Institute Talk: A Conversation with Home Care Executive Kevin Smith on Service in the Age of COVID-19

Home care agencies and their employees are performing critical services that help clients continue to live independently, work that has become even more challenging and dangerous in the coronavirus pandemic.

Kevin Smith is the chief executive of Best of Care, an agency headquartered in Quincy, Mass., that serves clients in greater Boston and many other areas of Massachusetts. Smith is also president of the Home Care Aide Council, Inc., a trade association of 70 agencies providing home care services in Massachusetts.

Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman spoke with Smith on March 23 about home health agencies and their workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The following transcript was edited for length and clarity.

Len Fishman: Tell us briefly who your agency serves.

 

 

Kevin Smith: We are serving about 1,500 people. They are typically over age 60 and actually skew toward their 80s. It’s fair to say many depend on the care of our aides to remain independent and out of facility-based care. Continue reading

PAC Case Study: Tracking Down Benefit When Employer Transforms Pension into Annuity

There was a reason why Marco couldn’t find the pension he had earned many years ago. It didn’t exist any longer.

Many clients call the Pension Action Center because they can’t figure out who is responsible for paying them benefits earned long ago. Employers merge, go out of business or just disappear as entities in their own right. It’s a challenge to find out who is responsible for paying the benefit now.

But an increasing number of retirees need help because the pensions they’re looking for aren’t actually pensions any longer. Marco, who asked that his real name not be used for this story, was one of them.

At some point, his pension had been transformed from an employer’s retirement obligation into an annuity administered by an insurance company. But he had known nothing about it.

Employers who no longer want to maintain their pension plans can pay insurance companies to take over the obligations, a multi-billion dollar financial strategy known as “pension risk transfer.” Continue reading

Boston’s Senior Civic Academy Helps Older Adults Understand and Engage Local Government

The Boston Senior Civic Academy was created in 2018 by city officials, with the assistance of the Gerontology Institute’s Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging. Its curriculum is designed to help older adults better understand how local government works and develop skills to advocate for issues important to them. Institute research fellow Caitlin Coyle has played a central role in the development of the academy. She recently spoke with the Gerontology Institute Blog about the program.

Q: How did Boston’s Senior Civic Academy come about?

Caitlin Coyle: The program was developed as a part of the Age Friendly Boston Initiative. As part of that initiative, we did a comprehensive needs assessment for the city of Boston several years ago. We found seniors felt that local policy makers and advocates did not necessarily take into consideration their experiences, needs and preferences. In response, this program was created as an opportunity for seniors to become more involved and to empower them as self-advocates at the policy level. It also created an opportunity for public education about how policy and decisions are made at the local, state and federal levels. Continue reading

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.