Elder Index at Work: Defending Property Tax-Relief Programs for Older Homeowners in New Jersey

multigeneration portraitThis article is one in a series of stories about how people across the country are using the Elder Index to understand the true cost of living for older adults and its economic implications. If you know someone who would like to receive information about these stories, send us a note at gerontologyinstitute@umb.edu.

Late this spring, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy faced a big problem that was all too familiar to other governors across America. The staggering economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had created a state budget crisis, with unemployment soaring and new annual revenue projections falling billions of dollars short.

Murphy approached the problem by moving back the start of New Jersey’s next fiscal year from July to October and passing a three-month stop-gap budget to tide the state over. Included in the short-term budget: Cuts to two important property tax-relief programs that help older adults in New Jersey afford to remain in their homes.

This was no small detail. New Jersey homeowners pay the nation’s highest property tax rates, about twice the U.S. average. Nearly 580,000 homeowners benefitted from one of the  programs under the axe and 158,000 others took advantage of the other. Both programs primarily benefitted older homeowners and the combined impact of the cuts was expected to exceed $480 million.

Melissa Chalker, executive director of the New Jersey Foundation For Aging, understood all that. Along with AARP New Jersey and other advocates, Chalker immediately launched a campaign to convince the governor and state legislators to restore the critical programs. One of her key tools in advocacy calls and letters: The Elder Index. Continue reading

Economic Hardship From COVID-19 Will Hit Minority Seniors the Most

This article first appeared over the summer on The Conversation website. Marc Cohen is co-director of the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston. Jane Tavares is a research fellow at the center.

By Marc Cohen and Jane Tavares

For Americans 60 and older, COVID-19 is widespread and deadly. Its economic impact could also be devastating.

With a recession fast developing, much of the attention on the downturn focuses on working-age adults, but many older Americans – with less time to make up for financial losses – will suffer the most.

I am a clinical professor of gerontology. My co-author is a research fellow in gerontology. We believe that recent history, specifically the Great Recession of 2008-09, will demonstrate what’s at stake. Continue reading

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Busy Gerontology Students Mixed Work with Pleasure

Summer is history.

Most of UMass Boston’s gerontology students enjoyed the vacation break and hopefully some even found their way to chairs on a beach. But many also worked on gerontology research projects, attended professional events or participated in fellowships at some point during the summer.

Haowei Wang, Adrita Barooah and Nidya Velasco Roldan all attended the prestigious RAND Summer Institute in Santa Monica, Calif. All said they had become interested in the institute based on recommendations of others. In particular, Sae Hwang Han and Yijung Kim had both traveled from UMass Boston to attend the institute the previous summer.

“It was a great opportunity to network and meet new people,” said Barooah. “Compared to a lot of big conferences, the RAND institute was more personal, which helped me get to know fellow attendees and their work better.” Continue reading

Expert Advice for Institute Fellows: How to Secure Research Funding at National Institute on Aging

Len Fishman, Carl Hill, Lauri Nsiah-Jefferson and Shayla Turnipseed.

Left to right, Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman, NIA Office of Special Populations Director Carl Hill, Gerontology Institute fellow Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson and guest Shayla Turnipseed.

Carl Hill got right to the point when he brought up the subject of research funding priorities at the National Institute on Aging.

“The ‘A’ in NIA stands for aging but it’s leaning toward Alzheimer’s,” Hill told more than 40 researchers and guests attending the first annual Gerontology Institute Fellows dinner at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Hill, director of the NIA Office of Special Populations, spent a full day on the UMass Boston campus discussing funding opportunities within his institute and its $3.1 billion research budget. He pointed to the NIA’s $425 million funding increase specifically dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease research this year (by comparison, the NIA’s general appropriation for the year increased $84 million).

“We’re really part of the race for a cure,” he told the June 10 dinner audience. “We also want to understand the important determinants and factors that will help us slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.” Continue reading

News Flash: UMass Boston Gerontology Makes Headlines in 2018

By Taryn Hojlo

UMass Boston’s gerontology faculty and students produced exciting new research findings and achieved remarkable public service achievements in 2018. The news media took notice.

Associate professor Beth Dugan and her Gerontology Institute colleagues published the 2018 edition of the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report in December.The comprehensive report examined a vast array of health indicators on a community-by-community basis, creating an essential resource for policymakers and local leaders to better serve Massachusetts seniors. News coverage by WBUR in Boston looked at seven key takeaways from the report. The Boston Globe dove into the healthy aging data and produced a front-page story examining the impact of depression among elders. Dugan and her team ended the year at work on a similar report profiling the health status of seniors in New Hampshire. Continue reading

New Reports Explore Global Expansion of Foreign-Born LTSS Workforce

By Natasha S. Bryant

Foreign-born nurses and personal care assistants make up an increasingly significant percentage of workers in the field of long-term services and supports (LTSS) around the world, according to new research from the Global Ageing Network and the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston.

These immigrant/migrant workers, who come primarily from developing countries, bring myriad benefits to the LTSS organizations that employ them and the care recipients they serve, according to findings from a 2018 study by the LTSS Center.

Three new reports explore those benefits, in addition to identifying challenges associated with hiring foreign-born LTSS workers, exploring strategies to address those challenges, and providing an overview of global migration patterns and policies. 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

Study Investigates the Challenge of Documenting End-of-Life Preferences

Detailed instructions reflecting the wishes of people facing serious advancing illness offer family and health care providers valuable guidance for end-of-life care.

But the basic process of collecting that information—from the design of standardized forms to procedures used to complete them—varies greatly from state to state and at individual health care settings. Those operational details can have a dramatic impact on the quality of information collected and the usefulness of the instructions themselves.

Kathrin Boerner, an associate professor of gerontology at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School, used detailed interviews with team members at 2 Massachusetts nursing homes to study policy and practice associated with gathering information about end-of-life care wishes. Boerner, along with UMass Boston assistant sociology professor Jason Rodriquez and 2 other co-authors, recently published their findings in the journal Geriatric Nursing. Continue reading

PAC Case Study: Tracking Down Pension Rights Awarded Long Ago in Divorce Settlement

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.

Couples who go through a divorce need to sort out many financial issues. Settling rights to pension benefits can be an important part of the process.

But a divorce may take place many years or even decades before a pension begins to pay a benefit. Over that time, a lot can happen to separate former spouses from benefits they are legally entitled to collect. Continue reading