My most popular reads as an “age beat” journalist in 2022

Published in RINewsToday on January 2, 2023

 As an ‘age beat’ journalist for over 43 years, I have freelanced more than 867 stories covering aging, health care and medical issues. These authored and coauthored pieces have appeared in national, state, trade and association publications and even statewide news blogs. In 2022, my articles appeared weekly in 52 issues of RINewsToday.com. Here are the top five articles read on this state-wide blog last year.

“Aging in Place in Your Rhode Island Community,” published in the May 2, 2022 issue of RINewsToday. 

According to this article, the aging of the nation’s population continues with seniors choosing to live out their remaining years, aging in place in their communities. The article discusses the findings of a study of adults age 50 and older conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Research and the SCAN Foundation. This study confirms that a majority of older respondents would like to age in place and are confident they can access needed health care services that will allow them to stay at home for as long as possible.  

In this article, Mary Lou Moran, Director, Pawtucket Division of Senior Services at the Leon Mathieu Senior Center, who noted, “the coordination, accessibility, and connection to services and programs is critical to the successful delivery of services and is where much work needs to be done.  

 Moran stressed the importance of senior centers located in communities throughout the state that delivered needed information and assistance to seniors on accessing the needed services to age in place. Social isolation, access to transportation, food and housing insecurity, economic stability, and connectivity to services, are obstacles to enabling a person to stay in the community in their homes, says Moran.

 Maureen Maigret, policy consultant and Chair of the Aging in Community Subcommittee of the Long-Term Care Coordinating Council, also described state programs that assist seniors age in place in Rhode Island.

 Finally, the article gave a history of the National Village to Village Movement and its impact on Rhode Island.  It noted that The Village Common of Rhode Island (TVC), with programs in Providence, Barrington, Edgewood/Cranston, and Westerly, provides supports to keep seniors at home through the efforts of almost 200 trained and vetted volunteers.

TVC supports include transportation, running errands, home visits and telephone assurance, minor home repairs and light yard work, assistance with technology, and a virtual caregiver support program. A robust weekly calendar offers virtual events, and a monthly newsletter keeps members and guests informed.

 To read this article, go to https://rinewstoday.com/aging-in-place-in-your-rhode-island-community-herb-weiss/

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“Calls for Rhode Island to Become more “Age Friendly,” published in the Jan. 24, 2002  2022 issue of RINewsToday. 

This article gave a background of a United Nation’s initiative to create “age friendly” communities.  Over two years ago, a proposal was endorsed by the 73rd World Health Assembly. It was presented to the U.N. General Assembly Dec. 14, 2020, (Resolution 75/131), leading to the proclamation of a U.N. Decade of Healthy Aging (2021-2030).

The four-page Resolution expressed concern that, despite the predictability of population aging and its accelerating pace, the world is not sufficiently prepared to respond to the rights and needs of older people. It acknowledges that the aging of the population impacts our health systems but also many other aspects of society, including labor and financial markets and the demand for goods and services, such as education, housing, long-term care, social protection and information. It thus requires a total whole-of-society approach to make “age friendly” changes.

Maureen Maigret, policy consultant and chair of the Aging in Community Subcommittee of Rhode Island’s Long-Term Care Coordinating Council, noted that many Rhode Island communities are involved to 1 degree or another in what we consider age-friendly activities. “The initiative is usually led by the local senior center and in some instances volunteer programs such as RSVP and AARP and The Village Common of RI,” she says.

 According to Maigret, over the last five years the state’s Long-Term Care Coordinating Council Aging (LTCCC) in Community Subcommittee has adopted and continues to work to support WHO’s decadelong initiative, adding the domains of Food & Nutrition and Economic Security and Supports to Remain at Home.

Newport was the first community to join the AARP age-friendly network; Cranston, Providence and Westerly following. The state’s Office of Healthy Aging has adopted its State Plan on Aging, calling for Rhode Island to become an age-friendly state, says Maigret.

 Maigret called on Rhode Island’s cities and towns review their community’s Comprehensive Plans to see how age-friendliness is addressed. “This is what Newport did. 

To read this article, go to https://rinewstoday.com/calls-for-rhode-island-to-become-more-age-friendly-herb-weiss/

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“Bill would (Re)create a RI Department of Healthy Aging,” published in the March 21, 2022 issue of RINewsToday. 

This article described a legislative proposal on Smith Hill to transform the state’s Office of Healthy Aging (OHA) into a department making it far more visible and effective as an advocate for the state’s growing senior population.  H. 7616, introduced by Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-District 75, Newport), would expand the office in the Department of Human Services (DHS) into a full-fledged state department, expand its director’s authority, and appoint local senior centers as hubs for service delivery, with authority to bill Medicaid for transportation services.

The RI Department of Elderly Affairs (DEA) was created by law in 1977 and remained a department until 2011, when the legislature changed it to a division within the Department of Human Services (DHS). In 2019, the department was re-named the Office of Healthy Aging (OHA), shifting narratives and perceptions associated with growing older. At press time, the Office of Healthy Aging remains a division under the Department of Human Services. 

  “Restoring the OHA to a department status will strengthen its position at the budget table and elevate the importance of programs supporting older residents of our state. We hope that will make a difference,” says Bernard J. Beaudreau, Executive Director of the Senior Agenda Coalition of Rhode Island.

 .“The legislation proposed by Rep. Carson elevates the conversation about the importance of age-friendly policies that enable Rhode Islanders to choose how we live as we age,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Catherine Taylor. “AARP Rhode Island looks forward to being part of this conversation and continuing to advocate fiercely at both the state and local levels for enhanced home and community-based supportive services, accessible and affordable housing and transportation options, and full inclusion of people of all ages and abilities in community life,” she said. 

According to Maureen Maigret, policy consultant and chair of the Aging in Community Sub-committee of Rhode Island’s Long-Term Care Coordinating Council, H 7616 is a very significant bill that will help to stimulate a long due discussion as to how the state should fund senior programs and services in light of the state’s growing age 65 and older population. This age group is projected to represent at least one in five of  the state’s residents by 2040.

 To read this article, go to 
https://rinewstoday.com/bill-would-recreate-a-ri-department-of-healthy-aging-herb-weiss/

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 “RI Candidates for Governor Spotlight Senior Issues at Forum,” published in the August 8, 2022 issue of RINewsToday. 

This article reported on a 143-minute Rhode Island Gubernatorial form where five Democratic and one Republican gave two minute responses to seven questions previously given to them by the Senior Agenda Coalitionof Rhode Island (SACRI).   These questions were intended to how these candidates if elected Governor would fix Rhode Island’s fragmented long-term care continuum and provider payment systems.

According to Bernard J. Beaudreau, Executive Director of the Providence-based SACRI about 300 seniors and aging advocates came to personally see the Gubernatorial candidates outline their position on aging issues. Multiple platforms on Facebook and YouTube were promoted by a variety of senior advocacy groups that resulted in the over 300 virtual audience. Some held “watch parties” at one or more of the 12 senior centers, with approximately 135 people participating from throughout the state.

 Maureen Maigret, chair of the Long-Term Care Coordinating Council’s Aging in Community Subcommittee and SACRI Board Member reported that all candidates supported: “making the Office of Healthy Aging a full cabinet/department with review of sufficiency of resources; expansion of Medicare Savings Program which I have been advocating for at least 5 years and adding a state COLA to SSI payments; requiring better data on minority older adult inclusion; addressing community living, housing and transportation needs of older persons and developing and implementing a comprehensive, interdepartmental strategic Plan on Aging.

 To read this article, go to 
https://rinewstoday.com/ri-candidates-for-governor-spotlight-senior-issues-at-forum-herb-weiss/

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“Larson Pushes to Get Social Security Reform Proposal for House Vote, published in the  June 13, issue of RINewsToday. 

This article reported that the House Ways and Means Committee was preparing for a full mark-up on H.R. 5723, Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, authored by Committee Chairman John B. Larson (D-CT) this summer.  

 Larson says that over 200 House Democrats [no Republican has yet to support the proposal], are cosponsoring H.R. 5723. Forty-two national organizations (aging, union, veterans, disability, and consumer health organizations) are calling for passage of H.R. 5723, including the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations and the Strengthen Social Security Coalition representing hundreds of national and state aging organizations.

 According to a legislative fact sheet, H.R. 5723 both expands the program’s benefits and financially strengthens its. Here are a few provisions:

 Specifically, it would give a benefit bump for current and new Social Security beneficiaries by providing an increase for all beneficiaries (receiving retirement, disability, or dependent benefits).

The proposal would also protect Social Security beneficiaries against inflation by adopting a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), to better reflect the costs incurred by seniors who spend a greater portion of their income on health care and other necessities.

This legislative proposal protects low-income workers by providing a new minimum benefit set at 25% above the poverty line and would be tied to wage levels to ensure that minimum benefits does not fall behind.

 It is expected that Larson will reintroduce this legislative proposal next Congress.  To read this article, go to https://herbweiss.blog/2022/06/13/larson-pushes-to-get-social-security-reform-proposal-for-house-vote/

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