Invisible older persons arise

Reading Joseph Coughlin’s The Longevity Economy. Some very interesting ideas, very interesting. He sees older persons as consumers and in a good way. The growing numbers, especially since many are baby boomers, means more change for the society. Up to this point, marketing people and tech people have pretty much ignored older persons as a group. Sure the retirement industry and the pharmaceutical industry are marketing to them, but in many cases, that is to the dependency of older persons. Coughlin sees them more as vibrant people who are fully engaged in a society that tries to ignore them despite their $8 trillion in wealth.
Mostly, Coughlin places the blame on the rampant ageism in our society, an ageism developed over a century as we, in Carroll Estes’s term, medicalized old age. We made it a separate stage of life and one that did not include a complete membership in the main society anymore.
His approach meshes with the focus of the Department of Gerontology here at VCU. Ageism, we are realizing, is the most pervasive discriminatory and belittling theme of American society. Prejudice to no other group is tolerated as much as it is regarding older persons.
But Coughlin hits this prejudice in a place that just might be able to make some changes: American business. In his opinion, they need to get with the idea that much of their future business, in so many sectors, will come from older persons. And the solutions that older persons are coming up with may disrupt existing industries and companies. For example, we know people love their homes and want to stay in them. If we can bring the services of assisted living into the home at a reasonable price (and through Uber, Instacart and other new options we can), then what will be the affect on these huge residential institutions?
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more insights from this work and similar ones. In the meantime, let’s try and think more creatively about some of these ‘old age problems’ we have made.

Three issues for advocacy

Three things you need to know about aging issues this week.

First, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, has proposed raising the cap on the amount of earnings subject to Social Security Payroll tax withholding. “If we apply the Social Security payroll tax to income above $250,000, we could immediately bring in enough revenue to the Social Security trust fund to extend it for decades and also be able to increase benefits,” he says. Currently the cap is wage income of $118,500. And it does seem unfair that middle class and lower class folks have to pay on ALL of their income while upper class folks only pay on a small portion of their income. It makes a certain sense although those paying these higher payroll taxes on their wages would not, under the current system, recoup much from changed Social Security benefits. Thus Social Security would be of even less benefit to those in the upper middle class and above. Wouldn’t you think this politically powerful group would then work to change Social Security into a means-tested program or even eliminate it? Still….

Second, Administration for Community Living issued the ‘final rule’ for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs in the Federal Register. They have been working on this for years (actually, since 1975 when the program was first authorized in the Older Americans Act – 40 years or so should be perfect don’t you think?). Each state operates its ombudsman program a little differently and there is a beauty in diversity, but some consistency of approach is also helpful. After years of working with the states and other interested partners, official guidance is now available on how to operate a Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman program. With the quality of Long Term Support Services still needing improvement, the demand for good LTC ombudsman can only increase. These programs are always looking for volunteers.

Third, the Senate Committee on Aging released a report on increasing the use of generics in Medicare Part D. You would think this would be a no-brainer that both parties could get behind. The Medicare Part D drug plans could do more to promote the use of generics; maybe some incentives are in order. But Medicare beneficiaries need education too so that they understand the safety and cost savings of using generic drugs. We probably need some ads on the History Channel and the Hallmark channel to counter the constant drug company ads. Oh, and then there’s the prescribers. But that’s a whole other post.

That’s it. Pick an issue. Do some advocacy!