Aging Report is “Rhode Map” for Change

Published on June 27, 2016 in Pawtucket Times

Next year look for the policy debate in the Rhode Island General Assembly to heat with Governor Dan McKee’s Aging in Community Subcommittee of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council (LTCCC) release of a sixty page report in June documenting the sky rocketing growth of the state’s older population and identifying strategies to allow these individuals to age in place and stay in their communities.

The Aging in Community Subcommittee was mandated by the enactment of the Aging in Community Act of 2014, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Mary Ellen Goodwin and Representatives Christopher Blazejewski and Eileen Naughton. The Subcommittee, chaired by Maureen Maigret, Vice Chair of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council, and former Director of the Division of Elderly Affairs, staff from Rhode Island College, Brown University and the University of Rhode Island, representatives from state agencies, members of the senior community, and senior service providers.

According to Maigret, it has taken almost 18 months to gather data, host focus groups and to write the “Aging in Community” report. The report provides demographic data snapshot on the state’s older population and also inventories current services and resources. It also identifies challenges faced by older Rhode Islanders and recommends strategies to promote successful aging in community in these nine issue areas.

Maigret believes that this report may take the most comprehensive look at what aging programs and services are available to assist older Rhode Islanders age in place in their communities and it identifies what programs and services are lacking. “The State Plan on Aging does have some data and actions planned but does not comprehensively cover all the domains covered in the “Aging in Community” report,” she says.

A Demographic Snap Shot

In 2010, the report notes that over 152,000 Rhode Islanders were age 65, predicting that this number will sky rocket to 247,000 in 2030. By 2025, Rhode Island will be considered to be a “Super Aging” state where 20 percent of its population will be over age 65. The report noted that two years ago the population of New Shoreham, Little Compton, North Smithfield, North Providence and Tiverton had already reached “Super Aging” status.

The report added that 42 percent of over age 65 household incomes amounted to less than $30,000. Only 49 percent of the retirees have non Social Security retirement income. Fifty two percent of the older renters and 39 percent of the home owners were financially burdened with covering housing costs. Poverty levels for older Rhode Islander vary, from 7 percent in Bristol County to 18 percent in Providence County.

The LTCCC report notes that even with lower incomes older Rhode Islanders have a major impact on the state’s economy. They bring in over $2.9 billion dollars from Social Security pensions and $281 million in taxes into the state’s economy. Older workers account for 33,750 jobs throughout all job sectors.

Rhode Island’s retirees provide an estimated $ 149 million by volunteering and an estimated $ 2 billion in providing caregiving services to family and friends.

A Spotlight on Priority Recommendations

The Subcommittee’s findings were the result of interviews held with aging service providers, an examination of age-friendly best practices in other states and ten focus groups conducted with older Rhode Islander from across the state.

The focus groups attendees gave the Subcommittee valuable information. They stressed that Senior Centers were “highly valued.” Many expressed financial concerns for their current situation and into the future. Attendees were very concerned about the lack of transportation and lack of affordable housing. State customer service employees were viewed by many as “unfriendly.”

Dozens of strategies were listed in the LTCCC report for state policy makers to consider to better assist older Rhode Islanders to successfully age in their community in these nine issue areas: Information and Communication, Community Engagement, Transportation, Economic Security, Food Security and Nutrition, Housing, Supports at Home, Healthcare Access and Open Spaces/Public Buildings

The LTCCC report identifies priority strategies including the restoring of senior center funding based on a population-based formula and continuing RIPTA’s no-fare bus pass program for low income seniors and persons with disabilities. It also calls for increase payments for homecare and for restoring state funding for Elder Respite.

Maigret says that creating a coalition of aging groups to “build an age-friendly Rhode Island” is the next step to take. Businesses can also become “age friendly” and better understand the economic value of older Rhode Islanders bring to the state and its educational institutions, she says.

Political Will Required to Implement LTCCC Report Strategies

There must be a political will to implement the strategies of the LTCCC report, says Maigret, starting with the state’s top elected official. “Governor Raimondo’s proposed budget had added $600,000 in funding for senior centers but the Rhode Island General Assembly removed it,” she said, noting that the decrease in funding got caught up in the negativity surrounding Community Service grants. “We were fortunate the 2017 budget will still have $400,000 in funding for senior centers,” she says.

“Rhode Island’s older adult population contributes a great deal socially, economically, and intellectually to our communities. Ensuring that those Rhode Islanders who desire to age-in-place are able to do so only enriches our society,” said Governor Raimondo. “I’m pleased that Director Fogarty, and members of his senior staff, serve and work with the Long Term Care Coordinating Council and the Subcommittee on Aging in Community. The insight they gain from service with these committees helps to shape State policy and programs related to services for seniors.

“I applaud the members of the Subcommittee for their dedication to creating a clear, comprehensive report on aging that can be a catalyst for change in our state. Their work recognizes that Rhode Island’s older population is growing dramatically and that we must direct public policy to help them remain active and in their homes,” said Lt. Governor McKee. I look forward to supporting the strategies detailed in the Subcommittee’s report to help build stronger, healthier communities for all Rhode Islanders.”

Finally, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, also says that the Subcommittee report’s recommendations will also be studied closely next legislative session. “I will be reviewing the findings of the report in greater detail and I will confer with Representatives Chris Blazejewski and Eileen Naughton, who sponsored and advocated for the Aging in Community Act of 2014. Our older population in Rhode Island is a growing one and it is important that we continue to listen to their needs and be responsive. I commend the work of the subcommittee, as well as all those who participated in the focus groups. I would anticipate that any policy and financial recommendations will be fully analyzed by the members of the General Assembly in the 2017 session.”

The LTCCC’s “Aging in Community” report gives our policy makers a road map in reconfiguring the state’s fragmented aging programs and services. With the Governor, House Speaker and Senate President on board, we might just see legislative changes in the next years that might just be what we need to keep people at home and active in their community. Lawmakers must not act penny-wise and pound foolish when considering legislative fixes.

Both the executive summary and the full Subcommittee “Aging in Community” report are available on the Lieutenant Governor’s website at: http://www.ltgov.ri.gov and the general assembly website at: http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Pages/Reports.aspx.

Advertisements

And No, We’re Not Talking Pong: New Survey Captures Attitudes and Habits of Older Gamers

Published on June 19, 2016 in Woonsocket Call

Although the millennial generation grew up being surrounded with interactive technology, spending thousands of hours playing video games, baby boomers are technologically plugged in, too. According to a new survey released in the beginning of June by AARP and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 41 million Americans, more than one of every three people over age 50, play video games on a regular basis.

According to Oscar Anderson, AARP Research, “The video game industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy with more than $23 billion in sales last year. Innovation present in this industry affects not only entertainment but also business, engineering, health, and education.”

Older Adults and Technology

The 93 page report, Video Games: Attitudes and Habits of Adults Age 50-Plus, found that three-quarters of gamers age 50-plus play weekly, with four in 10 playing daily. Among gamers age 60 and above, 43 percent play video games every day.

Researchers say that the top reason gamers say they play video games is to have fun (26% say this is an extremely important reason and 52% say it is very important). Maintaining mental sharpness also was cited by the survey respondent as an important reason for playing video games.

The researchers also found that a greater proportion of older gamers compared to younger gamers report playing video games weekly or more often (37% of 50-59 year olds compared to 43% of 60-plus say they play every day).

“With the explosion of dynamic, compelling, and diverse content and the growing popularity of online gaming, video games are now an experience shared across generations of Americans,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA, which represents the U.S. video game industry in a statement on June 2, 2016 with the release of the survey findings. “As Gen X turns 50 and Millennials raise tech-centric families, participation will only continue to expand just as games continue to evolve.”

The report prepared by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, explored the attitudes and habits of people age 50 also examining what how and what older gamers play. Older gamers most commonly play on laptops or computers (59 percent), followed closely by phones or mobile devices (57 percent) to play video games. They prefer video games that mimic traditional forms of play; card/tile games (46 percent) and puzzle/logic games (44 percent) are the most popular among older gamers.

Crossing Generational Lines

“Video games have come a long way since the days of Pong. Today’s online video games give people 50-plus fun ways to stay connected with their family and friends through online gaming communities across a variety of devices,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, in her statement. “Video games and apps are truly ageless, offering gamers of all ages—a grandfather as well as his granddaughter—the opportunity to share entertainment and social interactions with one another.”

The study found that Gamers age 50-plus are more likely to be women (40 percent) than men (35 percent). More of the female respondents reported playing games daily (45 percent) than their male counterparts (35 percent). Meanwhile, women (57%) are significantly more likely than men (43%) to say they play more today than they did five years ago.

Additionally, researchers say that card/tile games (46%) and puzzle/logic games (44%), followed distantly by trivia/word/ traditional board video games top the list of respondents’ three favorite types of video games.

In total, 22% of gamers have not made any video game related purchase in the past 6 months. Of the gamers who made purchases, 77% bought for themselves, while 52% bought for others.

Half of older gamers say that learning about new video games and gaming hardware came from sources other than internet websites, with one in six reporting their children and grandchildren influence their choice of games.

With the exception of those who are trained in their jobs, most people 50+ have learned most of that they know about computing from their children and their grandchildren,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell. “So, it should come as no surprise that plenty of people 50 and over have been exposed to, if not addicted to video games.

Promoting Brain Health and Other Bennies

“Recently, I observed a member playing the online Scrabble game ‘Words With Friends’ on her tablet while waiting for a meeting to start,” Connell added. “She was connected with a grandchild and loving it.

“We know that certain video games promote brain health, which is something we all are hoping to strengthen. And the so-called ‘passive-learning games’ are a way to connect people with useful information.  Just last month, AARP launched the Pop Up! Family Caregiver Game, which challenged players to learn more about valuable resources for family caregivers. Throughout June, you could download the free app and play daily with a chance to win prizes. It was a refreshing way to engage people, provide some fun and spread the word about our organization’s ongoing efforts to support caregivers.”

Researchers are telling us that playing video games can increases social interaction, enhance your mood and improves physical health, social and cognitive functioning. Some games can even improve hand-eye coordination.

AARP’s Video Game study findings indicate that older persons are becoming comfortable with newly emerging technologies. A growing number of baby boomers and seniors are now easily communicating with family and friends on Facebook and other social media, playing video games, streaming movies or even reading digital E-books.

Most important research studies are now looking at gaming and brain functioning are are finding that regularly playing video and internet games just might positively impact your physical and cognitive health and well-being.

As to methodology of AARP’s Video Game study, the online survey took place between March 9 through March 17, 2016, with a nationally representative sample of 2,964 adults age 50 and older (gamers, n=1510; non-gamers, n=1454). For additional details about this newly released report, contact G. Oscar Anderson of AARP Research at GAnderson@aarp.org.

Regular Folks Give Sound Advice to Class of 2016 for Future Success

Published in Pawtucket Times on June 6, 2016

As previous years, high-profile commencement speakers are coming to Rhode Island’s Colleges and Universities selected to give to the robed 2016 graduates their unique practical tips as to how one can have a rewarding personal and professional career. As I mentioned last May in my weekly commentary, these widely-recognized speakers can quickly bring prestige to the educational institution but they oftentimes command big bucks for their brief appearance. . . .

Like last year this writer calls for choosing regular folks to give commencement speeches to graduating College seniors. Their practical tips, suggestions and “words of wisdom” are honed each and every day at work and through their personal intimate relationships with family and friends and by the challenges faced throughout their life’s journey.

The following advice from these Rhode Islanders can be especially helpful to those graduating to cope in a very complex and changing world.

Doug Allen, 53, Douglas, Massachusetts (formerly from Lincoln, Rhode Island.), owner of Lincoln Associates. “Look around at your fellow graduates. There is at least one person here that you never spoke to, nor socialized with, that will someday become extremely successful. And they, unfortunately, will remember how they were treated in high school. Don’t make this mistake again. Every person you come in contact with could be that person who changes your life. Make it a point to say a kind word to everyone. Otherwise, you will never know if the next Mark Zuckerberg sat beside you in math class your sophomore year.”

Richard Blockson, 61, Providence, former general manager of The Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call, who currently works in the financial service sector. “Striving to be a person of sound character is an admirable goal. It cannot be bought, given to you or taken away. It levels the playing field between privileged and underprivileged. It will help guide you through troubled waters and grant you a path of good decisions during your lifetime.”

Carol Conley, 60, Pawtucket, assistant to the executive director, Rhode Island Film Office, Rhode Island. “Be grateful. Be kind. Karma is a real thing. Give to others what you would like to receive and it will eventually come back to you. Wait for it; trust the universe’s timing. Challenge yourself. Conquer your fears. Never, ever give up.”

Michelle DePlante, 29, Cumberland, director of programs, Leadership Rhode Island, “Discover who you are and what strengths you bring to the table. Engage with people who seem the least like you and listen to them to understand, not simply to reply. Become comfortable with the uncomfortable – you’ll grow as a person, and life will never be boring. Get to know your neighbors and be accountable to your community.”

Diane Dufresne, 63, Pawtucket, director at Pawtucket Prevention Coalition, “Take the knowledge and experience of those who have mentored you and invested in you, those who have helped mold your life and use that to become the best version of yourself that you can be……use what you have gained and contribute to make society better……one day you will have the opportunity to mentor others and you will impact another person to do the same.”.

Paul C. Harden, 56, Newport, director of Transportation Technology at New England Institute of Technology, “As a college graduate take every opportunity to learn, consider new ideas and develop new skills. You do not have to go back to school and get another degree. Trying reading books, taking a free online course or finding a mentor who can give you sound counsel.”

Mike Lyons, 73, East Providence, corporate and community partnerships, Pawtucket Red Sox Baseball Club, “Henry David Thoreau is the author of one of my favorite quotes: To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of the arts.’ College Graduates in particular have both the opportunity and responsibility that their education has afforded them to make each day matter.”

John Resnick, 52, Cranston, entrepreneur, “I have learned that your parents may try to live their lives through you and your career choice. Never give up your own dreams to follow the dreams and plans your parents may have for you. The only thing that you owe your parents is the promise that you continually pursue happiness throughout the course of your life.”

Wayne Rosenberg, 60, Providence, real estate broker and construction manager, “Most college degrees are not going to be your ticket to financial freedom. Your most important challenge you will face is finding meaningful work. You must realize that no one can do this for you but yourself. Take charge. If you cannot find employment consider becoming your own boss and employ yourself.”

Joyce Silvestri, 62, Seekonk, Massachusetts, former banquet director at Twelve Acres, “As you are entering upon your post-graduation experience, it is important to remember that as much as you are all vying for possible jobs or post graduate education, the competition will be even greater than you have experienced so far. Reflecting on what you have heard and seen in this election year, you would be wise to entertain this workplace or educational competition without losing sight of civility. That would be your true success.”

Jim Tiernan, 55, Hamilton, owner of 80 Fountain Street, LLC, a Pawtucket mill that houses artists and creative sector companies. “It is important for graduating seniors to realize that not many people know what they want to be when they ‘grow up.’ Don’t fret about making that perfect choice or worry that you don’t have a passion for your chosen field of education. You won’t always make perfect choices, but with a little thought and feedback from your friends and those older your choice will lead you in a positive direction. Wherever you land, learn from those around you with more experience and become as fully engaged in life as you possibly can. You only go around once.”

Rico Vota, 34, Cranston, communications & constituent affairs officer, City of Pawtucket. “You never know when the last time you talked to someone, is going to be the last time you talk to someone. Make every interaction you have with people count for something.”

And this writer, concludes with his favorite quote from the Roman poet Horace’s Odes. “Carpe Diem , Quam Minimum Credula Postero.” Translation: “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow.”