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March 2022

How COVID-19 Intensified Ageism

Virus-g9628219e3_1920Those Boomers who have already been vaccinated and boostered are probably relieved to know that on March 29, the Food and Drug Administration authorized second booster shots for COVID-19 for everyone 50 and older. Having grown up with an understanding of how effective immunization is against such diseases as polio, Boomers are among the more accepting of vaccines.

When the pandemic first started, individuals with underlying conditions of any age, along with Americans age 65 and older, were prioritized to receive vaccinations. This was a sound decision since statistics indicated that older Americans were being infected and dying of COVID-19 at a higher rate than younger people. Most Boomers didn't hesitate to be vaccinated.

But something else happened in the early days of the pandemic: Some stories disparaging older people started circulating. The most virulent of the bunch suggested to varying degrees that COVID-19 was an "old person's disease" or, worse, that old people who got COVID-19 "deserved to die." These kinds of stories are so repugnant they don't seem worthy of mention -- but mention them I must, because they represent a disturbing, deep-rooted ageism that was intensified by the pandemic.

The National Center on Elder Abuse, in its research brief on ageism, wrote the following:

"The COVID-19 contagion has exposed and animated long simmering age prejudices within society. The pandemic unleashed discourse rife with depictions of older adults as helpless, burdensome, and expendable, provoking public dialogue about the prioritization of health care and allocation of essential resources. In addition to perpetuating negative perceptions of older adults and stoking age-based social divisions, these discussions laid bare persistent structural inequities which disproportionately inhibit older people from accessing appropriate medical treatment and employment opportunities. Among the age-based COVID impacts, older adults have faced increased medical morbidities, workplace discrimination, financial insecurity, and social isolation."

The research brief also documents the consequences of ageism. Among them are these correlations for older adults: 

  • Poorer medical and mental health outcomes
  • Employment discrimination
  • Significant monetary losses
  • Increased social isolation and loneliness
  • Environmental stressors
  • Elder abuse.

It is very likely that all of theses conditions were intensified by the existence of COVID-19.

Another aspect of ageism is equally troubling -- our self-perception of aging. This again is from the research brief issued by the National Center on Elder Abuse:

"Older adults may implicitly and unconsciously consume ageist rhetoric through their lives and internalize stereotypes, resulting in self-directed negativity and eroded self-confidence. These feelings can affect social engagement and the pursuit of employment opportunities. They may also impact elders’ perceptions of aging and their feelings about other members of their age group.

Self-perceptions of ageism can exacerbate stress, impede cognitive function, increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, lead to unhealthy behaviors, contribute to poor health outcomes, and incite brain changes in later life."

I've written extensively about ageism in advertising and the workplace. Never has ageism been so blatant as during the pandemic. The ageism exhibited in the media's reporting of anti-elderly sentiment is just the bubbling up of something we all face in society on a daily basis.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, "Ageism is one of the most prevalent, least recognized, and tacitly normalized forms of stereotyping and prejudice within society. Every person who grows old is likely to be the target of ageism at some point in their life."

Boomers who are pummeled by anti-aging messages need to stay strong and maintain their self-respect. There is nothing "wrong" with growing old -- it's a natural occurrence that happens to all of us. What's wrong is the attitude of those around us and, in some cases, our own self-perception about aging.

It took a pandemic to lay bare the ugly truth about ageism in America and, in fact, globally. All of us need to remain vigilant and fight against ageism if we are to live in a world that rejects discrimination of any kind.

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What Boomers Can Do to Help Fight the Climate Crisis

Thermometer-g8f45947a1_1920The most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released on February 28, 2022, stated, "Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks. People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit." That's about as grim as it gets.

Arguably, Boomers were at least in part responsible for helping to create the climate crisis, so what can we do to help fight it? We can take a lesson from young people who are rising up around the world to become climate activists, for one thing. There are personal actions we can all take that can make a difference. If enough of us take even a few small actions, it all adds up. For example, Steve Vernon, writing for Forbes, has three good suggestions:

  1. "Eat less meat. The meat industry produces large quantities of greenhouse gases, consumes huge amounts of water, and releases many toxins into the environment. You don’t have to become vegetarian or vegan to help–just cut back on your meat consumption by serving smaller portions of meat and compensating with more vegetables and fruits."
  2. "Drive less, and walk, bike, or use public transportation more. Explore how you can go about your daily errands by walking, biking, or using public transportation."
  3. "Right-size and climatize your home. That three- and four- bedroom home in the suburbs with a lawn may have been a good place to raise your family or commute into the city from, but it might not be the best choice for your retirement lifestyle. Try looking for a smaller place that uses less energy, is easier to maintain, offers lower property taxes and homeowner insurance rates, and enables you to walk or bike to most of your activities."

If you'd like to do more as part of a larger effort, consider the following initiatives:

  • Join Elders Climate Action's "Local Action Teams" to get resources, networking opportunities and more on a local level.
  • Join the nonpartisan Citizens Climate Lobby to advocate for positive climate work by lobbying the government.
  • Join Third Act's "Bug the Banks" movement to tell banks to stop funding fossil fuel companies.

These are just a few examples. An internet search will reveal plenty more. You may remember the bumper sticker that was popular during our youth, "Think Global, Act Local." There is no better time to take that to heart. Consider the health of the entire planet, and act locally in your own neighborhood, town, county and state to take action for positive change. Mother Earth will thank you for it -- and it just might make her a better place to live for our grandchildren.

Image: is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog



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When Your Aging Parents Need Different Accommodations

Guest Post by Millie Jones

Older-couple-g4689f619f_1920As the years go on, you might realize that one of your parents has vastly different care needs than the other. For adult children of aging parents, this might mean stepping in to help your parent move into a nursing home while your other parent downsizes. The following tips demonstrate how to balance your parents’ needs as you sort out their living situations.

  1. Consider Selling the Family Home

 If one of your parents needs nursing home care, and the other is open to moving somewhere new in order to downsize, it’s probably the right time to sell the family home. Your parents may be able to use the money from this sale to cover the costs of a nursing home. To navigate this process, you’ll need to start by accurately calculating your parents’ assets. By subtracting the amount currently owed on their mortgage from the market value of their home, you’ll be able to determine their home equity.

  1. Other Payment Methods

What if the profits from your parents’ home sale won’t fully account for the costs of a nursing home? You and your parents will need to consider other options. According to Paying for Senior Care, if paying out of pocket isn’t an option, some seniors use Medicaid, veteran’s benefits, or long-term care insurance instead. Your parents might need guidance when it comes to funding nursing home expenses. You may want to gift them a session or two with a financial advisor who can review their portfolio and help them make the right decision.

  1. Choose the Right Nursing Home

 Take your time while reviewing different nursing homes in your area. After all, you need to make sure that your parent will be getting the best care possible. Ideally, you’ll want to choose somewhere local so that their spouse can visit regularly. You will have to tour any potential nursing homes in person, ask for their certifying agency reports, and talk to their staff about how they develop care plans. Also review objective state ratings if available.

  1. Downsizing Options

You’ve helped one of your parents find a comfortable nursing home where they can get the care they need - but where should your other parent live? It’s a good idea to explore their downsizing options early on so that they have plenty of time to weigh their potential choices. Check out the Senior Homes “downsizing guide” to learn more about things to consider as your parent moves into a smaller home or a retirement community. If you have a good relationship, perhaps welcoming your parent to live with you is another possibility.

  1. Be Patient

If you’re supporting your parents throughout this process, you might feel overwhelmed and exhausted at times. This is especially true if you’re stepping into a part-time caregiver role until you find the right nursing home for your parent. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from other family members. And remember, it’s okay to feel frustrated occasionally, especially if you’re worried about your parents’ health. Make some time for yourself when possible; simply taking a half-hour to read or do gentle yoga when you’re stressed can help you release these emotions.

When one parent needs to move into a nursing home while the other is healthy enough to live independently, it can put a strain on your family. By carefully going over all of your parents’ options for accommodations, you can ensure they will both be comfortable. With the suggestions provided, you can help your parents make the right choices for their safety and wellbeing.

Millie Jones is excited to share SeniorWellness with other older adults to help them embrace wellness and live life to the fullest. Ms. Jones enjoys doting on her grandchildren, writing and photography.

Image: is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog



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Are You Doing the Math?

Calculation-g7af13b738_1920Boomers may have learned mathematics in school, but as we age, some of us may be forgetting the basics. Here are several retirement statistics from you may find unsettling if not downright startling:

  • 48% of workers believe they don't make enough money to adequately save for retirement
  • 43% of workers guess how much they need to retire, rather than base it on current expenses
  • 33% of women have no retirement strategy
  • 22% of all Americans have less than $5,000 saved for retirement; 15% have no retirement savings at all
  • Only 56% of workers were enrolled in a workplace retirement plan in 2021
  • 73% of non-retirees are worried they won't receive any Social Security benefits by the time they retire.

These statistics suggest that some Boomers are financially unprepared for retirement. As we have progressed in life, other pressing financial needs (buying a home, paying for a child's higher education, supporting other family members, etc.) may have taken priority over funding our retirement. With so many Boomers reaching retirement age, however, we are being faced with a difficult challenge: Will we outlive our money?

It's a legitimate concern with life expectancy for most Boomers beyond the traditional 65-year old retirement age. Our parents may have been fortunate enough to work for companies, schools systems or governments that provided valuable retirement income via pensions, but pensions today are virtually non-existent. Company 401k and personal IRAs have replaced pensions as the only non-Social Security retirement income available to most people.

As a result, today the burden of saving for retirement has shifted entirely to individuals. We can legitimately assume that Social Security alone will not be adequate to fund a comfortable lifestyle during our golden years. This is one major reason that 55% of workers plan to work in retirement. Some Boomers are likely to work in one way or another well into their later years.

In a post on the Life After Work Zone blog, Brian Feutz cites additional key statistics from the Federal Reserve about assets, income and debt among retirement households. Feutz also shares some fundamental tips, including:

  • Save aggressively and spend wisely
  • Keep your debt to a minimum and keep paying it off
  • Maximize your savings and income everywhere you can.

Inevitably, many Boomers will see their working income decline or disappear in later years. If they don't have adequate retirement savings, their future could be in jeopardy. They'll need to draw on those retirement savings, in combination with Social Security payments, to live comfortably. At the same time, they'll have to manage expenses to live within their means. 

A financial adviser can certainly help us with investments, but ultimately, it's up to all of us to take personal responsibility for tracking income and expenses -- budgeting so that we don't outlive our assets. It basically comes down to making sure we're doing the math.

Image: is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog



Discover How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"