AARP study shows Seniors favor a good life, over a lengthy one

Published in RINewsToday on September 26, 2022, 

Even with many older adults facing health challenges in their later years, they maintain an optimistic view of their aging and expect their lives to improve as they grow older, according to new research findings from AARP in collaboration with National Geographic Partners. The study found that three-quarters or more of those age 60 and over have at least one serious health condition, nearly half rate their health as very good or excellent.  

“The insights in this [57 page] study demand that we reexamine our assumptions about aging, especially outdated stereotypes around growing older,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP in a statement released on June 1, 2022, announcing the findings of the study. “Far from being dragged down by worries about their health and finances, adults in their 70s and beyond are optimistic and positive about their lives.

They have a clear-eyed view of what it means to age, and they want their final decades of life to be independent and healthy – as they define the terms!” she says. 

According to the Second Half of Life Research study, Americans are doing more to stay healthy as they move into their later years.  They are more likely to take control of their health by getting health screenings, eating more produce and monitoring their sugar intake. And having more healthy years matters more than simply living longer – most respondents say that they were interested in a hypothetical pill that could slow down aging, but far fewer would take a pill to extend their life by a decade. 

The AARP study also found that the oldest Americans are also some of the happiest people: about one in three people aged 80 and older said they were very happy with their life, compared to just 16% of those ages 40-49. The researchers paired a national survey of adults 18 and older with in-depth interviews to paint a detailed picture of Americans’ outlook on life in the years from 40 to 100, and how those perceptions evolve with each decade. They found that relations with families and friends become an important feature and a source of purpose and joy as we age. Retirement allows one to control their lives and they choose to spend it with loved ones and having hobbies. Travel is expected but falls off as the person ages.  

The AARP study’s findings indicate that as people move into their later years, they don’t seem concerned about the length of their life, and as they live longer it becomes even less of a concern. “Fear of dying is low and drops as you age; feeling the need to prepare grows as you age,” notes the researchers.

On the financial front, just over half of adults 70 and older say their financial situation is excellent or very good – but responses vary widely by household income. More than half of those with an income of less than $30,000 per year rate their financial situation as fair or poor, while 60% of those with an income over $100,000 rate their finances as excellent or very good.

Among adults who are still working, most want to retire at a younger age than they think they will be able to – a gap that gets smaller with age. 

Most Americans want and expect to live independently as they age; only in their 80s did more respondents say they would need support to do so. Living in “my home” is also preferred over living in a retirement community, but this desire declines in the later decades, says the study’s findings.

The AARP Study also found that brain health, independence, and relationships were the top concerns of the respondents. The study’s findings indicate that memory loss was a top concern, too. For the respondents, memory and strength becomes a top concern as the person reached age 50 and over, while fear of cancer became less of a concern.

The study’s respondents expressed fear of becoming incontinent and have diminished hearing in their later years, but fear of diabetes and sexual performance loss declined after their 60s. 

For older study respondents, reliance on Social Security becomes a certainty. Hopefully this finding will reach the ears of Congressional lawmakers as they debate the merits of strengthening and expanding the nation’s Social Security program.

The study’s findings note that researchers also say that fears about the ability to live independently steadily increase over the decades.  Assistance from family and friends are more preferable to respondents when living at home, than hiring help. This preference increases as they age.

AARP’s Second Half of Life study, conducted in collaboration with National Geographic Partners with Heart+Mind Strategies, included an online and telephone survey of 2,580 US adults ages 18 and older, conducted January 7-28, 2022, and 25 in-depth, individual 30-minute interviews conducted virtually from February 22 to March 4, 2022.  Final data have been weighted to the U.S. Census for analysis by age group, gender, census division, ethnicity, and education.

To view the Second Half of Life Study’s report, go to:  https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/life-leisure/2022/second-half-life-desires-concerns-report.doi.10.26419-2Fres.00538.001.pdf.

For more information, please contact Vicki Levy, AARP’s Senior Research Advisor, at vlevy@aarp.org.

Senior Centers key provider in RI’s Long-Term Care Continuum 

Published in RINewsToday on September 19, 2022

Over nine years ago, this columnist penned a commentary, “Senior Centers, Not Just a Place to Play Bingo,” that appeared in the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call.  As we celebrate National Senior Centers Month in September, today’s Senior Centers continue to take a wholistic view of providing programs and services to their older participants. They are providing programming and services that truly takes into account the body, mind and social needs of their members, aged 55 and up. As I stated years ago, “senior centers are not a place that our parents once visited years ago to just knit or play bingo.” That continues to be true, and even more so, today. 

“Every day, senior centers bring our grandparents, parents, older neighbors, and friends together to build community and share trusted services and information to help all age well,” said Dianne Stone, NCOA’s Associate Director of Network Development and Engagement in a statement announcing the September celebration of the nation’s Senior Centers. “Research shows that compared with their peers, people who attend senior centers have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction,” she says.

“There’s never been a better time to come home to your senior center,” Stone said. “Come see everything your local center has to offer,” adds Stone.

Senior Centers continue to be a catalyst for mobilizing the creativity, energy, vitality, and commitment of the older participants, says Mayor Donald R. Grebien in a proclamation he released on September 1, recognizing September as Senior Citizens Month. The City’s Leon Mathieu Senior Center, like the 35 senior centers around the state, empower their older participants to take control of their own health and well-being and the health of their fellow participants, says the mayor. 

Established in the 1980s by the U.S. Administration on Aging, the centers programming has slowly evolved to encompass activities that encourage healthy aging and wellness. Senior Centers across the Ocean State offer activities and programs, case management and social services and public benefits counseling, also social and cultural programming, social and recreational opportunities, even offering a place to eat a nutritional meal.

Many of the Senior Centers have their own vans and drivers who transport seniors to and from their homes for shopping, social cultural activities, to medical appointments and into each Senior Center’s meal sites.

Even during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senior Centers responded by connecting with their members by making health checks thru telephone calls, offering programs and services via internet and social media sites, and delivering meals to the homebound seniors. During the ongoing pandemic, Senior Centers continue to provide countless hours of support to older adults, and have become integral to health care delivery throughout Rhode Island by providing COVID-19 guidance home testing kits and vaccine education to their participants.

At Pawtucket’s Leon Mathieu Senior Center, health screenings, specifically taking blood pressure readings, are performed by nursing students from Rhode Island College and URI Pharmacy students discuss the importance of being compliant with taking prescribed medications, too. Proper nutritional counseling is also offered. 

Starting in church basements, many as small social clubs, the passage of the Older Americans Act in 1965, propelled Senior Centers into a key provider role in the nation’s long term care continuum of care.

Today, more than 10,000 Senior Centers serve one million older adults every day. In Rhode Island, 35 agencies, serving over 200,000 persons, are geographically spread out from Westerly to Woonsocket and from Foster to Tiverton. Some are managed by municipalities, others by nonprofit groups. While catering to serving the state’s burgeoning elderly population, some have expanded their mission to offer programs for young and middle-aged adults.

According to the state’s Office of Healthy Aging, Rhode Island’s older adult population is growing rapidly. Over 31 percent of Rhode Islanders are 55 or older versus 28 percent nationally, and our state has the highest proportion in the United States of those 85 or older. 

With the graying of Rhode Island, the state’s Senior Centers are offering programming and services to attract the state’s aging baby boomers by focusing on health and wellness, recreation, and lifelong learning.  Yes, Senior Centers are a key provider in the state’s long-term care continuum to keep aging boomers, healthy, independent and allow them to age in place in the community.

Providing resources for local senior programs should be a shared responsibility of federal, state, and local governments, says Maureen Maigret,  chair of the Long-Term Care Coordinating Council’s Aging in Community Subcommittee and a Board Member of Senior Agenda Coalition of Rhode Island (SACRI).  “It was frustrating to see drastic state cuts to these programs in the mid 1990’s and we were pleased funding was restored. Governor McKee put $200,000 in the current budget, with the idea this was a step toward to providing funding equal to ten dollars per person aged 65-plus in each community,” she notes. 

“Aging advocates such as the SACRI will be pushing to get to the ten dollar level,” says Maigret. As state funding increases, Maigret calls on local communities to continue to provide funding and resources to their local senior centers to meet projected population growth of their older adult residents.  

According to Maigret, research has shown their importance in slowing or preventing functional decline and promoting a good quality of life.

Today’s Senior Centers are not your parent’s bingo hall, as some still mistakenly believe. Why not visit the Leon Mathieu Senior Center or your local Senior Center during National Senior Center Month and you may even be surprised with what you find? Call the Leon Mathieu Senior Center for more details about its offered programs and services at 401/728-7582. Or go to https://pawtucketri.com/senior-center.

To find a Senior Center in your community go to https://agefriendlyri.org/tools-resources/senior-centers-rhode-island/./Herb Weiss

 

Speaker Pelosi: Bring Larson’s Social Security proposal to a floor vote 

Published in RINewsToday on September 12, 2022

On the 87th Anniversary of Social Security, the Washington, DC based Social Security Works (SSW) hosted a “Social Security Town Hall Meeting” to get the word out about the importance of passing the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust. 

The virtual town hall meeting brought together House lawmakers, aging advocates and beneficiaries to send a strong message to House Democratic leadership to support the markup of Congressman John Larson’s (D-CT) social security proposal to expand and strengthen Social Security and send it to the House floor for a vote.

The town hall participants, including host Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works, Larson, chair of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Peter Morley, Patient Advocate and co-founder of Health Care Awareness month, and John Blair, who chairs the Community Advisory Board, SPACE in Action, strongly supported quick action and passage of the legislative proposal. Additionally, several members of Congress also pre-recorded videos which were played at the end of the town hall meeting.

Town hall participants used the Aug. 15th virtual town meeting to highlight polls that show Democratic and Republican voters strongly support Democratic proposals to expand Social Security, and to call on House leader Nancy Pelosi to schedule a vote on Larson’s legislative proposal prior to the upcoming mid-term elections.  

Throughout the hour-long internet discussion, they also condemned the recent attacks on Social Security from Senate Republicans. Specifically, Sen Ron Johnson has called for Social Security spending to be considered “discretionary spending” and subject to routine budget negotiations, even though the program is self-funded by workers. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), chairing the GOP’s committee to re-take the Senate, also has proposed a plan where Social Security would have to be renewed by Congress every five years. And finally, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is pushing for passage of the TRUST Act, which could fast-track legislation to cut Social Security benefits. 

“Social Security has provided our nation with the most comprehensive retirement, disability, and survivors benefits for 87 years,” said Larson. “Democrats are fighting to expand and protect it, yet my Republican colleagues have plans to cut benefits and even end the program as a whole,” he noted.

Larson noted that Congress had not acted in 50 years to enhance benefits. “The American people have made clear they want to protect the program they pay into with each and every paycheck so they can retire with dignity,” he said. “With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting our country and Republicans revealing their plans to end benefits, there is a fierce urgency to protect and enhance Social Security now. Alongside commemorating 87 years of this program, Congress must pass Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust to make much needed benefit improvements and ensure this program can serve our nation for years to come. Congress must vote!” he said. 

Congresswomen Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Caucus Progressive, representing 100 lawmakers made an urgent call for the protection and expansion of Social Security. “It’s not an entitlement program,” she said, stressing that it is an earned benefit.

“The work we have to do to make sure that this earned benefit pays out the dividends that keep up with the requirement and needs of our Social Security benefit is what H. R. 2100 is all about,” she said, pushing Larson’s Social Security legislative proposal.  

Like Larson, Jayapal calls Social Security the most successful antipoverty program in this country.  “It has lifted more than 20 million Americans out of poverty, including one million children and more 16 million older Americans.  It provides a lifeline to over 16 disabled persons.,” she says.

Julian Blair, Chair of the Advisory Board, SPACEs in Action, called for Congress to get behind expanding and protecting Social Security. “Expanding Social Security …will allow us seniors, and many other people who depend on Social Security, to live with a little dignity—a right all of us have earned and should expect to receive from our country,” she said.

 Peter Morley, Patient Advocate & co-founder of Health Care Awareness Month, who is permanently disabled,” urged that Congress overhaul the and expedite the process for patients applying to SSDI and SSI. “They should not have to wait for years. It’s a tragedy and a shame on our country,” he said.

Urgency to Act Now

Four days before SSW’s virtual town meeting, Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) gave his thoughts as to the need to expand and strengthen Social Security in an opinion piece, “Let’s Honor Social Security’s 87th Anniversary by Strengthening and Expanding it,” published on the digital site, The Hill.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law 87 years ago, he didn’t “intend for it to remain frozen in place” but would need to be expanded with the nation’s changing demographics,” says NCPSSM’s Richtman.

“In fact, during the first 40 years of Social Security, Congress expanded the program no less than 15 times – mostly to broaden coverage and increase benefits.  In 1950, Social Security was expanded to cover domestic and agricultural workers.

In 1956, Congress added monthly disability benefits, which is why millions of workers with disabilities collect Social Security today. The 1972 amendments provided annual cost-of-living adjustments  (COLAs) to help beneficiaries keep up with inflation,” states Richtman. 

“Sadly, benefits have not been significantly improved since then. Instead, lawmakers have prioritized keeping the program’s trust fund solvent amidst waves of retiring baby boomers. In 1983, Congress increased the payroll tax and raised the retirement age gradually from 65 to 67, which was, in effect, a benefit cut. It was ‘hard medicine’ that affects retirees four decades later. At the time, Congress had little choice because it waited so long to act that Social Security was just months away from being unable to pay full benefits,” added Richtman in his opinion piece.

Like Larson and Jayapal, Richtman also called for strengthening Social Security and in his opinion, piece, urging passage of the Social Security 2100 Act, that expands Social Security benefits and extends the life of the trust fund. At press time, this legislative proposal has 208 cosponsors in the House. The legislative proposal has not one Republican supporting it and some moderate Democrats still haven’t endorsed it.

Richtman also expressed strong concern about the Republican proposals to cut and privatize Social Security if they take over leadership of the House and Senate Chambers. “When Congress returns from summer recess, Democrats have a limited window to enact the Social Security 2100 Act before the midterm elections and subsequent lame duck session, observes Richtman.

According to Richtman, under Larson’s legislative proposal, all beneficiaries would receive a 2 percent increase in boost in benefits — with special increases for widows and widowers, lower-income workers, and retirees over 85 years of age. Future COLAs would be based on a new inflation formula – the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly –  that more accurately reflects seniors’ spending patterns. 

Richtman says that Larson’s Social Security proposal would increase the flow of tax revenues into Social Security. Currently, he noted that high earners do not contribute to Social Security on wages exceeding $147,000. Under this proposal, wages above $400,000 also would be subject to payroll taxes. 

Overwhelming support for the Social Security’s proposal for passage

With the midterm elections just 57 days away, Congress must move quickly to bring Larson’s Social Security 2200 Act to the House floor for a vote.  Even with President Biden and 208 Democratic House lawmakers calling for a House vote on Social Security 2100 Act, it has been reported that Wendell Primus, House Leader Nancy Pelosi’s senior staffer on domestic policy issues, has advised his boss to pull the Social Security proposal from markup, reportedly over cost concerns, effectively derailing Larson’s efforts to get a House vote on his legislative proposal.

Almost 40 aging groups have joined 208 House lawmakers in advocating for expanding and protecting Social Security benefits received by over 70 million Americans.  Primus must rethink his position opposing House consideration.  If the GOP retains control of the House and Senate chambers, Democrats will not be able for years to improve the financial health and expand Social Security benefits. The GOP will control the House and Senate’s legislative agenda. Congressional Democrats and aging advocacy groups would be put in the defensive position to keep the program that we know so well in existence.

For details about the Social Security 2100 Act, go to https://larson.house.gov/sites/evo-subsites/larson.house.gov/files/Social%20Security%202100%20-%20Fact%20Sheet%20117th.pdf

To watch the livestream event, “Social Security Town Hall Meeting,” go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xycabwQSurI

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