Posts Tagged "widows"

Health in Old Age: the Great Unknown

cartoonThis cartoon, by Vancouver Sun cartoonist Graham Harrop, hits on one of retirees’ biggest mysteries: their future health.

The elderly live with the anxiety of getting a grave illness that isn’t easy to fix, such as cancer or a stroke.  And despite having Medicare insurance, they also have to worry how much it would cost them and whether they would run through all of their savings.

They’re right to worry. Health care costs increase as people age from their 50s into their 60s and 70s. About one in five baby boomers between 55 and 64 pays extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses in any given year. But by 75, the odds increase to one in four, according to a report summarizing the reasons that some seniors’ finances become fragile.

Large, unexpected medical expenses are one of two major financial shocks that threaten their security – widowhood is the other. A small and unlucky share of retirees will find it difficult to absorb a spike in their medical costs, forcing them to cut back on food or medications, the report said.

Harrop’s cartoon is the product of his cousin’s inspired suggestion that he fill a book with cartoons about the humorous accommodations made between couples who’ve lived together for decades. The book – “Living Together after Retirement: or, There’s a Spouse in the House” – reveals his personal knowledge of the subject. Harrop, who is 73, has lived with his partner, Annie, for more than 20 years.Learn More

Dependence on Social Security is Striking

Social Security chartA retiree’s sources of money are often described as a three-legged stool: Social Security, pension, and savings.

But many seniors’ financial support looks more like a single, sturdy pillar: Social Security.

This is shown dramatically in new U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates of just how critical the federal program is to millions of older Americans.  The data speak for themselves:

  • One in two retired households counts on Social Security for at least 50 percent of their total income.
  • One in four gets virtually all income – 90 percent – from the program.

The differences among myriad demographic groups also follow the usual socioeconomic patterns, according to the SSA researchers, Irena Dushi, Howard M. Iams, and Brad Trenkamp. …Learn More

geriatric care manager

What’s a Geriatric Care Manager Anyway?

Staging your parent’s 90th birthday party, accompanying him or her to a doctor’s appointment, or finding the best long-term care facility for the right price – geriatric care managers do all this and much more.

Geriatric care managers come into the profession with expertise ranging from gerontology and nursing to social work and psychology, and they bring a unique perspective to caring for the elderly. Their first loyalty is to your parent and her well-being, though they want to work closely with everyone involved – parent and adult children – to meet the parent’s wishes.

Suzanne Modigliani

Suzanne Modigliani

Suzanne Modigliani, an aging life care specialist near Boston, handles “all spheres of an individual’s life – physical, cognitive social, emotional, financial, community and family.”  She’ll even make referrals to geriatric care managers for a parent living in a different city.

An elderly person’s top choice for a caregiver is, logically, their spousedaughters are typically next. And credentialed geriatric care managers are not cheap: they charge anywhere from $100 to $200 per hour, depending in part on an area’s cost of living – hourly charges can be $400 in Manhattan.

So how do adult children know if their parent could benefit from having a geriatric care manager? Modigliani advises them to be on the lookout for unusual behaviors such as growing difficulty with routine financial matters that the parent has always handled, or a bare refrigerator at mom’s house during holiday gatherings.

Unfortunately, it’s often a medical or other crisis that suddenly alerts siblings to problems that have been developing for a while.  Waiting until a crisis, when tensions are high, is usually the worst time to deal with emotional issues – including finding a good care manager. Geriatric care managers have experience and can help smooth over these situations. …Learn More

Over 50 and out of work logo.

Widows Have Social Security Options

Julie Taylor-Cooper, who worked for decades as an accounting manager, now scrapes by on her late husband’s Social Security checks and a $145-a-week job.

Many baby boomers like Taylor-Cooper may not realize there are various strategies for claiming full Social Security benefits that can have a dramatic impact on their retirement security.

“There are eight or nine options for retirees, spouses, and widows,” said Stephen Richardson, spokesman for the Social Security Administration. (Full disclosure: SSA funds this blog.)

Julie Taylor-Cooper from Over Fifty and Out of Work on Vimeo.

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A woman sitting on a mountain top bench.

Wives Learn Finances as Husbands Age

A 29-year-old Ph.D. candidate is challenging the belief that elderly women don’t prepare to take over the household finances after their husbands die and leave the task to them.

The stereotype about older women probably springs from pervasive evidence that women generally have lower levels of financial literacy than men.

But Joanne Hsu at the University of Michigan found that women prepare for the high likelihood that their husbands will die first by beginning to acquire financial knowledge.  Some 80 percent of the women in her sample are on track to catch up with their husband’s level of financial knowledge.  Her study controlled for low cognition, so her findings measure the wife’s improvements that are above and beyond her husband’s. …Learn More