Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Though not error-free, the drug benefit is helping

Bob Dole has an op-ed piece in Wednesday's The Hill newspaper:
Though not error-free, the drug benefit is helping: With the implementation of Medicare’s prescription-drug benefit Jan. 1, Medicare now offers a crucial component of health insurance it lacked for more than 40 years. In the first several weeks, the government has experienced problems putting that plan in force. Many people with Medicare are having trouble accessing the coverage, particularly the first time they go to the pharmacy with the new benefit. But a little perspective is in order. The new program is working for the vast majority of beneficiaries.“

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Customs releases seized medicine

Customs Releases Seized Prescription Medicines From Canada - Los Angeles Times:
“Amid mounting criticism of its crackdown on mail-order medications, U.S. Customs has released hundreds of seized packages to consumers since Friday, said Canadian pharmacies and U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday. The crackdown began in November, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection quietly increased seizures of prescription drugs mailed from abroad. Previously, federal authorities generally allowed such shipments, although it is technically illegal for individuals to import pharmaceuticals.”

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Link between stereotypes and hearing loss

Found on EurekAlert, From Journals of Gerontology: Psychological and Social Sciences
Elders' stereotypes predict hearing decline
Older people who have negative stereotypes about the elderly have a greater chance of hearing decline, researchers at Yale School of Medicine report in the March issue of Journals of Gerontology.

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Reports on working women

Found on ResouceShelf's Docuticker:
Women--Employment--United States
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
Two Brief Reports From the U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau
Older Women Workers, ages 55 and over
Women in the Labor Force in 2005

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Managing mid-career employees

Chip Scanlan of Poynter and The Mechanic &the Muse blog mentioned an article to me today in the March issue of Harvard Business Review on “Managing Middlescence.” One of the authors is Ken Dychtwald of Age Wave fame. The article isn't available online (except for a price) but the abstract sounds intriguing (and on point for a middlescence manager like me). Some of this might be familiar ground for long-time agebeaters -- who also, I suspect, won't get middlescence past their editors -- but it's a great topic. I'll track down the article and post a report.

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Yummy news on chocolate

Found on Newsday's site this afternoon: "CHICAGO -- Leave it to the Dutch to help demonstrate the health benefits of chocolate. A study of older men in The Netherlands, known for its luscious chocolate, indicated those who ate the equivalent of one-third of a chocolate bar every day had lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of death. The researchers say, however, it's too early to conclude it was chocolate that led to better health. The men who ate more cocoa products could have shared other qualities that made them healthier. Experts also point out that eating too much chocolate can make you fat -- a risk for both heart disease and high blood pressure." See the whole story here:


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Kaiser releases state Medicare data

This just in from the Kaiser Family Foundation: A new

policy brief

from the Kaiser Family Foundation examines the latest estimates for enrollment in Medicare's new drug benefit. In addition, updated state-by-state enrollment breakdowns have been posted on the Foundation's



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ILC releases ageism report

From International Longevity Center today: Ageism, the denial of basic human rights of older persons, is one of the most pervasive prejudices across human society. Although ageism is less acknowledged than racism or sexism, it is a harmful prejudice that negatively affects older Americans, who experience widespread mistreatment, ranging from stereotypic and degrading media images to physical and financial abuse, unequal treatment in the workforce, and denial of appropriate medical care and services.

Press Release
Executive Summary
Download The Status Reports (PDF)
Download complete Ageism In America report (PDF)

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Excess cost of Medicare drug benefit

Found this weekend on ResourceShelf Docuticker:
Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research
The Excess Cost of the Medicare Drug Benefit (PDF; 56 KB)
“The waste and inefficiency built into the structure of the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) will add more than $800 billion to the cost of prescription drugs to the government and beneficiaries over its first decade, compared to a drug bill designed to maximize efficiency. The most simple and efficient way to cover the cost of prescription drugs would have been to establish a simple add-on to the basic Medicare program, comparable to the prescription drug benefit provided by most private health insurers.”

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Medicare asks about simplifying

This comes this evening from AP:

(AP) After promoting the wide choices available to the elderly and disabled for Medicare drug coverage, the Bush administration is now considering limiting those options. In a 39-page memorandum to insurers, employers and others administering the drug benefit, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services asked for advice on how to simplify the program in 2007.

I found it here:

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NPR on black farmers in U.S.

I don't get to hear NPR's excellent Talk of the Nation show, although I do get a podcast of its Science Friday edition.But I stumbled upon this excellent piece about the book "Black Farmers in America." Wonderful photographs and an essay are online, plus link to audio from Thursday's show. (Why is this on AgeBeat blog...several of these farmers are old.) See and hear it here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5230129

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Would the old-old be “mature matures”?

On CBS' Public Eye blog today: "Most news industry chatter these days never fails to touch upon on a declining interest in newspapers and networks scrambling to entice the kiddos to watch network news. And as such, Harris Interactive released the results of a poll today (it should appear on their site sometime in the next day) that attempts to quantify the news consumers' viewing, reading and Web surfing habits (at least those of the 2,985 U.S. adults surveyed online between January 12 and 17, 2006.) Some of the results:

"Unsurprisingly, “Matures” (that's people 59 and older, in pollster jargon) were the most likely to watch network or cable news, with 88% responding that they watched either "daily" or "several times a week." Fifty-one percent of “Echo Boomers” (18-27 year olds) did the same."

Read the rest of the blog entry here: http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2006/02/24/publiceye/entry1344255.shtml

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Investigation in “high-pressure” Medicare sales

Caught up with this on KaiserNetwork.org: The


Office of Inspector General

has launched an investigation into whether health insurers are using “high-pressure sales tactics to push” Medicare beneficiaries into HMOs under the new prescription drug benefit, instead of basic prescription drug plans, the

Chicago Tribune


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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

So, it's good crisis, right?

The good side of the Social Security "crisis" ... from a new survey:

Wachovia's annual Retirement Fitness Survey revealed that more than 80% of consumers said Social Security will be important to their own retirement well- being, yet nearly half are not confident that it will be available to them when they retire.

You can find the news release here: http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060222/clw036.html?.v=41

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Don't eat as much, learn more

Today on EurekAlert...tucked at bottom of this is how the research might relate to Alzheimer's.
Nature Neuroscience
Learning and memory stimulated by gut hormone
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found evidence that a hormone produced in the stomach directly stimulates the higher brain functions of spatial learning and memory development, and further suggests that we may learn best on an empty stomach.
<<...OLE_Obj...>> National Institutes of Health, VA Merit Review Grant; Contact: Karen N. Peart, 203-432-1326, Yale University

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Elderly in the suburbs

Another possible gem from ResouceShelf Docuticker. This report mentions inner suburbs and challenges, including number of aging residents. Sounds like good topic.

Source: The Brookings Institution, Metropolitan Policy Program
One-Fifth of the Nation: A Comprehensive Guide to America's First Suburbs
"Neither fully urban nor completely suburban, America's older, inner-ring, "first" suburbs have a unique set of challenges-such as concentrations of elderly and immigrant populations as well as outmoded housing and commercial buildings-very different from those of the center city and fast growing newer places. Yet first suburbs exist in a policy blindspot with little in the way of state or federal tools to help them adapt to their new realities and secure a role as competitive and quality communities. This paper defines first suburbs throughout the nation, examines their similarities and differences, and, finally, sets out a policy agenda tailored specifically to these distinctive places."
Full Paper (PDF; 746 KB)
See also:
Transcript from symposium accompanying release of report, including keynote address by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

GAO report on discount cards

New from GAO. This looked at how company's managed the discount cards in time before Medicare Part D. (Thanks again to ResourceShelf Docuticker for the link):

Medicare: Sponsors' Management of the Prescription Drug Discount Card and Transitional Assistance Benefit

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Another reason to like your 50s?

According to a news release, "Men in their fifties are more satisfied with their sex lives than men in their thirties and forties, recording similar levels to 20-29 year-olds, according to a survey published in the February issue of BJU International."

Sex drive goes down, the survey showed, but satisfaction was high.

Find the release here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060221084035.htm

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Some links from Civic Ventures

From the latest Civic Ventures e-newsletter, some helpful links to recent "articles worth reading":

To see the whole e-newsletter and learn more about Civic Ventures, go to its web site at Home.

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Get the latest ABO newsletter

The latest AGE BEAT ONLINE, the newsletter of the Journalists Exchange on Aging (JEoA), is available (Feb. 21, 2006 –Volume 6, Number 7)

IN THIS ISSUE: Biting the gold.

1. CALENDAR: World Parkinson Congress Offers Phone Access to Press Briefings; Families USA Holds Conference Call Friday on Potential Harm of Federal Budget; National Silver-Haired Congress This Week; Influenza Teleconference Transcript Now Available; Civic Shmivick at NCOA-ASA Joint Conference on Aging.

2. “AGE BEATLES NEWS”: San Diego ElderCare Site Starts Blog by Many With Alzheimer’s; Cox Newspapers Testing Q&A Column on Medicare Part D

3. “ON THE ABO BLOG”: John Cutter Interviews Alzheimer’s Researcher on Wandering

4. “LARKIN’S LINKS”: Our Diligent Columnist Can’t See Eye-to-Eye with Glaucoma Technology

5. LETTERS: An Encore Story on Betty Friedan

Click here to go to a page where you can download a PDF of the whole newsletter.

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Brain health report online today

The National Institutes on Health sent out a news release today about “promising avenues for maintaining or enhancing cognitive and emotional function” as we age. If you want the NIH release, go here. The Alzheimer's Association has its release here. And you can the full report as a PDF here.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Medicare signups, but at what cost...

From Tuesday's Washington Post, an A1 story (available online tonight) that looks at the enrollment for low-income Medicare beneficiaries in Part D:
A $400 million campaign by the Bush administration to enroll low-income seniors in prescription drug plans that would cost them just a few dollars has signed up 1.4 million people, a fraction of the 8 million eligible for the new coverage.
At this rate, by some calculations, the government is on track to spend about $250 for each person it enrolls, and even then would have only 2 million poor senior citizens taking advantage of what is perhaps the most generous government benefit available today.

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Two reports from AARP available

These are from January but popped up this weeked on ResourceShelf Docuticker. You can find links there under postings for Sunday, Feb 19:

1. Phased Retirement: Who Opts for It and Toward What End?
Source: AARP Public Policy Institute
Phased Retirement: Who Opts for It and Toward What End?
“Which workers might opt for phased-retirement if opportunities were more widely available, when and under what circumstances they might do so, the factors that might be associated with taking phased retirement, and the consequences of their decisions for them and their families are explored in this AARP Public Policy Institute Issue Paper by Yung-Ping Chen and John C. Scott.”

2. The State of 50+ America 2006
Older Americans--Quality of Life, Source: AARP Public Policy Institute
“Compared with a decade ago, the state of 50+ America seems to have improved, but AARP’s third annual 'report card' on the quality of life of midlife and older Americans finds that the picture has become less favorable and the outlook more bleak during the most recent year.”

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Meet same (old) boss

Here's one I hadn't seen before:
The American boss of the future might look a lot like Dana Cable Sr., who works 10 hours daily, worries over bills, meets customers and tinkers with inventions that won't hit the market for years. Cable is 80 and refuses to quit.
That's from an article that originally appeared, apparently, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but I found it here Sunday. I knew we boomers were getting old, but this makes point that so are our bosses. (Me? Everyone I work for is younger than I am, but journalism does seem to eat its young before they reach my age -- rapidly approaching 50.)

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Take this pill...uh, maybe not

The NY Times news analysis today and the similar Washington Post article today about the unexpected results of two recent studies on women's health are good ones. When this kind of thing happens -- when conventional wisdom or early studies are trumped by more rigorous research -- the typical person says HUH? That's why pieces like today's work so well. This easily could be done in many different markets, but also, I might suggest a story in general on how research is conducted, using, perhaps, someone stage 2 or 3 of a drug study.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Older soldiers never...quit?

An A1 story today in Washington Post about older soldiers who are still, or are back fighting or serving as contractors. Would be good one to try locally, perhaps before next group ships out or someone goes to work there. Here's nut graph from Post:
Decades removed from the conflict that molded -- and, for some, scarred -- their generation, dozens of Vietnam veterans have signed up for duty in Iraq. Some are still in uniform, graying guardsmen and reservists activated as part of the largest call-up since the last time most saw combat more than 30 years ago.

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GOP running off older voters?

The NY Times has posted this afternoon a Sunday story by Robin Toner that looks at the effect the problems with Medicare Part D's start (and some other issues) might have on the GOP's popularity among older voters as we approach the midterm elections:
“...pollsters say the Republicans' difficulties with the over-60 vote go beyond the complicated drug benefit, which began Jan. 1. President Bush's failed effort to create private accounts in Social Security last year was also unpopular with many older Americans. That, in addition to confusion over the drug benefit, has ”taken the key swing vote that's been trending the Republicans' way and put it at risk for the next election,“ said Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster. ”And what that means is Republicans are going to have to work extra hard.“

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Live long and not prosper?

How about a retirement age of, oh, 85? Here's part of an interesting news release, from EurekAlert:

In the 21st century, state-of-the-art anti-aging technologies may extend human lifespans at an unprecedented rate, bringing with them a host of social and economic challenges, says biologist Shripad Tuljapurkar of Stanford University.
The combined impact of these medical advances would have major implications for the global community in the new century. Tuljapurkar, the Dean and Virginia Morrison Professor of Population Studies, will give a talk Feb. 17 on the demographic and economic consequences of anti-aging therapies at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in St. Louis.

“Some people believe we are on the brink of being able to extend human lifespan significantly, because we've got most of the technologies we need to do it,” Tuljapurkar said.

There is hope in the scientific community that extending life also will prolong the healthy and active years of life, he said, adding, “That's where I come in.”

(Note: I'm guessing most people know EurekAlert, where you can search for science news like this. Another I recommend is Newswise. If you have others like that to recommend, post here as comment or e-mail me.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Research on dementia and wandering

In the blog world -- or blogosphere to many -- this is known as a cross-post. I blogged on my Orlando Sentinel blog about a University of Florida researcher who is helping with the search for a local 91-year-old woman. Dr. Meredeth Rowe is a leading researcher in the area of dementia and wandering, and talks in a Q/A I did about the issue and recent research. You can find it here.

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GAO on disasters and nursing homes

Found on ResourceShelf Docuticker

New GAO Correspondence (PDF)
Source: General Accountability Office
Disaster Preparedness: Preliminary Observations on the Evacuation of Hospitals and Nursing Homes Due to Hurricanes

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Study on risk to spouse/caregivers

The study that showed limited benefit for older woman from Vitamin D got more play in most papers, but I found this other study from this week's New England Journal of Medicine a little more interesting -- it showed the risk of death of a spouse/caregiver when their loved one is seriously ill. (Here's a Boston Globe article from today on the research.)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Maybe we don't want to know

A lot of media published the quiz designed to tell you how much longer you might live. But my favorite headline was in the Globe and Mail:

When will Boomers die? Take this test.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

ABO for Feb 14

Newsletter of the Journalists Exchange on Aging (JEoA)
Feb. 14, 2006 -Volume 6, Number 6

NOTE: Let ABO Editor Paul Kleyman know if you have technical problems receiving issues of ABO or if you'd like to be removed from the list. Phone: (415) 974-9619; e-mail: paul@asaging.org. Thanks for help on this issue go to John Cutter, Marilynn Larkin and Mary Johnson. The most recent four issues of ABO are posted online at www.asaging.org/agebeat.
Send news about substantial articles or series on aging, special sections, your book, awards or other developments to paul@asaging.org. And check out ABO the Blog at http://agebeat.blogspot.com.
IN THIS ISSUE: Yummy flavanoids for healthy hearts.
1. RESOURCES: PBS's “Almost Home” Caregiving Film Previewed Tomorrow at Senate Aging Committee Hearing; NCOA-ASA Joint Conference registration
2. “AGE BEATLES NEWS”: Stan Hinden's Updated Book “How to Retire Happy” Released; Saul Friedman's 10th Anniversary Column for Newsday; Greg Daugherty Returns to Consumer Reports Staff; Winokur and Kashi Post New Project on MSNBC.com
3. “LARKIN'S LINKS” on End-of-Life Conundrum
4. “ON THE ABO BLOG”: Social Security, Medicare and “Middlesex”?
5. “SHE SAID WHAT?”: Letters on Betty Friedan
Click here to go to get a PDF of the whole newsletter.

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Medicare: Tough to pick, easier to use

Posted this evening on Wall Street Journal Online:
Most seniors who have enrolled in a Medicare drug plan say they have found it difficult to choose a plan and to understand the benefits; however, once enrolled, only one in four seniors has found the plan difficult to use, according to a recent Harris Interactive poll.

Of seniors enrolled in a Medicare drug plan, 60% said “It is/has been difficult for me to choose a plan,” and 63% said “It is/has been difficult for me to understand the benefits.” In contrast, only 26% said “It is/has been difficult for me to use the plan.”

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Is Social Security dead?

I've hit this drum a couple of times -- that Social Security is not dead as an issue, that Republicans won't let it. (See recent posts tagged Social Security). Below is a Technorati chart that shows blog posts about Social Security in last 30 days, with spike after State of the Union. (Click on chart to go to Technorati, where you can change chart to go back as much as a full year.)
Posts that contain “Social Security” per day for the last 30 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!

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Really tough choices on Medicare

From David Letterman's Top Ten list of Dick Cheney excuses ... No 2 . "Until Democrats approve Medicare reform, we have to make some tough choices for the elderly."

Read the whole list here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

War? Social Security? How'm I doing?

From the Heritage Foundation's Michael Franc today, a commentary whose headline says “History will judge Bush on terror war, Social Security.” I grew up in New York and wonder if Bush, as my old mayor Ed Koch, ever is moved to ask, “How'm I doing?” (I know Social Security is one of the Heritage Foundation's favorite issues, but am I in the minority to think the issue is not going away?)

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New study on estrogen and hearts

From tomorrow's (Tuesday's) Washington Post (but online tonight)...more news from the confusing world of estrogen. This time, a study indicates estrogen “does not increase the risk of heart disease for women in their fifties and may even be protective.” The piece says:
“These findings are reassuring for women who want to use these hormones around the age of menopause in the short term for the relief of symptoms,” said Jacques Rossouw of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which funded the research published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. But experts, including some of the researchers involved in the new analysis, disagreed sharply about whether the findings also support a controversial theory that the hormone may prove to be effective for cutting a younger woman's risk of heart disease.

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Older hunters and accidents?

Tucked in today's Washington Post article about Vice President Dick Cheney shooting a 78-year-old companion in a hunting accident is this:
The International Hunter Education Association, which represents safety coordinators for fish and wildlife agencies and tracks incident reports by state, said on its Web site that hunting accidents in the United States have declined about 30 percent over the past decade. In 2002, the most recent year for which data were available, 89 fatal and 761 nonfatal incidents were reported. In 26 of the cases, including one fatality, the intended target was quail.
All of this makes me wonder how many older hunters there are, how many get hurt in accidents, how many own guns.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

NYT column on “Middlesex”

Tucked in the NY Times magazine today is a column with the title “What's so hot about 50?” It's a response to the the “feel good tiding” on “middlesex.”

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New survey on retiree benefits

Just in from Kaiser Family Foundation (and good one for anyone in DC early for White House Conference on Aging. Note ... you also can call in from out of town): “The Kaiser Family Foundation and Hewitt Associates will release their 4th annual survey documenting the increasing costs of retiree benefits for both large private-sector employers and their retirees. The new survey adds an in-depth examination of employers’ plans for both 2006 and in future years. The survey also assesses the bottom-line impact of the federal subsidies related to the new Medicare drug benefit, which provide financial incentives for employers that continue to provide drug coverage to Medicare-eligible retirees. The Kaiser/Hewitt survey will be released at a reporters-only briefing in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, December 7 at 11 a.m. ET. (Reporters unable to attend in person will be able to participate via a conference call.) ... Space is limited for the briefing. Reporters should RSVP to Tiffany Ford at (202) 347-5270 or href=tford@kff.org to participate either in person or via teleconference.”

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Something NOT said in State of Union

In his weekly radio address today, President Bush said there are “challenges” in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, but still said it would work out. Here's a link to a story. You can read or hear the address on the White House Web site here -- and even subscribe to a podcast. (You go, George.)

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Three new studies to check out

Post on ResourceShelf Docuticker this morning, three aging related studies (find them and links on the Docuticker Web site, under Feb. 11):
  • Alzheimer's Disease--Patient Care, Source: MetLife Mature Market Institute. From press release: “A survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute® shows that 61% of assisted living facilities in the U.S. provide specialized care for those suffering from dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, with fully 50% charging extra for the service. Of those with additional costs, rates ranged considerably, from $50 to $3,000 per month with the majority reporting additional costs of up to $1,000 per month.”
  • Public Attitudes towards the Severity of and Treatments for Chronic, Debilitating Conditions. From press release: “A new report issued today by the National Consumers League (NCL) has found that the American public believes that patients suffering from chronic, debilitating conditions are lacking adequate treatments.”
  • Retirees--Substance Abuse--Treatment. Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Office of Applied Studies (OAS) “About four in five admissions among retired persons (80 percent) reported alcohol as the primary substance of abuse -- a substantially higher proportion than other admissions (44 percent) -- in the 29 States reporting retirement status (Figure 1). Retired admissions were correspondingly less likely to report illicit drugs including opiates (5 vs. 13 percent), cocaine (4 vs. 14 percent), marijuana (3 vs. 18 percent), or stimulants (1 vs. 6 percent) as their primary substance.”

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Is the assisted suicide debate really back?

In his NY Times Beliefs column today, Peter Steinfels looks at whether the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in assisted suicide really will reopen the debate. Whether it does or doesn't, Steinfels says “the question will not go away” because “the public is evenly divided over legalizing doctor-assisted suicide.” He mentions a Pew study -- see my previous blog post about it -- from a survey taken last November. In other right-to-die news earlier this week, St. Pete Times reporter Curtis Krueger wrote about the dueling books that are coming about the death of Terry Schivao - one from her husband and one from others in her family. (Of no particular relevance, I was an intern at Commonweal magazine in New York City in 1978 when Peter Steinfels was an editor. I almost gave up the profession, because I thought he and the other editors -- Edward Skillin, James O'Gara and my friend and teacher Ray Schroth -- were so much smarter and better journalists than I was that I would never make it. Peter, of course, would be horrified to hear that, since I remember him as a most gracious -- but tough -- editor. For agebeaters into trivia and coincidences, Daniel Callahan of the Hasting Center -- and a great source on death and dying issues -- was once an editor at Commonweal in the 1960s.)

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Will boomers go to senior centers?

Here's a good topic -- how are communities planning for the recreational needs of aging boomers? Do they expect them to have the same interest in senior centers? This comes from San Jose Merc on Friday:

An effort to assess the inevitable impacts of the aging Baby Boom generation on Palo Alto's recreational and community services is under way, the city announced Thursday.

A city-led task force plans to meet for six months and eventually produce a ``white paper'' describing the repercussions of the changing demographics. The paper will also outline how Palo Alto should prepare for a senior citizen population to double what it was in 2000.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

What's a Technorati tag?

I have started to tag my blog entries. Basically, this means assigning each entry a subject or category -- Aging, Baby Boomers, Social Security, etc. By clicking on a word, you will be taken to Technorati's web site to see other blog entries on the Internet that are similarly tagged. So, if you want to see what people, for example, are saying on blogs about Medicare, on a day when I post on Medicare, click on the Technorati tag and see. You also can search yourself for tag entries here.

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Social Security: A 2008 campaign issue?

From Newsday this afternoon:
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday attacked President Bush's Social Security proposals as "morally and fiscally bankrupt" because it seeks to end some payments to widows and orphans.
Perhaps the prediction in the earlier post was correct.

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Wisc. extends Medicare coverage

Anyone else following extended it this long? I thought other states extended it a month or so. It comes from AP story on Duluth New Tribune, Wisc. web site:
MILWAUKEE - The state is extending its emergency Medicare coverage through March 15 to give the federal government more time to work the glitches out of its new drug program, Gov. Jim Doyle said Friday. "Wisconsin's seniors are still facing obstacles to getting the prescriptions they need. These people shouldn't have to pay the price because of the federal government's mess," Doyle said in a statement.

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Social Security keeps on giving

This comes this morning on Philly.com from Inquirer columnist Andrew Cassel:

Fellow pundits, it is time to face the truth. We are doomed.

Our fate is sealed. For the rest of our working lives, we ink-stained media wretches (and that includes you with bytes under your fingernails) will be writing, blogging and podcasting about Social Security.

It is the Sisyphus story, the issue that never goes away.

Thank my stars I am not a pundit anymore, but I do recall we were all thinking Social Security was off our radar after President Bush's last attempt to "save" it.

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The numbers game in Medicare

How many people are enrolled in Medicare, the Detroit Free Press asks this morning?

The Department of Health and Human Services says 24 million of the 42 million eligible Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled. Others say only 3.6 million have voluntarily enrolled in the new prescription drug plans.

Seems like good question...and good story.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

'Naughty old-timers" in movies

A commentary in the LA Times opens with this question: "What's with naughty old-timers in movies lately?" It looks at older people as "figures of fun" in film

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Move over and let the boomers eat

From PR Newswire today (and is anyone surprised!):
NEW YORK, Feb. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Whether they're cooking, dining out, feeding their children, entertaining, or eating on-the-go, Baby Boomers are not afraid to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to food, according to Baby Boomers and the U.S. Food and Beverage Industry, a new report from market research publisher Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, a leading provider of industry-specific market research reports.

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Why Chip blogs

A little off the agebeat, but Chip's a boomer, so maybe not. Chip Scanlan of Poynter recently started a blog, the Mechanic & the Muse. Yesterday he posted a column about seven reasons why he blogs,

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For the rich...and the elderly...

Here is a link to the NYT article I mentioned last night, about aging in place in Boston. When I read it, I thought of the Googlezon presentation, which first predicts the Times becomes a niche publication for the wealthy and the elderly, before going offline in 2014. It's a fun and scary presentation about one future for our business that you can watch here.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

NYT on housing for aged

New York Times is promoting a House and Home article to appear Thursday on housing alternatives for the aged "determined to grow old in familiar settings."

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Is there a privatization plan in budget?

A column in today Washington Post notes a reference on Page 321 of President Bush's budget proposal.

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Death to death benefit

I missed this in President Bush's proposed budget -- an end to the $255 Social Security death benefit. Here's a Business Week article on Bush, Death and Taxes.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A tale of survival ... and excellent journalism

Be sure to read Barry Bearak's excellent NY Times magazine piece from Sunday on survivors of last year's tsunami. With its echoes of John Hersey Hiroshima, it is as good a piece of work as I've read in a while. It's OK to read online, but massive, so try to find the hard copy. (I'm a big Hersey fan, and proud owner of a first edition of Hiroshima, so I was skeptical heading into the piece.)

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Age Beat Online for Feb. 7

Newsletter of the Journalists Exchange on Aging (JEoA)
Feb. 7, 2006 -Volume 6, Number 5
NOTE: Let ABO Editor Paul Kleyman know if you have technical problems receiving issues of ABO or if you'd like to be removed from the list. Phone: (415) 974-9619; e-mail: paul@asaging.org. Thanks for help on this issue go to John Cutter, Marilynn Larkin and Mary Johnson. The most recent four issues of ABO are posted online at www.asaging.org/agebeat.

Send news about substantial articles or series on aging, special sections, your book, awards or other developments to paul@asaging.org. And check out ABO the Blog at http://agebeat.blogspot.com.
IN THIS ISSUE: News budgets cut 8.4%
1. "PART D IS FOR ____________"
3. "LARKIN'S LINKS" on Compelling "Almost Home"
4. "AGE BEATLES NEWS": Romance, Romance, Romance; Thoughts on Betty Freidan; When Age and Mortgage Matter (or Ba-a-ad Boomer)
1. "PART D IS FOR ____________"
MEDICARE PART D EXPERTS: Former Los Angeles Times Washington correspondent ROBERT A. (BOB) ROSENBLATT sent along a notice that the nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), where he is a Senior Fellow, offers background resources for those interested in learning more Medicare Part D. All these resources can be downloaded from www.nasi.org.

At the Academy's 18th annual conference last month, experts examined the progress made in signing up Medicare beneficiaries and paying for their prescriptions. Speakers included KAREN IGNANNI, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP); TRUDY LIEBERMAN, Director of the Consumers Union's Center for Consumer Health Choices; MARILYN MOON, president of NASI and a former public trustee of Medicare; and Bob. The audio webcast of Implementing Medicare Part D: The First 60 Days is available from www.nasi.org One aspect of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 is that it encourages private health plans to expand their participation in Medicare and offer prescription drug coverage. Two Academy publications provide background on the role that private health plans play in Medicare: Payment and Participation: A Renaissance for Medicare's Private Health Plans? and The Role of Private Health Plans in Medicare: Lessons From the Past, Looking to the Future.
Historical note: How smoothly did things go 40 years ago when the government enrolled the first beneficiaries in the original Medicare program? Read Reflections on Implementing Medicare at the NASI site. It includes interviews with the two key officials responsible for implementing Medicare-Robert M. Ball, Commissioner of Social Security, and Arthur E. Hess, Director of the Bureau of Health Insurance at the Social Security Administration. Another article looks at the demands placed on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in implementing Part D and what can be done to help CMS operate more efficiently: Improving Medicare's Governance and Management.
In addition to these reports, the NASI website offers a Medicare Sourcebook, a primer written by Rosenblatt that explains the program's history, benefits, and financing. The Sourcebook includes a list of Medicare experts to contact for more information. Reporters with questions can contact Bob Rosenblatt (703) 698-0239; e-mail: brosenblatt@nasi.org.

IN HER INIMITABLE "TELL IT LIKE IT IS" STYLE, the above-mentioned Trudy Lieberman wrote "Part D From Outer Space," in the Jan. 30 issue of The Nation. The drug program, she writes, "looks like the first step on the way to destroying Medicare as a benefit for all senior Americans." To read on , link to
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060130/lieberman. In the streamed NASI panel referred to by Rosenblatt, expect to hear a different view from Karen Ignanni, whose organization, AHIP, is a leading lobbying power in the health insurance industry.
REPORTERS ATTENDING THE NCOA-ASA JOINT CONFERENCE IN Anaheim in March should get a chance to hear from Marilyn Moon, who directed research on health at the American Institute for Research, Silver Spring, Md. She is one of the most respected and articulate Medicare analysts and critics of the Part D legislation. At this juncture, she is scheduled to be part of a special Press Lunch presentation sponsored by The Commonwealth Fund, on Friday, March 17, at noon. She will discuss research being done to track developments in Medicare Part D in the coming months, what questions policy researchers are asking and when reporters can expect results to start turning up. If you're coming to the Anaheim conference, be sure to send in your press registration: www.agingconference.org/press.
THE MEDICARE RIGHTS CENTER (MRC), based New York City, has launched a national hotline to help professionals-social workers, nurses, care managers, and so on-help their clients and patients get the drugs they need through the new Part D private drug benefit. MRC is analyzing the calls in order to identify new and persisting issues surrounding the new drug benefit. To learn more about what's happening on the ground with the new drug benefit, contact MRC communications director DEANE BEEBE at (212) 204-6219; e-mail: dbeebe@medicarerights.org.
2006 AGE BOOM ACADEMY FOR REPORTERS SET FOR SEPT. 24-29. The International Longevity Center in New York City has announced the dates for the seventh annual Age Boom Academy, an almost week-long seminar on issues in aging for a selection of 10-15 reporters each year. It is sponsored by the New York Times Company Foundation. The invitation-only program covers transportation and accommodations for participating journalists. Breakfast and lunches are also provided. To apply, send a letter of interest, a resume and work samples, which should include stories on issues in aging. Send the information to: Age Boom Academy Selection Committee, International Longevity Center - USA , 60 East 86th St. , New York, NY 10028; fax: 212-288-3132; e-mail: meganm@ilcusa.org. A list here of age-boom alumni is posted at Age Boom Alumni 2000-2005.
In the opening moments of the documentary "Almost Home: Changing Aging in America," I thought, "Oh, no, is this going to be a puff piece about the wonders of the relatively new 'person first' nursing home culture?" I had little to fear. The film, by BRAD LICHTENSTEIN and LISA GILDEHAUS, is painfully, wrenchingly real--difficult to watch, impossible to stop watching once you start. Anyone who works with elders, or who has aging parents, or relatives or spouses with dementia or other chronic illnesses, is likely to identify with the individuals and families depicted in the film.
"Almost Home" is scheduled to be broadcast on the PBS program "Independent Lens," Feb. 21, 10 p.m. Eastern. Providing context for the documentary is an information-packed website (www.almosthomedoc.com) where you can check local listings for the broadcast and also find that background on aging and long-term care, as well as interviews, photos, outreach tools, discussion guides and video clips aimed at prompting dialogues in communities and centers that provide services to elders. The DVD includes the full-length feature plus related short clips on such topics as helping certified nursing assistants achieve economic security and ways of initiating a culture change process. Review copies for the media are available by contacting MARY LUGO at lugo@negia.net; (770) 623-8190.
"Almost Home" is a coproduction of 371 Productions and Wisconsin Public Television, produced in association with ITVS, with funding provided by some foundations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and support from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Peck School of the Arts.

Marilynn Larkin regularly contributes "Larkin's Links" to Age Beat Online. Readers can reach her at MLAgebeat@aol.com
"AND NOW, A WORD FOR OUR DEMOGRAPHIC," is the headline over last week's (Jan. 29) refreshingly pungent New York Times op-ed by TED KOPPEL about the sorry state of television news today. Koppel, who left ABC News last year after 42 years with the network, skewers news executives for the accelerating slide into banality in the intensified quest for viewers age 18-34. Even network newscasts that mainly attract huge older audiences, "are struggling to find a new format that will somehow appeal to younger viewers," says Koppel. This trend accounts for the decline of international news or Washington coverage, for example. He contends that while news should not become "intellectual broccoli to be jammed down our viewers' unwilling throats," neither should news be pureed into palatability. "There are too many important things happening in the world today to allow the diet to be determined to such a degree by the popular tastes of a relatively narrow and apparently uninterested demographic,"

Koppel says he finds it confusing that the major network broadcasters have fallen into competition with cable for the youth market. Cable has always had to narrowcast, that is, target niche audiences in order to stake a claim with viable but underserved advertising markets. "By focusing only on key demographics, by choosing to ignore their total viewership, [networks] have surrendered their greatest advantage," he writes, referring to their command of mass audiences. The remedy for television's woes, surmises Koppel: "The tens of millions of baby boomers in their 40s and 50s and entering their 60s, who have far more spending power than their 18-to-34-year-old counterparts. Television news may be debasing itself before the wrong demographic." ABO will only add that the same case of tunnel vision on the young-adult market is being suffered in newspaper executive suits around the United States.

ROMANCE, ROMANCE, ROMANCE, ROMANCE: ABO's items in the past two weeks noting a spate of recent books on love in midlife and beyond deserve an encore. In her New York times "Vows" column, Sunday (Feb. 5), LOIS BRADY SMITH featured a bride-and-bride marriage in Montreal between New Yorkers BETH GREENBERG and BETH SIMON. But that's not the item. Greenberg, an MD, is 52, and Simon, a VP of financial services for Standard & Poor's, is 55. As for the chronological factor, well, Greenberg admitted going into the age closet on her first e-mail encounter with Simon, who had indicated in her 2004 computer-dating profile that she was only interested in responses from those age 49 or younger. "So Dr. Greenberg fibbed," wrote Smith. "She said she was 41, instead of 51." The pair soon discovered by e-mail that they had so much in common, ah, well, age would not be a barrier. (Sheesh!) Not only did they live on the same street in Manhattan, four blocks apart, but "both love sheep dogs, blue jeans, the Beatles . . . and both are close to their octogenarian mothers." For some time the Times has been including same-gender unions, and reporters or columnists working up pieces for Valentine's Day next week might want to perk up stories with this dimension. Where marriage isn't easily accessible, reporters might find older boomer couples who have had commitment ceremonies.
IT'S BEEN A TOUGH WEEK FOR THE '60s. The death of CORETTA SCOTT KING was followed by news over the weekend that BETTY FRIEDAN had died at age 85 in Washington, D.C. A photo of Friedan sits atop this editor's cluttered file cabinet from 1995, when her book "The Fountain of Age," had recently been released in paperback. The black-and-while picture always makes me chuckle. In it Friedan is almost literally head to head with ROBERT BUTLER, the great geriatrician she credited as her "mentor" on the topic of aging. They were seated high on the dais with other panelists for the opening general session of the American Society on Aging Annual Meeting in Atlanta. Photographer BILL CRANFORD caught the pair in a pre-session tete-a-tete, as Butler leaned in close from the right, intently listening, Friedan earnestly extended her unusually long forefinger as if to spindle her point on it like one of those pink message slips people used to spike for immediate attention before the advent of e-mail. During the session that followed, she stated, "When I embarked upon the 10-year ordeal of writing 'The Fountain of Age,' I found an age mystique even more pervasive, pernicious, perverted and obsolete than the feminine mystique. It defined age as programmed deterioration from youth to terminal senility--only as a problem for society . . . . If we make this paradigm shift away from age as decline, we will be thinking in terms of a productive human life at 75 or 80 years or more" (Aging Today, May-June 1995).

Friedan was notoriously abrasive. Earlier that day at the 1995 conference she bounded into the press room demanding immediate access to a telephone, barked orders into the receiver at an aide one could only image to be cowering at the other end, and blustered out the door with hardly a nod, much less a thank-you, to the disappointed journalist who had volunteered to help out and hoped she'd get to meet the author of "Feminine Mystique." Another reporter later confided to us, "Friedan's blind as a bat, you know." I was doubtful about the veracity of this intelligence but tried to take to heart the lesson that maturity isn't always graceful.

Meeting Friedan, if briefly, carried a personal dimension for me. My sister, Judie, had once written a moving poem titled "Feminine Mystique" about the life of disappointment led by our mother. In the poem, Judie wondered whether our sweet-natured, anxious and intellectually curious mom might have met the world more happily and enjoyed a longer life had she been born only one generation later, in time to find liberation in Freidan's words -- and the pill. The culture of our parents' youth to middle-years, the 1930s to 1960s, was the last era when American women still commonly listed their occupation as "housewife," a designation that suited some better than others. (Even now, when a growing number of young women are taking time off to be stay-at-home moms, they tend to have more education than Greatest-Generation women, and career opportunities they can take up later.) To Judie and me, Betty Friedan spoke for women like our mother, women who suppressed their verve and potential for realizing something larger from their minds and talents, something more contributive to society, something more fulfilling in their lives. Children and family? Of course, our mother was deeply devoted to her four offspring, but for her and others like her, why not something more, why not choice?

I decided to go ahead with my plan to bring Friedan my copy of "Fountain of Age," which, despite being badly in need of editing at 660 pages, was a richly insightful book, and to ask her for her autograph. As the hotel ballroom began to fill with conference goers for the plenary session, I made my move. Book in hand, I approached the platform. Friedan was seated at the symposium table leaning down and peering over her notes. Just as she straightened up and seemed to relax for a moment, I lifted the book toward her and asked her to sign. She frowned but muttered, "All right." Then she looked down in my direction and said, "What's your name?" "Ah, Paul . . . Paul Kleyman." At that Friedan arched over the table a bit, squinted down and focused on me. "Oh, Paul! It's you. Of course, I'll be happy to sign."

Later, when I related the moment to my friend, who still felt bruised by how Friedan treated her in the press room, we both wondered. Friedan was famously raw in her dealings with many people. Had she simply been too distracted to notice who handed her the book, even though we'd met before. Could it be that her abruptness with many people might have been partly a cover of vision loss, her own touch of age denial? The question is entirely speculative, and those close to her might dispel the notion. What is not a matter of speculation, though, is that the loss of this tough-minded mother of American sisterhood -- this champion of positive elderhood -- is worthy of a nation's grief.

When I saw a friend, Victoria, an early-boomer contemporary, on Sunday, I asked if she'd heard the news. Saying she hadn't, she then paused for a moment and added these simple words of tribute, "She was one of the mentors of our generation."
WHEN AGE AND MORTGAGE MATTER (Or, Ba-a-ad Boomer): "I'm 45 years old; I got a mortgage to pay." So stated SUSAN KENNEDY in explaining why she, a former top aide to recalled California governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, is now chief of staff to Republican governor Arnold Schwartzenegger. What Kennedy doesn't succeed in justifying by age or mortgage, is her violation of the state's own ethical guidelines by supplementing her $131,000 taxpaid salary by serving as a campaign consultant to the Grope-enator, as many feminists on the Left Coast still call him. San Francisco Chronicle political correspondent CARLA MARINUCCI ("governor's New Chief of Staff Piles It On/Susan Kennedy Now Also Is Head Campaigner," Feb. 5, 2006), found that Kennedy has already earned at least $25,000 extra for promoting Schwartzenegger's reelection. Although Kennedy insists that "there's absolutely no conflict," Marinucci reports that her situation "directly conflicts with ethics guidelines issued and taught to elected officials and political staffers in Sacramento during the Davis administration--and even this year." Kennedy may have neglected to note that when she's talking to voters and to newspaper editorial boards," and others in her fundraising campaign, she disguises her influential self by wearing a big black fedora.
The Journalists Exchange on Aging (JEoA) publishes AGE BEAT ONLINE with the assistance of the American Society on Aging (ASA). JEoA provides information and networking opportunities for journalists covering issues in aging but not those representing services, products or organizational agendas. ASA is a nonpartisan, nonlobbying organization of professionals in aging that is based in San Francisco. Its mandate is to serve as a forum for all points of view. Opinions expressed in ABO do not represent those of ASA. The most recent four issues of ABO are posted online at www.asaging.org/agebeat. Copyright JEoA 2006.

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