Public Policy & Aging E-Newsletter

Volume 5, Number 5, September 2011

This bimonthly e-newsletter highlights key developments and viewpoints in the field of aging policy from a wide variety of sources, including articles and reports circulating in the media, academy, think tanks, private sector, government and nonprofit organizations.

The goal of this email publication is to reach teachers, students, and citizens interested in policy-relevant issues, especially those who may not have easy access to policy information disseminated both in Washington and around the country.

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A. Comparison of Medicare Provisions in Deficit and Debt Reduction Proposals: Many of the debt-reduction plans being considered by Congress and the Administration include proposals that would achieve substantial savings or, depending on your view, necessitate significant cuts, from the Medicare program over time. This side-by-side summary compares the key Medicare provisions found in five major debt-reduction plans put forward by the White House, Congress and independent, bipartisan commissions. The summary also includes brief descriptions of Medicare proposals in other deficit reduction proposals from other think tanks and Congressional offices.

B. 2011 Long-Term Projections for Social Security: Social Security is the federal government's largest single program. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), about 56 million people will receive Social Security benefits in 2011. This CBO publication provides information about long-term projections of the Social Security program's finances during the 75-year period spanning 2011 to 2085, and includes a demographic profile of those receiving benefits. For a summary, click here.

C. Valuing the Invaluable: The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving: Family support is critical to remaining in one’s home and in the community, but often comes at substantial costs to caregivers themselves, to their families, and to society. This AARP report updates national and individual state estimates of the economic value of family caregiving using the most current available data. In addition to estimating economic value of unpaid contributions, the report also explains the contributions of family caregivers, details the costs and consequences of providing family care, and provides policy recommendations to support caregiving families.


A. The Uneven Aging and ‘Younging’ of America: State and Metropolitan Trends in the 2010 Census: Using U.S. decennial censuses of 1990, 2000, and 2010, this Brookings Institution brief explores national patterns of age-related growth and decline; state and metropolitan variations in older and younger population shifts; the geography of senior and soon-to-be senior populations; and city-suburban shifts with an emphasis on the wide variation in aging and “younging” patterns within the suburbs. The report concludes with some implications of these shifts for age-related public policies and politics in different parts of the country.

B. Modernizing the Older Americans Act: Based on findings from Idea Forums conducted in six U.S. cities, this Age4Action report provides recommendations for how the Older Americans Act can help adults age 50+ who want to make contributions as dynamic advocates, valued workers, committed volunteers, lifelong learners, and respected leaders. The Forums drew more than 700 participants and used surveys, testimonies, and discussions to produce many important findings and promising ideas. For the executive summary, click here.

C. Proposed Models to Integrate Medicare and Medicaid Benefits for Dual Eligibles: A Look at the 15 State Design Contracts Funded by Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services: This Kaiser Family Foundation policy brief summarizes 15 states' preliminary proposals to better coordinate care for people who are enrolled in both the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The proposals are an outgrowth of new efforts under the health reform law to develop service delivery and payment models that integrate care for the nation’s nearly 9 million "dual eligibles," whose medical needs and health care costs typically exceed those of other Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

III. THIS ISSUE'S MAJOR POLICY STORY: Employment and Older Adults

It is not by coincidence that my friend and colleague Rob Hudson announces in this E-newsletter that a recent issue of Public Policy & Aging Report focuses on the “uneven experiences of older workers during the first decade of the 21st century.” Jobs are on everyone’s mind. Should Washington try to stimulate the economy by creating work in the public sector to shore up our infrastructure—or to subsidize programs in the private sector to provide meaningful opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed? How can we assist men and women who have given up hope that they will ever find work again? Are we prepared to write them off?

In the midst of such discussions, often but not often enough, pundits and policymakers refer to the desires and needs of mature workers. This has been a policy issue throughout postwar America. “We live in a time when work is changing its meaning in fundamental ways for people,” declared Eugene A. Friedmann and Robert J. Havighurst in The Meaning of Work and Retirement, a study based primarily on interviews with unskilled and semi-skilled steel workers. “Possibly the generation now passing through adulthood will know better how to replace their work with play when they come to retire” (University of Chicago Press, 1954, pp. 1, 194). The parents of Baby Boomers did indeed transform the meanings of work and retirement, creating for themselves (thanks to pensions and access to health care) various pathways to encore careers, leisure sites, novel lifestyles, and options for late years that only the rich could entertain a few decades earlier. Widespread affluence affords us all many choices; hard times are sobering, even when the impact is uneven.

Given the volatility of the stock market since 2008, many Baby Boomers find themselves rethinking their retirement plans. Some want to stay on the job a few extra years, or they are exploring the feasibility of working part-time. Others feel they have no choice but to remain in the labor force. Ageism, disabilities, and family responsibilities deter still other segments of this set of emerging elders from seeking paid employment. As the pieces in this section underscore, “employment and older adults” is a complex and timely subject. Its dimensions are being transformed by economic insecurities, changing profiles of job opportunities in the public and private sectors, as well as the biases that women and people of color still face.

For those of you located in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, The Gerontological Society of America and Senior Service America, Inc. invite you to attend a congressional briefing titled "Older Workers: Multiple Returns on Our Public Investment." The event, scheduled on September 16 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building room SD-G11, will focus on the plight of older workers, particularly low-income and minority populations. Centered on the findings from a recent Public Policy & Aging Report titled “Older Workers: Problems and Prospects in an Aging Workforce” (Vol. 21, No. 1), the briefing will also include new data about the Senior Community Service Employment Program and how recent funding cuts will impact older workers. All interested individuals are encouraged to attend this important event. Please RSVP to Dani Kaiserman at or (202) 587-2847.

--Andy Achenbaum

A. Unemployment Statistics on Older Americans: While all Americans are feeling the effects of the current economic climate, this recession has caused an increase in joblessness among older Americans. The older population can be particularly hard hit during periods of unemployment because they typically take longer to re-enter the workforce. These graphs and tables from the Urban Institute report unemployment rates and how they vary by age, sex, race, and education.

B. From Bad to Worse: Senior Economic Insecurity on the Rise: In only four years, the number of seniors at risk of outliving their resources increased by nearly 2 million households. Using the Senior Financial Stability Index, this Institute on Assets and Social Policy and report finds that economic insecurity among senior households has increased by one-third, rising from 27 percent to 36 percent from 2004 to 2008. This steady and dramatic increase occurred even before the full force of the Great Recession hit. With effects of the recession impacting all demographic groups, economic security of seniors has deteriorated further.

C. Employment and Earnings Among 50+ People of Color: The number of people of color in the workforce will soar in coming decades as the older population expands, grows more diverse, and works longer. This Urban Institute brief explores how these changes will impact different ethnic groups of individuals. Findings include that African Americans and Hispanics age 50 and older face substantial workplace challenges, such as relatively low earnings, high unemployment, and limited access to self-employment. Older Asians fare better, but still lag behind their non-Hispanic white counterparts on many indicators.

D. What Is the Average Retirement Age?: This Center for Retirement Research at Boston College brief describes the historical long-run decline in labor force participation of men and the turnaround that began in the mid-1980s. The brief also discusses the trends for women, which combine their increasing labor force activity, on the one hand, and incentives to retire, on the other.

E. Selected Characteristics of Private and Public Sector Workers: To deal with budget deficits, many policymakers are looking at the pay and benefits of public sector employees as a way to reduce government spending. This Congressional Research Service report provides a comparison of selected characteristics—including age, education, and occupation—of public and private sector workers. Findings reveal that workers in the public sector are older, on average, than private sector workers, and this difference has grown over the years.


A. GSA to Host 64th Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston: GSA's Public Policy Committee invites you to participate in our featured Policy Series and other policy-related sessions. Policy sessions include “Finding Your Voice: Advocacy Training for the Everyday Researcher” and “Social Security--You Fix It!” View the preliminary program for more information on the symposia included as part of the policy series. You can attend these sessions by registering for the Annual Scientific Meeting (November 18-22). Click here for more information about the Annual Meeting and to register. Additionally, GSA’s policy branch will host its third annual Aging Means Business: Design for a New Age, a one-day conference that will explore how strong design can successfully launch products and services and set best practices.

B. GSA Organizes Advocacy Week: GSA is hosting Take Action Week for our members to set-up district meetings with their local congressional offices. The week will take place during a district work period for Congress, from September 26-30. During these meetings with congressional staff, GSA members are invited to share their own research, and also advocate for a handful of legislative issues related to aging research, particularly federal funding levels. Join GSA's policy advisor for a special advocacy training webinar on September 13 at 2 p.m. EDT.

C. Research Center on the Prevention of Financial Fraud: A new initiative by the Stanford Center on Longevity and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation is dedicated to furthering the understanding, prevention, and detection of financial fraud, as well as connecting interdisciplinary research to practical fraud-fighting efforts. Against the backdrop of a rapidly aging population and the increasing vulnerability of trillions of dollars, this new center aims to connect research to policy, consolidate interdisciplinary research in an online resource, and facilitate further study through research and funding.


A.Growing Older In Urban Environments: Perspectives from Japan and the UK: Based on the contrasting experiences of Japan and the UK, this International Longevity Centre-UK report examines the relationship between population aging and urbanization. The report focuses on the experiences of aging in urban environments, developing ‘age-friendly’ communities, and future issues for policy and research. A report summary is available here.

B. The Long-Term Care Workforce: Description and Perspectives: This European Network of Economic Policy Research Institutes report provides a comparative analysis of the size and composition of the long-term care workforce in four European countries – Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Poland. Using a stock-flow cohort projection model, the report illustrates the potential impact of demographic trends on the future number and age structure of care workers.

C. World Report on Disability: This World Health Organization and World Bank report suggests that more than a billion people in the world today experience disability. The report provides the best available evidence about what works to overcome barriers to health care, rehabilitation, education, employment, and support services. The report also gives a set of recommendations for governments and their partners on how to create the environments which will enable people with disabilities to flourish.


A recent issue of Public Policy & Aging Report (Volume 21, Number 1) explores the uneven experiences of older workers during the first decade of the 21st century due to macro-level economic circumstances and well-known population characteristics. The articles discuss macro-level economic circumstances and well-known population characteristics of older adults that disentangle the employment experiences of today's older workers. Bob Harootyan and Tony Sarmiento provide a historical context, addressing aggregate trends in labor force participation (LFP), the roles of gender and education in determining those rates, employer attitudes toward older workers, and public policy shortcomings in improving employment prospects. Neeta Fogg and Paul Harrington investigate the odd juxtaposition of relatively high demand for older workers during this decade against high rates of unemployment among them. Next, Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada, and Mykhaylo Trubskyy turn attention to the especially problematic experiences of low-income older workers. Unemployment among these workers rose sharply during the decade, notably among women, minorities, high school drop-outs, the unmarried, and very old workers. Carl Van Horn, Nicole Corre, and Maria Heidkamp buttress these findings through survey data gathered at the Heldrich Center at Rutgers, examining the fate of the long-term unemployed. Sara Rix's article focuses on the aging baby boomer cohort, reviewing the likelihood of their remaining in the labor force at older ages and why that may be the case. Finally, Judith Gonyea and I review the legislative and administrative history of the Senior Community Service Employment program (SCSEP) that emerged as part of the Great Society and now constitutes Title V of the Older Americans Act.

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Newsletter Editors: Dani Kaiserman, Sarah F. Wilson, and Greg O'Neill, National Academy on an Aging Society; Andy Achenbaum, University of Houston.

The Public Policy and Aging E-Newsletter is supported in part by a grant from the AARP Office of Academic Affairs. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of The Gerontological Society of America, the National Academy on an Aging Society, or the AARP Office of Academic Affairs.

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