Friday, December 18, 2009

Older Worker Program Receives More Funding from Congress

Last week, the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) received additional funding under the Older Americans Act. Funding for Administration on Aging programs was approved by Congress as a package of appropriations bills and a 44% ($254.5 million) increase will be administered for SCSEP.

The additional funding is in response to the record high unemployment rates among low-income seniors as a result of the recession. As recently as November, the unemployment rate for elders 65+ was 5.9%, according to the Urban Institute.

A number of elders are still seeking work opportunities to make ends meet, but many are not able to find the help they need. SCSEP is one way to help low-income elders move toward economic security. The program has already provided more job training and employment assistance through Recovery Act dollars. With additional funding in 2010, it will be better able to serve elders across the country.

For more information about SCSEP visit the Department of Labor website.

Friday, December 11, 2009

$250 One-Time Social Security Payment Newsletter

The Elder Economic Security Initiative™ team at WOW is delighted to share our final newsletter of the year! This month, we chose to highlight the one-time $250 Social Security payment under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). We hope the overview, data points, policy update and resources are helpful!

For more information about ARRA, sign up to receive the WOW weekly update on ARRA happenings.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Job Opening: WOW Seeks Field Coordinator

The Elder Economic Security Initiative™ at Wider Opportunities for Women is searching for a Field Coordinator to join our team.

A complete job description is posted on our website. Applications will be accepted until January 5, 2010.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Health Care Reform Update

The first of many steps was taken this week to push a final health care bill to the President’s desk by the end of the year. This week the Senate began debating its proposed health care bill. On Thursday, the Senate rejected a bid to reduce Medicare cuts and approved safeguards for coverage of preventive tests for women.

The Senate must vote and approve a final bill, however, before both the House and Senate bills can be reconciled into one bill for the President to sign.

This week, WOW and other national allied aging and disability organizations sponsored a CLASS Act Call-in Day to keep long-term care insurance at the forefront of Senators minds as they debate the bill. Currently, 10 million Americans need long-term care and support. The Elder Index shows that an elder’s costs can double or even triple due to long-term care expenses.

As the Baby Boomer generation ages the number of elders in need of long-term care services will only increase and it is important to have a long-term care insurance program that everyone, regardless of income status, can participate in to receive the services they will need to age in place.

As of Friday afternoon, the CLASS Act survived two votes on the Senate floor. Remember to tell your Senator to support the CLASS act by sending her/him an email.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Today is CLASS Act Call-in Day!

Today, national allied aging and disability organizations are sponsoring a call-in day to express to the Senate the importance of including long-term care insurance in its version of the health care bill.

Call (800) 958-5374 today between 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST and urge your Senators to keep the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act in the final Senate version of the bill.

To learn more about the CLASS Act, review the talking points from WOW. Feel free to use the sample phone script, provided by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aged below. You can also send your Senator an email.

Sample Script

Hello. I am calling to ask the Senator to make sure the CLASS Act remains in the final health reform legislation. People need help accessing the long-term services and supports that help them remain independent and at home. The CLASS Act is an affordable, accessible and fiscally solvent way to provide these services and reduce Medicaid costs at the same time. I thank the Senator in advance for the support, and I look forward to a response.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Rural Caregiver

November is National Caregivers Month and WOW would like to thank the millions of unpaid Americans across the country who care for elders, children, and disabled persons.
A report done by the University of Iowa and University of Alabama analyzes the difficulty of caring for elders in rural communities and proposes solutions to better support rural family caregivers.

Today, over 25% of elders live in a rural community. In rural settings, health services are less accessible and also more costly. Community-based programs are also scarce, resulting in a disproportionately high number of rural elders relying on nursing home services.

Several pilot programs are underway in Iowa which would provide rural caregivers with a case manager or a Family Caregiver Expert with knowledge on aging issues and community resources. The report proposes service providers must offer caregivers in rural settings improved communication and access to information, better coordination of services, and a consistent relationship to build trust.

Geographic location is critical in determining what an elder needs to age in place. The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index maps out county-by-county what it takes elders to age in place.

The full report is available online and the National Family Caregivers Association also provides organizations with tips on how to celebrate this commemorative month.

Friday, November 20, 2009

State Partners Visit Washington DC

Last week, the Elder Economic Security Initiative welcomed representatives from each of our twelve states (Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Connecticut, New Jersey, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, and West Virginia) to Washington for the 2009 Elder Economic Security State Partner Summit. The summit featured a variety of workshops on topics including fundraising, coalition building, and federal policy priorities. Also, our state partners had the chance to be filmed discussing the Initiative in their state.

In addition to workshops, our partners spent time on the Hill and met with Senate Special Committee on Aging staffers to hear about their priorities in the coming year. Following the discussion, each representative visited their respective Senators’ offices to discuss the Elder Economic Security Initiative, legislation on the $250 Emergency Payment to Social Security beneficiaries (H.R. 2597 and S. 1685) and the inclusion of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act (H.R. 1721 and S. 697) in the final health care reform bill.

All in all, it was a successful event and provided an opportunity for our state partners to meet one another and share with one another successful strategies in implementing the Initiative. We thank our partners for a wonderful conference and look forward to bringing them back to DC next year!

Friday, November 13, 2009

An Update on WOW's Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Project

Switching gears, this week I want to highlight the work of WOW’s Family Economic Self-Sufficiency (FESS) Project. In late October, the FESS team hosted ten organization’s from across the country at the first-ever, Generating Real Economic Equity Now (GREEN) Institute sponsored by the Ms. Foundation. Each participant engaged in two days of workshops with experts in workforce development on how best to recruit low-income women into the new and expanding sector of green jobs.

The ten organizations were selected by WOW after a quite competitive application process, and will be part of a year-long job recruiting initiative.

“The programs selected for the GREEN Initiative have demonstrated a strong commitment to preparing women for success in a green economy. Their levels of experience and expertise vary, but all represent a community-based coalition dedicated to creating and sustaining quality green training and employment experiences for the women they serve,” said Joan Kuriansky, WOW’s Executive Director.

Rebecca Lurie, Director of Development at the Consortium for Workforce Education concluded the event with an inspiring message of “keep building” and the importance of persevering toward an equal workforce.

Friday, October 30, 2009

National Academy of Social Insurance Cites WOW in Report on How to Strengthen Social Security

Today at a briefing on the Hill, the National Academy of Social Insurance released a new report, “Fixing Social Security: Adequate Benefits, Adequate Financing”. This report outlines potential strategies to enhance benefit adequacy and ensure long-term solvency for Social Security.

Virginia Reno, Vice President of Income Security Policy at NASI, cited the Elder Index during this morning’s event. The Elder Index is referenced in the report’s discussion on benefit adequacy, particularly referencing that average Social Security benefits fall short of what’s needed to make ends meet in retirement.

Also discussed at the briefing was the disproportionate reliance of women and communities of color on Social Security income. Two out of five older women relies on Social Security income alone. Elders living on Social Security alone are often forced to make difficult sacrifices between basic necessities, like food and prescription medicine. This report provides policymakers with viable options for ensuring Social Security is available and better for future generations.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reflections from the Field: OLDER is BOLDER

Stacy Sanders, Associate Director of the Initiative, is our guest blogger this week. Find out what she has been up to below!

With November just around the corner, it seems the perfect time to reflect on a blitz of field activity for the Elder Economic Security Initiative (Initiative) this fall. As Associate Director, I have the honor and pleasure to visit WOW’s state partners and participate as the Elder Economic Security Initiative unfolds in their communities.

This September, I traveled to present to the West Virginia Senate Health and Human Resource Committee and the newly established Economic Security and Long-Term Care Taskforce. With funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, this taskforce will bring together stakeholders from across the state to ensure access to long-term care services and supports for elders and disabled persons. The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy is a key partner in this effort along with many others, including the Senate Committee staff, Community Voices and Vision Shared. The taskforce will draw from the findings of the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index to establish policy priorities and opportunities for reform related to long-term care and to identify opportunities to better coordinate services in West Virginia’s rural communities. These efforts will bring to the forefront the critical link between economic security and affordable long-term care services and supports.

Also in September, I journeyed to Wisconsin where WOW partnered with the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) to bring a series of financial training workshops to college-age and mid-career women. These workshops incorporated the concepts of “income adequacy” “self-sufficiency” and “economic security” – all of which are critical to WOW’s ongoing efforts to change how policymakers, the media, advocates, service providers and the public-at-large conceptualize and measure economic need. WOW also took part in a legislative seminar hosted by the Wisconsin Women’s Network to educate state policymakers on the Initiative’s successes to date. WOW seeks to empower and educate individuals as well as transform systems. Both are critical to advancing positive social change for elders and their families. This set of Wisconsin events illustrates just how the Initiative makes this possible.

An October trip to the annual convention of the New York Statewide Senior Action Council, Inc. rounded out this year’s travels where the convention theme “OLDER is BOLDER” most certainly rang true! WOW joined its research partner the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Boston in presenting draft Elder Index data to volunteer advocates from across the state. In New York, the Initiative will be a vehicle to inspire and strengthen grassroots advocacy in critical areas of the state. The Elder Index will provide data to help advocates across the state quantify the economic realities facing far too many older adults. For me, this last trip reinforced just how critical it is to engage senior advocates and bring their voice to issues affecting low-income elder in their communities.

As always, I return from these trips re-energized and inspired! This last set of trips also has me re-convinced of the value of an economic security framework for social change.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything

Today, the Center for American Progress (CAP), in collaboration with Maria Shriver, released The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything. The report outlines how government, businesses, and faith-based institutions are responding to changing demographics in the workplace, namely the increasing number of women workers. The report outlines and how to create better opportunities for women and men in the workplace.

At a luncheon at CAP this afternoon, the first lady of California spoke about the shift from men to women as the majority of workers in just one generation. Shriver sees this report as something that will improve the labor force both for employees and employers. Women now make up half of the workforce and this transformation is changing our country by making more women breadwinners for their family. .Shriver makes clear that though the title of the report is woman specific, the report takes into the account the views of both women and men and how similar their opinions are of what needs to be done to improve work conditions.

You can view the full report HERE and the Executive Summary HERE.

Workplace flexibility is an issue discussed on numerous occasions in the report and is directly connected to caregivers, both of children and elders. The inability to adequately care of a loved one due to work obligations causes many adults unneeded stress and Shriver stated that it is every American’s right to request a flexible work schedule.

This marks the first day of a week of presentations and media coverage of the report. It is featured on the cover of the latest issue of TIME Magazine and will be discussed on all NBC Network stations, including on this week’s Meet the Press.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bills Considered in U.S. Congress to Support Elder Economic Security

Two pieces of legislation are moving through Congress that have the potential to affect the economic security of America’s elders. The Medicare Premium Fairness Act of 2009 (H.R. 3631) passed the House last week and is now in the hands of the Senate. The bill would stop the upcoming 2010 increase in Medicare Part B premiums for 11 million seniors. Given the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) freeze for the next two years, the House decided it unfair to raise medical out-of-pocket costs for seniors whose Social Security benefits will not increase. The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) shows that health care costs, including the Medicare Part B premium and other coverage expenses, are the number two out-of-pocket cost for seniors. Holding the Medicare Part B Premium steady will support elders living on limited incomes, many of whom already make difficult choices among basic needs, like prescription drugs and home energy costs.

The Emergency Citizens Relief Act of 2009 (H.R. 3597 and S. 1685) is now being debated in the House. This bill would give elders a $250 payment in 2010 to partly compensate for the COLA freeze. The Elder Index demonstrates that elders living on Social Security alone are unable to meet their basic needs. A boost in Social Security payments would assist elders who are barely making ends meet.

Both bills would somewhat alleviate the financial struggle that many elders face today.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Initiative on the Road!

Over the past two weeks, WOW traveled to both West Virginia and Wisconsin to present on the Elder Economic Security Initiative. In West Virginia, the Gerontology Institute at UMASS-Boston joined WOW in presenting draft Elder Index data to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and its stakeholders. The West Virginia event provided a great opportunity to introduce the framework and tools behind the Initiative and begin preliminary discussions on policy priorities to promote elder economic security in West Virginia.

Last week, WOW traveled to Wisconsin to facilitate several events with our partner, the Wisconsin Women’s Network (WWN). Along with the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, WOW and the WWN held two financial planning workshops, one for college age women and one for mid-career women. WOW and WWN also hosted a legislative seminar in Madison where updated 2009 Elder Index numbers were released for the state and select counties. To find out more, check out the media coverage HERE.

Both events were a fabulous opportunity to carry forward the message of promoting economic security for elders and their families.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

WOW Releases Health Care Resource Guide

Progress continues on health care reform and Congress is steadily working through several pieces of legislation. This week, WOW released a health care resource guide, “Health Care & Economic Security” that speaks to the current legislative process and provides data and information on how health care costs impact economic security for workers, elders and families. WOW supports health care reform that lowers costs, expands coverage, and puts more low-income elders and families on a pathway to economic security.

According to the Elder Index, health care is the second highest out- of- pocket expense for elders, after housing. The Senate Finance committee’s proposed bill would seek to help elders by lowering their premiums. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) version seeks to establish a long-term care insurance program as mapped out in the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. What’s included in the final legislation, across House and Senate committees, will be determined in the coming months.

Read more about health care reform and how you can get involved in this month’s, “Health Care & Economic Security” resource guide today!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Recognizing our Grandparents

This weekend we celebrate National Grandparents Day! It is a day to recognize grandparents across the country for their love and guidance. Grandparents take on many responsibilities, and in some cases, are responsible for raising their grandchildren. According to the UC-Berkeley Center on Aging, over the last ten years, the number of children living with grandparents increased by 50 percent. Whether part-time or full-time custodians, it is important that grandparents are given the resources they need to age in place and support the needs of our future generation.

The Elder Index measures the cost of what an elder or elder couple needs to make ends meet, and accordingly more income and supports are necessary for grandparents raising grandchildren.

Check out resources for grandparents raising grandchildren below:
· AARP: Help for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
· Generations United: National Center on Grandfamilies
· National Center on Grandfamilies: Housing Opportunities

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Parting Words from a WOW Intern

Alla interned for the Elder Economic Security Initiative for eight months and accomplished a great deal during her time at WOW. Read below to find out more!

My time at Wider Opportunities for Women has come to an end. I have been an Elder Economic Security Initiative Intern at WOW since January 2009. It has been a truly wonderful time, full of learning opportunities and new experiences.

One of my major projects involved developing the Elder Economic Security in Action!, an online platform to introduce the framework of elder economic security, provide a user-friendly outreach and educational instrument, and share promising practices. One of the core elements of this tool is a series of case stories that describe the successes that WOW and its partners have had, such as referencing self-sufficiency language in a bill or using the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index to evaluate the impact of a senior housing program. Elder Economic Security In Action! is still a work in progress, and will be launched later this year.

Another project I was fortunate to work on deals with WOW’s international influence in Moscow, Russia. This project has been very exciting for me personally, because I was born and grew up in the Moscow region. Thanks to WOW’s Executive Director Joan Kuriansky’s longtime partnership with Olga Bessolova, President of the Russian Federation of Women Graduates and a member of Moscow City government, three separate reports were published that apply the framework behind the Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard in Moscow City, Russia.

Check out the new website on the Moscow Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Project to learn more and read some of the translated materials.

Finally, I also worked on creating issue briefs, such as an issue brief to promote the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Act of 2009. Additionally, I have been writing blog posts about the several issues. Check out my prior blog posts here on the National Elder Economic Security Initiative blog today!

Wisconsin State Partner Featured in Black Women 50+ Magazine

Congratulations to our Wisconsin partner, the Wisconsin Women's Network. An article written by Johanna Hatch, the Wisconsin Elder Economic Security Initiative Project Coordinator, can be found in the latest edition of Black Women 50+ Health & Lifestyles Magazine!

CLICK HERE to read the article.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Remembering Senator Ted Kennedy and Supporting the CLASS Act

Senator Ted Kennedy worked until his last days to help those less fortunate than himself. We are saddened by his death, but encouraged by the work he accomplished while serving as the 3rd longest serving member of the U.S. Senate. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act of 2009 is one of the last pieces of legislation he introduced, and one that WOW supports. Long-term care services are not affordable for all elders in poor health. Often times, elders move further away from economic security because of high out-of-pocket costs associated with these services.

According to the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index, home and community-based long-term care costs can double, or in some cases even triple, an elder’s total expenses. In Connecticut, for example, a single elder without a mortgage needs $21,685 a year to make ends meet if they are in good health. However, if they need a just medium level of LTC support (16 hours a week) their annual expenses increase to $41,680.

The CLASS Act would help today’s workers afford to age in place and set up a national insurance program financed by voluntary payroll deductions for anyone who is 18 or older and working. Workers can then use the money saved when needed in their older years. This proposed legislation promotes choice and independence in a fiscally responsible way and is a solid next step toward addressing the challenge of making long-term care both affordable and accessible.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spotlight on Supporting Elders: Facilitating Artistic Expression

Alla Malova, an Elder Economic Security Initiative Intern, wraps up her two-part series on emotional support for elders.

Old age, especially when combined with poverty, is associated with a painful stigma in American society. As such, many seniors tend to refuse help when it is offered, fearing they would be a burden to others. This may be an obstacle for programs that seek to help elders. One way to support these seniors emotionally is to provide them with an opportunity for artistic self-expression. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Division of Adult and Career Education offers “Commercial Acting for Older Adults” acting classes; registration is free for seniors age 62 and older.

Each week, the aspiring actors and actresses read commercial scripts on camera, as they would during an actual audition. The instructor coaches seniors beyond any shyness or awkwardness, while helping them to project their unique character. Notably, acting classes give participating seniors not only a chance to explore their personality, but also to jump start an actual acting career.

This program helps seniors on many levels. First of all, artistic self-expression can be used as a form of art therapy to help elders fight their emotional vulnerability. Acting classes help elders build their confidence, which also contributes to improving their emotional well-being. Moreover, the program creates an additional opportunity for seniors to get together and communicate. And finally, training in commercial acting may help seniors gain an actual source of income, proving that personal, emotional self-improvement at the individual level can lead to achieving economic self-sufficiency.

For more information about Commercial Acting for Older Adults, click here to read an article from the Larchmont Chronicle.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Meet a WOW Summer Intern!

This summer, Kristen worked as WOW's Family Economic Self-Sufficiency and Elder Economic Security Initiative intern. She did a fabulous job updating our materials and researching many topics of interest to our organization. In addition, she wrote several blog posts featured below in previous postings. Watch the video to learn more about what Kristen accomplished this summer.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Minnesota State Partner Lands Op-Ed!

Congrats to our Minnesota partner, the Minnesota Women's Consortium. Their op-ed is featured in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune and does a terrific job of explaining the Elder Economic Security Initiative!

Marie Nelson and Bonnie Watkins:
Older Women are Struggling in this State
Average incomes are near poverty, which is a poor measure to begin with.

When we talk about elder poverty, we're talking about our mothers and grandmothers. The generation of women now in retirement followed society's rules. They worked hard, usually as parents as well as employees. They saved money. Now, many live on Social Security and perhaps some personal savings or other income.

The average retirement income from all sources for Minnesota women is $12,691, compared with the average for Minnesota men of $24,041.The figure for women is only slightly above the federal poverty guidelines, set at $10,400 for a single person age 65 or older. Could you live on $10,400, or $12,691, this year?

For the complete article, CLICK HERE.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Happy 74th Birthday to Social Security!

Today, WOW celebrates the 74th Birthday of Social Security, the bedrock of economic security for so many elders! Read our official press statement on how Social Security can be strengthened to help more elders make ends meet in their communities.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Helping Elders Meet Their Transportation Needs

Kristen, our Elder Economic Security Initiative intern, writes about the reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Authorization Act and why this piece of legislation is important for elders.

Law makers are discussing opportunities to improve public transit through the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009. The legislation which delegates funding and transportation priorities for the United States is up for reauthorization. This gives advocates an opportunity to let federal policy makers know the importance of having multiple transportation options for older Americans, not only in densely populated areas but in suburbs and rural areas as well.

According to a report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, over 20 percent of individuals 65 and older in 2004 did not drive due to reasons including their health, personal safety concerns, or lack of automobile access. More importantly, more than half of these non-drivers did not leave their homes on a given day because they did not have access to transportation. Individuals who live in rural areas and suburbs, those without automobiles, and communities of color are most affected by this lack of transportation.

Despite these barriers, elders continue to travel to meet basic needs. In 2001, elders as a whole took 310 million public transportation trips, as stated by the American Public Transportation Association. Doctor visits, trips to family members and friends, and grocery store trips all require adequate access to transportation. The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index shows just how much it costs elders to meet their transportation needs based on their geographic location. For example, in the city of Minneapolis, MN, transportation costs a single elder $221 per month, and a couple, $390. In rural areas where destinations are farther apart, transportation costs a single elder $251 and a couple, $442!

Transportation advocates are working diligently to provide recommendations to Congress about how transit can best serve the needs of all citizens. Providing options like, “complete streets” that works to increase safe sidewalks and crosswalks will encourage other forms of mobility. In addition, more funding should be delegated to services specifically for older individuals and citizens with disabilities. Currently less than one quarter of a percent of federal transportation funding is given to the Specialized Transportation Program for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities. For transportation to be efficient, it must correspond to its riders’ needs. Older Americans must have affordable and accessible options for mobility in order to age in place.

You can keep track of the National Surface Transportation Bill by clicking here!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Spotlight on Supporting Elders: A Phone Call Makes a Difference

This week, we feature a post from our intern, Alla, on the importance of elder's emotional state during these tough economic times and ways elders can participate in their communities while aging in place with dignity. Stay tuned for an upcoming post next week that will discuss this in greater detail.

Many seniors struggle to make ends meet and suffer from economic hardship. Economic instability is a very serious problem; it often lends to significant stress and emotional vulnerabilitymaking it hard for seniors to enjoy their retirement. Given this, it is very important to check on older adults, especially those living alone, both to make sure their basic needs are met and to offer emotional support.

CheckMates is a program that does just this. CheckMates is a telephone reassurance program of AgeWell Pittsburgh led by seniors themselves. Older adult volunteers make weekly telephone calls to other seniors who may be homebound, isolated and lonely. Volunteers generally donate about an hour each week and make seven to 15 calls.

CheckMates gets some names and phone numbers of potential call recipients from children and concerned neighbors and also uses available demographic studies. While all seniors are eligible to receive calls, CheckMates targets the most vulnerable – people over age 85 living in their communities and assisted living facilities. If a volunteer notices an elder on a call that needs extra assistance, they simply notify a supervisor who will try to find an agency that can meet the individual’s need.

CheckMates illustrates how small things – for example, just a simple phone call once in a while – can make a world of difference for a person who feels lonely and vulnerable. Importantly, CheckMates volunteers are also elders. As a result, the program makes it possible for senior volunteers to feel fulfilled, needed and helpful. CheckMates volunteers often become friends with the people they call, creating a stronger sense of community and emotional support.

For more information about CheckMates, click here to read an article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy 44th Birthday to Medicare!

This week, we celebrate the 44th birthday of Medicare. Over the past four decades, the program has provided millions of elders with health care coverage. It is important that Medicare be strengthened to meet the needs of all Americans in their later years.

Opportunities to strengthen Medicare include the following:

  • Placing a limit on catastrophic expenses
  • Closing coverage gaps, such as through the Medicare Part D doughnut hole
  • Expanding to younger populations, such as through a buy-in option

Data on what it takes elders to make ends meet in their communities, that looks at health and long-term care expenses, is now available through the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index.

For more information, be sure to read WOW’s press statement on this commemorative week!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Action Alert: Low-Income Families in DC are at Risk - We Need Your Support

As the DC budget process unfolds, Mayor Fenty is proposing to keep the budget balanced by cutting funds to assist struggling families through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Rather than incentivize families to move toward work, the new penalties are likely to push at-risk families into even more dire circumstances, such as homelessness. Currently a family of three receives a TANF grant of $428.00 per month; the Mayor's proposal could result in terminating all support for these families if a parent fails to meet a work requirement without considering the families individual situation.

Why should aging advocates be concerned? Ensuring economic security across the lifespan requires protecting access to income supports for vulnerable families and elders. The proposed TANF cuts in Washington DC would impact the ability of working families to meet today’s basic needs and lend to increased economic vulnerability in late life. We need your help in telling the Mayor how crucial TANF is to so many in the DC area and how his proposal will ultimately hurt his low-income constituents, today and in the future. In these tough economic times, it is important for low-income women and their families to have access to services and supports that will put them on a pathway to economic security.

Support efforts to protect TANF benefits for Washington DC residents by:

1) Adding your organization to a sign-on letter that tells the Mayor why his proposal needs to be revised. Contact Katie Kerstetter ( by noon on July 29th to sign-on.

2) Attending a meeting with Council Staff on July 29that 1 p.m. in the lobby of the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC.

3) Signing-on to an online petition organized by Save our Safety Net.

4) Spreading the word and sharing this pertinent information with your professional and social networks.

Thank you!

Questions? Please contact Debbie Billet-Roumell at or call 202-464-1596.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Older American Entrepreneurs

In the economic downturn, unemployment is on the rise, but so is entrepreneurship. According to a new study released by the Kaufmann Foundation last month, older adults age 55-64 have the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity. Older workers are using their skills to create small businesses to generate income.

Many workers are working longer to meet their financial needs. The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index can serve as a useful financial planning tool for both older adults who want to know what it costs in their communities to get by, and also for younger generations as they look ahead to retirement.

Small businesses are a vital player in our nation’s economy and it will be exciting to see the new products and opportunities that become available due to the innovative ideas of older workers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Balancing Work, Family Life, and Retirement in Russia: Part 4

Alla, our Elder Economic Security Initiative intern, wraps up her series on economic security in Russia by focusing on elder economic security in the country. Thanks to Alla for her hard work in putting together this series of posts.

IV. Implementing Elder Economic Security in Russia

Assuring elder economic security is one of the most problematic social issues in Russia. The very concept of retirement has transformed dramatically over the turbulent decade of 1990s. During the Soviet times, small fixed pensions were paid to elders by the federal government; no personal retirement plans existed. It was neither a perceived need nor a social norm to plan a retirement in the Soviet Union.

Nowadays, it is slowly becoming a norm to plan for retirement. The tradition is far from being fully established, but contemporary working adults often have employer-based retirement savings plans that are meant to secure their ability to age with dignity. However, many present-day Russian elders whose working years were during the Soviet era still rely on meager federal pensions that oftentimes do not even cover their minimal expenses – that is, they fall under the Russian analogue of the Federal Poverty Level despite the government’s attempts to increase pensions.

Thus, the situation in Russia is in a sense very similar to that of the United States as far as older adults are concerned. In the United States, Social Security provides more than 90 percent of income to three out of ten retired elders; in Russia, these numbers are similar, but are likely to be even higher. Moreover, unlike in the United States, where Social Security payments were never intended to be the sole source of income for seniors, no alternative options were provided for in Soviet Russia. However, when retirement plans were first introduced after the collapse of the Soviet Union, no organized federal attempt was made to assure the well-being of seniors who worked during the Soviet times and thus were not enrolled in any kind of retirement savings plan.

Overall, achieving a healthy balance between motherhood and employment, as well as planning a retirement, are the fledgling areas of social policy in Russia. While there traditionally have been efforts to equalize working conditions and promote equal economic security for men and women, rapid social and political changes of the 1990s swept away the old Soviet social system, and the new Russian social system remains to be established and refined.

As the attempts to implement Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standards illustrate, there is much to be learned from Family Self-Sufficiency and Elder Economic Security frameworks developed by Wider Opportunities for Women, as such frameworks provide individuals, advocates, and policymakers with reliable information and serve as a much needed measuring tool.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Elder Economic Security Initiative Launched in Michigan

We are pleased to announce that the Elder Economic Security Initiative launched this week in Michigan! We released the Elder Economic Security Standard Index, which provides county-by-county data of what it takes for elders throughout the state to make ends meet.

Click here to view TV coverage of the press event!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Balancing Work, Family Life, and Retirement in Russia: Part 3

III. Implementing Family Self-Sufficiency in Russia

Currently, there are ongoing attempts to implement the equivalent of WOW’s Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard in Russia. The Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard (FESS) provides a geographically-based measure of what it takes for families to make ends meet. It was developed in the United States to help working adults calculate how much money they need to meet their basic needs without subsidies of any kind. In Russia, self-sufficiency standards can be used for the same purpose: to provide working adults with information and assistance as to how to plan their budget; moreover, self-sufficiency standards can be used as a guideline for government to measure income adequacy and estimate the real number of individuals and families in poverty.

Record-keeping and statistics are not very developed throughout Russia, which makes it difficult to do the appropriate calculations and establish truly geographically-based standards for the huge territory of the country. As a result, for the time being, implementation of Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard is confined to the capital of Russia, Moscow City.
This approach has certain advantages, such as availability and relatively easy access to needed data. The Moscow City project is a promising start for data collection and analysis, but truly workable self-sufficiency standards should reflect cost variations across geographic regions outside of the Russia’s urban center. Moscow City is the financial, economical, and political capital of Russia as well as the country’s largest city by far and, thus, not representative of Russia as a whole.

In Russia, minimum budgets (analogous to the U.S. Federal Poverty Levels) only measure the needs of single adults living independently; they do not take into account family living and joint spending. The Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standards in Moscow City distinguish between minimum and typical budgets, where minimum budget is mainly usable for low-income population as it only provides minimal satisfaction of basic needs, while typical budget ensures normal fulfillment of basic needs at the lower middle-class level. Typical budget is what is proposed to use as a Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard. For Moscow City in 2006, minimum budget was 5,000 rubles (roughly $156) per month per person, whereas self-sufficiency standard was calculated as 12,000 rubles (roughly $376) – that is, more than twice as much as minimum budget.

The project to collect these data was sponsored by Moscow City government, which signifies that the government is prepared to use this information in policymaking. Additionally, data have been shared with a number of bureaus and organizations so that this information can be used for lobbying and advocacy. Again, while this is a very encouraging start, much more research and work is needed to really bring the concept of economic self-sufficiency to Russia.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Struggles of the Woman Caregiver

Read below a blog post authored by our Elder Economic Security Initiative intern, Kristen, on the important topic of caregiving.

Today is the final day of the Fem 2.0 Blogging Carnival on caregiving. This gives organizations, like WOW, a chance to discuss what caregiving is, what role it plays in women’s lives, and what needs to be done to adequately support our nation’s caregivers. As caregiving responsibilities overwhelmingly fall on women, WOW is invested in the need for its recognition as essential work.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are currently 52 million caregivers nationwide caring for people 20+ that are ill or disabled. Women overwhelmingly assume these roles, comprising between 59% and 75% of caregivers. Caregiving can take a significant financial, emotional and physical toll on those who provide it. On the financial side, many caregivers jeopardize their working lives, and thus their economic security, by working fewer hours, passing on promotions, or leaving the workforce entirely. Few policies or programs are in place to address these challenges.
Here are some measures to facilitate ensuring the economic security of family caregivers:

· Promote flexible work environments with paid sick and safe days to allow for time to be taken off to care for oneself or a dependent relative. Just a little over half of all caregivers remain employed, so job sharing and flexible hours can make juggling work and caregiving more feasible.
· Support the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act of 2009 (H.R. 769). Under the bill, people who provide informal care for 80+ hours per month will receive credit towards Social Security benefits for up to 5 years.

Compensating caregivers is especially important for women to achieve economic security because, in addition to leaving the workforce to provide caregiving, women live longer than men and receive lower wages. As a result, a significant proportion of women are completely reliant on Social Security in retirement.

The national averages of the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) show that Social Security alone is not enough for seniors to make ends meet, although it provides more than 90 percent of income to three out of ten retired elders. For single older women who own their home and have paid off their mortgage, the average Social Security income provides only about 60% of the income needed to reach economic security, and if a woman must rent, Social Security covers just 47% of their needs, according to the Elder Index.

Family caregiving must be recognized by our government and employers as essential work that should be compensated in order to improve women’s chances for economic security throughout their lives.

To learn more about family caregivers in the United States, visit the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What is the CLASS Act?

As the health care reform debate heats up on Capitol Hill, WOW wants to make sure the final piece of legislation is one that benefits women, their families, and elders. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act of 2009 is one proposed bill being pushed to the health care reform agenda. The CLASS Act would today’s workers afford home and community-based long-term care (LTC) services as they age . It would set up a LTC insurance program for workers to pay into so that when they get older and require assistance, affordable LTC services would be available to them in their home.

According to the Elder Index, LTC costs can double, and even triple an elder’s monthly expenses, moving them further away from economic security, particularly if they cannot already or are barely making ends meet. Implementation of the CLASS Act will cover one quarter to one half of the cost of home and community-based services, allowing elders to age in place in their homes and communities. Employees would donate $30 a month to individual LTC “accounts” and this money would be put aside until their later years.

Currently, elders that need LTC services must pay out-of-pocket. In some instances, Medicare will pay for short-term rehabilitative services. Most elders, however, will be forced to spend down any available assets or income in order to qualify for services under Medicaid. Furthermore, the majority of Medicaid-funded services are available only in institutions, not in people’s homes. This process of spending down into poverty, and into nursing homes, can be prevented with added supports in place to assist in the high costs of LTC.

The Obama Administration expressed support for including the CLASS Act in broader health care reform this week, and we look forward to advocating for its inclusion on Capitol Hill so that future elders can find it a bit easier to make ends meet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Balancing Work, Family Life, and Retirement in Russia: Part 2

Alla, our Elder Economic Security Initiative intern continues her series on Russia's economic security, focusing this week on women.

II. Women In Today's Russia

After 2000, when transition to capitalism was more or less complete, and Russia’s economic situation improved, Russian women began choosing to have children somewhat later in life in order to start building a career first. Surveys show that modern Russian women overwhelmingly prefer combining their career with raising children than concentrating on just one or the other. Therefore, in recent years, the number of working mothers of young children has consistently grown in Russia. This is, especially prevalent in big cities such as Moscow where women are highly educated. An estimated 57% of Moscow City mothers of preschool age children have at least some college education.

Working mothers still enjoy strong protection under the law, which guarantees partially paid 18-month childbirth-related leave (extendable up to 3 years of unpaid leave). Sadly, not all employers follow the law. Russian women often face discrimination and negative stereotypes at the workplace, comparable to that experienced by women over the course of many decades in the United States. The social institutions established by Soviet system that protected working mothers are now in decay, and there are very few new institutions to replace them.
The category of working mothers has become as crucial in Russia as it is in the United States. However, while employment laws are more generous to women in Russia, the actual mechanisms for implementation of these laws are far less developed in Russia as compared to the United States.

Even so, more ought to be done to assure workplaces are flexible and responsive to working mother’s needs, such as through paid family leave and part-time or flexible work options, in both Russia and the U.S. Making sure working women are able to balance work and family responsibilities is critical to assuring their economic security over the life span. Women are likely to cycle in and out of the workplace due to care-giving responsibilities, lending to fewer hours worked, lower wages and less opportunities for career growth and mobility. Promoting work life balance and economic security across the generations goes hand in hand.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Balancing Work, Family Life, and Retirement in Russia: Part 1

Our Economic Security Initiative intern, Alla, will be a guest blogger for the next four weeks. As a native of Russia, she will be sharing her thoughts on economic security in Russia across generations. Here is her first post introducing the role of women in Russia. Look for her subsequent posts each Wednesday.

Women in Russia: Soviet Background

One of the most recognized features of the Russian social system is that it is based on the remnants of the Soviet system. After the Revolution of 1917, Russia became one of the first countries in the world to declare the equality of both sexes; moreover, Russia was the first country to start implementing social policies that sought to establish equal conditions and opportunities for women.

During the Soviet period, employment rates among women were close to 100%; this was made possible by a federally funded social system with generous employee benefits (such as paid sick and family leaves) and universal provision of public institutions, such as schools and pre-school organizations. However, things have changed dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Throughout the 1990’s, due to Russia’s painful transition from a socialist to a capitalist economy, unemployment rates were high and economic insecurity was severe for both men and women.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a major social upheaval that substantially shaped the state of Russia’s modern-day society. This makes it difficult to compare present-day Russia to the United States. Nevertheless, fascinating similarities surface, particularly concerning women’s issues and intergenerational economic security.

This post marks the first a four-part series exploring how issues related to the workplace flexibility, family self-sufficiency and elder economic security play out in Russia’s political and social systems and how WOW’s efforts to promote economic security across the generations is impacting policy conversations internationally.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Women and Social Security

This week I attended a webinar sponsored by the National Women’s Law Center on women and Social Security which reiterated the importance of Social Security for elder women.
Here are some important facts shared on the webinar:

  • As a widow, you can choose to take your widow benefit (as a result of your deceased spouse) or your own worker’s benefit first. By waiting to claim benefits until full retirement age, a high earning spouse will provide a large Social Security benefit to the surviving spouse.

  • If your marriage lasted for 10 years and you are currently divorced, you get the same benefits as a current spouse or widow and do not have to wait until your ex-husband applies to receive his benefit, as long as both of you are 62 and have been divorced for at least two years.
Older women in retirement struggle to make ends meet, and older minority women are more likely to have a tough time in retirement. Social Security is the sole source of income for one in five elders, and women are almost twice as likely to live in poverty as a man in their older years. Check out WOW’s Single Elder Women’s fact sheet for more information on how vital Social Security is for so many elder women. Social Security alone is not enough, but without it some elder women would have nothing to support themselves.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quality Long-term Care Allows Elders to Age in Place

This week, Kristen, the Elder Economic Security Initiative intern, continues the discussion around family care giving by spotlighting a new book on the issue.

The percentage of Americans over age 65 has tripled during the 21st century, but support and funding for this group has not kept pace. The book When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions, by Paula Span, sheds light on this population by telling stories of adult children grappling with the difficult decisions surrounding their parents’ long-term care.

The book gives personal perspectives on long-term care, including home care and facilities. It offers insight for each choice and exposes the emotional and financial burdens that many incur during this transition.

Although the book goes into detail about the struggles that adult children, most often daughters, face when choosing long-term care, Span and others believe that its overall message is hopeful.“If you get depressed about the way things are going in the world, just look at the people caring for their family members… there’s nothing they won’t do!” commented David Ekerdt, director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Kansas.

Caring for a family member, however, should not necessitate financial struggles.

Because the majority of seniors wish to age in their communities, the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) illustrates the cost of home and community-based long-term care, and the findings show these expenses can be quite burdensome. For instance, the Minnesota Elder Index shows that home and community-based long-term care can range from $7,262 to $43,798 per year. These costs are in addition to elders’ monthly expenses for basic needs, which can double or triple their total expenses.

On average, Medicaid dollars can support about three older people with home and community-based services (HCBS) for every one person in a nursing home, according to AARP. Adjusting the Medicaid support for HCBS versus institutions can help ensure that more elders can afford to age in their communities. This is an important and growing population that deserves to age with dignity, and spreading information about long-term care could help start a dialogue for improving their support!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Role of a Caregiver

Caregivers have a hard time juggling their multiple responsibilities. As the video above demonstrates, they must make decisions on when and where to work, and how to support their needs, as well as those of their elder relatives. Most of these caregivers are women, who struggle to make ends meet. For them, less hours worked means less collected earnings, which over time will accumulate to less money saved, directly affecting their ability to be economically secure in retirement.

The Elder Economic Security Initiative™ works to ensure elders are able to age in place in their communities. The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index, an Initiative tool, maps out on a county –by- county level what it costs for caregivers to take care of the needs of their elder loved ones (such as food, housing, health care, and transportation) and can be used as a basis for caregiver support though state and federal policy and programs.
The Initiative supports the proposed policy solution, the Elder Caregiver Support and Information Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 519), introduced earlier this year. If signed into law, additional funds would be appropriated to the family caregiver support program.

Make sure you read our featured profile story on a caregiver from Wisconsin who struggled to make ends meet.

We are also interested in hearing your thoughts on the topic. Please comment below.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Feature: Advisory Board Member Martha Holstein

Martha Holstein, an Elder Economic Security Initiative Board Member, from Chicago's Health & Medicine Policy Research Group shares her thoughts on why elder economic security is part of a greater need of solidarity and security across generations.

Divided We Fall: Economic Security and Intergenerational Solidarity

Amidst all the current economic turmoil Social Security and Medicare are there—the only guaranteed source of income one can’t outlive and health care that no one can take away. These guarantees are critical for older people and for their families. If these programs were weakened, needs would have to be met by someone and that someone is most likely one’s sons and daughters. The entire family would lose. We need to think of old age entitlements as family benefits, a contribution to the family commons and absolutely essential to mitigating threats to the health and well-being of the entire family. The family commons implies that we need to share our common goods with each of us not taking more than we need—and sometimes perhaps taking less than we need. Intergeneration solidarity rather than intergenerational equity.

There is another reason to commit to intergenerational solidarity. Research makes it very clear that continuity in life circumstances is prevalent. Rather than these circumstances improving in old age, the older we get the more disadvantaged we become. Known as “cumulative disadvantage” it suggests how powerfully our family’s social and economic status, our education and our related opportunities are not easily overcome. Today, this is particularly unsettling since we know that young men are earning less than their fathers did at the same age. This statistic is apt to worsen as we see the results of the current economic downturn. The foretelling about the future condition of the aged, to be documented in the next generation’s Elder Standard, is a potent reason to act now to make sure that American’s younger families have a better shot at economic security. It is really for all of us!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Long-Term Care and Health Care Reform

Congress is moving forward in discussions around health care reform as the President looks to get a bill passed before the end of the year. This is great news for the 40 million uninsured, and will hopefully be great news for many underinsured elders who need, but cannot afford long-term care (LTC) services. Currently, discussions focus on expanding and improving acute care and insuring universal coverage. Many advocates for elder issues have tried to raise awareness around the need to include long-term care in the discussion.

The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) measures the cost of home and community-based long-term care services depending upon an elder’s need. These costs can double or even triple what an elder needs to make ends meet. In New Jersey, long-term care costs range from $6,000 to over $46,000, according to the Elder Index. These high costs are minimal, however, compared to the institutional cost in New Jersey, and give ample evidence of why LTC reform is needed; so more elders can age in place.

Most insured elders rely on Medicare and Medigap which do not cover most long-term care expenses. The only options for elders in poor health are to qualify for Medicaid, pay for LTC insurance out-of-pocket (which becomes more expensive as you age) or rely upon the support of family and friends. The last option at times results in caregivers making sacrifices to their own financial, physical and emotional well-being to take care of a loved one.

Incremental change is possible with the Empowered at Home Act and the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS Act). Of course, overall health care reform should consider the LTC struggles as well. Senator Kennedy’s recent remarks in a Boston Globe Op/Ed on health care reform give many elder advocates hope, “…we'll make it possible for the elderly and disabled to live at home and function independently. Our bill will help them afford to put ramps in their homes, pay someone to check in on them regularly, or any of an array of supports that will enable them to stay in their communities instead of in nursing homes”.

The health care reform debates are the opportune time to address the LTC issue and implement policies that will increase the quality of care while decreasing the medical out-of-pocket expense for elders and we, as advocates, will need to be diligent in voicing our concerns to ensure this happens.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Feature: Pension Rights Center

Thank you to all who participated in our May 1st, "Blog About It: Elder Economic Security" event. It was a great success! This week, we are highlighting one of our blog day co-sponsors, the Pension Rights Center (PRC). The PRC is an organization committed to promoting and protecting elder economic security.

Older Americans Month Posted by Joellen Leavelle

Today, May 1, marks the start of Older Americans Month. What better a day to discuss the retirement security of older Americans? Not so long ago retirement security was thought of as a three-legged stool, consisting of employer-sponsored pensions, personal savings and Social Security. Today the only leg of that stool that remains intact is Social Security.

More and more employers are breaking their pension promises by freezing their traditional pension plans or by suspending their 401(k) matching contributions. And most workers have very little in personal savings.

What remains clear, however, is that we need something more. Take one look at the statistics for older Americans today and you’ll see why. For 2009 the average annual Social Security benefit is $13,383, only slightly more than the federal minimum wage. And, in 2007, half of Americans age 65 and older who had income from financial assets received less than $1,585 a year in income from those assets. Significantly, older Americans with pensions fared much better than those without them. The median annual income of retirees with pensions was $31,227 while the median annual income of retirees living only on Social Security was $16,527.

And for women, the numbers are far worse. According to the Congressional Research Service, in 2007, the median annual income for women age 65 and older was $13,877 compared to $24,142 for men. The Elder Economic Sufficiency Index released by Wider Opportunities for Women shows how elders with low- and modest-incomes are challenged to cover their living costs today, as costs for basic needs are rising much faster than their incomes. That’s why the Pension Rights Center’s Women’s Pension Project is working to make retirement plans fairer to women.

At the same time, something must be done to ensure that the three-legged stool of retirement security is redesigned and rebuilt. That’s why the Center, along with three other organizations, launched Retirement USA, an initiative working toward a new retirement system that, along with Social Security, will provide universal, secure, and adequate income for tomorrow’s older Americans.

This blog entry was written as part of a blog day sponsored by Wider Opportunities for Women.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What's Going on with Social Security?

President Franklin Delano Rosevelt signing into the law the Social Security Act of 1935.

This week, the Social Security and Medicare Trustees issued their annual report to Congress, affirming that Social Security is sound and in no immediate danger. Rather, the program continues to run large surpluses in spite of the economic downturn. The Trustees project that Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until 2037, four years earlier than the last projection. The report further shows that rapidly rising health care costs threaten Medicare’s solvency as early as 2017, confirming that health care is the crisis, not entitlements. The report has sparked renewed calls for action to address these issues.

Dr. Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research, wrote a commentary piece this week, “Social Security Healthier than Your 401(k)”. The piece focuses on the importance of Social Security and its exceptional functionality in comparison to the private retirement system and is a great realistic argument about plausible minor changes to Social Security to increase its longevity.

For so many elders across the country, Social Security is a steady source of income they can count on. In Minnesota, nearly 20% of elders depend on Social Security as their sole source of income, as cited in the state’s Elder Economic Security Initiative™ policy brief: “Elders Living on the Edge: When Meeting Basic Needs Exceeds Available Income in Minnesota”. In New Jersey, more than 25% of elders receive Social Security as their only source of income, as cited in the New Jersey Policy Brief. Social Security alone is not enough for elders to make ends meet, but without it as income, some elders would have nothing. According to the national Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index, Social Security provides on average about 60% of the income need by a woman to achieve economic security when living mortgage free. With the three legged stool of retirement – Social Security, pension and private savings – dissolving, more and more seniors are relying on Social Security alone in retirement. At WOW, we hope the adequacy of Social Security in retirement to meet basic need can receive equal policy attention as solvency receives.

Social Security is still a bedrock government program that continues to pay out benefits to 35 million retirees and their spouses on time each month. Given the latest news of its solvency will no doubt continue to increase discussion about changing the program sooner rather than later to maintain its effectiveness. As Congress begins deliberating more seriously about the issue, we hope they will take into account the vital role Social Security plays in the lives of elders, and also realize that Social Security alone does not make our elders economically secure.

Monday, May 4, 2009

OWL Blogs About Elder Economic Security!

The Older Women's League, an event co-sponsor, blogs about the Elder Economic Security Initiative and its importance as we begin Older Americans Month. Check out the post here!

What does elder economic security mean for Wisconsin?

Our Wisconsin partner, the Wisconsin Women's Network, blogs about what elder economic security means in their state.

Here in Wisconsin, we believe that elder economic security means the ability to age in place with dignity – for everyone. We believe that all elders deserve to be able to age in the place they choose with the economic resources and support necessary to do so, while maintaining independence and community involvement for as long as possible. The Wisconsin Elder Economic Security Initiative (WiEESI), a program of the Wisconsin Women's Network , is working in a variety of areas to help achieve this goal. We are providing the Wisconsin Elder Economic Security Standard Index and the information it contains to advocates, organizations and policy makers to inform the creation of policy and programs through venues such as a legislative seminar in September 2009 and ongoing presentations around the state. We are partnering with the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) to pilot seminars which combine the WiEESI data and WISER’s experience in teaching women about planning for retirement to help Wisconsin women of all ages prepare for a financially secure retirement. On the horizon, we are looking into partnering with other state groups on common goals to give elders an opportunity to raise their voices on the issues that affect their economic well-being. We hope you’ll join us!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Women's Perspectives on Elder Economic Security

As part of our "Blog About It: Elder Economic Security" event, we interviewed women on their views about elder economic security and asked them about what they will need for retirement, and how the economic downturn has changed their view about retirement security. Some women also shared their opinion on what can be done to make retirement savings easier.

Check out the video below!

What does elder economic security mean for Michigan?

Our Michigan partner, Elder Law of Michigan, blogs today about the economy's affect on its state's elders and what needs to be done to move them toward economic security.

A View from Michigan

At one time Michigan retirees enjoyed bright and very secure futures in retirement. Pensions and retirement benefits from “Generous Motors” (aka General Motors) represented the “Cadillac” in retirement health care and was a gold standard in terms of pensions and stock options. Retirement benefits have been eroding slowly over the last 10-15 years and dramatically in the last 8 months. The crisis in the stock market, the banking industry, the mortgage lending fiasco and now the bankruptcy of Chrysler have hit everyone hard—and put deep fear in retirees and those soon to retire.

A silver lining in the current atmosphere of economic insecurity is that it is forcing people to think more about their retirement and whether they will have enough money to get by. As part of the Elder Economic Security Initiative, we have the opportunity to educate the public about how many people in retirement are not making ends meet now and do some forecasting for the future. The next step is giving people the tools to be pro-active.

We also have a chance to rethink housing and the delivery of long term care services for older adults and people with disabilities. The economic down turn exposes the limited supply of affordable and safe housing for families of modest means to the forefront of policy conversations. We also know that we have an inadequate number of home health care workers; their working conditions are grueling and their pay a travesty. Planning our communities with new mixed use affordable and accessible housing where nursing homes and other now defunct institutions previously stood would be a great way to bring direct care workers together with those who need their services. Integrating affordable housing for home health care workers or family caregivers who have lost their jobs or given up their careers to assist loved ones is a green solution that reduces the cost of transportation, keeps communities together and offers new opportunities for older adults to support their families and share their stories and wisdom.

Adding a blended public/private pay system to the purchase of home help and other long term care services could increase the available jobs in the industry and get care to those who want to remain in their own homes, but for whom a nursing home (or similar) placement is the only alternative.

As families, friends and citizens rise to the challenge of the new economic realities, let’s rededicate ourselves during Older Americans Month to look for creative solutions to keep people together, create jobs, conserve energy and enhance our lives.

What does elder economic security mean for New Jersey?

Our New Jersey partner, the New Jersey Foundation for Aging blogs today about the great service programs in their state that help move elders toward economic security.

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) will be releasing the New Jersey Elder Economic Security Initiative (NJ-EESI) next week. In preparation for these events, we have reached out to many stakeholders who share our concerns for Economic Security for people of all ages.

In these difficult economic times, it is easy to see how “aging into poverty” will become a serious issue. With the launch of the Initiative, NJFA is encouraging many people to advocate for economic security. We hope that legislators and policy makers will see the need to use the Elder Index as a bench mark for program eligibility. NJFA wants seniors themselves to see this data and become aware of support programs that they may qualify for. Furthermore, we hope all citizens of New Jersey will access the data and be proactive in advocating for, not only the economic security of seniors, but also for all generations.

There are many great programs to be commended in New Jersey, such as the Global Options Medicaid Waiver program and the Property Tax Reimbursement (Senior Freeze) program. There are also many valuable programs that can be expanded and made more accessible to seniors and intergenerational households. NJFA will continue to advocate for any supports that can help elders to close the gap. One in four seniors in NJ rely solely on Social Security as income, at an average of $14,285, that leaves many elders in a position where they may have to cut spending on food or medication. The stakeholders involved with NJ-EESI believe that elders deserve to age with dignity.

Civic Ventures Blogs About Elders!

Civic Ventures, an organization aimed at making sure elders have economic security through quality employment, shares its thoughts today.

Encore careers are one of many routes to a more holistic approach to ensuring the economic security of older Americans. To make certain that others understand the importance of encore careers in this holistic approach, please help us spread the word on how your encore career has made a difference in your life and others by blogging about your transition on May 1, during the "Blog About It: Elder Economic Security"event, sponsored by the Elder Economic Security Initiative team at Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW).

WISER Blogs About Women's Economic Security

The Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, an event co-sponsor, blogs today about women specifically and their lives in retirement. Check out the post here!

"Blog About It" Featured on the Huffington Post

Our co-sponsor, the Coalition on Human needs, have their "Blog About It" post featured on the Huffington Post. Check it out!

National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment Blogs About It!

The National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment, an event co-sponsor, blogs about the current economic crisis and how it's affecting elders.

As the current economic crisis deepens, the assets and net worth of older adults and younger people with disabilities – like that of all Americans – are also shrinking, forcing many to choose once again between paying for medications and paying for food or energy bills. However, as we mark the beginning of Older Americans Month, it is important to remember that there is a safety net for older adults – particularly those in need. Programs such as the Medicare Part D Extra Help/Low-Income Subsidy (LIS), the Medicare Savings Programs (MSP), Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as Food Stamps), State Pharmacy Assistance Programs (in many states), and more provide much-needed, valuable benefits for seniors with limited means.

Yet despite the existence of this safety net (and much intense outreach and enrollment work on the part of national, state and local agencies), millions of seniors who have limited incomes and resources qualify for, but are not yet enrolled in programs that help pay for prescription drugs, medical care, food or heat for their homes. Estimates show that somewhere between 1.8 and 3 million Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for, but not receiving, LIS. The enrollment rate in one of the MSPs is only 13 percent, and only about one-third of eligible seniors participate in SNAP.

At the National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment at the National Council on Aging, we are working to improve access to benefits for seniors and younger adults with disabilities, and we invite you to join us in this important work. You can find out if you or someone you know qualifies for benefits through BenefitsCheckUp, our free, confidential online Web service. Or if you’re an organization working on benefits access issues, email us to let us know how you’re working to improve benefits access for seniors in your state. We look forward to hearing from you!

Pension Rights Center Blogs About Elder Economic Security

The Pension Rights Center, an event co-sponsor, is blogging today about the needs of elders on their blog, Perspectives. Check it out!

Thoughts from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare , an event co-sponsor, shares their thoughts today on what needs to be done for elders, regarding health care, to attain economic security on their blog. Check it out!

What does elder economic security mean for Minnesota?

Our Minnesota partner, the Minnesota Women's Consortium, shares today how the idea of retirement has changed over the years and how some Minnesota elders are struggling to get by on their blog. Read the full post here.

May 1st Thoughts From A Board Member

Martha Holstein, an Elder Economic Security Initiative Board Member, from Chicago's Health & Medicine Policy Research Group shares her thoughts today on why elder economic security is part of a greater need of solidarity and security across generations.

Divided We Fall: Economic Security and Intergenerational Solidarity

Amidst all the current economic turmoil Social Security and Medicare are there—the only guaranteed source of income one can’t outlive and health care that no one can take away. These guarantees are critical for older people and for their families. If these programs were weakened, needs would have to be met by someone and that someone is most likely one’s sons and daughters. The entire family would lose. We need to think of old age entitlements as family benefits, a contribution to the family commons and absolutely essential to mitigating threats to the health and well-being of the entire family. The family commons implies that we need to share our common goods with each of us not taking more than we need—and sometimes perhaps taking less than we need. Intergeneration solidarity rather than intergenerational equity

There is another reason to commit to intergenerational solidarity. Research makes it very clear that continuity in life circumstances is prevalent. Rather than these circumstances improving in old age, the older we get the more disadvantaged we become. Known as “cumulative disadvantage” it suggests how powerfully our family’s social and economic status, our education and our related opportunities are not easily overcome. Today, this is particularly unsettling since we know that young men are earning less than their fathers did at the same age. This statistic is apt to worsen as we see the results of the current economic downturn. The foretelling about the future condition of the aged, to be documented in the next generation’s Elder Standard, is a potent reason to act now to make sure that American’s younger families have a better shot at economic security. It is really for all of us!

What does elder economic security mean for Pennsylvania?

Our Pennsylvania partner, PathWays PA share their thoughts today on Pennsylvania's elders and what they need to make ends meet on their policy blog.