September/October 2015

September 1, 2015


Angie’s List Emerging as Home Care Review Hotspot

Angie’s List is a website best known for consumer reviews of plumbers and similar home improvement companies, but soon it might have a reputation as a go-to source for information about a different type of service: home health care.

Home health care is one of the fastest growing categories on Angie’s List, a company representative recently told The Columbus Dispatch. And Ohio in particular could emerge as a leading market for home care reviews, given that one parent in a Columbus suburb is urging area families to post reviews on the website.

Lisa Ryan’s 32-year-old son has developmental disabilities, and the family has encountered numerous challenges in identifying high-quality home care, she told the Dispatch.“We desperately need something to make it easier for the consumer,” Ryan said.

Consumers do not have to be members of the site to post reviews, the company told the Dispatch. Providers must register to create their own listings.

The state of Ohio has been in discussions with home care stakeholders to create some sort of consumer satisfaction rating system, an official told the newspaper. However, there are no details as of yet, and public agencies in many instances are prevented from recommending particular agencies due to Medicaid rules.

Consumers soon will have a resource at least for Medicare-certified providers. As of July, the public will be able to access star ratings of Medicare home health agencies compiled by the federal government and posted to the Home Health Compare website. There ultimately will be two star ratings systems, and one will reflect consumer experiences with the providers.


People Who Need People Have Longest Lives

Personal independence is such an iconic American value today that few of us question it. In previous generations, retirees lived with family, but now that a large swath of older people can afford to live on their own, that’s what they choose. The convenience of digital devices means that we can now work, shop and pay our bills online, without dealing directly with other people. According to the U.S. Census, 10% of Americans work alone in remote offices and over 13% live alone, the highest rate of solo living in American history.

But is this go-it-alone ideal good for us? New research suggests that, even if you enjoy being by yourself, it just might kill you  — or at least shorten your life.

A team led by Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University showed that living alone, or simply spending a lot of your time on your own, can compromise your physical and psychological resilience — whether or not you like your solitude. Published in Psychological Science in March, their data show that how much real social interaction you get is a good predictor of how long you will live.

If you fit into one of three categories — living alone, spending much of your time alone or often feeling lonely — your risk of dying within the next seven years is about 30% higher than it is for people who are otherwise like you. Based on a meta-analysis comprising 70 studies and over 3.4 million adults, the team’s findings reinforce a growing consensus: In-person interaction has physiological effects.


Top 10 States for Seniors’ Well-Being

Hawaii and Montana might not have much in common, except for being the two top states for seniors’ well-being, according to inaugural rankings from Gallup-Healthways.

The report, released recently in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, finds that Hawaii is the state where older Americans have the highest well-being, while West Virginia ranked as the state with the lowest well-being for adults age 55 and older.

The rankings are based on data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, described as a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being throughout the world. Gallup, known for its public opinion polls, is a research-based, global performance-management consulting company. Healthways employs experts in research, analytics and medical science to work with clients across a range of health-related fields.

Specifically, the report is based on self-reported data gleaned from 114,388 interviews with individuals age 55 and older, focusing on five elements of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. These five elements, according to Gallup and Healthways, create a composite picture of the well-being of older Americans in each state.

Taking that criteria into consideration, the top 10 states with the highest well-being for older Americans are Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota, Alaska, Iowa, New Hampshire, Utah, Oregon, New Mexico and Connecticut.

Nationally, the research revealed that adults age 55 and older have higher well-being than the rest of the population across all five elements, and that well-being improves with age. For example, people 75 and older have even higher well-being than those ages 65 to 74.

Older adults were also found to enjoy high rates of financial well-being, where 52% are thriving, compared to 32% of Americans younger than 55.

This trajectory of well-being is noteworthy as researchers see a decline in well-being when people reach their late forties and early fifties, but then a “significant increase” across all five elements after that, said Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

“From previous research, we know that higher well-being correlates with lower healthcare costs and increased productivity,” Witters said in a written statement. “Maintaining high well-being for older Americans will be especially important to employers as our country’s workforce ages and more individuals delay retirement.”

As for the states with the lowest well-being, the bottom 10 was anchored by West Virginia, which was preceded by Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio, Indiana, Nevada, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. To see where your state ranks, click here.


Aging Americans Are In For a Senior Care Reality Check

A large majority of older Americans expect they will likely need long-term care services in the future, but even so, they still lack confidence in their financial ability to pay for this care, a recent report finds. And adults age 40 and older may also be getting less realistic about their eventual needs.

Just 32% of Americans age 40 and older say they are “very” or “extremely” confident they will have the financial resources to pay for ongoing living assistance, according to the latest Long-Term Care Poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Conversely, 35% are “somewhat confident,” while 30% are “not very” or “not at all” confident.

These findings are consistent with previous years’ reports from the AP-NORC Center which, with funding from The SCAN Foundation, conducted 1,735 phone interviews with a national sample of Americans age 40 and older for the 2015 survey.

Confidence, however, seemed to get better with age, as older respondents felt more financially prepared to tackle these costs than their younger counterparts. For example, adults age 40-54 (26%) and 55-64 (33%) had lower levels of confidence in their financial preparedness than adults age 65 or older (40%).

Personal health and household incomes fed into Americans’ confidence levels, with those rating their personal health as “excellent” or “very good” having greater faith in their ability to pay for long-term care than those who rated their health as “good,” “fair,” or “poor” (41% vs. 29% vs. 22%).

Meanwhile, adults with household incomes greater than $50,000 were more likely than those with incomes of less than $50,000 to say they are confident in their financial preparedness for long-term care (40% vs. 24%).

Planning lags:

Although a majority of Americans expect they will need long-term care later in life, most are doing little to no planning when it comes to saving for this critical life phase.

Two-thirds of Americans age 40 and older reported doing little to no planning for their own care needs (67%) in 2014, compared to just over half reporting this in 2015 (54%).

Conversely, 21% of Americans in 2015 report doing a “great deal”or “quite a bit” of planning, compared to just 13% who reported the same last year.

Breaking down responses by age, older adults are more likely to report taking many of these planning actions. And the likelihood of planning for aging varies greatly by household income.

Those age 40 and older with a household income of $50,000 or greater were more than twice as likely as those who earn less to set aside money to pay for their own care (45% vs. 19%).

This demographic was also more likely to take other actions such as looking for information about long-term care insurance, creating an advanced directive or living will, and discussing funeral plans.

A growing likelihood:

In 2000, Americans age 65 or older made up only 12% of the national population; however, seniors are projected to comprise about 22% by 2040, according to statistics cited by the AP-NORC Center.

“With this expanding need comes a demand for ways to maintain high-quality services and to make financing such care manageable for families and governments alike,” the report states.

But over the past two years, there has been a steady decline in the number of adults age 40 and older who believe in the likelihood that they will need long-term care when they age.

In 2015, slightly more than half (53%) of these Americans say it is at least “somewhat likely” they will need ongoing assistance one day, including the 19% of adults who believe it is “very” or “extremely” likely.

The percentage of adults age 40 and older who reported this is “somewhat likely” was 60% in 2014. In 2013, this proportion was 65%.

There are a number of potential reasons for this decline in expectations about the need for care.

“One potential explanation is a general increase in optimism and future outlook due to improvements in the economy since this poll started in 2013,” the report states. “This improved outlook could lead people to feel more optimistic about their own long-term health situation.”

Another potential reason, the AP-NORC Center notes, could be due to a slow generational shift in the group of Americans who are age 40 and older for each of these polls, including fewer Baby Boomers and more Gen-Xers.

“If the younger groups have parents who are living progressively longer, this could impact how they anticipate their own needs for future care,” the report states. “These hypotheses are speculations that we cannot substantiate with data from this survey.”


Seniors in All States Will Fall Short in Meeting Their Economic Needs in Retirement

A new analysis indicates that Americans in nearly every state will fall far short in meeting their economic needs in retirement. The State Financial Security Scorecards research project gauges the retirement readiness of future retirees in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia in three key areas: anticipated retirement income; major retirement costs like housing and healthcare; and labor market conditions for older workers.

The research finds that the lowest ranking states include:
California due to low potential retirement income, low workplace retirement plan access and high retiree costs.
Florida due to high retiree costs, low wages for older workers and low workplace retirement plan access.
South Carolina due to low potential retirement income and low labor market scores.

The highest-ranking states include Wyoming, Alaska, Minnesota and North Dakota due to their relatively strong labor markets and lower retiree costs. However, each of these states with a favorable outlook is weak in terms of potential retirement income for retirees. For example, North Dakotans have an average defined contribution retirement account balance of only $27,700 – nowhere near the level of accumulated savings required to ensure self-sufficiency through retirement.
For more information visit the interactive map with State Scorecards here.


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