Latest from OWL

Medicare Should Cover Hearing Aids

This year, as Medicare turns 50, it’s a good time to look back on its half-century of success in providing access to health care for hundreds of millions of older Americans. It’s also a good time to look forward at ways we can strengthen this essential program for generations to come.

One critical way is to allow Medicare to cover hearing aids. Surprisingly, America’s original safety net for seniors doesn’t cover hearing aids or routine hearing exams.

If you have a loved one who suffers from hearing loss, you know how important a hearing aid can be to quality of life. And chances are, you do: hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in the U.S., affecting nearly 20 million Americans over the age of 45. Left untreated, it can have serious social and emotional consequences: a National Council on Aging study found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression and less likely to participate in social activities than those who wear hearing aids.

Yet, because of the lack of Medicare coverage, many seniors who need them go without. The average price of a pair of hearing aids is around $4,500—a heavy burden or entirely out of reach for many older Americans.

Congress is currently considering legislation that would remove the barriers in the Social Security Act that prevent Medicare from covering hearing aids. H.R. 1653—the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, is an important step toward bringing Medicare into the 21st century and improving access to hearing aids and exams.

Read the full blog here.

Posted by Bobbie Brinegar on 06/29 at 05:23 PM

Why Talk About Death

By Donna L. Wagner, Ph.D.
Interim Dean, College of Health and Social Services, New Mexico State University

Talking about death and end of life issues is probably the last thing most people are interested in doing. Many believe that it’s sad, morbid and unpleasant. Perhaps that’s why we have developed so many euphemisms for death: “He passed,” “She is no longer with us,” “he ate the banana,” “kicked the bucket” or “crossed over.” No matter what your preferred term may be, it is likely seen as more palatable and acceptable than using the “d” word.

At the recent health symposium on the topic of death convened by the College of Health and Social Services at New Mexico State University, Gail Rubin, who organized the death café during our lunch, reminded the audience of this important fact: “Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant and talking about death won’t make you dead.”

The conference was organized to give the community of Las Cruces, New Mexico, both residents and health professionals the opportunity to spend the day talking about the very personal topic of death; more than 400 people showed up.

“A Beautiful Death: What will you choose?” opened with a presentation by Peggy Battin, a bioethicist from the University of Utah who has been studying end of life issues her entire professional career. She challenged the audience with important ethical dilemmas that are timely today as the circumstances around the end of life have changed and are changing due to health technology and medical advancements that can keep us alive. These changes raise the bar for us all as we watch our parents and grandparents face a complicated set of decisions that no one had to make in the past.

Read more here.

Posted by Pat Lewis on 06/11 at 09:38 AM

OWL Briefing Featured in Forbes

OWL’s Mother’s Day briefing and venture capital campaign was featured in a Forbes article:

Divorced, depressed and more than a million dollars in debt in 1997 due to a troubled real estate development, Carol Gardner’s world was falling apart. She was 52. “My cupboard was bare with no money coming in, I was living on four credit cards,” Gardner says. “My divorce attorney’s advice was: ‘Sweetheart, get a therapist or a dog.’”

Gardner opted for an English bulldog, named her Zelda and hoped she’d double as a therapist and help relaunch her life. A friend, knowing Gardner’s background was advertising, suggested entering Zelda in the local pet store’s annual Christmas greeting card contest. So Gardner borrowed a Santa hat from a neighbor, filled the tub with bubble bath, lowered Zelda in the water, snapped the photo and sent it in with this caption: For Christmas, I got a dog for my husband…good trade, huh?

Weeks later, Gardner won the contest, got a year’s supply of dog food and had a life-changing brainstorm in the process: a greeting card company centered around Zelda sporting different outfits.

Though Gardner was warned that 97% of greeting card startups fail, she was determined. “I had no choice. It was about survival.” Nearly 18 years and three Zeldas later, Zelda Wisdom today generates more than $50 million annually from cards, calendars, posters, books and gifts featuring the iconic bulldog.

This week, Gardner was named one of 10 women in the first Hall of Notables — remarkable encore entrepreneurs honored by OWL (Outstanding Women Leaders), the advocacy organization for women over 40. There isn’t a shrinking violet in the Hall, which includes Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the first African-American female combat pilot who’s now a leadership coach; Patricia Lizarraga, Managing Partner of Hypatia Capital Group; journalist and author Gail Sheehy and Teresa Younger, CEO of Ms. Foundation.

Read the full article.

Posted by Brittany Reid on 05/22 at 10:22 AM

Report inspires women seeking encore careers

Reporter Nancie Fadeley wrote on OWL’s Mother’s Day briefing for The Register-Guard:

Every May, OWL, formerly known as The Older Women’s League, releases a Mother’s Day Report about concerns of women as they age. This year’s report is “Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers after 40.” It differs a bit from past reports, but the theme — the need for economic security — is not new.

“Our Women Mean Business” offers inspiration and hope to women who are discouraged by the pay equity gap, the glass ceiling, and gender and age discrimination.

OWL’s 2015 Mother’s Day Report cites research that differs from the conventional wisdom that entrepreneurship is just for young people. During the past 10 years, the highest rate of entrepreneurship in this country has been among those aged 55 to 64; in 2013, one-fifth of all new businesses were started by 50- to 59-year-old entrepreneurs, and 15 percent created by those age 50 and over.

Women decide to open their own businesses for good reasons. Even though there are laws against gender discrimination, gender gaps still exist.

Read the full article.

Posted by Brittany Reid on 05/11 at 02:20 PM

Venture Capitalists: Fund More Women Entrepreneurs

OWL’s Mother’s Day briefing was featured in an article from Next Avenue, a group of public television people and journalists who, for the most part, are experiencing both challenges and opportunities of ‘Adult Part 2’, and that recognizes that what we could all use an abundance of reliable information that can help us figure out what’s next. 

Just 7 percent of all VC funding goes to businesses led by women, according to OWL’s new report timed to Mother’s Day, Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40.

“We are launching a campaign to increase that number to 20 percent by 2020,” says Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, vice president of OWL’s Board of Directors and a partner in a Miami law firm. “When you realize $48 billion was invested by venture capitalists in 2014, 20 percent of that would be a sizeable improvement.”

OWL plans a three-pronged effort to get more investment money in the hands of female entrepreneurs.

First, the 35-year-old organization will ask its Hall of Notables women “to speak to the VC community so we can put a real face to the statistics,” Rodriguez-Taseff says. She adds: “Nothing speaks success to VCs like a successful entrepreneur.”

Second, OWL will reach out to institutional investors — nonprofits, universities and funds that invest in socially-responsible projects — to ensure they factor gender into their investment strategy.

And there’ll be a grassroots effort around the country. “When owls flock together, it’s called a parliament, so OWL will also be convening parliaments around the country to make sure venture capitalists more evenly distribute their funds,” Rodriguez-Taseff says.

OWL reports that women make up only 4.2 percent of the 542 partner-level positions at the 92 largest VC firms. “People give money to people who look like them. It’s not an intentional slight, but what a Harvard study called ‘unconscious bias,’” says Rodriguez-Taseff.

Read the full article.

Posted by Brittany Reid on 05/11 at 02:04 PM

OWL’s 2015 Mother’s Day Report Celebrates Women Encore Entrepreneurs

In case you were wondering where the next economic boom is coming from, OWL believes it lies with the increasing number of women entrepreneurs.

That and more is included in OWL’s 2015 Mother’s Day Report, ‘Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40’ also highlights obstacles that could prevent that potential from being reached, including the meager amount of venture capital going to women. Women received a dismal 7% in VC funds in the first half of 2013 and there are no indications it has gotten any better.

Yet there are hard numbers that demonstrate VC firms would do well to fund more women. For example, women-led technology firms are more capital-efficient, and when backed by venture capital bring in 12% more revenue than their male counterparts. Overall, venture capital firms that invest in women do better than those that don’t.

The report was released May 6 at the National Press Club; the briefing included information on OWL’s upcoming campaign to increase the percentage of VC funds going to women from 7% to 20% by 2020. OWL is the only national nonprofit focusing on opening the VC funding tap to more women.

OWL is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. “We were founded because women faced many more challenges achieving economic security than men,” says OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar. “What’s exciting about the trends we’re seeing now is the emphasis on getting women the tools they need to open new businesses. And it’s not necessarily about fairness. It’s about more economic opportunity for everyone.”

Read more.

Posted by Pat Lewis on 05/06 at 12:31 PM

When Lying Can Be Good for Your Heart

Did you know that lying about your heart symptoms could save your life? It’s called the “Yentl syndrome” and it was coined in 1991 by then-NIH Director Dr. Bernadine Healy. It describes how women had to misrepresent their symptoms to get the same life-saving heart treatment as men. 

Turns out that the syndrome still exists. Men’s heart health is improving, but women in the U.S. are dying from heart disease at an alarming rate. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women, killing more women each year than all of the cancers combined.

And the reasons are gender-based: misinformation, misdiagnosis, and mistreatment. A 2014 survey shows that an alarming 45 percent of women ages 25-60 don’t know heart disease is their number one killer. Some doctors are unversed with the different symptoms women experience, such as the nausea, backache, jaw pain, extreme fatigue or shortness of breath that are women’s signs of heart attack, rather than the crushing chest pain that men first experience. Treatment options are based on medical research conducted on men; only 24 percent of participants in all heart-related studies are women.

I had the pleasure this week to attend a dinner hosted by the heart of Washington, Esther Coopersmith, to honor Barbra Streisand and celebrate the Women’s Heart Alliance, which Streisand co-founded.  She spoke passionately about the Alliance’s awareness campaign, “Fight the Lady Killer.” The campaign builds on the research of organizations like the Society for Women’s Health Research which has consistently promoted research on the sex differences in disease and disorders. The “Fight the Lady Killer” campaign includes raising awareness among women and their doctors, more money for research, and investments in treatment geared toward women. Read the full article.

Posted by Brittany Reid on 05/04 at 01:21 PM

Briefing May 6 on Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40

Did you know that women entrepreneurs—armed with the right resources—are poised to create millions of new jobs?

That’s why OWL is launching a campaign to raise the level of venture capital investment in women from 7% to 20% by 2020.

Learn more about this and our first-ever Hall of Notables on May 6 at the National Press Club when OWL releases its 2015 Mother’s Day Report, “Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40.”

Join us for this thought-provoking program, where you’ll hear from:

Latifa Lyles, Director of the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and many of our Hall of Notable Honorees, women who embody the spirit of encore entrepreneurism—the ability to reinvent oneself, to continually seek out new opportunities, and to give back to communities:  Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the first African American female combat pilot, who now runs a successful consulting business; Carol Gardner, founder of Zelda Wisdom, Inc.; Svetlana Kim, entrepreneur and best-selling author; Kay Koplovitz,founder of USA Network; Patricia Lizarraga, managing partner of Hypatia Capital Group; Nell Merlino, creator of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence; Jeanne Sullivan, a founding principal of StarVest, who was recently cited by Forbes magazine as one of the “Women Changing the World”; Gail Sheehy, award-winning author; Terrie Williams, inspirational speaker; and Teresa Younger, CEO of Ms. Foundation.*

Our moderator is Lisa Stark, Al Jazeera America correspondent, formerly with ABC News.

Seating is limited, so please RSVP to info@owl-national for OWL’s May 6 briefing, 2:30-4:00 p.m., at the National Press Club in D.C. updated 4.28.15

Posted by Pat Lewis on 04/20 at 12:56 PM

Syncing medications to increase adherence

More than 10,000 pharmacies across the nation are embracing a new service that helps patients better manage their medications by coordinating, or “synchronizing,” prescription refills. The goal is to improve medication adherence outcomes.

Virginia Commonwealth University research found that the average patient skips nearly five refills of chronic medications over the course of 12 months; the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) reports that one-third of patients who take regular medications miss doses because they run out before refilling their prescription.

Read more here.

Posted by Pat Lewis on 04/17 at 02:37 PM

Good Health:  A Personal and Social Responsibility


Guest post by Bonnie S. Muheim, a health care consultant and freelance writer based in Washington, DC. 

One hundred years ago, people rarely saw doctors when they were ill.  Available medicines often did not do much to alleviate infection and disease, and treatments to reduce pain and suffering were few.  Life spans reflected these limitations.

Fast forward to today.  We have a broad network of medical specialists and subspecialists who deal with the entire spectrum of medical conditions, illnesses and diseases.  Scientific research has given us multiple categories of medicines and, within each category, numerous medications that can moderate, arrest and often cure illness and disease.  Happily, our life spans reflect the evolution of knowledge and the development of innovative and effective medicines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are witnessing an unprecedented growth of older adults and, by 2050, there will be double the number of people age 65 or older in the United States that we had in 2010.  The growth can be attributed to baby boomers reaching senior status and the fact that Americans are simply living longer.  Where once our ancestors got sick and perished, nowadays our serious illnesses often can be managed with proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment.  Many acute or deadly illnesses, such as AIDS and some cancers, have become chronic illnesses.  Other potentially fatal conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, are now manageable with medication and close medical supervision.

The good news, too, is that while older Americans are living longer, they also are leading more independent, productive, and healthier lives.  Many are putting off their retirement and a new focus on healthy living is encouraging seniors to remain active and engaged in their families, jobs and community. Read more.

Posted by Pat Lewis on 03/23 at 10:42 AM

February Newsletter Released

This month’s newsletter includes a Huffington Post article by OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar entitled, ‘Another Social Security Red Herring?’.

Check out the full observer here.

Posted by Brittany Reid on 02/27 at 12:04 PM

Can we be adults about this?

There’s a high price to pay for political posturing: our public health. As the debate around the anti-vaccination movement rages on, it is important to bear in mind that the vast majority of Americans, across party lines, believe that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks. According to the nation’s leading researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, Americans are making the right choice when they stay up to date with their vaccinations.

Unfortunately, despite the effectiveness of potentially life-saving preventive services, such as screenings and vaccinations, in 2013 only 25% of adults ages 50 to 64 and fewer than 50% of adults age 65 years or older were up to date. Politicians are making a mostly indisputable choice into a partisan hot potato about the reach of government and personal freedoms. By creating a debate around vaccinations politicians are generating more skepticism from adults, particularly adult women, who are making important decisions about not only their child’s vaccinations, but their own. According to one study, the largest contributing factor to uncertainty about vaccinations was a “conspiratorial mindset”. The political is detracting from the practical and undermining a proven prevention strategy: adult vaccinations.

Read more.

Posted by Bobbie Brinegar on 02/09 at 11:35 AM

OWL ED Published in Huffington Post Article

OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar was published in a Huffington Post article entitled, “Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40”. The article lays out the success of female entrepreneurs, highlights the difficulties women face in accessing venture capital funding, and introduces OWL’s initiative to help women gain the access they need to revolutionize the American economy.

Read more.

Posted by Brittany Reid on 01/23 at 02:19 PM

The secret to healthy aging

Guest post by Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging and founder of the active-aging industry in North America. Milner is also a leading authority on the health and well-being of the older adult. For the past six years, the World Economic Forum has invited him to serve on its Network of Global Agenda Councils, recognizing him as one of “the most innovative and influential minds” in the world on aging-related topics.

“How do we live a long and healthy life?” That’s the question I posed 12 years ago to Dr. Richard Carmona, then the Surgeon General of the United States. His answer? “Exercise. Eat right. Get plenty of sleep. And avoid alcohol and tobacco.” That was it! There I was talking to America’s top doctor, and he simply confirmed what I already knew.

Once I reflected on Dr. Carmona’s answer, I realized he had taught me an invaluable lesson. I learned that most of us know what we need to do to age well; we just don’t do it. Too often we fail to make the choices that can change our lives for the better—not only for today, but also for the years to come.

Read more.

Posted by Pat Lewis on 01/21 at 10:39 AM

Because you’re the wind beneath OWL’s wings

Your support is what keeps us soaring. Thanks for a wonderful year!

Posted by Bobbie Brinegar on 12/29 at 03:56 PM

You are still one of our favorite things

This is a wonderful time of year to wander the streets of the nation’s capital, taking in the holiday sights, a few of which I’m sharing here as part of OWL’s season’s greetings.  I’m not embarrassed to admit that I am still moved by this city’s overwhelming sense of history.

It’s disheartening that too many people associate Washington D.C. with nothing but discord and dysfunction.  While it’s true that we have no shortage of either, the city is much more than that. We need only to consider our past to be reminded of the many times we’ve worked through our differences.

So OWL’s hope is that we all can greet the coming year with open minds and a willingness to talk with people instead of at them. Together, imagine all the good we can do.

Warmest holiday wishes from the OWL National Team!

Posted by Bobbie Brinegar on 12/17 at 11:46 AM

Wall Street Journal Small Business Podcast Features OWL Venture Capital Access Campaign

The podcast (story starts at 6:20) highlights the finding from the Kauffman Foundation’s latest report—featured in the latest OWL Observer—that “accelerating female entrepreneurship could have the same positive effect on the U.S. economy that the large-scale entry of women into the labor force had during the 20th century.”

The report, based on a survey of nearly 350 female tech start-up leaders, investigated what contributes to the low percentage of women running high-growth firms. Among the challenges women cited: a tougher time raising capital.  Read more.

Posted by Pat Lewis on 12/09 at 02:36 PM

Beware Potential Pitfalls Enrolling in Medicare Part B!

Guest post from Mitchell Clark and Stacy Sanders, Medicare Rights Center

It is often reported that 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare every day. What is less well known, and often times misunderstood, are the rules concerning how to enroll in Medicare. While most people who become eligible for Medicare are automatically enrolled, others have to make a proactive choice to enroll in one or multiple parts of the program.

A recent analysis of call data from the Medicare Rights Center’s national helpline found that many older adults struggle to understand Medicare enrollment periods, coordination of benefits rules and the penalties associated with delayed enrollment. In 2013, Medicare Rights fielded more than 15,000 questions on its helpline, and the second most common call concerned enrollment (22 percent).

At age 65, retirees already collecting Social Security retirement benefits are automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B. The same is true for individuals ages 64 and younger who are collecting Social Security disability benefits following a 24-month waiting period. For those not collecting Social Security benefits, it is necessary to actively enroll in Medicare, taking into consideration specific enrollment periods and existing coverage. If this transition is mismanaged, individuals new to Medicare may face a lifetime of late enrollment penalties, higher health care costs, gaps in coverage and disruptions in care continuity. Read more.

Posted by Pat Lewis on 11/25 at 12:10 PM

OWL Letter on Social Security Published in Washington Post

I’m surprised the Nov. 2 Business article detailing how readers would fix Social Security didn’t include information from the recent in-depth survey by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). That report, which The Post did mention upon its release [“GOP pivots on Social Security,” news, Oct. 25], found that large majorities of Republicans and Democrats agree on ways to strengthen Social Security — without reducing benefits or raising the retirement age.

The support The Post found among readers for raising the earnings cap was even stronger in the NASI survey, with 70 percent of Republicans and 92 percent of Democrats agreeing that top wage earners could pay more.

People don’t want to ignore what they are constantly being told is a looming crisis, but when they learn about the range of options available, that alarm drops considerably. The only way we are going to have a fact-based discussion on Social Security is by presenting the facts. So cheers to The Post for including the fact that if wages had continued to rise as predicted in 1983, Social Security would be in much better shape — and more earnings would be subject to Social Security taxes. But jeers for telling only part of the story.

Posted by Pat Lewis on 11/12 at 03:05 PM

If MythBusters did an episode on Social Security, they might start here

• Did you know that half of the projected Social Security shortfall has been caused by lousy wage growth?
• That if our wages had kept pace with the projections made in 1983, the earnings cap for Social Security taxes would be about 27 percent higher than it is?
• Or that the baby boomers didn’t sneak up on us?

One of the most ignored factors in the predicted 2033 Social Security shortfall has been slow and unequal wage gains.

As far back as 1983, analysts could foresee that the baby boomer’s retirement would mean fewer workers paying taxes compared to retirees receiving benefits. Despite what many alarmists imply, we saw the boomers coming. After all, the last ones were born in 1964.
What the experts couldn’t predict was the significant slowdown in the average wage index. That’s the index used to adjust the cap on Social Security earnings.

Read more.

Posted by Pat Lewis on 11/10 at 03:19 PM
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