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.