for arbitration clauses signed by someone serving "merely" as a health care agent for the incapacitated resident. (I hope my Contracts course students this semester are reading this article!)
The article offers an additional opportunity to consider the tensions between public policies on either side of the debate over "fairness" of arbitration as a forum for consumer claims:
Arbitration clauses have proliferated over the last 10 years as companies have added them to tens of millions of contracts for things as diverse as cellphone service, credit cards and student loans.. Nursing homes in particular have embraced the clauses, which are often buried in complex contracts that are difficult to navigate, especially for elderly people with dwindling mental acuity or their relatives, who can be emotionally vulnerable when admitting a parent to a home.
State regulators are concerned because the secretive nature of arbitration can obscure patterns of wrongdoing from prospective residents and their families. Recently, officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia urged the federal government to deny Medicaid and Medicare money to nursing homes that use the clauses. Between 2010 and 2014, hundreds of cases of elder abuse, neglect and wrongful death ended up in arbitration, according to an examination by The New York Times of 25,000 arbitration records and interviews with arbitrators, judges and plaintiffs.
Judges have consistently upheld the clauses, The Times found, regardless of whether the people signing them understood what they were forfeiting. It is the most basic principle of contract law: Once a contract is signed, judges have ruled, it is legally binding.
Mr. Barrow’s case [set for trial in Massachusetts] is pivotal because, with the help of his lawyers, he has overcome an arbitration clause by using the fundamentals of contract law to fight back. As is often the case when elderly people are admitted to nursing homes, Mr. Barrow signed the admissions paperwork containing the arbitration clause on his mother’s behalf.
Although his mother had designated Mr. Barrow as her health care proxy — someone who was authorized to make decisions about her medical treatment — his lawyers argued that he did not have the authority to bind his mother to arbitration.
Our thanks to attorneys Karen Miller in Florida and Morris Klein in Maryland, plus Dickinson Law students Joe Carroll, Corey Kysor and Kadeem Morris in Pennsylvania for sending us the link to the NYT coverage.
February 23, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, February 22, 2016
A John A. Hartford Foundation-sponsored study released this month uses Medicare data to examine health care for older Americans, with a self-described "emphasis on the patient's perspective." Both the methodology and the conclusions are intriguing. The researchers report:
For the first time, we measure the intensity of care in terms of how many days per year the average Medicare beneficiary is in contact with the health care system. We can see that beneficiaries in some regions see twice as many unique clinicians for ambulatory care than in others. We also can see in which regions beneficiaries are more likely than not to have a primary care physician as their predominant provider of care.
We also examine the adoption of new evidence-based practices to show that, while some regions showed substantial progress, others still fall short. For example, in some regions, fewer seniors are being prescribed inappropriate high-risk medications, and in others, thirty-day readmission rates are falling. Yet screening tests for prostate cancer and breast cancer among beneficiaries 75 and older remain unnecessarily high, and the data in this report suggest that we are still waiting too long to refer patients to hospice care.
On the one hand, the report demonstrates wide regional variation in the percentage of patients enrolled in "hospice" during the last three days of an individual's life. The researchers conclude: "Referrals to hospice care that are done too late ... adversely affect the quality of care, the reported experiences of patients and families, and their satisfaction with the health care system."
On the other hand, the report cites "clinical evidence" that shows that "feeding tube placement" in patients with advanced dementia "does not prolong life or improve outcomes, and in fact leads to further complications and adverse effects such as the increased use of restraints." Nonetheless, the report shows that in some regions of the country, 12% to 14% of patients with dementia may be on feeding tubes, pointing to locations such as southern California, Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Dearborn, Michigan.
For the full report, see the Dartmouth Atlas project report, "Our Patients, Ourselves: Health Care for an Aging Population."
Further, for an region-specific analysis of the report findings, see iNewsource's "Care for San Diego's Dying Patients Needs to Improve, Study Finds."
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.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Ever wonder if using social media helps advance the services and care for America's elders? According to a recent article in Aging Today on the website of the American Society on Aging (ASA), the answer to that question is yes. In Advocating for Aging Services in a Digital World, published on January 25, 2016, the author explains
Given all the issues that face older Americans, why is it worth the time and effort it takes to tend to a social media feed? Consider the dual nature of any effort to create social change. On every social issue, there is the “work-work” to be done—policies to be crafted, programs to be improved, risks to be reduced and funding to be secured—and then there is the “meaning-making work.” The latter involves defining the problem and its appropriate solutions, building public awareness and cultivating political will. Both efforts are essential to creating meaningful social change.
In aging policies, the author explains the importance of strategy and dissemination of the message:
So, engaging in social media is a powerful tool for shaping opinions and engaging key constituencies. But the power of this tool also means it must be handled with care. A communicator’s choices about what to emphasize and what to leave unsaid have a significant impact on how the communication is understood, interpreted and acted upon.
The article continues, offering suggestions for effective online advocacy, including how to frame a message by offering information and solutions. "[U]sing the power social media affords [the chance] to shape the public conversation. By considering the frame effects of the narratives they tell—online or elsewhere—advocates for better policies around aging can help to mature the issue of an aging America."
Friday, February 12, 2016
We've all seen it -- a family having dinner "together" while each member of the family is using a cell phone to text rather than talk. Is this likelihood to affect long-term living, and if so, how?
Stanford University's Center on Longevity has a new report on trends in three key areas usually associated with longevity -- health, financial security and social connections. The Sightlines Project: Seeing Our Way to Living Long, Living Well in 21st Century America analyzes data from studies that included more than 1.2 million Americans, and both positive and negative trends are documented.
Next will be "plans to host roundtable discussions with policymakers, private sector leaders and researchers to develop solutions to longevity problems." The goal is to better support "living long and living well." One component, therefore, is to examine the implications of "weaker social networks:"
Social engagement with individuals and communities appears weaker than 15 years ago, the research revealed. This is especially true for 55- to 64-year-olds, who exhibit notably weaker relationships with spouses, partners, family, friends and neighbors. They also are involved less in their communities than their predecessors.
"The vulnerability and disengagement in the group headed into retirement warrants further attention," Carstensen said.
The study does not address trends in the use of social media.
Amy Yotopoulos, director of the center's mind division, said, "It's too soon to tell whether asynchronous, technology-mediated forms of social engagement – texting, chat, posting and tweeting – will provide comparable social benefits to more traditional forms of interaction with family and friends."
For more on the Center's research plans, see Stanford's report on "Stanford Project Suggests Longer, Healthier Lives are Possible." My thanks to Professor Laurel Terry for sharing this article.
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.....
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
As we (finally) get to the early primary and caucus stages of this Presidential election year, I'm struck by how much the pundits are talking about changing demographics, including the potential impact of growing diversity of race and national origin among potential voters. At the same time, it will be interesting to see whether "aging" of the population, including the growing share of older voters, will play an equally significant role. At least one early evaluation of swing state voting compares growing diversity of the Sun Belt states with aging in Rust Belt states:
Diversity is also spreading, but much more slowly, in the six Rust Belt swing states (Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). Compared with 2008, the model projects that by 2016 the white eligible voter share will drop in a range from Pennsylvania at the high end (3.1 percentage points), to New Hampshire at the low end (1.2 points). Behind strong Obama turnout efforts, from 2008 to 2012, minorities in Ohio and Pennsylvania grew even faster as a share of actual voters than as eligible voters. That helped Obama win Ohio in 2012, despite attracting exactly the same share of the white vote (41 percent) that Gore did and less than Kerry did (44 percent) when each lost the state in 2000 and 2004 respectively. (Obama also held Pennsylvania, despite winning considerably less of the white vote than either Gore or Kerry, who both carried the state.) But, overall, racial change is not nearly as big a factor in these brawny battlegrounds as in the Sun Belt swing states.
In those critical Rust Belt states, the key demographic change is the one captured in the second chart: the population’s aging. In all six Rust Belt swing states, the model projects that adults 50 and older will constitute at least 45 percent of eligible voters by 2016; for each state except Pennsylvania, that would be an increase of at least 2.3 percentage points since 2008. New Hampshire leads the list with an increase of 3.6 percentage points in the over-50 share of eligible voters; the model projects Pennsylvania, which started with the oldest eligible population, to increase the least at 1.8 percentage points. (The Sun Belt swing states are also aging, but generally not quite as fast as the Rust Belt battlegrounds.)
My own sense is there is at least one major commonality among many older voters and younger non-white voters: fear that they haven't earned enough -- or won't be able to earn enough -- to survive or thrive in a constricted economy. Is it easier for the candidates to talk about terrorism or national security than it is to talk about social security through the lifespan?
Friday, January 22, 2016
In South Korea, "filial duty" is apparently a hot topic, as reflected by a recent Korean Supreme Court ruling and a public survey. And it is more than a theoretical concept or moral obligation, with "contract" law principles now coming into play. As reported in English by the Korea Herald, published on December 30, 2015:
More than 75 percent of South Koreans surveyed by a local pollster think “filial duty contracts” -- a legal document that makes it mandatory for all grown children to financially and emotionally care for their aged parents -- are necessary should they receive any gifts such as real estate or stocks from them.
The survey results were released two days after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an elderly father who filed a suit against his son, who, in spite of signing a filial duty contract, did not care for his ill mother as promised after receiving a personal estate. The court acknowledged the legality of the document and ruled the son must return the property to his father, as the property was gifted in exchange for his support.
Although "filial duty" has long been considered an important, traditional value in Korea, "the nation's changing family structure" and high costs for housing and education apparently have made it more difficult for elderly Koreans to rely on their children for voluntary care. The survey, of 567 Koreans, showed strong support for greater enforcement of "filial duty contracts."
Under the current law, a donor may rescind a gift contract if the recipient committed an act of crime against the donor, or if “the beneficiary is obliged to support the donor but does not do so.” However, the law also states that rescinding a gift contract does not have any effect once the gift has already been given to the beneficiary.
For more details, including a report on a pending bill that would give "Korean parents the right to sue their children in case of mistreatment and to ask them to return any gifts," read "77% of South Koreans See Need for 'Filial Duty Contracts.'"
Friday, January 15, 2016
I recently ran into an article published in December of 2015 that I thought was interesting. Fighting Ageism in the Twitter Era (Getting Old Isn't All That Bad) was published in the Arizona Republic/New America Media. The December article followed up a late November opinion piece titled, Valdez: Getting old isn't all that bad by Linda Valdez that opened with this:
The baby boomers, AKA the nation’s silver tsunami, had better pay as much attention to changing attitudes about aging as they did to shaking up all those previous social norms.
In our culture, old things get replaced with something nice and new. Like the latest smart phone.
Apply the concept to people, and it’s called ageism.
It’s as current as Twitter.
A team of researchers at Oregon State University took a look at tweets about people with Alzheimer’s disease and found ridicule, stigma and stereotypes.
In the December article, the author, reporting on the Gerontological Society of America's annual scientific meeting in November, was in attendance as a Journalist in Aging Fellowship. After generally reviewing topics covered in the conference, the author notes that the Boomers wish to age in place, yet many may not be physically able to do so and blame themselves for their own inability to do so. Enter negative thoughts about aging:
Meanwhile, society does its best to accent the negative.
Asked to characterize the aging, some people recorded during on-the-street interviews dredged up cliches about spry retirees on vacation, but most talked about decline, disease, dependency.
“Society isn’t betting on them,” said one man.
These interviews were done as a result of a project with 8 of the national aging organizations, who were looking for metaphors for aging because how we look at something is crucial to how we apply information about it. The article concludes
[T]he way information is framed has an impact on how people use the information, which should come as no surprise to those who reframed cultural norms about race, gender, sex, the environment and entertainment.
The baby boomers have a lot at stake, and that includes [the author] me. I’m no fan of euphemisms, but I’m all for promoting a fine-wine view of life. It should get better with age. We should feel better about aging.
If some creative wordsmithing and mass marketing helps our society recognize that aging doesn’t diminish value or humanity, it would be a real contribution to our collective understanding of who we boomers are.
Turning to the researchers at Oregon State U who did the analysis of tweets, their article, Portrayal of Alzheimer's Disease on Twitter is available in volume 55 of the Gerontologist, the publication of the Gerontological Society of America.
Recently, several attorneys pointed me to an interesting report on "Marital Biography, Social Security Receipt and Poverty," by sociology researchers at Bowling Green State University. The abstract explains:
Increasingly, older adults are unmarried, which could mean a larger share is at risk of economic disadvantage. Using data from the 2010 Health and Retirement Study, we chart the diverse range of marital biographies, capturing marital sequences and timing, of adults who are age eligible for Social Security and examine three indicators of economic well-being: Social Security receipt, Social Security benefit levels, and poverty status. . . . Among singles, economic well-being varies by marital biography and gender. Gray divorced and never-married women face considerable economic insecurity.
From the body of body of the study more information emerges about the phenomenon of "gray divorce," those occurring after age 50, which has "doubled since 1990 even though the overall U.S. divorce rate remains stable." The authors continue (with citations omitted here):
The timing of marital dissolution in the adult life course may have implications for postdivorce adjustment, including late life economic well-being. Divorce tends to be more normative at younger ages whereas widowhood becomes increasingly likely with age. From a life course perspective, the timing of an event can magnify or reduce its influence on well-being. Off-time events are associated with poorer outcomes than on-time events. Thus, divorce prior to age 50 may be less detrimental to economic well-being than divorce after age 50. Those who divorce earlier in adulthood have more time to recoup the financial losses divorce usually entails. In contrast, those who divorce later have fewer years of working life remaining and may not be able to fully recover economically from a gray divorce. Indeed, gray divorce appears to diminish wealth more than an earlier divorce. Similarly, widowhood prior to age 50 is an off-time event that is not a normative life course experience. Young widows are more likely to become poor compared with older widows. Couples tend to be overly optimistic about the likelihood they both will survive to an old age. Thus they may not have adequately planned for this unlikely possibility and ultimately may be less able to recover fully.
Ultimately, from their research it appears that comparatively higher rates of poverty are associated with unmarried status as you age, but, particularly for women, late-in-life divorce may further increase the likelihood of poverty.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Over the holidays in December, I spent time with family in a hospital, responding to an emergency health situation. One of the staff told me it is "always" busier at the holidays, and she attributed this to family members gathering together and "realizing" that a loved one's health was declining. However, there may be more to it than that. Former New York Administrative Law Judge Karen Miller shared a very interesting Wall Street Journal article reporting on the trends in deaths at the holidays. While some of the information is, perhaps, expected, as you think about stress and weather contributing to health risks, the spike in deaths in early 2015 was unusual, when "nearly a third more senior citizens died than normal in the first two weeks of the new year." For more data, read "Why Death Doesn't Take a Holiday This Time of Year."
Thankfully, in our family we weren't dealing with a death! Thanks for sharing this article, Karen.