Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Age Does not Slow Down Triathlete Nancy Avitabile

A USA TODAY journalist, Janice Lloyd, reported on October 13, 2012, about a 64 year old woman athlete, Nancy Avitabile, who keeps improving her track record as she gets older.  What are her secrets?

First, she swims, bikes and and runs to strengthen her body by cross-training.  She offers you and me some tips about how to remedy some of the issues we older persons face as the years pile on.

"Building a strong core as well as strong legs and upper body has been essential to me as I've gotten older. . . Injuries can really set older people back. . . I keep my muscles strong to avoid injuries."

Second, our muscles start to weaken in our 20s and continue on the downward path unless we take action.  Athletic trainer Kent Biggerstaff has worked with top-class athletes and has come up with some recommendations for older persons.

Biggerstaff says that many people begin to lose muscle as early as their 20's.  Then, we may hurt one leg or ankle and begin to favor it.  If we don't correct this situaiton, the weakened muscles get worse and we can endure a more serious injury.  Kent suggests a test:  "Put your back against the wall with your feet 18 to 20 inches in front of you, squat down part way; lift up your left leg, and hold it off the ground for 15 seconds and then return your foot to the ground."  Keep trying to increase the time you can hold up the leg, thereby strengthening the quadriceps, hip muscles and the "glutes."  Crunches performed on an exercise ball can also strengthen your stomach muscles, Kent says. 

Are you exercising?  Are you pushing yourself to keep your leg and ankle muscles strong?  What works for you?

Please comment. 

Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nearly 40 Percent of HIV infected persons in Washington, DC, are over 50 years old

Washington, DC, must face up to HIV/AIDS among seniors; nearly 40 percent of affected older persons are over 50 years old. The Huff Post publication, DC Impact, posted Deborah Gresko's release on October 17, 2012.  She reports that seniors don't think that they are at risk due to their advanced age.  Some older women believe that menopause protects them against HIV/AIDS; other seniors think that if they are not sharing needles, then they are protected. Moreover, doctors rarely talk about unsafe sex or offer condoms to their senior patients. 

Finally, Viagra has given older men the capacity to have sex with many partners, including neighbors in nearby housing. After attending a recent workshop on the topic, an older woman said that she might share her new knowledge with her adult son.

What do you think?  Would you talk with your adult children about protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS?  Or, if you are a younger person, would you ask your grandmother about protective measures that she might need?  Have you or your friends been tested for HIV/AIDs?  Is it topic that you can even talk about?  Please comment.

Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ugandan Civil Servants getting HIV-AIDs infection

IRIN PlusNews, a publication that covers international news, filed a report on October 27, 2012, detailing the fact that "HIV prevalence among civil servants in Uganda is 16.3 percent, more than twice the national average.. .   Some 10.3 percent of hotel and restaurant workers and 9.8 percent of sales officials in Uganda are living with HIV .. ."  The virus is affecting 8.6 percent of workers in real estate, 7.4 percent of manufacturing workers, and 7.1 percent in fishing communities. 

Why?  A Ugandan parliament member suggested reasons:  Civil servants take part in many workshops where they meet abundant numbers of potential partners; they also are far from their wives and husbands; they become involved in "reckless behaviors."  While men predominate as HIV positive persons in the construction and transport sectors, HIV positive persons are higher among women (7.3 percent ) than among men (5.2 percent). 

Why is the rate so high among women?  Ugandans say that high mobility, jobs that separate spouses, and sex exploitation, including abuse, rape and even demands for sexual favors lead to this situation. Clearly, female partners lack knowledge, capacity or will to protect themselves with condoms, abstaining or other means. Sometimes, sex as requirement for job promotions or better working conditions is the order of the day. 

The Goverment has responded with efforts to reduce HIV in the workplace by trying to end discrimination against infected workers.  However, many infected Ugandan workers still don't get promoted, are not trained for better jobs, and may not get access to medical and sickness beneifts. How will their condition affect their old age and that of their families? 

The government has a new program assigning occupational health and safety inspectors to prevent workers' exposure to the virus.  Do you think this policy will end HIV in the Ugandan workplace?
If not, what might work? 

Please send your comments. 

Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Older Women: Get the facts about your sex life in the era of HIV-AIDs

Dear GAA Friend,      

Are you an older woman who has considered having unprotected sex?  If so, prepare now to protect yourself from infection with HIV.

Jane Fowler, Director of the HIV Wisdom for Older Women program in the US, has put together important research on Older Women’s vulnerability to HIV. Study her life-saving information carefully:

Facts    Nearly 10 percent (9.5) of AIDS cases in the US.female population are said to be in women older than age 50; and, numbers of cases are expected to increase, as women of all ages survive longer due to improved drug therapy and other treatment advances.

In the last decade, AIDS cases in women over 50 were reported to have tripled, while heterosexual transmission rates in this age group may have increased as much as 106 percent. But, because not all US states report HIV infections, it is impossible to know how many older American women are HIV-infected, but not diagnosed with AIDS.

"Older women," according to UNAIDS, "appear to have higher incidence than older men, and during a recent 5-year period, the number of new cases in this group increased by 40 percent. More than half of the infected over 50 are of African-American and Hispanic origin, indicating greater risks among minority groups."

Older women of color have higher rates of both HIV infections and diagnosed cases of AIDS.
While all older individuals with HIV infection or AIDS usually are invisible, isolated and ignored, this is particularly true of women, who are often unable to disclose their HIV status even to family and friends and, certainly, not their community.

Despite myths and stereotypes, many senior women are sexually active, and, some are drug users; therefore, their behaviors can put them at risk for HIV infection.

Health care and service providers---and older women, themselves---do not realize that they are at the same risk as other age populations; professionals often are reluctant to discuss or question matters of sexuality with their aging patients/clients.

Most women are first diagnosed with HIV at a late stage of infection, and often become ill with AIDS-related complications and die sooner than their younger counterparts; these deaths can be attributed to original misdiagnoses and immune systems that naturally weaken with age.
HIV/AIDS educational campaigns and programs are not targeted at/to older individuals.

Special Considerations

Rates of HIV infection (not AIDS) in all seniors, including women, are especially difficult to determine because older people are not routinely tested.

Older people, especially women, with HIV/AIDS face a double stigma: ageism and infection    with a sexually or drug-injecting transmitted disease; in addition, they are sensitive to a cultural attitude that assumes: "Elderly people have lived their lives -- so what if they die from AIDS?"

Seniors of both sexes are unlikely to consistently use condoms during sex because of a generational mindset and unfamiliarity with HIV/STD prevention methods.

For older women, there are special considerations: after menopause, condom use for birth control becomes unimportant, and normal aging changes such as a decrease in vaginal lubrication and thinning vaginal walls can put them at higher risk during unprotected sexual intercourse.

As HIV symptoms often are similar to those associated with aging (fatigue, weight loss, dementia, skin rashes, swollen lymph nodes), misdiagnosis is frequent in older women/people who are, in fact, infected.

Women and older males may confront social and professional bias regarding the allocation of limited health care services and resources available to the AIDS community (i.e., "why waste money on the elderly?")

Because the aging process itself lowers energy levels and results in restrictions in social routines which can cause emotional/psychological problems, the older woman/adult additionally infected with HIV may feel another "loss" and endure more severe depression.

Senior women often are less likely to find support and comfort among family and friends, and because they are traditionally not comfortable in support groups, they may be less inclined to join them, citing lack of shared experiences concerning different issues.

Due to the general lack of awareness of HIV/AIDS in older adults -- in particular, women -- this segment of the population, for the most part, has been omitted from research, clinical drug trials, educational prevention programs and intervention efforts.

Necessary Actions

Specific programs must be implemented for older adults, especially women, who need to be informed about the transmission and prevention of HIV.

Outreach should include workshops and trainings devoted to basic HIV/AIDS information, "safe" sexual and drug-using practices, testing, negotiation skills -- all in relationship to aging.

More research is needed to study seniors' sexual and drug-using behaviors and to determine HIV disease progression and treatments in the over-50 population.

Health care and service providers on all levels should be educated on HIV risk behaviors and symptoms of HIV infection; they need to conduct thorough sex and drug-use risk assessments with their older clients/patients.

Programs aimed at reaching health care and service providers should cover misdiagnoses, testing technologies, treatments, support groups, case management and the importance of being actively involved in the health and well-being of their older clients/patients.

Successful media and social marketing campaigns can raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in older people and reinforce the need for educational programs, while promoting respect and validation for the elderly as a group.

Jane P. Fowler compiled much of this tip sheet, based primarily on personal perspectives and experiences of consumers and professionals, while she was co-chairperson of the National Association on HIV Over Fifty. Now director of the national HIV Wisdom for Older Women program, she can be reached at:
Our thanks to Jane P. Fowler for her important research benefitting all older women.
Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Getting Older? Get moving, says Web MD

Dear GAA Friend,

Exercise and aging brains: Physical exercise may be even more urgent than mental exercise when it comes to keeping mentally sharp in old age, a new WebMD item suggests. A recent study of people in their early 70s found that those who engaged in regular physical exercise, such as walking, retained bigger brains than those who were inactive. Mental exercise, such as doing crossword puzzles, did not seem to effect the brain shrinkage associated with aging, researchers say. (WebMD)


Please write to us about how you manage to exercise:  What is your favorite exercise?  How do you make yourself DO IT?  What do you like best about exercising?  Send us your comments.

Have a great day!  Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Older Africans failing to get enough help to overcome HIV/AIDs

Dear Global Action on Aging Friend,

The News Agency AFP reported on October 19, 2012, that older citizens in Sub-Saharan Africa are likely to see a 200 percent increase in HIV infection over the next 30 years.  Experts  9.1 million Africans living with HIV by 2040.  Unfairly, HIV programs often ignore older people when they collect data.  As a result, death comes earlier to elders with HIV.  Older people often don't know the facts about HIV/AIDS and they start getting ARV treatment very late, if at all.  In summary, African data shows that the nations give primary attention to those who are 15 to 49 years old people.  Older people are often not tested, don't get early diagnoses or adequate medication. 

Why is this happening?  Robert Comming, an expert from the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney says, " . .there seems to be an attitude that people over 50 don't have sex and therefore can't get infected and that's clearly incorrect."  Clearly, older people are overlooked . . . is it because they are old? 

What do you think?  Are older people getting tested in your country?  What is holding them back?
Please send in your comments. Global Action wants to know what you think.

Have a good week,

Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Toward a Convention to Strengthen Older People's Rights

October 20, 2012

Dear Global Action on Aging Friend,

GAA has long advocated for a binding instrument that would guarantee the human rights of older persons.  And now, finally, we see some clear action at the UN.  The Government of El Salvador has submitted a draft resolution to the Third Committee of the current 67th UN Session calling for a "Comprehensive and integral international convention to promote and protect the rights and dignity of older persons."  (A/c.3/67/L.0)  Among many items, El Salvador wants to upgrade the Open Ended Working Groups (OEWG) to an "Ad Hoc Committee" open to UN States Members and observors. This Committee would collaborate in an intergovernmental process to consider proposals for a binding international convention to promote and protect the rights and dignity of older persons. It would work for no less than five days, listen to contributions from governments and NGOs and the private sector.  The Resolution asks for materials from many parts of the UN system, including the High Commissioner for Human Rghts, UN Women, and other units with special expertise.  And it suggests that the Ad Hoc Committee hold regional meetings throughout the world to hear recommendations about the content and practical issues to be considered in such a document.

Finally, it calls on the Ad Hoc Committee to prepare a first draft of an international conventon to promote and protect the rights and dignity of older persons.

Urge your government -- your Ambassador to the UN, your National Ministry on Aging, your Delegation in New York--to study this important initiative by El Salvador.  Older people have waited a long, long time for a guarantee of our human rights. 

And write to us -- please -- in the comment section.

Have a good weekend,
Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More older people working in elder caregiving jobs

NPR staffer Jennifer Ludden reports on National Public Radio that "some  2.5 million home health workers are graying . . .along with the clients they care for."  And, older people who need help are increasingly asking for "mature workers."  In this October 17, 2012 article, Ludden gives examples of 80 year olds caring for others of the same age.  She cites Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute data that reveals about 25% of aides to elders are in their mid-50's and the percentage is expected to grow.
And by all accounts, these older workers are especially well suited to the job.

Elders seem to prefer older workers and those close to their own age.  And they likely don't have to pay them as much as younger workers.

While the caregivers wages are low, caregivers protect themselve by not taking jobs that require lifting or moving hefty clients.  But most need the income and enjoy the company of their clients.  It's the older workers who remain on the job.

Do you have experience as a paid worker for older persons?  Did you have good work conditions?  Did you get paid on time?  What was your biggest challenge?  Please send your comments.

Have a great day,

Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chinese Premier wants more Social Pensions for Ctizens

The Chinese newspaper, Global Times, reports on October 15, 2012, that Premier Wen Jiabao has urged the government to step up its funding of social pensions for Chinese citizens. But what is a "social pension?"

It's any government-sponsored program with the following four characteristics: (1) laws or statutes that define the benefits, eligibility requirements and other features; (2) explicit provision is made to account for the income and expenses (often through a trust fund) of the program; (3) participants pay taxes or premiums to fund the program; it serves a defined population, and participation is either compulsory or the program is heavily enough subsidized that most eligible persons decide to participate.  In the US, social pensions include Social Security, Medicare, the Railroad Retirement program,and state-sponsored unemployent insurance programs, and others.

Do you have a social insurance program in your country?  If not, start campaigning today to get one.  Many NGOs that work alongside older people are demanding social pensions to insure that everyone in the country has a pension and other support when they need it.  Also, social pensions will be a key feature in any Human Rights Convention (treaty) that the UN drafts in the weeks and years ahead. 

Tell us your situation. Do you have a social pension now? Will you have one in the future?
Have a good week, Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

No Place for Elders in Kuala Lampur

Adult children and other family members are increasingly abandoning their 60-years-plus elders who have been hospitalized, according to reporters Lim Wey Wen and Yuen Meikeng writing in The Star, on October 8, 2012.  Earlier in 2011, some 200 seniors in this Malaysian city were left behind.  Nearly all came from poor families.  Six months into 2012, over 250 older people had been left in the hospital following their discharge.  NGOs that run public shelters had already filled their beds earlier in the year.

Why is this happening?  Poverty in families and in public funding for older people underlies this terrible situation.  In the most recent data collected in 2004, about 675,000 older parents received no funding from their children. 

What is your situation?  Would your adult children or other family members help you financially if your resources were exhausted?  Please comment.

Thanks, Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Friday, October 12, 2012

Canada's Courts rule that some HIV carriers don't need to tell partners about their condition

Dear GAA Friend,

Nearly everyone knows now that older persons are increasingly engaged in sex and can be exposed to HIV/AIDS. What are the rules about informing a partner about one's condition?  Are there any? 

This past Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that it's a "sexual assault" if there is a "realistic possibility" that the partner gave the AIDS virus to his/her partner.

The Supreme Court nullified existing Canadian law that required persons with HIV to disclose their condition to partners without exception.  

People have plenty of opinions about this issue:  Some say that "telling" is not necessary when partners use condoms because there's little chance of HIV/AIDS transmission.  Others feel that persons with HIV make up a marginalized group and that they should not have their civil liberties denied by having to tell every potential partner that they have HIV/AIDS.

What do you think?  Please send your comments.

Have a good weekend, Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ed Shaw on Truvada

 Ed Shaw and Sanna Klemetti

To follow up on the GAA article about Truvada, (the first HIV prevention pill on the market), I met up with Ed Shaw, who is a friend, an activist, and a senior who lives with AIDS in New York City. Ed Shaw was diagnosed with HIV in 1988 at the age of 47, and he is now considered a long time survivor. I have written two previous articles about Ed, please read the articles here, and here.

After consulting with his doctor, Ed decided that he wanted to start taking Truvada. The drug Truvada was not a prevention pill when it first came out on the market 2004; it was an antiretroviral drug for treating HIV. But starting in 2010, studies showed that the drug could actually prevent people from contracting HIV when used as a precautionary measure. A three year-long study found that a daily dose cut the risk of infection in healthy gay and bisexual men by 42 percent, when combined with condoms and counseling. Last year another study showed that Truvada reduced infection by 75 percent in heterosexual couples in which one partner was infected with HIV and the other was not.

I asked Ed if he was experiencing any side effects from taking Truvada. He told me that he has been on a lot of different drugs through the years and that Truvada is by far the least toxic antiretroviral he has ever used. Ed takes two other pills along with Truvada every day. Importantly , since he got on Truvada, his viral load is undetectable and his T-cells have reached near 800. A health adult usually has CD4+ T-cell counts of 800 and more; meanwhile a person living with HIV/AIDS has fewer than 200 CD4+ T-cells.

Ed explained that he has more problems now with the co-morbidity of aging, than with his virus. I also asked if he thinks Truvada is a good prevention pill to take for older adults and seniors who are in the risk zone for HIV. He definitely thinks so, he saying, “Truvada is the best thing since sliced bread!”.

Over all he is doing very well. He is still active and involved in a lot of different projects. Last June, Ed participated in the AIDS Walk in Washington DC. He told me that over 28 .000 people showed up, not only from the US, but also many came from a large number of countries. Ed is still active with his own organization, the New York Association on HIV Over Fifty (NYAHOF). There is one thing where he thinks we have failed: HIV prevention. He believes that advocates must take a more intergenerational approach. He does not understand why some groups are being left out. He is currently working on projects that will reach the entire population across all ages.

Word by Sanna Klemetti
Photos by Kirill Ginko

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tired of hearing that Baby Boomers are Pushing Young Workers Out of Jobs?

Dear GAA Friend,

Do you sometimes feel that older people are taking the blame for staying on the job and shutting out  younger people who want jobs?  If so, read Alicia H. Munnel and April Yanyan Wu's analysis of "the lump of labor" in the October 2012 issue from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.  It's titled "Are Aging Baby Boomers Squeezing Young Workers out of Jobs?"  Munnel and Wu dissect the "lump of labor" argument and conclude that "the evidence suggests that greater employment of older persons leads to better outcomes for the young -- reduced unemployment, increased employment, and a higher wage."  Hats off to these scholars! 

Best, Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

UN Member States may Start Work on a Convention to Guarantee the Human Rights of Older People

October 6, 2012

Dear GAA Friend,

EXCITING NEWS:   A UN Member State may well suggest next week (October 9-12, 2012) that the UN General Assembly consider a resolution to begin work leading to a Human Rights Convention on Aging. 

Nearly 100 Member States will have to vote in favor of the resolution for it to pass.  If successful, Member States would then begin to consider what human rights should be included in a Convention.

The prospect that the UN may move in this direction soon is very welcome news to older people everywhere, as well as NGOs, including Global Action on Aging.  We'll keep you posted on this exciting development in the days and weeks ahead. 

Have a great week, Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

Thursday, October 4, 2012

LINK to "Ageing in the Twenty-First Century:A Celebration and A Challenge

Dear GAA Friend,

Here is the link to the important new resource from UNFPA and HelpAge International describing the situation of older people worldwide: To access the report, go to:  

You will find helpful data that summarizes how older people are living their lives--some with joy and others with great pain--in every region of the world.  You will also learn how social protection that embraces income support and access to health care figures in a "good old age." 

We could all wish to say along with 86 year old Tony Fitzpatrick from Ireland: "I know that I'm lucky.  Younger people nowadays are crippled with large mortgages and by high unemployment.  It must be very stressful for them.  Throughout my life, I had a stable pensionable job.  Young people now feel threatened that they might lose their jobs at a given moment in time."  (See page 53.)

What is your situation? Please comment.  

Have a good day, Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

New American Media on Social Security Crisis

New American Media Post:  Larry Polivka, Posted Oct. 2, 2012

Federal Report Calls for Cuts, Ignores Americans’ Retirement-Security Crisis

Federal Report Calls for Cuts, Ignores Americans’ Retirement-Security Crisis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.--A disturbing new report mandated by Congress from National Research Council (NRC) concludes that the rapid growth of the 65-plus population in the United States and the continuing strain on public resources will make Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid “unsustainable” over the next three decades.

What’s troubling, though, are not the report’s conclusions, but its bias toward a strictly budgetary outlook. Unfortunately, this study—from a federally chartered body charged with scientifically objective research--is so unbalanced that it does a disservice to the full range of viewpoints on this politically volatile issue.

The report, titled Aging and the Macroeconomy, fails to take into account the microeconomic realities facing tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-income and ethnic minority groups.

The report’s 14 authors are almost all economists, and the research group does not represent the range of social gerontologists or public health experts, who might have contributed a broader understanding of the human impact of programs the report suggests cutting.

As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman stated in his New York Times column, Oct. 1, “Contrary to Beltway conventional wisdom, America does not have an ‘entitlements problem.’ Mainly, it has a health-cost problem, private as well as public,” that is not only in Medicare and Medicaid.

Recommendations Would Disadvantage Those in Need

The NRC report recommends that the government address the difficult years ahead by combining major changes to contain spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, with efforts to urge people to work longer and save more during their working years. But these recommendations are likely to disadvantage the individuals and families who would be most affected by the emerging threats to a secure retirement.

Today's workers -- many of them trapped in low-wage, often physically grinding jobs with declining benefits -- are already facing a grim future in which the kind of retirement their parents were able to take for granted is out of reach.

Unemployment and stagnant or declining wages have drained American families of the capacity to save for retirement. And the recession has deeply undermined household wealth, especially for African Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic families.

The NRC report acknowledges that only half of American workers have private pensions and that most of them have seen substantial traditional pensions replaced by riskier and more-limited 401(k)s — the ones that depend on the fluctuating stock and bond markets.

Yet the NRC report’s recommendations that people worker longer and save more are disconnected from the realities of average workers. Median wages have remained stagnant or actually declined since the 1970s. Men with a high school degree or less have suffered as much as a 30 percent decline in income since 1973. Also, those with lower educational levels are losing ground to Americans at higher education levels in their life expectancy.

Increasingly, families have had to rely on debt to cover such essentials as housing and health care, which cost much more than they did in the 1980s. They don’t need the NRC economists to scold them.

In recommending that people work longer, the report’s contributors imply support for increasing the eligibility age for full Social Security benefits. This recommendation, however, ignores that many workers, especially those doing manual labor or other stressful jobs simply cannot work longer even if jobs were available.

Program Cuts Would Increase Elders’ Poverty

The report, instead of confronting our need to reverse the 30 years of economic policies that have undermined modern American retirement security, focuses on so-called structural changes, formulas that would partly cut the very programs Americans rely on for security in old age or at times when they can’t work. Those programs remain the only reliable sources of economic stability for many current seniors and most future retirees.

The budget reductions the report’s authors recommend would surely increase the number of older people in poverty. According to 2011 figures from the Census Bureau, senior impoverishment is already at 15.9 percent, if one includes out-of-pocket medical expenses—a cost not factored into the Federal Poverty Line.

Were the government to adopt the NRC report’s recommendations, expect access to appropriate health care to decline. Direct costs for beneficiaries--already 16 percent of income for those over 65, according to a 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation report—would rise with cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

Even under current law, out-of-pocket costs are projected to reach 26 percent of the average beneficiary’s income by 2020, as increasing Medicare premiums and deductibles are subtracted from Social Security checks.

Rising Medicare costs are not a result of inefficiencies unique to the Medicare or Medicaid programs. What causes these increases are the same factors that have driven costs in the entire U.S. health care system significantly above the Consumer Price Index for almost 40 years.

These factors include advances in medical technology, such as genetically targeted drugs, and a health care system that is unique among developed nations by being so driven by shareholder value, high executive compensation and professional salaries, especially for doctors and administrators. Add to that out-of-pocket charges for what Medicare doesn’t cover.

Another new study reveals the enormous costs to patients in the last five years of their lives. Published by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, this research [] found that those costs average $38,688. And if Alzheimer’s disease is a factor, personal costs almost double to $66,105 with much of that amount coming from long-term care expenses not now covered by the Medicare program.

These are major reasons the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that over half of boomers will not achieve economic security in retirement.

Three-Quarters of Seniors at Risk

The level of economic risk facing retirees has risen steadily since the early 1980s. According to an analysis conducted by the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, 78 percent of all senior households are financially vulnerable and do not have enough economic security to sustain them for the rest of their lives.

Among senior households with a single person (mainly women), 84 percent are financially vulnerable, and 36 percent are at serious financial risk. Most of this economic jeopardy is generated by the lack of assets (low financial net worth) largely caused by the their inability to save while working, by small or no private pensions, by high and rising out-of-pocket medical costs, and by insufficient monthly income to absorb unexpected expenses.

The Great Recession has increased Americans’ level of financial risk by reducing retirement investment accounts and the value of equity in homes. Even though seniors have higher home ownership rates than younger people, they incur high housing costs because of rising property taxes in many areas, home repairs (try fixing a leaky roof on just Social Security income) and related factors.

Also, the report’s implied notion of raising the full Social Security retirement age ignores the fact that older minorities and aging white at lower income levels have significantly shorter lives than middle-class and elite-class whites. They would be substantially disadvantaged by a higher retirement age. These are also the groups, who will soon constitute a majority of older Americans.

A Better Strategy

A far better strategy for strengthening our shaky retirement security system would be to increase Social Security benefits for low income beneficiaries under or close to the poverty line, add long-term care as a Medicare benefit, and contain our out of control health care economy.

Neither this report nor any other that fails to address all of these issues honestly and fairly should be used as a guiding framework for dealing with our multi-faceted retirement security crisis. The NRC promises a follow-up study that will provide more “specific policy choices.” I hope that one will be more balanced.

Larry Polivka is Executive Director of the Claude Pepper Center at Florida State University and Scholar in Residence of the Claude Pepper Foundation. He is the former Director of the Florida Agency for Aging and Disabled Services.

Monday, October 1, 2012

UN urges Protection for Elderly as World Grays

Today, October 1, 2012, the UN launched its new report, "Ageing in the Twenty-First Century:  A Celebration and A Challenge," in both Japan and New York.  UNFPA and HelpAge International took primary responsibility for preparing the document with the collaboration of UNDESA, FAO, ILO, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UN Habitat, UNCHR, UNICEF, UN Women, WFP, WHO, ECA, ECE, ECLAC, ESCAP, ESCWA, HelpAge USA, IFA, INPEA, IOM and Global Action on Aging. 

The reader will find amply reasons supporting an International Treaty to guarantee the human rights of older persons.  And you'll learn how older peoples' lives can be enhanced everywhere. We'll send you the link for the full text very soon.   Read on!   Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging. 

October 1, 2012

UN urges protection for elderly as world grays

TOKYO — The fast aging of Japanese society is evident as soon as one lands at Tokyo's Narita airport and sees who is doing the cleaning. Young people tend to take such menial jobs in other countries, but here they are often held by workers obviously in the second half-century of their lives.

Having the world's highest percentage of older people is creating unique challenges for Japan, but a report released Monday by the U.N. Population Fund warns that they will not be unique for long. Japan is the only country with 30 percent of its population over 60, but by 2050 more than 60 other countries, from China to Canada to Albania, will be in the same boat.

The report urges governments to summon the political will to protect the elderly and ensure they can age with good health and dignity. Discrimination toward and poverty among the aged are still far too prevalent in many countries, it says, even in the relatively wealthy industrialized nations.

The problem is worse for women, whose access to jobs and health care is often limited throughout their lives, along with their rights to own and inherit property.

"More must be done to expose, investigate and prevent discrimination, abuse and violence against older persons, especially women who are more vulnerable," the report says, calling on countries to "ensure that aging is a time of opportunity for all."

"We need bold political leadership," said Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the Population Fund. "Aging is manageable, but first it must be managed."

In some countries, such as Latvia and Cyprus, about half of those over 60 are living in poverty. And even in highly industrialized countries such as Japan the elderly struggle to get some services.

Hisako Tsukida, a 77-year-old retired elementary school teacher in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto, is living what sounds like a dream retirement life, taking tai chi and flower arrangement lessons and visiting a fitness center for spa treatments and muscle training.

But her current leisure followed many years of caring for her ailing husband and then for her mother. Japan's elderly often take on enormous burdens in caring for older relatives at home.

Tsukida spent years trying to find a nursing home for her mother, now 100, and finally succeeded about six months ago after a rare vacancy opened up. But now she wonders about the time when she'll have to go through the same struggle for herself.

"I wonder if I could do this again when I'm even older and need to find myself a place to go," she said.

The U.N. report said that policy discussions of all kinds must include a consideration of problems facing the aging if mankind is to reap a "longevity benefit" from people's longer life expectancies.

Governments should build safety nets to ensure older people have income security and access to essential health and social services, it said. The report cited data from the International Labor Organization showing that only about a fifth of all workers get comprehensive social insurance.

Aging is no longer solely an issue for rich countries. About two-thirds of people over 60 years old live in developing countries such as China, and by 2050 that figure is expected to rise to about 80 percent.

One in nine people — 810 million — are 60 or older, a figure projected to rise to one in five — or more than 2 billion — by 2050.

Even Japan, the world's third-largest economy, offers only meager social benefits, though government-subsidized services provide affordable household help and daycare in some areas.

Neighbors and religious groups often help older people, and public facilities have been vastly improved from a few decades ago, with elevators and other handicapped access now the norm.

The discovery earlier this year, though, that an aged couple and their son apparently had starved to death in their home in a Tokyo suburb highlighted Japan's own growing problems with poverty and unemployment.

Growing numbers of people suffering from dementia pose another challenge. About 35.6 million people around the world were afflicted with the disease in 2010, a number growing about 7.7 million a year and costing about $604 billion worldwide.

Provisions must be made for the infirm to ensure their basic human rights, the U.N. report says.

In many countries, including the United States, India, Brazil and Mexico, statistics show the elderly often pay more into pension systems over their lifetimes than they receive in return. Meanwhile, as retirement ages are raised and benefits cut due to ballooning deficits, the elderly are paying proportionately more in taxes.

The report blamed a bias toward youth in mass media, which stereotype aging as a time of decline, for lowering expectations about life for older people. It noted that older people often live highly productive, enjoyable lives if they have good health and reasonable levels of income.

The report's authors also argued against a prevalent belief that older workers should make way for younger job seekers, saying that way of thinking is based on the mistaken idea that there is a finite number of jobs and that workers are perfectly interchangeable.

"More jobs for older people do not mean fewer jobs for younger people," it says.