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January 2022

How to "Reframe Aging"

Picture-frame-755804Bias against older people, or ageism, is a societal ill. It is prevalent in the workplace and in everyday life. Some of it is the result of implicit bias -- a phenomenon that obscures self-awareness. According to the non-profit Project Implicit, "People don’t always say what’s on their minds. One reason is that they are unwilling. ...The difference between being unwilling and unable is the difference between purposely hiding something from someone and unknowingly hiding something from yourself."

Whether ageism is implicit or explicit, people over age 55 experience it in both subtle and obvious ways. What can we do about that? One strategy is to engage in a process known as "reframing." The Reframing Aging Initiative offers a wealth of information and resources to facilitate the process. Funders of the first phase of the initiative included AARP, Endowment for Health and The Retirement Research Foundation. Here is a brief description of the initiative's mission:

"The Reframing Aging Initiative is a long-term social change endeavor designed to improve the public’s understanding of what aging means and the many ways that older people contribute to our society. This greater understanding will counter ageism and guide our nation’s approach to ensuring supportive policies and programs for us all as we move through the life course."

One of the initiative's communications tools, "You Say, They Think," is an eye-opening glimpse at some misunderstandings and ignorance about aging. For example, when an aging expert says, "Ageism must be treated as a serious social issue so that older people can participate fully as workers and citizens," some listeners may think, "Ageism? Is that a real thing?" The responsibility of the aging expert is to respond appropriately, following guidelines such as these:

- Use the value Justice to prime people to think about our cultural commitment to equality for everyone.
- Define “implicit bias.” Research shows that simply explaining what it is and how it works can be effective in reducing people’s bias against older people.
- Offer an explanatory example, like workplace discrimination, to show how ageism works and how it affects us all.
- Share specific Solutions to expand people’s thinking about what can be done.

I offer this example from the Reframing Aging initiative not in an attempt to turn all of us into aging experts, but rather to illustrate the importance of addressing ageism when each of us personally faces age discrimination.

The social justice movements we witnessed and may have participated in growing up -- whether it was civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, etc. -- identified and exposed inequities that existed for a long time. While we as a society have not solved all of these inequities, such movements succeeded in raising the level of consciousness and bringing important issues to the forefront. Perhaps we, too, need a movement to identify and expose ageism. I like to think that each of us can play a role in making that happen. is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog



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A Few Major Takeaways from the "2021 Century Summit"

Screen Shot 2022-01-13 at 2.01.02 PMIn early December, I attended sessions from the online "2021 Century Summit," which was convened by the Longevity Project in collaboration with the Stanford Center on Longevity. One of the topics covered was "The New Map of Life," which I discussed in a previous post. Now I want to share some major takeaways from the Century Summit that I think will have a major bearing on how we Boomers face the future.

Dealing with longevity
One key issue raised numerous times was increasing longevity. According to one speaker, when you consider the average 65-year old couple, one of them has a 50 percent chance of living to age 93. While 50 percent of people say they want to live to 100, 60 percent say they are more fearful of outliving their assets than they are of death. Living longer has a significant impact on how nations around the world deal with aging populations, and it will undoubtedly affect social safety nets and programs for the elderly in the future. On an individual basis, as many Boomers anticipate living longer, their major concerns will revolve around health and financial security. Boomers will be challenged to not just get to retirement but to live through retirement.

Flexible work life
Close to 70 percent of older people say they want to continue to work. Some Boomers will have to work almost indefinitely because of financial needs. Even those who believe they are financially secure may want to continue working to lead purposeful lives. The result is a whole new definition of work life. Many Boomers want to weave together work, education, volunteering and leisure into a more flexible work life. They will have to find ways to restructure their lives to live differently from before. One positive development is that employers are currently so anxious to find workers that they could be willing to hire older workers on a flexible part-time basis. An increasing number of employers also recognize that inclusive and diverse workplaces are better, and that older workers are statistically proven to stay longer and take less time off than younger workers. Another positive development is that Americans over age 55 are driving the establishment of small businesses.

Aging at home
Over 80 percent of older Americans own a home and a significant number of them intend to stay in their current homes and "age in place." The reality, however, may demand thinking differently. Boomers who have lived in the same house for decades may find existing stairs too difficult to navigate, empty rooms inefficient and an accumulation of material possessions unnecessary. That could make downsizing attractive. Some new ways of accommodating an aging population are in development and more are coming in the future. One speaker discussed the growing demand for non-age segregated communities that promote intergenerational living. For example, some retirement communities are set up on or near college campuses and others are adjacent to daycare centers. Expect this trend to continue.

The above are just a handful of observations from this eye-opening summit. The link below provides access to recordings of all of the sessions held at the 2021 Century Summit. is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog



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Growing Old in America: A Reality Check

Pexels-marcus-aurelius-6787440If you currently draw Social Security benefits, you'll notice a 5.9 percent increase in your monthly check beginning in 2022. It's the most substantial COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment) for older Americans in thirty years. At the same time, if your health insurance is original Medicare, the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B increases from $148.50 to $170.10, in addition to an increase in the Part B annual deductible from $203 to $233.

This is a good example of one of the major dilemmas of growing old in America, especially for those who are on a fixed income. As the government giveth, the government taketh away. For many of us, the bump in Social Security will quickly be eaten up by inflationary prices along with the rise in Medicare costs.

Perhaps more to the point, the push-and-pull relationship of Social Security and Medicare is symbolic of the under-appreciation of America's elders. Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, expressed it very well in his recent opinion piece for The Hill entitled "It Shouldn't be This Hard to Grow Old in America." He wrote:

"The idea of growing old in America today is becoming more uncertain and even scary, and it shouldn't be. This is one of the wealthiest nations on earth. While many seniors are fortunate to have adequate retirement income, affordable health care, and the means to live independently after decades of working, millions of others do not. ...

The two bedrock social insurance programs of the 20th century - Social Security and Medicare - have not been sufficiently updated to reflect seniors' 21st century needs (though serious efforts finally are underway in Congress to do so).  ...

Expanding Medicare and Social Security and allowing prescription price negotiation have overwhelming support from majorities of Americans across party lines. We should not have to fight to enact commonsense improvements for our most vulnerable citizens. ...

Aging in America should never be an intimidating prospect for anyone. Whatever it takes - a shift in societal attitudes, a political re-alignment, or the swelling senior population exercising its own power and voting in its own interests - we must rise to a higher standard for elder care."

The above are excerpts from Richtman's well-reasoned argument in a publication whose readership is largely national politicians and federal government officials. While one can only hope it doesn't fall on deaf ears, it's important to note that the "Build Back Better" legislation, which includes significant benefits for seniors, is currently stalled in Congress.

America is aging, and the segment of the population over age 55 is growing more rapidly than any other. The wealthiest minority of 55-plus Americans continue to get richer and secure their own retirement, but the majority of older Americans have less than adequate retirement savings and struggle financially when they retire. In fact, many in the 55-plus age group will need to continue to work well into their 70s if they want to experience any sort of comfortable retirement.

At some point, legislators -- and all members of American society --  must recognize that the precarious nature of many older Americans' lives will catch up with us. Growing old in America should not be "more uncertain and even scary" for anyone.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog



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