Checking That off My Bucket List

This ‘Age Beat’ Writer to Publish Collected Stories on a Myriad of Aging Issues

Published in Woonsocket call on August 7, 2016

With the graying of America, a growing number of aging Baby Boomers and seniors are turning to newspapers, television and cable shows and even the Internet to learn more about growing old. This “age beat” coverage percolates up from the bottom of a newsroom, often with middle-aged reporters and editors/producers who are now facing the elder care issues of their elderly parents or in-laws, says San Francisco-based journalist Paul Kleyman, who edits Generations Age Beat Online (GBONews.org), an e-newsletter of the Journalists Network on Generations, distributed to more than 1,000 journalists and authors on aging. They discover “what a huge, untold story it is,” he notes.

Over the years, like many of the nation’s news organization’s The Pawtucket Times, created an ‘Age Beat’ in 2002 that allowed this writer for several years to cover a myriad of aging issues, including Social Security and Medicare, ethics, long-term care, consumer issues, spirituality, pop culture, health care and economics. Ultimately I returned in July 2012 to resume writing of my weekly commentary, with The Woonsocket Call picking it up. My ‘Age Beat’ at these Northern Rhode Island daily newspapers continues to this day.

As an ‘age beat’ journalist for over 36 years, I have penned more than 600 stories covering aging, health care and medical issues. These authored and coauthored pieces have appeared in national, state and local trade and association publications, daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and even news blogs.

AARP Rhode Island recognized my journalistic efforts to educate the public on aging issues in Amy weekly commentaries that appeared in The Pawtucket Times when I received AARP Rhode Island’s 2003 Vision Award. My efforts in covering the long-term care continuum caught the attention of the American College of Health Care Administrators and I became a two time recipient, in 1994 and again in 1999, of its Journalism Award. I also was awarded the Distinguished Alumni’s Award by the Center for Studies in Aging, North Texas State University, in 1997, for my career coverage of aging issues. In 1997, the prestigious McKnight’s LTC News identified me as one of its “100 Most Influential People” in Long-Term Care.

Crossing ‘One Thing to Do’ Off My Bucket List

As a seasoned writer I can now cross off the publishing of my first book from my life’s bucket list. My first book, a collection of 79 newspaper commentaries, will be published shortly by Chepachet-based Stillwater River Publications. Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly, brings together this collection published in the Pawtucket Times, and Woonsocket Call, each article citing the date it was published.

Although a commentary in this book may have been written years ago, and the person quoted is no longer in his or her position or even deceased, the insight that they gave in their interview is still factual and valuable. While most of my sources are from Rhode Island, their stories are universal and their insights applicable anywhere in the nation.

The 291 page book is chock full of researched stories and insightful interviews with experts and everyday people who have shared their personal observations about growing older. The stories cover a variety of aging issues ranging from caregiving and retirement planning, health and wellness, mental health, preplanning your funeral, choosing the right nursing home, Social Security and Medicare, and pop culture to thoughts about spirituality and death.

A short summary on the back of the book says, “Don’t just grow older, take charge and age boldly!” The collection of stories, organized in 13 chapters offers readers – age 50 plus and even those younger – insights and practical information as to how they can plan and enjoy a full and satisfying quality of life unparalleled in our history. With increasing lifespans, Americans are living longer, decades after our retirement.

In Praise of…

 In the foreword of this book, Kathleen S. Connell State Director of AARP Rhode Island, sets the stage for readers as to what they can expect from reading this book. “He moves beyond the surface to explore the facts as well as the depth of feelings beneath it. In this era of speed and change, with eternal youth as a major goal, he takes the time to find the truth, and then uses it to illuminate the many facts of aging with timeless observations delivered in lively readable portions, says Connell.  Meanwhile, short pithy statements on the back cover of Taking Charge: Collective Stories on Aging Boldly, from well-known Rhode Islanders and national aging experts give their thumbs up and endorsement of this book. Specifically:

“Herb Weiss’ book gives practical information for caregivers and a foreshadowing for those of us approaching retirement years. Links keep the information fresh.” — Dr. Nancy Carriuolo, former President of Rhode Island College.

“Herb Weiss reminds our anti-aging society that becoming pro-aging can bring us greater rewards than mere wrinkle cream and tummy tucks.” — Paul Kleyman, Publisher of Generations Beat Online, the E-News of the Journalist Network on Generations

‘Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly’ is more than a book about aging well. What it actually reveals is how to live well. Each page crackles with insight, perspective and good advice. There’s a lot of hard-earned wisdom to be found on these pages.” —John O’Connor, Editorial Director at McKnight’s Long-Term Care News

“These stories within stories blend real-world wisdom and research to create an engaging and enlightening view of the many sides of aging that is both informative and inspiring.” —Dr. Phil Clark, Director of Gerontology Program, University of Rhode Island

“Herb Weiss’ unique experience as a journalist, congressional aide, arts and culture critic and aging expert come together beautifully in this rich sweep of commentary on aging in America today.” — William Benson, Managing Principal in Health Benefits and former Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Administration on Aging

“Herb Weiss knows well the power of the personal story to both teach and learn. Aging brings changes and challenges, whether we are a caregiver, the one in care, or anyone who is dealing with his or her own aging.” —Connie Goldman, Speaker, Author, and Public Radio Producer on Aging Issues.

Everybody Has Their Story to Tell

Yes, the stories in Taking Charge: Collective Stories on Aging Boldly, clearly show that everyone has their own story to tell, a personal life experience that just might provide a road map to the reader on how to age better and even living a longer and healthier life.

Like my fellow Age Beat colleagues, I will continue to bring my readers in the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call the latest, most informative coverage of aging, medical and health-care issues you need to know about in future articles, even books.

The price of Taking Charge: Collective Stories on Aging Boldly is $20 (includes free shipping and handling). Just ask — I am glad to sign copies of your book. For purchasing information email, hweissri@aol.com.

 

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Kleyman Gives Post Mortem Report on 2015 WHCoA

Published in Woonsocket Call on January 17, 2016

In 1958, Rhode Island Congressman John E. Fogarty, a former bricklayer, introduced legislation calling for a White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) to “promote the dignity, health and economic security of older Americans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the enacted legislation and the first conference was held in 1961, with subsequent conferences in 1971, 1981, 1995, 2005 and 2015.

Looking back, the 1961 WHCoA played a major role in the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, even the Older Americans Act. Ten years later, the conference’s recommendation’s for automatic cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security ultimately became law in 1975. The founding of the Senate Aging Committee came from recommendations at the 1971 WHCoA.

A Year Marked with Anniversaries

The one-day 2015 WHCoA (usually three days) was actually held at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but with a much smaller assembly than in previous years at Washington hotels, such as in 1995, which had 2,221 delegates and 2005, where about 1,100 selected delegates gathered. But his time, new technologies allowed others to tune in. The White House could only accommodate a few hundred dignitaries.

Over 700 watch parties were held in every state and thousands of people tuned in on Monday, July 13, 2015, to watch the day-long proceedings by live webcast. Over 9,000 people participated, too, through social media on Twitter and Facebook.

But, Paul Kleyman, editor of the Generations Beat Online (GBONews.org), a E-Newsletter for age beat journalist, noted in the Jan. 17, 2016 issue, that this year’s aging conference had no delegate selection process like previous ones. “As we’ve noted previously, though, more than one expert expressed disappointment that the Obama Administration made little effort to muster bipartisan support among GOP congressional members who might well have wanted some representation on the issue going into the 2016 election season. Historically, governors and members of Congress got to pick local constituents in fields from retirement finance to health services with a prestigious delegate appointment to the conference,” says the seasoned journalist who served as a delegate at the 1995 WHCoA.

A Call for an Expansion of Social Security

The WHCoA’s scheduled date in 2015 fell in the year where advocates in aging celebrated the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. Kleyman notes that the newly released 34 page WHCoA report (with 49 pages of appendices) says, “The 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) provided an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key programs as well as to look ahead to the next decade.”

President Obama was sent a letter with 74 Congressional cosigners reminding him that over half of today’s older workers are not expected to be able to have sufficient resources upon their retirement to maintain their current standard of living. Although they called for an expansion of Social Security, Kleyman says discussion was “barely audible” at the aging conference.

In addressing the WHCoA attendees, Obama called for “keeping Social Security strong, protecting its future solvency,” pledging to fight “privatization of the program. Kleyman observed that proposed new rules to help workers increase their retirement “stopped short of supporting stronger benefits that they need.”

It’s a Mixed Bag

But, Kleyman says that aging advocates consider the WHCoA’s recommendations a mixed bag. In his E-newsletter article, he references a Jan. 6, 2015 blog penned by Kevin Prindiville who serves as executive director of Justice in Aging. “The report details piecemeal public actions and private initiatives, but ignores the opportunity to lay out an ambitious policy proposal to address pressing systemic challenges,” he says.

Kleyman also zeros in on Prindiville’s observations as to why this year’s WHCoA was of the scaled down. He observed, “To those who followed the WHCOA closely, this was not a surprise. Congress’ failure to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, and the lack of appropriate funding for the conference, meant WHCOA organizers had to produce a conference without a budget. With little infrastructure and support, the White House did not propose any new big, bold ideas to prepare for a population that is literally booming.”

Kleyman says that attendees were pleased to see a recommendation calling for improving the quality and safety requirements in the nation’s 15,000 long-term care facilities and a proposal to allow low-income and frail home bound elders and people with disabilities to use food stamps for meals on wheels.

Meanwhile, attendees were told at this event that physicians would be paid starting in 2016 to counsel patients about their end-of-life care, adds Kleyman, noting that recommendations did not address the nation’s increasing diversity.  Yet, there was no discussion on hospice and palliative care, affordable senior housing issues, and little discussion of elder abuse, the need for adequate transportation and long-term care, he says.

See You in 2025

According to the Census Bureau, in 2050, the 65-and-older population will be 83.7 million, almost double of what it was in 2012. The 2015 WHCoA conference has taken place with a skyrocketing older population, referred to as the “Graying of America.” Can this year’s conference provide policy makers with a road map to shape the delivery of services for years to come? As Kleyman says, probably not. “So it goes, at least until 2025,” he says.

 

The Best of…Age-beat Journalism Brings Issues Affecting Seniors to Light

         Published January 28, 2002, Pawtucket Times

          Some people ritually read the sports or business sections, browse the stock listings, or even glance at the comics.  But a growing number of  middle-aged and senior readers are turning to the print or electric media for the latest info on aging.

          With the graying of America, news organizations are creating the age beat, where journalists cover various aspects of aging, including lifestyles, health care, politics, ethics and even economics.  A newly released national survey published in the San Francisco-based Age Beat, a newsletter disseminated to 700 journalists who cover aging, reflects this growing trend.

        Out of 580 non-random surveys sent to Age Beat readers, 152 responses were received. “This was better than a one-in-four response rate,” states Paul Kleyman, editor of Aging Today, the newspaper of the American Society of Aging and national coordinator of the Journalist Exchange on Aging.  The group was started in 1993.

        According to Kleyman, the third Age Beat survey findings indicated about 60 daily newspapers around the United States have a reporter partly assigned to the coverage of aging; 16 use a full-time reporter to cover the issue; and 24 newspapers use columnists.

       Although the findings of three surveys of age -beat reporters reflect a small growth of coverage in aging, it has been steady, Kleyman says.  While the age beat does not have economic clout in newsrooms (it is difficult to sell advertising around aging), this steady growth has occurred over the last 10 years through two economic slumps.

      There are more journalists covering the aging beat than last year, according to the survey report.

      The slow-but-steady growth of the age beat in journalism is a result of journalists – and their parents -aging, Kleyman noted. “Some of these aging journalists are finding this a very important area and have taken it upon themselves to begin to cover these issues.

       “There were more stories about aging because they are important in people’s lives- including those of reporters and editors,” Kleyman observed.  Thus, more than 90 percent of the survey respondents say that they now have direct personal experiences with the issues of aging, both personally or in their family, he said.

       Many of the respondents became interested in covering aging after they had to help their aging parents find a nursing home or move into a retirement community, Kleyman said.  “In doing this, they learned there is a huge amount of information they had to dig out and learn – [information] most of the public is unaware of.

       “Today’s journalists believe their personal experiences do not affect their objectivity in writing stories,” noted Kleyman.  Experience gives them both the perspective and information they need, but they still can approach each story with balance, he added.

       Kleyman said that journalists on the age beat will care about the issues enough to follow them over a longer period, and they will develop more sources and a greater depth of knowledge and understanding.

       “This is why they will write stories that are more technically accurate and factual,” he said.

       According to the survey, age-beat reporters who are devoting more of their time and energy to covering aging issues are generally veteran reporters.  On average, the respondents have more than 20 years of professional experience as journalists.

      Ageism occurs in the news media, says Kleyman.

      ‘”There is an atitude that all stories must have focus on medical and health care,” he said.  “This ageism centers on an attitude that getting older is getting sicker and becoming a burden on your family.  This is not so.”

      The Age Beat survey also found that, consistently across the board, 50 percent of the stories being weritten by age-beat reporters releate to health care and medical issues.  The other 50 percent cover different aspects of senior life.

      “Aging is about everything that people experience in their older years,” says Kleyman. “Stories range from sex and intimacy to housing, to income issues, to crrime, even to issues surrounding older drivers.”

       Finall, the survey revealed a growing percentage of reporters getting more requests from their editors and producers to tie their stories into the baby boomer generation, whose members are in their late 40s to mid-50s.  However, about two thirds of the reporters written by the respondents covered issues that affected those age 65 and over.

      The survey results were clear.  “Baby boomers are interesting, but the stories on those 65 and older stories are those that reporters feel must be told to readers,” Kleyman said.

      Like my colleagues on the age beat, this columnist will continue to bring you the latest, most informative coverage of aging issues you need to know about — stay tuned.

      Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer covering aging, health care and medical issues for the Pawtucket Times.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.