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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

70 National Organizations Urge Congress to Act on 2016 Part B Premium and Deductible Hikes

September 30, 2015—Today, 70 leading organizations representing people with Medicare, health insurers, workers, federal employees, and more sent a letter to key Congressional committees urging swift action to shield older adults, people with disabilities, and state Medicaid programs from anticipated increases in Medicare Part B premiums and the Part B deductible in 2016.

Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center, said, “Congress must act quickly to halt expected increases in Part B costs for 30 percent of people with Medicare. Without a fix, Part B premiums will increase to $159 per month for select beneficiaries, and the Part B deductible will rise to $223 for all people with Medicare.”

Older adults and people with disabilities affected by the projected premium increase include new Medicare enrollees, individuals not collecting Social Security benefits, beneficiaries already paying higher premiums, and people with both Medicare and Medicaid (state Medicaid programs will bear this cost). The anticipated hike in the Part B deductible will impact all beneficiaries, most significantly affecting those who lack adequate supplemental coverage.

Baker continued, “Older adults and people with disabilities cannot shoulder these unprecedented increases, especially those living on low- and fixed incomes. Half of all people with Medicare are living on annual incomes of $24,150 or less. We urge members of Congress to heed this call to action from leading voices across the health care sector.”

Little Known Dangers in the Home

September 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Chances are you use a gas cooktop in your kitchen on a daily basis. Whether it's cooking a family meal or boiling water for tea, the gas cooktop has become so ingrained in everyday life that the safety measures surrounding simple tasks are easily disregarded or overlooked.  

Parents and caretakers should be more aware of the hazards that come with operating gas-powered home appliances, as burns from them are alarmingly common.

For a variety of reasons– ranging from the severity of the injury to a guilty conscience by someone who feels responsible– gas cooktop-related burns often go unreported to physicians and hospitals.

These accidents can and do happen every day, and especially to children and seniors when their caretakers are preoccupied with other responsibilities.
"It only takes one second at 167 degrees Fahrenheit for a contact burn, and less time for both children and the elderly who have similar delayed-reaction issues," states inventor and patent holder, William S. Lerner.

"Many caregivers feel guilty when a loved one experiences these burns, but we are now learning these horrendous events can stem from the dangers present in the appliances themselves.

“Grates on cooktops stay dangerously hot after use, but unlike glass/ceramic cooktops, no current make or model of gas cooktop offers any visual indication of lingering, hazardous heat placed in the center of the danger zone."

William S. Lerner is a known expert on pediatric burn prevention, and the mastermind of residual heat indicator technology for gas-powered cooktops and fireplaces.

Lerner's invention helps consumers prevent burns caused by the lingering heat of gas-powered appliances. Manufacturers can easily implement light guide technology to create a "warning light" (residual heat indicator) at the center of each burner area, alerting the user when a surface is still hot.

This small change in a product's design creates an unmistakable warning, and can prevent many from placing a body part on or near a dangerously hot surface. Lerner's technology is proven, vetted and readily available to all gas cooktop manufacturers.

His pioneering work in sensing and displays is not limited to gas cooktops and fireplaces. But he did choose to start in the consumer sector, where eleven million gas fireplaces are being used, and over three million gas ranges and eight million outdoor gas grills are sold every year.

Since the early 1900s when gas stoves first became popular in the U.S., no effective residual heat technologies had been implemented. Lerner's residual heat sensing technologies have been internationally acknowledged by Dr. Yogendra Kumar Mishra who said, "Our pioneering work from Kiel University, combined with display technology from William S. Lerner, offers a comprehensive package for nanomaterials in sensing, detection, and others applications.''

"The medical treatment of hand burns is time intensive, costly, and painful and often requires long term therapy of the hand," stated Dr. Steven Moulton, Director of Burn and Trauma programs at The Children's Hospital Colorado.

"The physical and emotional pain and trauma these children experience from the initial injury, the skin grafting which can be required and the serial casting necessary to obtain best possible outcome not only affects the child but the entire family."

Protecting children and the elderly from unaddressed hazards in the home should be a top priority.

It is alarming that there is scientific evidence proving the severity and commonality of cooktop-related burns, however manufacturers have yet to take steps that could prevent thousands of burn accidents from occurring each year. It is up to consumers to voice their concern, and demand an industry-wide change: gas cooktops made safer with residual heat indicators.

"Burn prevention is a topic that is very rarely spoken about– I am here to change that. My technology enables a simple fix to a problem that will continue to affect our loved ones, so long as there are gas cooktops," says Lerner. "This issue will remain ignored until we shine a very bright and public light on it, and I'm not one to sit like a spectator when people are repeatedly suffering preventable injuries. Let's motivate gas-powered appliance manufacturers to take a proactive step that ensures safer homes and families everywhere."

Long Term Care Insurance Buyers Must Compare More Than Just Price

September 30, 2015/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Individuals considering long term care insurance protection should compare more than just bottom-line costs, advises a leading national consumer expert.

"Too many people simply want the bottom line price, and while that's important, basing your decision purely on cost can be a big mistake when the time comes to access policy benefits," declares Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance(AALTCI). 

"Policy language governs when and how insurance benefits are paid and you won't receive your contract until after you have applied, been accepted and often paid an initial premium."

Slome points to small but important differences that can impact long-term care insurance purchasers. "Most policies reimburse you for expenses paid, which means only after you've paid a $7,000 nursing home or assisted living bill and submitted paperwork," Slome notes. 

"If that's not desirable, a recently-introduced policy pays up to one month in advance, which can be a significant benefit to consider when comparing plan pricing."

"Insurers are continually looking to offer policy benefits that provide real value to policyholders," shares Bill Naylon, President of MedAmerica Insurance Company, a leading provider of long-term care insurance protection. 

MedAmerica introduced a new policy, CareDirections® Contego, that features advance payments to help shield families from cash flow issues during a long term care event.

"Policy options, features and discounts can vary significantly," Slome adds. "Costs for essentially equal plans can vary from 20 to over 100 percent. Additionally, health conditions that are not acceptable to one insurance company may be acceptable to another."  

According to AALTCI data, insurance companies decline from 20-to-44 percent of applicants for long-term care insurance after age 60 because of existing health issues.

"You generally only buy long-term care insurance once so choose the policy and insurance company that best meets your needs, budget and health," Slome advises. 

The Association suggests consumers interested in learning more about policy differences read real examples of ways individuals saved on long-term care insurance costs or obtained better coverage. Examples have been posted on the organization's website.

"Compare, compare, compare or work with an experienced, knowledgeable professional who can compare policies for you," Slome advises. To connect with a designated long-term care insurance professional for no-obligation comparisons from leading insurers visit AALTCI's website or call 818-597-3227.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Saint Louis University Launches Missouri’s First Palliative Care Fellowship

SLUCare Geriatrician: ‘Treat the Whole Person’

Newswise, September 28, 2015 — ST. LOUIS – As the number of older adults climbs at a faster pace in Missouri than nationally, Saint Louis University has started the first hospice and palliative medicine fellowship program in the state.

Palliative care physicians care for patients who need active treatment to manage a serious disease as well as those at the end of their lives. Many older adults receive palliative care, and Medicare recently announced plans to reimburse physicians for talking with their patients about end of life issues.

SLUCare Physician Group geriatrician Dulce Cruz Oliver, M.D., who is board-certified in hospice and palliative medicine and an assistant professor of internal medicine at SLU School of Medicine, directs of SLU’s new fellowship, which began in July.

“During the past five years that I have been an assistant professor of internal medicine at SLU, I’ve found that the more I worked with elders, the more passionate I have become about caring for those who are seriously ill, especially patients who are close to the end of their lives,” she said. “I love what we do and appreciate the opportunity to talk with our patients and really help them.”

The Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship will train one physician this year in the subspecialty that cares for those who have chronic, life-changing illnesses like cancer, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Fourth year medical school students and residents also will receive training through a palliative care educational elective that is related to the program, Cruz added.

“Palliative care helps a patient adapt to all of the changes that come with a specific disease,” Cruz says. “This field creates an awareness of how important it is for doctors to treat the whole patient – not just his or her medical symptoms – to talk with and listen to patients.

“We need to hear from patients about their expectations and goals, and spend time with them to help them understand what is going on. For instance, we might explain to a patient how to complete an advanced directive or help a patient who has COPD deal with shortness of breath without taking a traditional medicine. We might help someone who is no longer able to work make that transition.”

In addition to the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship, Cruz has started the Supportive Care Clinic, a pilot program held twice a month for Saint Louis University Cancer Center patients who are referred by their physicians. “It’s not only a physician who provides the care, you need a team that might include a chaplain and social worker,” says Cruz, who is part of the treatment team.

Through specialized sessions, patients learn to experience their best possible quality of life as they deal with the emotional and psychological challenges presented by a cancer diagnosis. For example, they might explore ways to manage their pain that don’t involve taking drugs or strategies to cope with the anxiety that can accompany being diagnosed and treated for cancer. Cruz sees the service as an important addition to medical treatment, and is encouraged by how well the pilot program is being received.

Cruz’s interest in palliative care complements her medical specialty of geriatrics. As a little girl in Puerto Rico, Cruz saw her grandmother caring for members of their village who became ill, which inspired her to become a physician who takes the time to listen to the older adults she treats.

“My grandmother was a santig├╝era – a healer for her village in Lares, Puerto Rico. People would come to her with medical problems like joint pain or illnesses like shingles, and she prayed on them and gave them a natural remedy. I saw the impact of complementary medicine on our friends and family who looked to my grandmother for loving care.”

During her internal medicine residency, Cruz conducted research on palliative care, becoming intellectually drawn to the area of medicine. But after her medical training, her connection to the field became deeply personal as she watched a close friend battle ovarian cancer.

“The many difficulties and challenges she endured caused her and all of us around her to suffer. All of the things she went through would have been better if there had been a good palliative care program in place. I’m committed to training others to change the way palliative care is delivered in this city,” she said.

Cruz recently was selected as one of only 10 physicians or nurses in the nation into Cambia Health Foundation’sSojourns Scholar Leadership Program, which cultivates the next generation of health care providers to advance the field of palliative care.

The Sojourns Scholar program will support Cruz’s work at the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship and Supportive Care Center, in addition to funding professional development. Cruz will received mentoring in patient care from the Center to Advance Palliative Care, work on a research project at the National Institute of Aging and attend the Harvard Macy Institute to learn how to use new technologies to enhance the quality of her teaching.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.

Two-Drug Combo Helps Older Adults with Hard-to-Treat Depression

Eric J. Lenze, MD, consults with patient Daniel Viehmann. Lenze led a multicenter study that found that adding a second drug can relieve depression in many older adults whose symptoms don’t resolve after treatment with a standard antidepressant drug.

September 28, 2015, Newswise — More than half of older adults with clinical depression don’t get better when treated with an antidepressant. But results from a multicenter clinical trial that included Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates that adding a second drug — an antipsychotic medication — to the treatment regimen helps many of those patients.

The findings, from a study of 468 people over age 60 and diagnosed with depression, are published in The Lancet. The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and is the largest of its kind ever undertaken in older people with depression.

Previous research in younger patients with depression showed that adding a 
low dose of the antipsychotic drug aripiprazole (brand name Abilify) helped relieve symptoms of depression when an antidepressant alone wasn’t effective. 

But the new study is the first to show that the same strategy also works in older adults. The two-drug combination relieved depression in a significant number of patients and also reduced the likelihood that they would have suicidal thoughts.

“It’s important to remember that older adults may not respond to medications in the same way as younger adults,” said first author Eric J. Lenze, MD, a Washington University professor of psychiatry. 

“There are age-related changes in the brain and body that suggest certain treatments may work differently, in terms of benefits and side effects, in older adults. Even when a strategy works for patients in their 30s, it needs to be tested in patients in their 70s before it can be considered effective in older patients.”

A 2007 study estimated that about 7 million of the nation’s 39 million older Americans had clinical depression. Up to 90 percent did not receive necessary care, and 78 percent received no treatment at all.

The consequences are costly: Elderly patients with clinical depression use more health-care services, spending nearly twice as much on medical care as those without the disorder. 

Further, the suicide rate among people over 75 is higher than in any other age group, and depression is a risk factor for dementia.

Lenze, who directs the Healthy Mind Lab at Washington University School of Medicine, was the principal investigator in St. Louis. Patients also were treated at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

“This is a rare study because it looks at depression specifically in older adults,” said Benoit H. Mulsant, MD, a co-author of the study and a senior scientist at CAMH in Toronto. “It’s important to treat older adults for depression, especially given that adults with late-life depression are at an increased risk of developing dementia. But this research demonstrates that older adults do respond to depression therapy.”

Each study participant received an extended-release formulation of the antidepressant drug venlafaxine (brand name Effexor XR) for 12 weeks. About half of these patients still were clinically depressed after 12 weeks of treatment.

“We know that in older adults with depression, about half will not respond to medication,” Lenze said. “They may have a minimal response, but they’ll still be depressed. The question we wanted to answer was whether there was anything else we could do for them.”

So for the second phase of the study, patients who initially did not respond to the venlafaxine continued to receive the drug along with aripiprazole or a placebo. Aripiprazole often is prescribed to treat schizophrenia and manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder.

The two-drug combination led to a remission of depression in 44 percent of the treatment-resistant patients, compared with only 29 percent of those who had received the placebo.

“This study is a major advance in support of evidence-based care for older adults with depression,” said Charles F. Reynolds III, MD, a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh, the coordinating site for the study. 

“By publishing our findings in The Lancet, we hope particularly to reach primary care physicians, who provide most of the treatment for depressed older adults. The excellent safety and tolerability profile of aripiprazole, as well as its efficacy, should support its use in primary care, with appropriate medical monitoring.”

Some patients who took the two-drug combination experienced restlessness. Others developed some stiffness, called mild Parkinsonism. But the side effects tended to be mild and short-lived.

“The potential benefits outweighed the side effects,” Lenze said, adding that side effects that investigators expected to see, such as weight gain and metabolic problems, never occurred.

“Antipsychotic medications can cause increasing amounts of fat and thereby increase blood sugar, potentially contributing to diabetes,” Lenze said. 

“But compared with placebo, aripiprazole was no more likely to produce increased fat in these patients and had no effect on blood sugar, insulin or lipids.”

The key remaining question, Lenze explained, involves predicting which older depressed patients with depression are likely to benefit from the two-drug combination. Learning the answer is a goal for future research.

“One of the things we see as critical to our future research will be trying to better understand the factors that make some people respond to specific forms of treatment that may not work for others,” Lenze said.

This work was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Additional funding was provided by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Endowment in Geriatric Psychiatry, the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research at Washington University, the Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences, the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto. Bristol-Meyers Squibb contributed aripiprazole and placebo tablets, and Pfizer contributed venlafaxine extended-release capsules. NIH grant numbers R01 MH083660, P30 MH90333, R01 MH083648, R01 MH083643 and UL1 TR000448.

Lenze EJ, Mulsant BH, Blumberger DM, Karp JF, Newcomer JW, Anderson SJ, Dew MA, Butters MA, Stack JA, Begley AE, Reynolds CF. Efficacy, safety, and tolerability of augmentation pharmacotherapy with aripiprazole for treatment-resistant depression in late life: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet, published online Sept. 28, 2015.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. 

Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Study Finds Significant Differences in Frailty by Region and by Race Among Older Americans

Substantial differences by income also found
Newswise, September 25, 2015 — A large-scale survey of older Americans living at home or in assisted living settings found that 15 percent are frail, a diminished state that makes people more vulnerable to falls, chronic disease and disability, while another 45 percent are considered pre-frail, or at heightened risk of becoming physically diminished.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study found frailty to be more prevalent in older people and more common among women and the poor. In addition, the study found wide regional differences in the U.S., with older people in central southern states more than three times as likely to be frail than those in the western states. 

The researchers also found significant racial differences, with blacks and Hispanics nearly twice as likely to be frail as whites.

The study is published in the September 2015 issue ofJournals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Frailty, once thought of as a generalized fragile state that befalls some people as they get older, is increasingly considered a medical process in and of itself. 

Frailty is thought to be exhibited by a set of symptoms including weakness, exhaustion and limited mobility. It often progresses separately from any underlying conditions, and is also common among patients with chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, especially in their advanced stages.

Understanding frailty, and finding ways to prevent its onset or slow its progression, could improve older people’s quality of life by extending their so-called robust years. It could also increase their chances of surviving surgery, for example; previous research has suggested that older, frail patients are less likely to survive major surgical procedures. 

Reducing frailty could lower health care costs, since frail persons are prone to falls and falls often lead to hospitalization. Hospital care is the largest component of Medicare spending.

Of their findings, the authors were most surprised by the significant racial and regional differences, says study leader Karen Bandeen-Roche, PhD, the Frank Hurley and Catharine Dorrier Professor and Chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study is believed to be the first that examines regional differences in frailty in the U.S.

“We can’t really explain the regional differences,” says Bandeen-Roche, who also co-directs the Johns Hopkins Older Americans Independence Center and is a Core Faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health. 

“We know there are health differences across the country, differences in diet and to some extent exercise habits. Observing the relatively low prevalence in the mountain west, you can imagine an active lifestyle might be a factor.” 
As for the racial differences, Bandeen-Roche says it’s too early to speculate, noting that they could be due to any number of factors, and merit further study.

For the study, researchers drew on interviews with 7,439 participants in the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study, a longitudinal study of people age 65 and older drawn from Medicare records. 

Participants, who resided either at home or in an assisted living facility, completed a two-hour, in-person interview that assessed frailty using several criteria: exhaustion, weakness, low physical activity, shrinking and low walking speed. 

Participants were also asked about their medical history and ability to perform daily tasks such as meal preparation and other household activities. The researchers assessed probable dementia with a combination of questions and cognitive tests.

Among the survey’s other findings: Residents of assisted living facilities were more than twice as likely to be frail than those living in private homes. 

Prevalence increased with age, with 9 percent of those ages 65 to 69 found to be frail compared to 38 percent of those aged 90 or older. Among the frail, more than half had fallen in the previous year, and more than one-third had fallen several times, with 40 percent of those who had fallen being hospitalized.

As frailty becomes better understood, the researchers hope clinicians will develop recommendations that specifically address risks associated with frailty, for instance, having people engage in strengthening activities before major surgery. 

Such recommendations, if adapted by older people who had not yet slipped into advanced frailty, could help delay or even prevent its onset.

Aside from the 15 percent found to be frail, the researchers also found that 45 percent were what the authors deemed “pre-frail,” or older people who have begun to experience the same symptoms of frailty, but to a lesser extent. “It’s a question of degree,” Bandeen-Roche says. 

The so-called pre-frail are a prime target of study in order to help researchers understand the progression of frailty so doctors can develop recommendations – for instance, changes in diet or exercise – that could extend a person’s robust years.

“We would love for frailty assessment to become a standard component of assessment of older Americans,” Bandeen-Roche says. “Understanding frailty could potentially help us extend people’s quality of life into their later years.”
“Frailty in Older Adults: A Nationally Representative Profile in the United States” was written by Karen Bandeen-Roche, Christopher L. Seplaki, Jin Huang, Brian Buta, Rita R. Kalyani, Ravi Varadhan, Qian-Li Xue, Jeremy D. Walston and Judith D. Kasper.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Senior Home Equity Reaches $4.08 Trillion, Reverse Mortgage Market Index Hits Record High

 September 23, 2015--NRMLA/RiskSpan Reverse Mortgage Market Index (RMMI), a quarterly measure that analyzes trends in the home values, home equity, and mortgage debt of homeowners 62 and older, reached an all-time high of 195.29 in the second quarter of 2015, surpassing the prior record of 192.03 set in Q4 2006.

On a quarter-over-quarter basis, the index rose 3.0% in the second quarter, as senior home equity increased by $117.1 billion.

"The strong gains in housing wealth among America's seniors are an encouraging economic indicator for the millions of boomers who weathered the recession on the cusp of their retirement years," said NRMLA PresidentPeter Bell.

"The home equity they've worked so hard to build up can serve as a valuable financial management tool for years to come."

The increase in senior home equity relative to the first quarter was driven by an estimated $122.8 billionincrease in the aggregate value of senior housing, which was offset by a $5.7 billion increase in senior-held mortgage debt.

The second quarter of 2015 was the thirteenth consecutive quarter in which the index has risen, and the current estimate of $4.08 trillion for the aggregate value of senior home equity represents a 38% recovery from the post-Recession trough in Q2 2011, when senior equity levels had fallen to an estimated $3.0 trillion.

The RMMI is updated quarterly and tracks back to the start of 2000. Release dates for 2015 – 2016 are:
Q3 2015: 12/22/2015
Q4 2015: 3/22/2016
Q1 2016: 6/21/2016
Q2 2016: 9/20/2016
Q3 2016: 12/20/2016

About Reverse Mortgages
Reverse mortgages are available to homeowners age 62 and older with significant home equity. They are a safe financial tool seniors can use to borrow against the equity in their home without having to make monthly payments as with a traditional "forward" mortgage or a home equity loan. Under a reverse mortgage, funds are advanced to the borrower and interest accrues, but the outstanding balance is not due until the last borrower leaves the home, sells, or passes away.

To date, more than 920,000 senior households have utilized an FHA-insured reverse mortgage. More than 625,000 senior households are currently using a reverse mortgage to help meet their financial needs. For more information, please visit 

About the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association
The National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) is the national voice for the industry and represents the lenders, loan servicers, credit unions, and housing counseling agencies responsible for more than 90 percent of reverse mortgage transactions in the United States. All NRMLA member companies commit themselves to a Code of Ethics & Professional Responsibility. 

30 Million Americans Used Retirement Savings for an Emergency Over Past Year21 Million Americans Aren't Saving for Retirement

NEW YORK, Sept. 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- 30 million Americans tapped their retirement savings for an emergency within the past year, according to a new (NYSE: 
RATE) report.  The report also found that 21 million Americans aren't saving for retirement at all.

Surprisingly, millennials were the least likely to dip into their retirement funds prematurely (only 8% did so over the past 12 months).

In fact, millennials are the most likely age group to note an improved overall financial situation over the past year (40% say they're better off and just 11% say they're doing worse).

The numbers tell a more troubling story for 50-64 year-olds. 26% say their financial situation has deteriorated over the past year (more than any other age group) and 17% recently dipped into their retirement savings to pay for an emergency.

"Using retirement savings to cover an emergency is a permanent setback to retirement planning, with the possibility of taxable distributions, early withdrawal penalties, loss of tax efficiency, and the inability to replace withdrawn funds in future years," said Greg McBride, CFA,'s chief financial analyst.

  • The Financial Security Index rebounded after sliding the past two months and now stands at 102.6 – the best since June.
  • Job security is a particular strength: people who feel more secure than a year ago outnumber those who feel less secure by more than two-to-one.
  • Savings is the one major area where Americans note deterioration, with 30% saying they feel less comfortable with their savings now compared to one year ago against 18% that feel more comfortable.
The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) and can be seen in its entirety here:

PSRAI obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,004 adults living in the continental United States. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (501) and cell phone (503, including 311 without a landline phone) in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from September 3-6. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Can Your Sense of Smell Predict When You’ll Die?

Newswise, September 21, 2015--By measuring how worms move toward an appealing, food-like scent, researchers at the Salk Institute were able to predict whether the worms would be long-lived.

The finding, publishing September 22, 2015 in the journal eLife, shows how nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans) process information about the environment and how circuits in the brain change as an animal ages.

“We’re not saying that your ability to smell is going to make you live longer,” says Sreekanth Chalasani, an assistant professor in Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory.

“But this odor behavior is likely indicative of some kind of underlying physiology.”

The small C. elegans has 12 pairs of specialized neurons in its brain that detect stimuli in the environment. Scientists had previously identified individual pairs of these neurons as required for the animals to respond to attractive odors.

Chalasani and his colleagues wanted to understand this entire process in more detail. In their new work, the researchers measured the responses of all 24 neurons asC. elegans was exposed to benzaldehyde—a chemical that gives off a pleasant, almond-like smell. Surprisingly, rather than the individual pairs that had been previously shown, they found that additional neurons were also involved.

Interestingly, these cells were divided into primary and secondary neurons. Primary neurons showed activity in response to the benzaldehyde, while secondary neurons responded to signals sent by the primary neurons. By having a neural circuit structured like this, the team hypothesizes, the worm can get better information on the strength or concentration of a smell.

“If you have multiple different cells that are all detecting a stimulus, you can use the combination of them to get more dynamic information,” says Sarah Leinwand, a graduate student in the Chalasani lab and first author of the new paper.

“Using this strategy allows an animal to generate flexible behavioral responses to its environment.” For instance, some behaviors could only be triggered when a smell is strong enough to cause activity in particular combinations of neurons.

The researchers speculate that other species with larger brains may use similarly structured neural circuits to represent sensory information and fine-tune their behaviors.

Since they knew that worms (like other animals and people) often begin to lose their sense of smell with age, Chalasani and Leinwand next measured how the circuit composed of primary and secondary neurons changes as C. elegansgets older.

While the primary neurons don’t show a decline in activity, they found, secondary neurons become less active with age. This suggests that communication between neurons could be degraded as animals age, Chalasani says, a phenomenon which might also hold true in other neural circuits in many different species.

The scientists went on to show a correlation between poor performance on a smell-based test (moving toward a point source of benzaldehyde), the activity of secondary neurons and the animal’s lifespan. Older animals that were more successful in finding the odor lived about 16% longer than animals that were less good at moving toward the smell.
“Even though all these animals are siblings and have similar genomes, if you look at neuron activity, behavioral performance, or lifespan, there are significant differences,” says Chalasani. “Perhaps that’s because some animals have better signaling between primary and secondary cells.”

If the signaling between neurons ends up being important in how other organisms —including humans — age, then manipulating the nervous system may prove a fruitful way to minimize the effects of aging or rejuvenate brain functions, he says.

“There are a lot of questions that remain about what exactly is changing as an animal ages,” says Leinwand. “We want to keep looking at what is changing to cause some animals to have better functioning nervous systems and to live longer.”

Other researchers on the study were Claire Yang of the Salk Institute, Daphne Bazopoulou and Nikos Chronis of the University of Michigan, and Jagan Srinivasan of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
The work and the researchers involved were supported by the Rita Allen Foundation, the W.M. Keck Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, Achievements Rewards for College Scientists and the National Science Foundation.

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world's preeminent basic research institutions, where internationally renowned faculty probes fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative and creative environment.

Focused both on discovery and on mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer's, diabetes and infectious diseases by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology and related disciplines.

Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, MD, the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Solo Grandparents Raising Grandchildren at Greater Risk Than Parents for Serious Health Problems

Newswise, September 16, 2015 — Single grandparents raising grandchildren are more vulnerable to poor physical and mental health than are single parents, according to a study recently published in Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research.

These caregivers may be at greater risk for diminished physical capacity and heightened prevalence of depression, researchers found.

Researchers at Georgia State University and the University of Toronto found that solo grandparents caring for grandchildren fare worse than single parents across four critical health areas: physical health, mental health, functional limitations and health behaviors. 

Their research looked at a sample of solo grandparents from 36 U.S. states using the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The burden of chronic illness among solo grandparents was very worrying,” said study co-author Deborah Whitley, a professor of social work in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies’ School of Social Work at Georgia State. 

“One in four solo grandparents reported they had diabetes and one in five had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. One in six had a heart attack. With this level of illness, it is not surprising that 32 percent reported that their physical health was not good more than one week in the past month.”

An estimated 920,000 American children are being raised by solo grandparents without a parent in the home.

“Many solo grandparents are quite elderly, yet they are raising some of the nation’s most vulnerable children with shockingly limited resources,” said co-author Esme Fuller-Thomson, a professor in Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and the Institute for Life Course & Aging. 

“One-quarter of solo grandparents were over age 70. More than a quarter of these households reported incomes of less than $15,000 per year. And more than one-third were raising more than one child, and half the children were less than 12 years of age.”

As America celebrates Grandparents Day on Sept. 13, the authors believe their findings signal the need for policies that will foster the delivery of health services that effectively address the physical and mental health needs of this population.

They point to health professionals from multiple disciplines as an important resource in reducing their health problems and helping to increase their physical and emotional capacity to support and nurture the grandchildren in their care.

A copy of the study, “Health Characteristics of Solo Grandparent Caregivers and Single Parents: A Comparative Profile Using the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance Survey,” can be downloaded at

Monday, September 14, 2015

New Survey By FTD Reveals Top 10 Life Lessons From GrandparentsFTD Grandparent's Day survey reveals that Grandma and Grandpa profoundly influence lives

September 14, 2015/PRNewswire/ -- We're often told that "Grandma knows best" and now a new study from FTD® (Nasdaq: FTD), the iconic floral and gifting company, has revealed exactly how true those words are. To celebrate Grandparent's Day this month, FTD identified the most valuable nuggets of a grandparent's wisdom, with lessons like "A watched kettle never boils," and "A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips," making the shortlist.

The research questioned 1,500 grandchildren and was commissioned to help FTD brands celebrate Grandparents' Day—Sunday, Sept. 13 in the U.S. and Oct. 5 in the UK—and better understand the great impact grandparents have on our lives.

Nearly two thirds of respondents (64%) acknowledged grandparents have influenced their lives profoundly, while more than half (53%) say they would confide in their grandparents over their friends or immediate family. A further 56 percent pass on their grandparent's wisdom to their own children, friends (42%) or colleagues (17%).

The study also explored the specific pieces of wisdom, advice and phrases grandparents have passed on from generation to generation. The list – which includes health, relationship and life advice – has been broken down into the 10 most common nuggets of wisdom.

1.      A leopard never changes its spots.
2.    A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.
3.    A watched kettle never boils.
4.    Treat others as you would like to be treated.
5.     An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
6.    An hour before midnight is worth two after.
7.     Be nice to people on the way up as you will meet them on the way down.
8.    Cleanliness is next to godliness.
9.    Don't leave until tomorrow what you can do today.
10.                        Don't let the sun go down on your anger.
Additional phrases rounding out the top 20 include: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," "Live life as though every day could be your last," and "Don't drink alcohol on an empty stomach."

"It's clear that grandparents play a significant role in our lives, and it's important to take the time to show them just how much they are loved and appreciated this Grandparent's Day," said FTD President and CEO Robert Apatoff.

"FTD is honored to help our customers recognize and help celebrate these important figures who have helped shape us and taught us valuable life lessons."

FTD is offering gourmet gifts, flower arrangements and plants to help celebrate Grandparent's Day and Grandparent's Week in both the U.S. (Sept. 13-19) and UK (Oct. 5).  Customers can send their love, appreciation and thanks with a special gift.

Visit for more information.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Switzerland Best Place in the World for Older People to Live

• UK enters top ten | • All regions of world represented in lower rankings | • Experts call for more age specific data about older people’s lives

September 10, 2015--Switzerland is the best place in the world for older people to live, closely followed by Norway and Sweden, according to a new report from HelpAge International, working in partnership with the University of Southampton.

The Global AgeWatch Index assesses the social and economic wellbeing of the older population in 96 countries around the world. The Index represents 91 per cent of the world’s population aged 60 and over, amounting to some 901 million people. It measures the lives of older people in four key areas: income; health; education and employment and the enabling environment.

The report highlights that:
• Switzerland (1) tops the Index, alongside Norway (2), Sweden (3), Germany (4) and Canada (5). The UK (10) is also among the top 10 this year, along with the USA (9).

• Apart from Japan (8) all the top 10 countries are advanced countries in Western Europe and North America. Afghanistan (96) is ranked last.

• Countries investing in improving the lives of older people are at the top of the Index. They are implementing policies which promote social pensions, universal healthcare and enabling physical and social environments for older people.

• All the world’s regions are represented in the lowest quarter, showing that improvements in lives of older people are required in countries across the world.

• African countries make up half of those with low income security rankings and poor health results – requiring more research and policy interventions in this region than any other.

• Greece (79), Venezuela (76) and Turkey (75) are in a similar position to sub-Saharan African and Asian countries.

Professor Asghar Zaidi, of the Centre for Research on Ageing at the University of Southampton, led the development of the Index, working alongside HelpAge International. 

He comments: “This Index is vital in representing the lives of older people in countries around the world as it enables us to compare not just their pension income and health but also the age friendly environments in which they live. The Index has also shown that a number of countries still lack vital statistics of older people and we would like to see them feature in the report in the future.

“The new post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals offer us a great 
opportunity to start building a better future for all ages by framing agendas and public policies over the next 15 years.

 If older people are to be truly represented in these goals, we need to see more data broken down by age and gender – to help us more effectively understand and address needs specific to this age group.”

By the time the Sustainable Development Goals reach their fruition in 2030, the proportion of people aged 60 and over globally is predicted to rise to 16.5 per cent, up to three-quarters of whom will live in developing countries.

“The Index is a step on the road to people fulfilling their potential at every stage of life,” said Toby Porter, Chief Executive of HelpAge International. 

“Today, in all countries of the world, the proportion of older people is growing. By 2050, 46 of the 96 countries in the Index will have 30 per cent or more of their populations aged 60 and over. We have just 35 years to prepare.”

Further findings:

The Global AgeWatch Index 2015, also shows us that the gap in life expectancy at age 60 between countries at the top and bottom of the Index has widened from 5.7 years in 1990 to 7.3 years in 2012. People aged 60 in Japan have the highest life expectancy and live on average an additional 26 years, while people aged 60 in Afghanistan, live on average an additional 16 years. Average life expectancy at 60 across all featured countries is 21 years.

The combination of a lifetime of gender discrimination, combined with inequality in old age, can have a devastating effect on older women. Globally 46.8 per cent of women aged 55 to 64 are economically active, compared with 73.5 per cent of men.

 In addition, women usually earn less than men, so opportunities to save for later life are limited, increasing their risk of poverty in old age.

Poverty rates among older people also vary dramatically. 

The Republic of (South) Korea currently has the highest poverty rate among older people at 48.5 per cent, followed by Venezuela at 38 per cent, Australia at 33.4 per cent, Bolivia at 30.3 per cent and Honduras at 28.9 per cent, despite significant variations in Gross National Income per capita. At the other end of the spectrum countries with low old age poverty rates are equally varied. The poverty rate among older people in South Africa is 12.17 per cent, Mauritius, 6.4 per cent, India, 5.1 per cent, Lao People's Democratic Republic, 4.5 per cent, Czech Republic, 1.7 per cent and the lowest, Iceland at 1.6 per cent.

Evidence from the Global AgeWatch Index shows governments investing in population ageing, and that are planning for the future, are at the top of the Index. These countries score highly on all four domains. 

They are carrying out research, resourcing and implementing policies which support wellbeing i.e. social pensions, accessible health care, flexible working, life-long learning and creating an enabling environment for all ages. This approach, more common in high income countries, is also apparent in some middle-ranking countries such as Chile (21), Argentina (31) and Mauritius (42).