It’s Valentine’s Day, and we want to take this opportunity to remind you of how much you are appreciated. Your support makes all the difference in how powerful of a voice we can be for women 40+ on critical issues that impact their quality of life. Thanks to our generous donors, OWL is celebrating 35 years of keeping women’s issues at the forefront of policy discussions. Issues like ensuring meaningful employment opportunities, wage equality, and retirement security; protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; and ensuring access to quality, affordable healthcare.
And on the subject of health - February is American Heart Month, an annual tradition that began in 1964. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women (and men) in the U.S. For steps you can take to lower your risk, visit: www.fighttheladykiller.org.
Part of OWL’s advocacy is informing and educating members and the public on issues like heart health, the Affordable Care Act, and other topics via our monthly online newsletter, a column on Huffington Post, and our widely circulated Mother’s Day Report, which this year will focus on the timely and important topic of aging in place.
Only with your support can we continue to make a difference.
At the Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation, part of Sutter Health’s Palo Alto Medical Foundation, linkAges was developed to support older adults in continuing to live independently in their communities while being vitally engaged, enriched and connected with community members of all ages. By leveraging technology to facilitate social interactions across generations (called service exchanges), the program empowers older adults, their caregivers and supporters to engage with one another in meaningful ways. The program’s four related modules can be implemented separately or combined:
Profile: A social health survey that captures information about seniors’ day-to-day lives, interests, needs, and goals that they would like their doctors or linkAges as a system, to know
TimeBank: A community-based network that allows members to exchange hobbies, interests and skills like cooking, board games or driving
List: A localized collection of senior-friendly services and resources
Connect: Passive in-home monitoring of utility usage to detect pre-emptive shifts changes in seniors’ physical and social health status
We designed the linkAges platform to be adopted by communities throughout the United States. It’s currently being tested in the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Cruz, California. The focus is on making every senior once again, an integral part of their community: connecting all members of a community where one lives, rather than in segregated living facilities or gathering places geared only to seniors, is therefore intentional.
Through linkAges TimeBank, participants earn hours by providing “neighborly services” such as cooking, driving, teaching new skills, and sharing hobbies and interests. They can then use those hours to share hobbies, receive help, or instruction, in return. Through these exchanges, members build community and social connections. Members can also donate hours into the TimeBank’s Community Fund to address the needs of more vulnerable seniors or members experiencing episodic high-need instances, like a temporarily immobilizing medical procedure.
LinkAges TimeBank also includes a program for family caregivers called Meet & Move developed In association with El Camino Hospital, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Meet & Move very simply, is a “Walk and Talk” program with facilitated walks that improves the well-being of family caregivers through addressing physical activity and social isolation. Family caregivers get together to share their challenges of looking after loved-ones while keeping fit themselves. The program, which successfully completed its pilot stage last year, has expanded throughout the San Francisco Peninsula and into Santa Cruz.
LinkAges List is an online platform that combines content about senior-relevant services and resources from social service and community-based databases to create a comprehensive referrals resource to address enrichment as well as everyday needs for seniors and their families.
LinkAges Profile contains information about seniors’ day-to-day lives, interests, needs, and goals that they would like their doctors to know in the context of their healthcare experience. The profile is also intended to link to the TimeBank and List to personalize a members’ linkAges experience.
Connect uses passive in-home monitoring of utility usage (e.g., electricity and water) to proactively detect changes in seniors’ physical and social health status that can be shared via the Web with family caregivers almost like a daily “okay-ness” check. A daily spike in electrical usage at 7 a.m., for example, might be associated with cooking breakfast, while lack of activity may suggest a problem. The data is uploaded to a Web dashboard in a user-friendly format so that a family member or caregiver can be alerted to potential shifts in well-being and health.
760 plus users of ages 18-94 have already exchanged almost 3000 hours of services in the San Francisco South Bay. LinkAges is being made available for adoption by partners nationally, as a place for people of all ages to go to, for making community connections and enriching their lives through meaningful exchanges that improve everyone’s well-being.
In OWL’s latest Huffington Post blog, Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar discusses The White House Conference on Aging, and the timely and much-needed national conversation on the challenges of an aging society it inspired. Below is an excerpt:
We are in the midst of an age wave, brought on by baby boomers who are changing the nation’s demographics and redefining the meaning of old age. Every day, over 10,000 Americans turn 65, and the trend will continue into the next decade and beyond. As we begin the new year, it’s a good time to take stock in our preparedness to deal with the needs of this growing population.
In 2015, we reached significant milestones: it was the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, and the 80th anniversary of Social Security - all successful, cherished institutions critical to the health and well-being of our elderly population.
It was also the year that the White House held its sixth Conference on Aging, a decadal event that brought together seniors, caregivers, policy experts and advocates for discussions on how to improve the lives of older Americans. And it couldn’t have been more timely.
The final report from the Conference has just been released, and it focuses on four areas especially important to seniors: retirement security, healthy aging, long-term services and supports, and elder justice.
Hillary Clinton has announced an aggressive approach to Alzheimer’s that includes a $2 billion annual commitment to research. That’s the level championed by the dementia movement, which includes the LEAD Coalition to which OWL belongs. Her plan also includes the goal of finding a cure by 2025, and ways to aid caregivers.
Two-thirds of the people over age 65 who have Alzheimer’s are women, as are a majority of
dementia caregivers. A report by Maria Shriver and the Alzheimer’s Association puts the annual economic impact of the disease at $300 billion in the United States alone. The cost of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is $56,800 a year, the bulk of it borne by individual families. With the baby boomers entering their mid-60s, the number of people with the disease is expected to triple to 16 million by 2050.
Clinton is the first presidential candidate to release a proposal on Alzheimer’s disease. As a U.S. Senator, she co-chaired a congressional task force on Alzheimer’s.
There are hundreds of thousands of women and men who embody the holiday spirit year-round.
Day after day, in ways big and small, they strive to improve people’s lives, regardless of whether or not they are acknowledged for their efforts.
OWL’s holiday message this year is one of gratitude for everyone working to change lives for the better.
Your contributions are behind the many welcome heart-warming stories that together point toward a better and more hopeful future.
We are grateful for you.
“The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others’ burdens, easing others’ loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of the holidays.” - W. C. Jones
Social Security recipients—who are receiving no cost-of-living increase (COLA) next year—would receive a one-time payment of $580 in 2016 under legislation proposed today by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The amount is 3.9% of the average benefit, reflecting the average raise CEOs at the 350 largest companies received last year.
“It may sound like a small amount to some people, but to a woman who depends on Social Security for basic living expenses, this infusion would mean a lot,” said OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar. “The average annual Social Security benefit for women 65 and older is about $13,500 per year. When you consider what these women have contributed over the years, this ‘bonus’ has definitely been earned.”
It’s also money that will go right back into the economy, Brinegar said. “We know that these are checks that are spent quickly; so it will not only benefit individuals, it will help their communities.”
Under the legislation, revenue gained from closing the loophole after the one-time payment will be dedicated to Social Security, decreasing the long-range projected shortfall.
The way the Social Security COLA is calculated has been criticized for years for being based on a Consumer Price Index (CPI) that doesn’t accurately represent how seniors spend money. The current CPI gives more weight to factors like transportation and fuel prices; the drop in gas prices in the last year played a big role in the lack of a COLA increase. Advocates for years have pressed for an alternative index (CPI-Elderly) to be used that would more accurately reflect senior spending.
This is only the third time since 1975 that Social Security recipients are not scheduled for a cost-of-living increase.
Call your Senators today. If they are sponsors of the SAVE Act, thank them. If not, urge them to sign on!
Due to a number of converging factors, 2016 Medicare Part B premiums are projected to dramatically increase for some Medicare beneficiaries, and the Part B deductible is projected to dramatically increase for everyone – unless Congress acts to fix it.
On October 15th – the same day that the Medicare Open Enrollment period began, which allows people to make changes to their Medicare Advantage and Part D plans – the Social Security Administration announced that there will be no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2016. Although the Medicare program has not yet released the official 2016 Part B premium and deductible amounts, this announcement makes it much more likely that these unprecedented increases will occur.
According to the 2015 Medicare Trustees Report, Part B premiums are expected to increase for 30% of beneficiaries by 52% – from $104.90 to $159.30 per month. The trustees also predict that this increase will be accompanied by an increase in the Part B deductible for everyone – up to $223 from $147.
Because there will be no COLA next year, 70% of beneficiaries who have their Part B premiums deducted from their Social Security checks will be protected by a “hold harmless” provision of the Medicare statute, meaning their premiums will stay at the same rate next year ($104.90).
That means the increased costs will be borne by the 30% of individuals described below, rather than a lower amount spread across the entire Medicare population.
The 30% of affected individuals are:
o those who will be new Medicare enrollees in 2016;
o those with income-related premiums (incomes higher than $85,000 for individuals);
o those beneficiaries who pay their premiums directly instead of having it deducted from their Social Security checks (or those who don’t collect Social Security, such as certain government employees); and
o individuals dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid (these costs will be paid for by state Medicaid agencies rather than individuals).
There is no “hold harmless” provision that applies to the deductible, so the projected increase from $147 in 2015 to $223 in 2016 (an increase of $76) will apply to all Medicare beneficiaries. While many Medicare beneficiaries have supplemental or other coverage that includes coverage of the deductible, state Medicaid agencies, employer plans, and certain Medigap plan carriers will pay these increased costs which could, among other things, affect premiums. Those without any supplemental coverage that covers the Part B deductible will pay the full amount.
On Tuesday, California took a landmark step in addressing wage discrimination when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Fair Pay Act, which is being called the strongest equal-pay protection in the nation.
The Act closes loopholes in existing laws that made it difficult for people to prove wage discrimination or challenge their employers.
One such loophole is the phrase “equal work,” which the courts have interpreted to apply only when a male and female worker have the same job title. The new law changes the standard to “substantially similar work” – and mandates that people doing basically the same job be paid at the same wage rate, regardless of their job title.
Another loophole is that women often are not privy to what their male co-workers earn. The new law gives them the right to openly ask questions about co-workers’ salaries without fear of retaliation from employers.
California’s law goes beyond federal law by placing the responsibility on employers to prove that higher pay for the same work is based on reasons other than gender – for example, education, experience, skills, merit, or seniority.
Pay Inequality Begins Early On
The pay gap exists nationwide for women at all points in their careers and is even worse for women of color. And it starts right out of the gate: a report by AAUW found an inexplicable 7% gender pay gap between males and females just one year after graduating college.
Recent Efforts to Close the Gap
President Obama in 2009 signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extends the amount of time a woman has to sue an employer once she realizes she’s been illegally paid less for the same work. He also issued three executive orders in 2014 that help to protect employees of federal contractors from pay disparity.
The California bill had nearly unanimous bipartisan support, as well as backing from business-oriented groups like the Chamber of Commerce, whose CEO said: “Equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender, should not be an issue in California.”
Most Americans agree. According to a Pew Research Center survey last fall, 77% of women and 63% of men said, “this country needs to continue making changes to give men and women equality in the workplace.”
How many times have you heard it? Life is too short… Life is too short to wear boring clothes. Life is too short to hate your job. To worry about money. To take a bad exercise class.
But this is exactly wrong. Life is long, not short. Too long to dress dully or to hate your job. If life were too short, it wouldn’t matter. You could forget about money – spend it all today, why not? Ignore your health – who cares?
Life is too long not to plan. With life expectancy exceeding 85 years, both women and men need to give careful consideration to the future. Women in particular need to take proactive steps given their longer lifespans, lower income and potential for higher healthcare costs.
Fortunately, women can and should own their future. Owning the future is not just planning for retirement, but also taking steps today to ensure lifelong well-being. Three steps women can take are:
1) Join a professional association. Whether it’s the Society of Association Executives or the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, membership in an association will expand your professional network and extend your opportunities. Already retired? Re-engaging with your profession can provide an opportunity to learn what is new and/or contribute what you know.
2) Find an exercise you like. If Lena Dunham can become an enthusiastic runner, then there is an exercise for every single person. She notes, “I had to learn, as you age, you have to move. You have to move so you don’t die. You have to move so your brain doesn’t atrophy. You have to move so that you look a little bit like a person that you might want to be. There are a thousand reasons why exercise is important…”
3) Spend mindfully. There’s a vast difference between wearing boring clothes and breaking the bank on a clothing budget. Whether you use a spending app, a monthly budget or a fixed ‘fun fund,’ set a limit on mindless expenditures. The joy of a balanced budget can be its very own fashion statement.
While there are many wise sayings, “Life is Too Short” is not one of them. Fortunately, women are wonderfully inventive and we know “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” When we acknowledge life can be long, we take the opportunity to own our future.
In OWL’s latest Huffington Post blog, Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar discusses opening up the primary election process to all voters. Below is an excerpt:
Over half the states have a closed or semi-closed primary system, where only registered members of a party with candidates on the ballot are allowed to vote. Voters who are independent, unaffiliated, or registered with a third party are excluded from voting, or forced to change party affiliation before they can vote.
This is wrong for a number of reasons.
Primaries are publicly funded. Voting machines, election materials, ballot tabulation, etc. are paid for with state tax dollars. All voters deserve the right to participate in a publicly funded election.
Primaries are critical. In many places, especially legislative districts drawn along party lines, the primary vote decides the election.
In OWL’s latest Huffington Post blog, Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar discusses women and Social Security:
One of the guiding principles in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution is to “promote the general welfare.” We’d be hard-pressed to name a program that achieves that goal more effectively than Social Security.
While Social Security is important to all Americans, it is even more so to women. Women rely more on income from Social Security than men do. And older women are at greater risk of being poor: in 2013, of those 65+, more than twice as many women as men lived in poverty.
Women make up more than half of all beneficiaries age 62+, and around two-thirds of beneficiaries age 85+.
Without Social Security, nearly half of women 65+ would be poor.
Women have longer life expectancies than men, so they live more years into retirement and run a higher risk of exhausting their savings.
Women are less likely than men to have a pension, and their pensions are likely to be smaller than men’s, due to earning lower wages or spending time out of the workforce to serve as caregivers.
Unlike pensions, Social Security benefits are adjusted for inflation and last for the lifetime.
Not since the 1960s has the U.S. Congress seriously considered the issue of mental health. In 1963, it passed President Kennedy’s Community Mental Health Act, and a few years later, Medicare and Medicaid designated funding for the community services mentioned in the bill.
Now, nearly 50 years later, lawmakers in both houses are considering bipartisan bills that would reform mental health care in America.
The Senate bill is S. 1945, the “Mental Health Reform Act of 2015,” introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). The House bill is H.R. 2646, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.).
Both bills address two major issues:
• Improving access to mental health care under Medicaid. A decades-old rule in Medicaid excludes patients between the ages of 21 and 64 from going to freestanding psychiatric hospitals. The bills would allow an exception so that short-term psychiatric hospitals can participate in Medicaid.
• Clarifying disclosure of patient information under HIPAA. Because of the way doctors and other healthcare providers interpret the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it’s difficult for family members or caregivers to get information about the diagnosis or treatment of a loved one. The bills would clarify what information can be disclosed, allowing for greater access to family members.
What were Airbnb, Uber, Walgreen’s and Peapod doing at a White House Conference on Aging?
Giving us a glimpse of the future.
In case you missed it, 10,000 people are turning 65 years of age every day. That’s expected to continue for the next 15 years - and the private sector is taking notice.
There was Seth Sternberg, CEO of Honor, one of a number of corporations that took part in the once-in-a-decade event designed to guide policies around aging. Honor’s goal is a heady one -“to spark a revolution in solving the monumental problem of how we care for our aging parents.” His well-funded company - investors include Marc Andreesen and Jessica Alba—is using technology to build a new model to match people with caregivers; at the conference Sternberg announced plans to give away $1 million in free home care in ten cities.
During the day-long conference, interspersed with announcements of new administration initiatives, company after company demonstrated how the private sector is finding opportunity in the nation’s changing demographics. From travel to grocery shopping to home care, there’s a promising partnership between aging and technology on the horizon.
The nation would need to spend $470 billion to replace the work done by the more than 40 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. That’s one of the findings from a recent study by the AARP Public Policy Institute.
Caregivers themselves pay a high price; the study noted that adult children, mostly daughters, reduce their own paid work to care for parents, at a lifetime cost that can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to research by the MetLife Foundation, female caregivers lose on average $324,000 in lost wages and Social Security benefits.
The good news is that lawmakers are taking action. The recently introduced bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act would require the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers, including creation of an advisory body to bring together relevant federal agencies and others from the private and public sectors to advise and make recommendations.
And Rep.Nita Lowey plans to reintroduce her Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, which would create a credit that would be added to earnings to determine future benefits. This is particularly important for women who are more likely to take time out of the workforce to serve as unpaid caregivers.
WL supports both pieces of legislation and encourages everyone to ask their congressional delegation to do the same.
A number of caregiving-related initiatives were also announced at the White House Conference on Aging. For example, the employer coalition ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time), Care.com and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are creating the tools employers need to support employees who are caregivers. Bank of America announced its Bank of America Merrill Lynch Longevity Training Program for human resources and benefit plan professionals.
The talk with your health care professionals. The one
about weight—and the devastating consequences
extra pounds can have on women’s health.
OWL’s latest article on Huffington Post examines the impacts of obesity on women.
Study after study confirms it: America is facing a serious adult obesity epidemic. The latest report from JAMA Internal Medicine found that 75 percent of men and 67 percent of women are now overweight or obese—a sharp increase from 20 years ago when 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women fell into those categories.
(A person is overweight if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9. Those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese.)
Women were more likely to be obese than overweight, with 37 percent of women in the former category and 30 percent in the latter. Altogether, two out of every three women in the U.S. were above a normal weight.
This—no pun intended—is a very big deal. Carrying too much weight raises the risk of serious, life-threatening diseases including Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Being obese affects certain recovery outcomes, as well: Obese women diagnosed with breast cancer are 35 percent more likely than normal-weight women to die of their cancer.
Obesity is also a significant predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD), particularly among women, and CVD is the leading killer of women in the U.S.