Monthly Archives: September 2013

Flu + You Campaign

Illness prevention is an important aspect of positive aging.  One of the easier ways to prevent illness is through timely innoculations, such as the flu shot, and early fall is the time to get the shot for optimum protection against influenza.  The National Council on Aging , NCOA, has a very robust toolkit for organizations and groups to use to educate older adults about the benefits of getting the flu shot.  The campaign is called Flu + You, and the toolkit includes a guide, a brochure, a PowerPoint presentation, handout????????????????????????s, and posters, with materials in Spanish, as well as English.  There is also a widget, with HTML coding, that you can place on your Web site which provides updated information on the flu season.   If you don’t want to download the materials, you can order most of them, for free, from the National Council on Aging.  Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University 

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Retirement Security

We know that the “three-legged stool” of retirement security has largely become a “two-legged stool” over the last several decades.   The “legs” of pension, Social Security benefits, and personal savings, have been reduced to personal savings and Social Security benefits for many.  Company and public pensions (defined benefit programs) are on the wane, while 401(k) or 403(b) plans (defined contribution programs) have become much more common.     While companies often contribute to defined contribution plans up to a given percent of income, the bulk of the contributions come from the employees, and represent personal savings in a tax deferred instrument. Thus the demise of the “third leg” of the retirement security foundation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review of December 2012, pension coverage of private industry workers has declined from 35% in the last 1990s to 18% in 2011.  Of those who are covered by a pension plan, 1 out of 5 of them participate in frozen plans.  That is, new employees of their companies are not permitted to participate.  Only 10% of private industry companies offer a pension plan, and 48% of those are larger organizations with at least 500 employees. ( But 52% of U.S. workers are employed by firms with less than 500 employees.)  Among private industry employers, there is great variation in the existence of a pension program by industry sector .  Utilities and banking related industries far exceed any other industry sector in the frequency of including a pension among employee benefits.

The National Institute on Retirement Security is a non-profit research and education organization formed by member organizations who are concerned with retirement plans and policies. The Institute recently conducted a poll to assess the attitudes of American adults toward retirement security.  The poll was administered to 800 individuals aged 25 or older through telephone interviews held between December 3 and December 22, 2012.  The findings were released in a report, Pensions and Retirement Security 2013:  A Roadmap for Policy Makers.

The report reveals that 85% of those polled expressed anxiety about their prospects for a decent retirement income, and nearly as many feel that federal elected officials fail to understand their struggles to save toward retirement.  These attitudes are not limited to Baby Boomers (those born 1946-64).  Millennials  (those born after 1976) also express concerns, and 90% of them believe lawmakers need to make improvement of the retirement system a higher priority.  Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University

Fitness for People Over 50

The National Go4LifeInstitute on Aging‘s campaign for exercise and physical activity for mature adults, called Go4Life, has been around for a couple of years.  However, they keep adding new features, like their Twitterstream @NIAGo4Life and online coaches.  You can create an account and track your progress with your fitness plan.  The site also has numerous free resources to download or order, including an exercise guide and a DVD, which can be secured in quantity for distribution to groups of older adults and/or caregivers. They have posters, book marks, tip sheets, and more.  Take advantage of this resource for yourself, your family, and your clients or customers.

Report Indicates Older Workers Do Not Crowd Out Younger Workers

With the present recession, many older workers have chosen to delay retirement in order to recover retirement savings lost in the downturn or cover out of pocket medical costs.  A current meme suggests that older employees are displacing younger ones or are depriving younger prospective workers of jobs.  A recent Issue Brief of the Pew Charitable Trust, entitled “When Baby Boomers Delay Retirement, Do Younger Workers Suffer?“, refutes that notion.  The document reports on the analysis of Current Population Survey data from 1977 to 2011, and states in the Conclusion, “the evidence suggests that greater employment of older persons leads to better outcomes for the young—reduced unemployment, increased employment, and a higher wage.  The patterns are consistent for both men and women and for groups with different levels of education. And perhaps most notably, the effects of Boomer employment on other segments of the labor market during the Great Recession do not differ from those during typical business cycles.”

We need to carefully examine assertions that contribute to competition and divisiveness among the generations.  Buying into ideas that pit one end of the lifespan against another ignores our interdependence, and could end up depriving the young of the support and experience of our elders, and the old of the joy of contributing to the prosperity of the young.    Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University

Entrepreneurship in Aging Services

People who want to start a successful business are increasingly recognizing the impact of the “silver tsunami”.  Entrepreneurial folks are looking for a market niche, and finding lots of them.  Older adults have needs that current products and services are not meeting.  For example, those of us who don’t currently live in a dwelling amenable to aging in place will need to make some changes.  So, real estate agents are specializing in matching sellers with buyers who want to age in place.  Home remodelers are specializing in making homes suitable for older adults to negotiate safely.  Technology companies are marketing Web sites that allow families to monitor their older relative’s movements through the use of heat and motion sensors placed in the home.  Businesses are spreading that help older adults find alternative housing and move into age-friendlier environments.

Some of these businesses are franchised around the country.  An example is Assisted Transition, a service which provides advisors that offer “personalized senior living placement and care consultation services”.  The franchising organization has coAssistedTransitionlogonstructed a network of  firms that cater to the needs of older adults, such as senior independent housing, assisted living communities, home care, adult day care, and continuing care retirement communities, which Assisted Transition charges for providing referrals.  The clients of Assisted Transition are served at no charge.  Franchisees also pay the parent company for their network, branding, and other business services.

I think we’re going to see lots more businesses form to meet the needs of the growing older adult population.  The opportunities are only limited by the scope of one’s imagination and amount of start up capital!  Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University

Brutal Job Search Reality for Older Americans Out of Work

Paul Solman of PBS NewsHour has a series on the experience of older workers in the US, and this video focuses on the long term unemployed who are 55 years of age and older.  Over half of unemployed older workers are considered long term unemployed.  According to the video, a factor that is significantly responsible for the failure of older workers to find jobs is age discrimination, largely due to the stereotypes of hiring managers and HR professionals.

The film is just over 10  1/2 minutes in length, and is preceded by a 30 second ad.  Click the following link to view the film:  Brutal Job Search Reality for Older Americans Out of Work

Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University

When People with Dementia Are Hospitalized

adear_topIt can be a nightmare when a person with dementia is hospitalized.  The environment is strange; the person is frightened and sick; family members may not be able to stay; and “problem” behaviors are almost inevitable. The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center, a branch of the National Institute on Aging, has a downloadable publication called “Acute Hospitalization and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Special Kind of Care  which is aimed at healthcare providers.  it would be a handy document to take to the ER or hospital when a family member with dementia needs care.  It offers suggestions for hospital personnel on how to communicate with the patient, ways to manage ADL’s, how to camouflage tubes and dressings, and numerous other helpful tips.  Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University