Friday, May 1, 2009

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.


Anonymous said...

WOW is doing a great job as an advocate and champion for critical issues such as elder care and health care. Please keep up the great work!

Stacy Sanders said...

Our Michigan partner brings up an important point: long-term care. As the health care debate heats up in the coming months, let's remember those who lack insurance coverage for long-term care services, referred to by some as the "invisible uninsured".

Findings from the Elder Economic Security Initiative show that long-term care costs can be detrimental to an elder's economic security and can easily cripple family budgets. Costs can double, or in some cases triple, an elder's overall expenses.

For this reason, health care reform must also encompass long-term care reform.

D said...

This reminds me of Illinois and the proposed changes for the teacher's union. They want to raise the retirement age, but decrease retirement benefits. It is important that we are informed about issues of retirement.

Jay Lee said...

As many people have learned, it is a bit of a gamble to depend on a company for one's retirement because companies do fail. Therefore, the government needs to do more to ensure the welfare of the elderly.

There are some excellent ideas in this piece. Making changes to the way retirement communities that makes it easier for the health care workers, is more affordable, and financially sustainable is paramount.

Stephanie said...

Elder care and health care are such hot topics right now!

It is vital that the members of our aging population within our country are receiving adequate funds and care that they need to survive.

This issue needs to be at the fore-front of the new Administration's agenda, along-side the economy.

Thank you for advocating!