Tuesday, February 07, 2006

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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