Local Legislators Attentive, but Not Presidential Hopefuls

Published in Woonsocket Call on January 1, 2017

As 2017 approaches, it is a time one naturally reflects on the year that has past, the people we have lost, and look towards what the incoming year will hold. Newspapers also look back of the interesting stories that shaped the news, too. This “aging beat” columnist reflected on his coverage of aging, health care and medical issues. During 2016, 47 weekly commentaries appeared in the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call, some even were printed by Golocalprov.com, the Warwick Beacon and Cranston Herald. A myriad of issues were covered in this weekly commentary throughout the year.

During the very heated 2016 presidential I called on both Democratic and GOP candidates in the primary and election to give us the specifics about their policy positions on Social Security and Medicare. But, we saw aging issues mostly ignored in the more than two dozen debates that took place in this election cycle (21 primary debates and four general election debates). With Donald Trump taking the White House from the Democrats and his party controlling both chambers of Congress another commentary sounded the alarm about the GOP’s impending assault next session on Social Security and Medicare, America’s most popular domestic programs. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, other commentaries covered legislative initiatives on Smith Hill. One looked at Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s call for increased wages for the state’s direct care workers. These workers deserve this pay raise. Another covered Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian’s successful efforts to mandate holocaust and genocide studies in educational curriculum for all middle and high school studies. With anti-Semitic incidents increasing throughout the Ocean State we “must never forget.”

Of course, throughout last year my commentaries also addressed caregiving issues, making readers aware of scams and to educate them as to how they could protect themselves. One even shared my personal experience of putting down Abby, my 11-year-old chocolate Labrador, to end her suffering. Pet owners throughout the Ocean State have gone through this universal, painful experience and could identify with my painful decision.

Readers also learned about the very interesting details of a Near Death Experience of Tommy Rosa, a Bronx-born plumber, who came back to life with a spiritual knowledge of health and healing. Rosa’s chance meeting at a conference with Dr. Stephen Sinatra, an integrative cardiologist and psychotherapist, seen on “Dr. Oz” and “The Doctors,” would lead to the publishing of a 247-page book, “Health Revelations from Heaven and Earth.” This book is a great read for those seeking spiritual insight into maintaining good health.

Finally, in 2016 one item was scratched off my bucket list. Readers learned about my first book, “Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly,” being published in August. The 313-page book is a compilation of 79 of my weekly commentaries and is chocked full of researched stories and insightful stories with experts and everyday people who shared their personal observations about growing older and aging gracefully. Go to http://www.herbweiss.com for more details.

Below is a sampling of articles from 2016 that will allow you to see the breath and depth of my commentaries (over 200 of these previously published commentaries can be found on my blog, herbweiss.wordpress.com.) Enjoy.

“Older Americans Impacting the Economy,” published in the September 25, 2016 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the September 26, 2016 issue of the Pawtucket Times

Everyone has heard this comment one time or another during their life — older people are a drain on the economy. But, in 2016 a newly released AARP report shatters this myth once and for all by detailing a rise in spending and workforce contributions of aging baby boomers.

AARP’s 28 page report, The Longevity Economy: How People Over 50 Are Driving Economic and Social Value in the US, takes a hard look at how our nation’s population of 111 million 50-plus consumers impacts the economy.

According to this report, released on September 20, the 50-plus age groups generates a whopping $7.6 trillion in economic activity (a $500 billion increase from 2013), including $5 trillion in consumer spending by people 50-plus. The researchers say the increases reflects the nation’s shifting demographic and spending patterns of this group due to longer life spans and prolonged employment.

“Does Exercised Aid Brain Heath: The Debate’s Yet to be Determined,” published in the August 31, 2016 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the September 1, 2016 issue of the Pawtucket Times

According to AARP’s latest health aging survey findings released last year, age 40 and over respondents who regularly exercise rate their brain health significantly higher than non-exercisers. They also cite improvements in their memory, ability to: learn new things, managing stress, and even making decisions. On the other hand, the findings reveal an overwhelming majority of these respondents. see the benefits of exercise, but only 34 percent are meeting the Global Council on Brain Health’s (GCBH) recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week.

These findings in the 37-page Survey on Physical Activity report, note that having willpower, enjoying exercise, identification as an “exerciser,” lack of enjoyment and feeling like you have the energy to exercise or lack money to exercise are the key factors that differentiate exercisers from non-exercisers.
Although health care experts applaud the benefits of exercise and its positive impact on organs in your body, but the findings on improving brain heath are self-reported at best, not empirically derived.

“AARP Exec Seeks to Change America’s Perception of Growing Old,” published in the March 7, 2016 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the March 8, 2016 issue of the Pawtucket Times

In 2016, AARP/CEO Jo Ann Jenkins released her new 272-page book, “Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age.” AARP’s top official suggested it is time to redefine what it means to grow old in America. Throughout its pages the Northern Virginia resident encourages readers to re-think the negative stories they consistently tell themselves and others, urging them to come together to change both the conversation about aging and its reality. While sharing these ideas with others, and meeting fearless people working to change what it means to age in America, Jo Ann was inspired to write her book.
In Disrupt Aging, Jenkins focuses on three core areas—health, wealth, and self—to show people how to embrace opportunities and change the way society looks at getting older. Here, she chronicles her own journey and that of others who are making their mark as disruptors to show readers how we can be active, healthy, and happy as we get older. Through engaging narrative, she touches on all the important issues facing people over age 50 today, from caregiving and mindful living to building age-friendly communities and making our money last.

“Experienced Workers to Seek Greener Pastures in 2016,” published in the January 25, 2016 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the January 26, 2016 issue of the Pawtucket Times

In 2016, an AARP survey found that with an improving economy older experienced workers were seeking new employment, making “more money” was the key motivator.
The “Experience in Work” survey (with its findings detailed in a 47-page report) reported that of the approximately 4 in ten inclined to seek new work this year, 23% are either extremely or very likely to try to find a new job this year, and another 16% say that they are somewhat likely to job-seek during that period.
Researchers say that respondents, ages 35 to 64, cite career growth potential (21%), better work flexibility (25%), more enjoyable work (30%), as well as better health benefits (28%) as reasons they plan to seek new employment this year.

Meanwhile, experienced workers are willing to take the leap outside of their job sector. A quarter (24%) of those likely to switch companies say that they do not expect to remain in the same industry. An even larger percentage (42%) do not even know what type of business they will end up in.
Responding to AARP’s survey findings Ed Mazze, a widely acclaimed Rhode Island economist says that retaining employees is quite simple. “To build a good workforce, the company must make work interesting, recognize the accomplishments of its employees, provide good working conditions, have a competitive compensation system and an opportunity for the employee to be promoted and continue to learn,” he says.
Throughout 2017 I look forward to penning weekly commentaries that will shed light on aging issues, most importantly providing you tips on how to age gracefully.

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Experienced Workers to Seek Greener Pastures in 2016

Published in the Pawtuket Times on January 25, 2016

In 2016, you can likely expect to see an increasing number of experienced workers seeking new employment. According to the recently released AARP survey, making “more money” was the key motivator for 74 percent of the survey respondents.

“The economy may be doing better these days,” said AARP Senior Vice President Jean Setzfand. “But a lot of workers are still worried about their paychecks. While our survey, which included many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, found most people looking want more money, we also found a wide variety of reasons for their job search rationale.”

Looking for Greener Pastures

The “Experience in Work” survey (with its findings detailed in a 47 page report released this ), conducted for AARP’s new career website, aarp.org/work, finds that of the approximately 4 in ten inclined to seek new work this year, 23% are either extremely or very likely to try to find a new job this year, and another 16% say that they are somewhat likely to job-seek during that period.

Researchers say that respondents, ages 35 to 64, cite career growth potential (21%), better work flexibility (25%), more enjoyable work (30%), as well as better health benefits (28%) as reasons they plan to seek new employment this year.

Added Setzfand: “Things are so fluid that many of those likely to switch jobs this year say they do not expect to stay in the same industry. An even larger group of job searchers do not know what type of business they will end up in at all.”

The 10-minute, online, unbranded survey (a nationally represented sample of 1,291) conducted by Phi Power Communications, Inc., found that that experienced workers who are already looking for a new job say the tools most commonly used in their search are online listings (62%), personal contacts (40%), and company career listings (33%).

Most of those surveyed (62%) are currently employed, and a solid majority (66%) have been in the same job for at least five years, pointing up the need for likely job seekers to update their skills.

Meanwhile, experienced workers are willing to take the leap outside of their job sector. A quarter (24%) of those likely to switch companies say that they do not expect to remain in the same industry. An even larger percentage (42%) do not even know what type of business they will end up in.

But, finding new a new job is not a piece of cake. Age discrimination (42%) is listed as the biggest obstacle to gaining a new higher paying job, followed by “not being offered enough money” (37%), a poor regional or local labor market (24 %) and “lack of availability of full-time jobs with benefits” (23%).

According to Kathleen Connell, AARP Rhode Island State Director, the survey findings capture how older workers value their job experience. “They see career growth continuing at 50 rather than experiencing a decline in their value to employers; they believe they bring experience and knowledge to the table that can be leveraged to find flexibility that meets their financial needs and lifestyles; and many, for the first time, may be doing the math and realizing how much health benefits play a factor in their overall compensation,” she says.

While the survey respondent’s attitude reflected in this AARP phone survey seem obvious at age 50, Connell believes that many workers now think this way as they turn sixty years old and they anticipate another decade or more of full-time employment.

Connell adds, “Conversely, one can infer that people are insecure in a fragile economy and a culture of mergers and acquisitions that result in the arbitrary elimination of jobs. So, career flexibility is a means of adapting, if necessary. In Rhode Island, our scale makes it difficult for most people to easily replace a lost job. And therefore, people in their 50s may be looking to advance to new job possibilities before they hear footsteps.

“Still, what the survey may show most clearly is that older workers are looking for a bigger paycheck in order keep pace with inflation and, hopefully, to save more for retirement,” says Connell.

The Secret to Keeping Employee’s satisfied

Edward M. Mazze, Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration at The University of Rhode Island, sees the New England region and the Ocean States Economy slowly improving. Businesses are hiring employees with specific skills, to replace individuals that have either retired or left for new job opportunities, he says, adding that a company’s growth and new technology also create the need to expand and hire new employees.

“The needed skill set and knowledge base for many jobs have changed as a result of the way businesses compete in today’s market-place. Individuals with experience and a willingness to continue to learn will find jobs because they add value to their organizations, adds Mazze.

“Employees are an important asset of an organization no matter what their age or educational background,” says Mazze, noting that this intangible asset does not appear on the balance sheet.

The widely acclaimed economist sees the major challenge companies face today is how to keep their employees satisfied. This goes beyond pay for performance, he notes.

The formula for retaining employees is quite simple, says Mazze. “To build a good workforce, the company must make work interesting, recognize the accomplishments of its employees, provide good working conditions, have a competitive compensation system and an opportunity for the employee to be promoted and continue to learn, he notes.

But, Mazze adds a major key to keeping employees satisfied is the culture of the company and the values of management. “It is not unusual for experienced workers to have five or six job changes in their career – some because of better opportunities and others because of down-sizing and right-sizing companies as a result of economic and financial factors,” he says.

AARP’s website (www.AARP.org/Work) provides useful information, tools and connections to an array of resources. This website includes a job search engine, a list of companies that recognize the value of experienced workers and recruit across diverse age groups, and tips for workers of all experience levels seeking employment or exploring new workplace options.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12 is a Pawtucket Writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.