Students Jump in to Help Pension Action Center Manage Surge in Callers Seeking Help With Benefits

Pension Action Center student program participants

The students who helped the Pension Action Center process a big increase in calls for assistance. Left to right, Elizabeth Arpino, Kailyn Fellmeth, and Andrew Bellahcene.

Can you wear out a phone?

The Pension Action Center at UMass Boston’s Gerontology Institute is always busy fielding calls from people seeking help to track down their pensions or investigate benefits they believe they are owed. But the pace of callers seeking PAC helped went into overdrive during the fall.

That posed a problem for the small center with a limited number of people on hand to manage the volume. One solution: A grant from the McCormack Graduate School allowed PAC Director Anna-Marie Tabor to hire UMass Boston undergraduate students to jump in and help process the pension queries during the fall semester. Continue reading

Turning Gray and into the Red: The True Cost of Growing Old in America

This article originally appeared in The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.

The U.S. population is aging at such a rate that within a few years, older Americans will outnumber the country’s children for the first time, according to census projections. But rising rents, health care and other living costs mean that for many entering their retirement years, balancing the household budget can be a struggle.

To get a better understanding of how much of a struggle, a team at the University of Massachusetts Boston established a benchmark against which to measure the financial security of Americans aged 65 and over. Jan Mutchler is Professor of Gerontology and Director of the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging in the Gerontology Institute at UMass. Continue reading

Half of Single Older Adults in U.S. Lack Income to Pay for Basic Needs

Researchers tracking the economic security of America’s older adults have found that half who live alone and nearly a quarter of those living in two-person households where both are age 65 or older are unable to afford basic necessities without extra assistance.

The 2019 Elder IndexTM and a companion report, Insecurity in the States 2019, calculates the elder economic “insecurity rate” both nationally and on a state-by-state basis. The new index data and report were produced by the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s McCormack Graduate School.

Among the states, Massachusetts leads the nation with the highest level of elder economic insecurity for older adults living alone. Seven of the top 10 states in that economic insecurity category, including New York and New Jersey, were located in the Northeast. They were joined by Mississippi, Louisiana, and California. Continue reading

The 2019 Elder Index: An Online Tool Measuring the True Cost of Elder Living in Every U.S. County and State

The new 2019 Elder Index is an important, free resource available to anyone online. It provides information about elder cost of living across the United States. Here are the answers to some questions you may have.

Q: What’s new about the Elder Index?

A: The 2019 Elder Index is fully updated with new data on the realistic cost of living for older adults. It’s the Index’s first big information update since 2016. The index also has a redesigned, easy-to-use website and a new location online, at www.elderindex.org.

Q: What’s special about the information the index can provide?

A: The Elder Index provides economic information that is both broad and deep. The Congressional Budget Office cites the Elder Index as one of the most commonly used measures of retirement adequacy, noting that it is the only adequacy measure oriented specifically to older people and takes into account the unique demands of housing and medical care on older budgets. Continue reading

Gerontology Institute Report Finds High Levels of Elder Economic Insecurity in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is home to the nation’s highest percentage of older adults living alone who are unable to afford basic necessities without extra assistance, according to new research from UMass Boston’s Gerontology Institute.

About 62 percent of adults age 65 and older in Massachusetts are unable to afford the cost of a no-frills lifestyle that pays for basics such as food, housing, health care and transportation, according to a new report, Insecurity in the States 2019.

About 35 percent of Massachusetts elder couples living in two-person households are unable to afford their basic cost of living without assistance, the third highest rate in the nation, the report found. Only Vermont and New York had higher rates for older couples living independently. Continue reading

Institute Talk: A Conversation With Vince Mor on Alzheimer’s Care and the State of Nursing Homes

Len Fishman and Vince Mor

Len Fishman, left, and Vince Mor

Vincent Mor is a leading academic expert on eldercare issues and a national authority on research related to nursing homes. The Brown University professor has been principal investigator in more than 40 grants funded by the National Institutes of Health that focus on the use of health services and the outcomes experienced by frail and chronically ill persons.

Mor and Susan Mitchell of Hebrew SeniorLife are leading an ambitious new collaborative research incubator for “pragmatic clinical trials” that test and evaluate interventions for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Last month, they received a grant from the National Institute on Aging expected to total $53.4 million to fund that work over the next five years. It was one of the largest federal grants ever awarded for Alzheimer’s care.

Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman recently spoke with Mor to talk about his new project and discuss the state of the struggling nursing home industry. The following is an edited version of their conversation. Continue reading

Archive Video: Frank J. Manning and the Senior Power Movement

The Gerontology Institute’s recent 35th anniversary symposium honored the contributions of elder rights activist Frank J. Manning, who began organizing older adults in the later 1960s to help lead a powerful political movement in Massachusetts and beyond.

During the symposium, Institute Director Len Fishman introduced an eight-minute clip from “Old warrior: Frank Manning and the senior power movement,” a documentary produced in 1994. The video recounts the beginnings of the grassroots movement Manning helped create, including a dramatic rally at Suffolk Downs that brought tens of thousands of older adults together to demand better treatment.

The video captures an important time in the history of elder affairs that contributed to many age-friendly developments, including the creation of the gerontology program at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School.

 

 

Gerontology Institute Marks 35th Anniversary With Symposium Celebrating Past and Looking to Future

Kathryn Hyer, Pamela Herd and Edward Miller

Speakers Kathryn Hyer, left, and Pamela Herd, right, who were introduced by Professor Edward Miller, center.

Any celebration of an important anniversary should honor the past and also look to the future. So it was at the Gerontology Institute’s 35th anniversary symposium held on campus last week.

A panel of founders and other past leaders of the gerontology program at UMass Boston described the formative years of the institute and the gerontology academic department. They were joined on the Snowden Auditorium stage by the current directors of four Institute centers, as well as two academic program leaders, who discussed their more recent achievements and current priorities.

Later in the symposium, two other speakers turned to the future of gerontology. University of South Florida professor Kathryn Hyer, the incoming president of the Gerontological Society of America, and Georgetown University professor Pamela Herd focused on issues they believed would be priorities for gerontologists in the years ahead.

Two videos of the symposium are available online. The first segment covers the initial panel. The second segment replays the comments and conversation of Hyer and Herd. (These files are streaming in a format not supported by Internet Explorer. Viewing with Chrome, Safari or Edge is recommended.) Continue reading

Making Streets Safer: UMass Boston Research Team Studies Car Crashes Injuring Older Pedestrians

By Taryn Hojlo

Walking activities are normally good for older adults. One rare but dangerous exception: Car crashes that involve pedestrians.

This is a growing problem. The number of pedestrian fatalities increased by 37 percent across the United States between 2008 and 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly half of pedestrian fatalities in 2017 were age 50 or older.

A research team from UMass Boston’s Gerontology Institute recently studied risks to older pedestrians in Massachusetts and to what extent they could be prevented. Their report included specific suggestions for improving older pedestrians safety. It was prepared in cooperation with MassDOT, Office of Transportation Planning, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. Continue reading

PAC Case Study: Defending Retiree After Pension Plan Sent Her $37,000 Bill for Error it Made Long Ago

The Gerontology Institute’s Pension Action Center is part of the McCormack Graduate School at UMass Boston. It provides free legal assistance to low- and moderate-income workers, retirees and their survivors in the six New England states and Illinois whose pension benefits have been wrongfully denied. This is one in an occasional series of posts about cases the center pursues on behalf of its clients.

 Pensions are supposed to provide modest but regular income to help retirees make ends meet. Imagine a pension plan that instead sends a beneficiary an unexpected bill for $37,000.

This actually happened to “Sue,” a Pension Action Center client from Bridgeview, Ill. The plan in question said it made a mistake long ago and, as a result, had been paying her too much for years. It wanted to settle the matter by cutting off all her payments in the future, starting immediately.

The PAC helpline has been receiving an increasing number of calls from clients like Sue dealing with pension plan “recoupments.” In those cases, pension plans seek to correct their own miscalculations by demanding repayment from unsuspecting beneficiaries. Continue reading