Friday, March 27, 2009

The Importance of Women and Work

"Over the next few days, Fem2.0 is working with MomsRising to start a fresh conversation about what should be considered "work" in the 21st Century economy, especially pertinent for women designing their own work patterns to accommodate their families. What is work? What kind of work has value?"

Here are our thoughts here at WOW

Work ought to be adequately and fairly compensated, regardless of where it’s performed, at home or in workplace, or the worker’s gender, woman or man. For over forty years, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) has led multiple efforts to assure women have quality jobs that pay dignified wages and provide benefits. By training women for nontraditional jobs and careers, such as skilled trades in construction and home repair, we can improve their standard of living through increased wages until equal pay is a reality. We are still in an age where women do equal work but do not receive equal pay. Whether being paid to for a skilled trade or caring for an aging parent, work needs to be compensated, through adequate wages, benefits and credited in retirement systems including Social Security, to assure women’s economic security over the life course.

By in large, women are still highly concentrated in low-wage industries and continue to shoulder a disproportionate share of the uncompensated caregiving to family members, but this does not mean that it is classified as “women’s work”. One important change that needs to occur is the framing of work that women often find themselves in. Instead of labeling what is and isn’t “women’s work” we should focus on both women and men as workers with familial responsibilities. The work both in and outside of the home contribute greatly to the overall societal good and, therefore, should be acknowledged and compensated fairly.

You can share your thoughts about women and work by posting on the Fem 2.0 Blog and by particpating in the Fem 2.0 Twittercast Sunday night, March 29, 10 PM EST -- hashtag #fem2. If you need it, review how to join a Twittercast here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The A, B, C and D’s of Medicare

This week, members of the Elder Economic Security team attended, “Medicare 101”, an event presented by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Alliance for Health Reform. Here, we were reminded of the intricacies of the Medicare system, and reaffirmed our belief in the importance of this program for elder economic security.

Medicare is divided into 4 parts, and each caters to a specific benefit:

1) Medicare Part A: Hospital Insurance, this benefit is used to pay for inpatient hospital stays and hospice care.

2) Medicare Part B: Supplemental Medical Insurance, this benefit is used to pay for physician services, outpatient care by hospitals, and other services not covered by Part A.

3) Medicare Part C: Medicare Advantage, payment of care available through private plans.

4) Medicare Part D: Prescription Drug Benefit, payment of care available through private plans to cover Rx drug costs.

More can be done to improve the current Medicare system, which by the way currently supports 44 million beneficiaries, such as payment reform. This system is not perfect, and in desperate need of reform so that elders and others supported by the program can make the best choices at minimal cost. It looks to be at the forefront of the healthcare reform debate and we are anxious to see what changes are put forth during this Congressional year.

WOW supports strengthening Medicare becuase even with supplement coverage, the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index demonstrates that elders continue to experience out-of-pocket expenses (between $250-300 per month) for health care. When in good health, health care is the second largest out of pocket expense for our elders. At WOW, we believe Medicare is a solid foundation on which to build universal affordable and accessible health care for all. That being said, WOW urges policy makers to not forget the struggles of underinsured Medicare beneficiaries when contemplating overall health care reform.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Council on Women and Girls is a Step in the Right Direction

President Obama announced on Wednesday the formation of the White House Council on Women and Girls to be chaired by his senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and headed by Tina Tchen, Office of Public Liaison Director. This is yet another step forward toward economic security for women of all ages.

The Council will focus on the following areas during its first year:

  • Improving women’s economic security by ensuring that each of the agencies is working to directly improve the economic status of women.

  • Working with each agency to ensure that the administration evaluates and develops policies that establish a balance between work and family.

  • Working hand-in-hand with the Vice President, the Justice Department’s Office of Violence against Women and other government officials to find new ways to prevent violence against women, at home and abroad.

  • Finally, the critical work of the Council will be to help build healthy families and improve women’s health care.
This ambitious agenda, though broad, will hopefully hone in on key policies and provisions to help elder women improve their economic security. Even with Social Security, 12 percent of women age 65+ lived below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or $10, 400 in 2007. We know the FPL is an outdated measure that does not truly capture what it costs for an individual to be economically secure, and that many women whose income is above the FPL still cannot meet their basic needs. The Council, which comprises the secretaries of each department and members of the economic team, will no doubt offer diverse ideas and perspectives on how to improve the lives’ of women and girls.

We are glad women’s issues will be discussed by the Council on a regular basis. Discussion is the first step to advancing positive change. We look forward to working with the Council to turn its discussion into real economic improvements for women and their families.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Certified Age in Place Specialist Chuck Oakes

“Life is a journey, not a destination…”
– Chuck Oakes

This week, we are highlighting a caregiver that deeply cares about elders and their ability to age in place. Chuck Oakes is a Connecticut resident that has spent over a decade consulting, presenting, and writing about the importance of this topic. From his numerous accolades it is easy to see that he is clearly on a journey to better the lives of elders. Chuck became interested and versed in caregiving issues after his grandmother moved from Long Island, New York to Connecticut in her old age and was placed in a nursing home. Then, when his parents became older he asked them if they wanted to age in place and both did. So, Chuck made sure his parent’s home was adequately accessible for them by doing low-cost renovations such as installing handrails and railings, and purchasing storage bins.

Now, Chuck uses his knowledge and skills as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to educate others on the best caregiving methods. He’s written two books and his most recent “Making Your Home Senior Friendly” provides multiple examples of how to make sure your loved ones age in place safely and comfortably. One creative aspect of his techniques is to focus on sensory support for elders, such as soothing music and aroma-filled food.

Besides writing, Chuck is currently working with the United Nations on addressing home care issues internationally such as training women in Germany to be home care specialists. He also advised the President’s Council on Hiring the Disabled after successfully recruiting solely older and disabled workers to work at a newly built Home Depot, by simply focusing on their abilities.
Chuck is a supporter of the Elder Economic Security Initiative and sees the healthcare world as the next hottest industry for both reform and employment.

To learn more about Chuck and his work, visit his website at