Research to Examine Impact of Aging Populations on Local Finances, Services

This post originally appeared in the Collins Report.

Municipalities face a changing demographic profile in the coming years and decades. By 2030, 28 percent of the Massachusetts population will be age 60 or older, and seniors will constitute at least 30 percent of the population in two of every three municipalities in the Commonwealth.

One of the municipal functions most heavily impacted by the aging population is emergency services. Based on preliminary research, the share of EMS responses for residents aged 65+ (47 percent) is three times the share of the population currently aged 65+ (16 percent) statewide. If these patterns of response and transport persist, demand for EMS services will grow dramatically in coming decades, with a more than 35 percent increase in demand for EMS expected by 2035, just for the population aged 65 and over.

Given the need to understand how aging populations will affect the finances of municipalities, the Gerontology Institute and the Collins Center for Public Management have partnered with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy to study this topic. The research will attempt to address questions such as: How do aging populations impact municipal costs, particularly related to EMS? How do aging populations impact revenues, particularly related to EMS? How do changes in the size of the senior population correlate with changes in EMS calls? And what models have emerged to manage the impact of aging populations on costs?

The results of this research will help municipalities understand the financial impact of their own aging populations and begin to consider how they provide EMS and related services to their residents so that they can devise new strategies to meet the needs of an older population.

If you are interested in learning more about or contributing to this research, please contact Michael Ward at


Listening to Consumers and Advocates Who Helped Shape a Health Plan

 By Erin McGaffigan

In 2013, Massachusetts developed the One Care Implementation Council so consumers could have an active role in a new health care program serving people with disabilities who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.  I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with consumers, advocates and state employees to talk about their experience on the One Care Implementation Council, and these interviews did not disappoint. You can find the full report on the Council’s engagement process and lessons learned here. This case study was jointly produced by the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation and the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston.

As I reflect on the interview experience, I realize how much one can learn just by listening. Without question, Massachusetts’ disability advocates have pushed aggressively for meaningful engagement in long-term services and supports (LTSS) program design for years, and this really influenced how advocates and state leaders approached One Care’s engagement strategy. This was not the advocates’ “first rodeo,” and they came ready with ideas for making the Council an active body. This meant ditching the term, “advisory” and replacing it with “implementation” to mirror advocates’ intention to be deeply involved and “part of the action.” State partners, who also have administered their fair share of engagement strategies, spelled out Council expectations, including its purpose and desired representation, through a formalized Request for Response process after meeting with community leaders so that unnecessary process challenges were avoided. Continue reading

How Income Affects Perceived Health of Older Americans

The LTSS Center’s preliminary study, conducted for the National Council on Aging, involves analysis of health and economic data from 2014 Health and Retirement Study.

Center researchers found that 43 percent of people aged 55 or older with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty level reported their health condition as “fair” or “poor.” Individuals in this income group were 3 times more likely to characterize their health as fair or poor than similarly aged people who were at least 400 percent above the poverty level. Continue reading

Gerontology PhD Candidate Danielle Waldron Awarded LEND Fellowship

UMass Boston gerontology PhD candidate Danielle Waldron has been selected for a prestigious one-year fellowship intended to prepare new leaders focused on ways healthcare, education and social services are delivered to people with developmental disabilities.

Waldron was awarded the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship by the UMass Medical School’s Shriver Center.

There are more than 40 LEND fellowship programs across the country, funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Waldron will begin her fellowship in the fall. Continue reading

Evaluating a Contemplative Care Approach for Nursing Homes

The LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston has been engaged by the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care (NYZCCC) to evaluate the impact of the center’s Contemplative Care approach on nursing home residents. The evaluation will also assess the impact of NYZCCC’s Resiliency Training on nursing home staff.

Both the Contemplative Care intervention and the Resiliency Training will take place at Isabella Geriatric Center  in New York City. Continue reading

How Consumer Perspective Helped Direct a New Health Care Program

Erin McGaffigan

Erin McGaffigan

The One Care Implementation Council was established in Massachusetts five years ago to engage consumers and their advocates in the design and oversight of a new health care program serving people with disabilities who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

So how did that work out?

The LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston, with the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, recently released a new case study that examines the creation and development of the council in detail. Continue reading

Choosing a Nursing Home: Can Yelp Help?

By Pamela Nadash, Edward A. Miller, and Jennifer Gaudet Hefele

Leaving loved ones in the care of a nursing home raises a host of fears: that they might suffer abuse at the hands of uncaring staff; that they might be medicated into a stupor; that they will be ignored and neglected. The specter of being trapped in a bad nursing home haunts us all. To avoid bad nursing homes, we need information that enables us to make good choices.

Pamela Nadash

Recently, The Boston Globe revealed that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had not released data it had tracked over several years on the quality of the 133 nursing homes run by the VA. (Vets also have access to roughly 2,500 community nursing homes that the VA contracts with and about 160 State Veterans Homes.) Information obtained by the Globe indicated nearly half of VA-run nursing homes received the lowest possible score for quality (although scores on overall quality, which includes other dimensions, match national figures). Clearly, this is a story about the quality of nursing homes. But it is really a story about the need for access to good information — presented in ways the average person can understand — about nursing homes more generally. Continue reading

Meet Anna-Marie Tabor: New Director of Pension Action Center at UMass Boston

Anna-Marie Tabor has been named the new director of the Pension Action Center at the McCormack Graduate School’s Gerontology Institute. Tabor, who joins UMass Boston from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has deep legal experience defending the rights of individuals on issues related to financial services. She recently discussed her career and plans as the center’s new director. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

You’re a lawyer with a lot of public service experience. What attracted you to this particular position?

I’ve always been interested in economic justice. When I heard about the Pension Action Center, I was impressed by the enormous impact it’s had returning millions of dollars to individual clients. That’s not just a series of one-time payments but streams of income over time that can make such a difference for someone struggling to afford basic necessities. I’m also very excited about being located at UMass Boston and in the Gerontology Institute. I’m looking forward to working with the students and faculty to identify opportunities to delve into some of the systemic issues that the Pension Action Center sees with its clients. Continue reading

Institute Talk: A Conversation with Benchmark Senior Living Founder Tom Grape

The Branches in North Attleboro

The Branches, an assisted living community in North Attleboro, offers “companion-living” accommodations exclusively.


Assisted living has been an extraordinary successful model for combining housing and personal care. But the cost often puts assisted living out of the reach of many middle- and almost all lower-income elders and their families. Benchmark Senior Living, a leading provider of senior living services in the Northeast, recently opened a new community in North Attleboro, Mass., that found a way to lower costs by rethinking space and the way residents live.

Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman recently met with Tom Grape, the founder and chief executive of Benchmark Senior Living, to talk about the economics of assisted living, the ideas behind The Branches community in North Attleboro and other issues that affect the cost of senior living services. This is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Len Fishman

Len Fishman: There are a lot of variables in calculating the cost of assisted living, from the size and type of accommodations to the services required for residents. But, roughly speaking,  what does it cost to reside at a Benchmark community today?


 Tom Grape: Compared to other alternatives, assisted living remains far more affordable unless you’re going to qualify for Medicaid. In Massachusetts, market-rate assisted living can range from a studio apartment starting at $2,500 to $3,000 a month, including typically three meals a day, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, activities, and some modest amount of personal care. And then a studio might be $3500 a month at the higher end with that same basic level of services. A one bedroom might range from $3000 to $4000 roughly, and then a two bedroom might go from $4000 to $6000. Those are starting points. Continue reading

PAC receives $1 Million Grant for New England Pension Counseling

A new $1 million grant will make it possible for the Pension Action Center at UMass Boston to continue providing free pension legal counseling to people across New England for the next five years.

The grant was made by the Administration for Community Living of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a long-time supporter of the center. The funds were awarded to the New England Pension Assistance Project, which is operated by the center. Continue reading