GBO NEWS: SPECIAL 30th ANNIVERSARY ISSUE — Reflections on Generations Beat Journalism by 5 Who Were in the Room at Our 1993 Founding


E-News of the Journalists Network on Generations.  

March ­­­­16, 2023 — Volume 30, Number 3

EDITOR’S NOTEGBONews, e-news of the Journalists Network on Generations (JNG), publishes alerts for journalists, producers and authors covering generational issues. If you have difficulty getting to the full issue of GBONews with the links provided below, simply go to to read the latest or past editions. Send your news of important stories or books (by you and others), fellowships, awards or pertinent kvetches to GBO News Editor Paul Kleyman. []. To subscribe to at no charge, simply sending a request to Paul with your name, address, phone number and editorial affiliation or note that you freelance. For each issue, you’ll receive the table of contents in an e-mail, so just click through to the full issue at GBONews does not provide its list to other entities. NOTE ALSO: Some news links below hit paywalls and are inaccessible without subscriptions, although a number of those do allow free access to the first few stories.

In This IssueThe Nation’s Generation Beat Is Sound. You Can…er… Bank on It?

Editor’s Note: We celebrate longevity—ours. Exactly three decades ago a clutch of reporters covering a conference on aging in Chicago found a good-and-cheap restaurant and cooked up a group for mutual support in covering the emerging generations beat. In this GBONews, five “founders” at that table reflect on what brought us together, what’s happened to age-beat journalism since then, and what may lay ahead. will return soon with the latest news links on aging, plus more, as we reach for editorial elderhood. 

1. I ASKED, “WHO IS GOING TO DO THE WORK?” by Paul Kleyman: “We need a group,” said 6 age-beat reporters at the 1993 American Society on Aging Meeting in Chicago.”

2. “A LIFELINE FOR REPORTERS IN THE TRENCHES,” by Warren Wolfe“That night at a Hungarian restaurant in Chicago led to the birth of today’s Journalists Network on Generations.”

3. “READERS WERE HUNGRY FOR AGING INFORMATION” by Betty Booker MorrissNewspapers changed, but “our democracy and wellbeing depend on access to accurate information, including aging, aka lifecycle, education and more.”

4. 30 YEARS OF AGING COVERAGE, by John Cutter“As a journalist for 45 years . . . I wonder what we got right and got wrong — what has changed and what stayed the same — as we jumped into covering the aging of America. . . So here is my list.”

5. BRINGING “REAL JOURNALISM” ON AGING TO THE PUBLIC: by Diane Weddington:I’ve been glad to see more journalists take an interest in aging, but still find so many stereotypes in play… I believe many of the young I’ve taught [journalism at Duke] will take up the cry to honor our elders with dignity and respect.” 


*** LGBTQ Bias in Assisted Living

*** Help for Immigrant Seniors

*** Exposing Medicare (Dis)Advantage on Fentanyl Treatment

*** Fighting Elder Fraud

*** 200% Jump in Seniors Taking Multi-Drugs

*** Older and Invisible in Mental Health Care

*** And More!



By Paul Kleyman

It was in March, 30 years ago, that I arrived at the stately Chicago Hilton Hotel for the American Society on Aging (ASA) annual meeting little thinking of journalism beyond my own coverage and my excitement about meeting Working author Studs Terkel, that year’s keynote speaker, who was starting on a book about elder activists.

Most media had shown little interest in gerontology conferences since I’d started covering them a decade earlier, so I had no idea that a sudden influx of reporters registered for ASA’s event would commander a table at a cheap Hungarian restaurant down the road determined to form a writers group on aging. Thus, was born the Journalists Exchange on Aging, later changed to today’s Journalists Network on Generations. 

Since becoming the editor of ASA’s newspaper, Aging Today, four years earlier, I’d heard sporadically from reporters who, like me, had fallen into the age gap, fascinated by the depth and complexity of the age beat’s treasury of under-covered issues. In only one century, modern science and society had added 30 years to average life expectancy, affecting every aspect of personal, family and community life.

Yet, the all-American youth chase had so blinded mainstream media to this slow but seismic wave, the American public was left largely unaware of what to expect and how to plan—cope with or take full advantage of the coming longevity revolution. 

Reporters I’d encounter who were cognizant of these developments, often felt isolated when trying to pitch stories on longevity, eldercare, the looming retirement crisis and more. I’d also experienced such resistance and was told by a noted colleague years later that he and other editors we knew here in San Francisco questioned, “Why was Paul wasting his time with this aging stuff.” 

The lure for me and others was in the gold mine of fresh stories. ASA’s multidisciplinary conference in 1993 presented 600 presentations by and for over 4,500 attending professionals, from research papers to policy debates in 50 topic areas, from scientific findings to emerging social and health care practice models. 

For reporters, ASA’s meeting, as well as those of the National Council on Aging and Gerontological Society of America (GSA) provided one-stop shopping for the coming year. Because those meetings brought together so many disparate factions in the field—business, academia, social services, government agencies, and even members of the religious and spirituality communities.

And because these cross-disciplinary groups were actively engaged in ongoing arguments on methods, ethics, policy and politics, the programs proffered none of the special-interest monotone one would expect at single-focused meetings of nursing home administrators or physician groups.

Reporters would come away from conferences like ASA’s with armfuls of notebooks and session cassette tapes (remember those?) than they could digest over the coming year. 

A Treasury of Story Ideas

I pulled out my own coverage of the 1993 ASA meeting for Aging Today, and the wide-ranging topics say more than I could convey about what drew more and more writers and producers to the conference.

Among the articles we ran on the conference were stories on advances in nutritional research; a critical update on implementation of the 1991 federal law addressing death with dignity; the challenges of growing old in Spanish Harlem; the politics of women’s health; and the status of Medicare in the Clinton administration’s looming health care reform proposals. 

A major plenary session brought NBC correspondent Rebecca Bell to moderate a vigorous debate on the future of long-term care that pitted the views of executives from the insurance and for-profit nursing home industries against advocates for single-payer health care (today’s “Medicare for All”) from the Older Woman’s League and progressive Physicians for a National Health Program. I later produced a VHS video tape (remember those?) for ASA from that session. 

Reporters there also found fun with feature potential. The conference premiered what became annual presentations of “The Blues and Older Minority Musicians,” spotlighting an interview with the celebrated blues original, Sunnyland Slim, then 85. He died only two years later. That program will mark its 30th anniversary at the GSA conference in Tampa Bay this coming November. 

And, yes, we got to meet keynoter Studs Terkel, who’d begun work on his book Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who Lived It (New Press, 1995). Having turned 80 then, he told us, “My pace is a little slower, but basically I have the same unabated passion for certain things.” 

It seemed clear to me and other reporters back then that although the age beat was not likely to trickle-down from the editorial suites, so obsessed with attracting younger markets, it was percolating up from newsrooms full of journalists, many of whom were discovering the under-covered realm of care for their own parents. 

Our Chicago enclave in ’93 was less a critical mass than a formative cluster, but were significant enough to foster rapid growth before long. The impromptu dinner for six out of perhaps a dozen at the conference that year, grew to a formal dinner and ASA Media Awards presentation of 100 people within a decade. 

Around our formative table were the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Warren Wolfe, who was there to receive the ASA Media Award (local coverage) for his stunning 25-week series on aging, later published as a book; Betty Booker, of the Richmond (VA) Times-DispatchDiane Weddington, columnist for the Bay Area’s Contra Costa Times, and who currently teaches media and public policy at Duke University; and Michelle McGurk, then editor of Northern California’s Senior Spectrum weekly, but would leave journalism for public service. 

Numerous others we knew were scattered around the country, such as Jane Glenn Haas of the Orange County (CA) Register; independent radio producer for NPR Connie Goldmanan original weekend anchor for All Things Considered; Esther Fein at the New York Times; Joseph Shapiro, U.S. News & World Report and later NPR News;Victor HullSarasota Herald-TribuneMarilyn GardnerChristian Science MonitorMelinda Beck, Newsweek; and Robert A. “Bob” Rosenblatt of the Los Angeles Times.

Since then, the ranks of high quality journalists on aging have significantly increased, although, as the contributors to this issue underscore, problems of stereotypical and sometimes ageist writing persist. 

In coming issues of GBONews I’ll reflect on other developments in generational coverage and some of our milestones, such as helping to increase access to covering major events, such as the once-in-10-years White House Conferences on Aging, my 2002 testimony on ageism in the media before the U.S Senate Special Committee on Aging; and our “Gray in the Rainbow” presentation at the 1999 Journalists of Color conference and later multicultural programs.

In particular, we’ll highlight the role of fellowship training programs, especially the Journalists in Aging Fellows Program, our collaboration with the Gerontological Society of America, a program that we began in 2010, when I directed the ethnic elders newsbeat at the now defunct New America Media/Pacific News Service. 

What follows are reflections by others who were “in the room,” dining on those Hungarian dishes in Chicago to cook up today’s Journalists Network on Generations and 

This Special Issue will wrap up with the strongest argument there can be for the broad spectrum of issues needed to define a newsbeat. “The Storyboard” for this issue brings up to date the output of articles recently published by our 2023 Journalists in Aging Fellows for news media from Science and Axios to the Seattle Times and Rafu Shimpo (serving LA’s Japanese American community). Tune into later issues for more about trends and developments over the years on the generations beat.


By Warren Wolfe

News outlets were just beginning to look seriously at aging issues in 1993, when a handful of reporters met over supper in Chicago to consider how they might stay in touch.

I was a seasoned reporter at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, but I’d been writing about aging for only a couple of years. The small group of reporters covering aging were scattered around the country, and we were pretty much on our own. 

I had been a supervisor and was looking for a reporter to take on a new Aging Beat, and the more I talked it up, the more it appealed to me. So I took the job. But I didn’t get a lot of direction.

My boss knew that Medicare was a growing political and policy issue, and he knew that the demographics were shifting – more “elderly people” coming up and fewer younger ones (“That must mean something,” he counseled me. My first article was about what do those old folks really want to be called – not elderly, for sure.)

That gathering of the American Society on Aging (ASA) in Chicago was a gold mine of people – yes, researchers and practitioners, but especially the fellow reporters – who helped me start figuring out what all this aging stuff might mean. 

The supper that night at a Hungarian restaurant in Chicago led to the birth of the Journalists Exchange on Aging – now the Journalists Network on Generations (JNG)– for 30 years now a lifeline for those of us in the trenches. 

Through it all, with changing formats, names and homes, it was led by Paul Kleyman, one of whose jobs at ASA then was the contact person for journalists. Need a researcher on Social Security finances, or an expert on care problems in nursing home, or the name of the writer for the Boston Globe covering aging? Call Paul.

His Age Beat newsletter started to spread the word about what stories reporters were covering, what issues were arising, and what experts and resources were available. Before long, the newsletter was going to dozens, and then hundreds of journalists in print, broadcasting, and book-publishing.

 Today, Generations Beat Online, or GBONews, continues to spread the news, including upcoming aging gatherings, news about journalists, lists of fellowship and other opportunities, the news about aging issues, and often Paul’s own salient – sometimes irreverent — observations. 

Aging Stories Spread, But Lost Coverage Continuity

The coverage of aging issues has changed over the years. At my own paper, the Age Beat disappeared when I retired a decade ago. But coverage of many of those issues has continued, spread among reporters who cover business, government, social issues, and health and Medicine.

It’s good to see aging issues reflected in other reporting beats. But lost is some of the continuity of coverage and attention to emerging aging issues that come with dedicated beat coverage.

A very positive development is the rising attention that aging seems to getting more attention in print and broadcasting outlets aimed at ethnic, immigrant and minority communities, and by reporters working for them. The Journalists in Aging Fellows Program, co-sponsored by JNG and the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), has helped to foster that growth.

For me, perhaps the most important result of that first gathering of folks on the Age Beat was the connection with other reporters – really smart, talented and nice people — excited about sharing story ideas, sources and insights into emerging issues in aging. Most of that contact happens at regional or national meetings like GSA or ASA, punctuated by phone calls or emails.

My fond hope is that similar opportunities are unfolding now for the new generations of Age Beat journalists who have picked up the torch. 

Warren Wolfe retired from the Minneapolis Star Tribune after 42 years. In 2016 he and his wife Sherly Fairbanks launched the Former Dementia Caregiver Re-Entry Initiative, “a gathering place where former caregivers meet twice monthly via Zoom to help each other find new purpose and meaning in life after years of exhausting caregiving.”

Since March 2022, Wolfe and Fairbanks have been Community Principal Investigators with a research project at the University of Minnesota to assess what unmet needs might exist among Black former caregivers in the Twin Cities and whether their program model might be useful.”


By Betty Booker Morriss

I recall how a handful of [met] at a Hungarian restaurant in Chicago during ASA 1993. . .  All of us already understood the importance of the age wave and had been reporting on it for some time. Aging was added to my state desk beat at my behest in the late 1970s at the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch.

The managing editor already was thinking along the same lines, so Prime Living became a weekly section then. . . Readers were hungry for aging information. I wrote a weekly column, and most of the lead stories. I gave many talks to community organizations. 

The public is still interested, but when I retired early in 2006, the paper just gave up on the subject even though there was a reporter who wanted to take over. The paper used to be the dominant Virginia daily. The parent company was sold, first to Warren Buffet, then to a company that seems to buy and shrink staff, coverage, size. Most age-related material since comes from the wires or other company-owned papers. 

Just when the nation needs it most, people have to hunt for reliable information. Do they know how to discern fact from fiction? Our democracy and individual and communal wellbeing depend on access to accurate information, including aging, aka lifecycle, education, and more.

Others, I expect, will tackle this enormous subject that requires expertise and enterprise to counter a spiral of unknowing. The delivery methods are changing, and now, to save trees and cost, must be digital,   plus, I hope, accurate, useful, readable, free or low cost, and, please, occasionally funny. 

Betty Booker Morriss left the Richmond (VA) Times Dispatch after 35 years in 2007 and freelanced columns on aging at Boomer Magazine for years. She now combines writing and fine painting at home in Richmond.


By John Cutter 

It is humbling and a bit scary to realize it was 30 years ago that we all got together and the group was birthed. (I remember that time in Chicago for many reasons, including that Teresa and I got engaged officially that weekend; we recently celebrated our 29th anniversary.) I arrived at the American Society on Aging (ASA) meeting in Chicago in 1993 as a newly minted “elder affairs” reporter for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida

The newspaper, now known as the Tampa Bay Times, had writers before me who covered aging — most notably Maria Vesperi, a cultural anthropologist, professor and author of City of Green Benches: Growing Old in a New Downtown (Cornell University Press, 1985). 

But I was part of a wave of reporters across the nation who took up aging coverage as the first boomer was elected U.S. President and the first group of post-war babies approached 50. Many of us met for the first time at that conference and started an informal group, then called the Journalists Exchange on Aging, that has lasted for three decades.

At the ASA meeting, my article quoted a talk by Age Wave’s Ken Dychtwald: “Whether we like boomers or not, they have dominated American society for 45 years … Age will increasingly be in.”

Now, as I sit on my patio in Florida in my shorts and sandals (but no black socks!), a newly minted 65-year-old retiree with a Medicare card, a small pension and a 401(k) that inflation shot holes through, I wonder what we got right and what we got wrong — and what has changed and what stayed the same — as we jumped into covering the aging of America. 

So here is my list, filtered through my personal experience as a journalist for 45 years, who covered aging for more than a decade and who later ran a newspaper in the heart of Florida. It fails from too many generalizations, but, I hope, it prompts reflection and thoughtful discussion, two things sorely missing these days from our debates.

  • We were right in the 1990s to cover the importance of caregiving, especially for boomers whose parents were aging and getting frailer. But I think we focused too much on the “sandwich generation,” writing too frequently about women with young children and aging parents. For sure, that was a reality, but I fear we missed too much the role older spouses — usually women — played in caring for their aging loved ones with little support from programs that were designed more for institutions than families. 

  • We were also right to see the importance of grandparents providing financial support and day care for their boomer children and grandchildren. Today, it is the same, only the boomers are the grandparents helping their kids and grandkids in similar ways — although I know more boomers today with adult children at home with them than I ever saw in the 1990s.

  • The older people I covered in Florida in the 1990s were often working class retirees from union jobs with a decent pension and a history of voting for Democrats, who outnumbered Republicans in the state 3.3 million to 2.7 million in 1992. We — I — didn’t see the increasing conservatism of Florida’s older residents, who now register Republican more than Democrat, by a margin of 5.3 million to 4.9 million, with millions more registered with no party.
  • Florida is still a prime destination for retirees. For sure, many of us reporters visited retirement havens like Sun City in Arizona or Hilton Head, but I recall more than a few stories about how boomers would reject such a lifestyle that gathered so many old people in one place. Yet, none of us anticipated a place like The Villages, which was a mere 8,000 people in the 1990s and now is more than 140,000 people sprawling across three counties in Central Florida. You don’t have to search far for an article about the impact of The Villages, from its lifestyle of leisure to its political influence on conservative issues.
  • As newspaper finances eroded — then collapsed — they increasingly turned from seeing older people as a beat to be covered to viewing them as their most loyal print customers who could be charged ever increasing prices for their ever shrinking newspapers. It sometimes led to a weird split — newspapers edited to appeal to an aging print audience and more resources turned toward the Internet and its supposedly more valuable and tech-savvy younger readers.
  • I wish I and other reporters had focused more intensely on the growing diversity of our aging population in terms of race, ethnicity and sexual preference. 

  • Some topics haven’t changed. We still are talking about whether Social Security will go broke, the need for alternatives to nursing homes, the rising cost of health care, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and when is it too old to be president.

I am thankful I got to cover aging issues. I met wonderful people who showed the success and struggles of growing old, excellent advocates who cared deeply about bringing dignity to the later decades of life, and amazing colleagues who awed me with their ability to shine light on important issues. I look forward to seeing what another generation of reporters brings to the issue.

John Cutter covered generational issues for the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) from 1992 to 1998 and as a freelance writer for The New York Times, Prevention, Good Housekeeping and others until 2002, when he moved to the Orlando Sentinel, eventually retiring in 2021 as that newspaper’s managing editor. Today he is an editorial consultant.


By Diane Weddington

I remember that planning meeting well. I had been assigned (among so much else) at the Contra Costa Times [near San Francisco] to cover all things related to aging.  I still treasure those early associations with reporters at the aging conference because they continue to motivate me to try to do my part, however small, to bring real journalism on the subject to public notice.   

For my part, I’ve been glad to see more journalists take an interest in the issues of aging, but still find so many stereotypes in play and so little serious coverage even about Medicare, gerontology as a practice, and even issues such as alcoholism and drug abuse among the aging, specific issues for ethnic and racial groups, LGBTQ elders, and minorities. 

Coverage is still mostly biased — a youth-driven culture, increasingly fed with superficialities and outright lies encouraging the idea that anyone over 50 is useless.  Most of all I detest the old geezer, saggy-breasted women cartoons and jokes. Increasingly, I don’t find that humor funny at all.  

I teach journalism and writing as a part of my public policy professorship at Duke. It is not easy at all to get young people, who are aimed at high-paying jobs, ladder-climbing and personal image to even consider what aging means. I’ve had significant class discussions about the needs, of elders — medical, social, cultural, mental and financial — and sometimes it dawns on them that they, too, will age, and that perhaps their experience with beloved grandparents doesn’t always tell them all the truth about aging in America.  

As I now show my own age, I have become a person they listen to for life experiences and advice, so we can talk about aging realistically. But honestly, I’ve had many conversations with students and fellow co-workers who go on and on about how old someone is — old, as in 45. Suddenly, “Oh, I don’t mean you’re old. You’re not like my grandma . . . ”

We see lots of online videos about dancers who are 102 and artists who are in their 90s, and marathon runners — but where are the stories of the intergenerational interaction that will cement the bonds?  Why and how do the young love those grandparents?

I believe many of the young journalism students I’ve taught along the way will take up the cry to honor our elders with the same dignity and respect our Native American counterparts do. 

Diane Weddington, besides teaching public policy and media at Duke University, is regular contributor of articles and reviews to She spends half of each year working in  national parks, most recently Mesa Verde in Colorado. She revised the park’s  “Style Guide,” for all written or scripted material, adding more inclusive language. “I surprised many of those who will use it by insisting they change their language about the aging,” eliminating stereotypical language. Weddington is the author of Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Care (Springer, 1994).


Nothing describes the complex spectrum of issues in aging more than the headlines of stories from the generations beat. Following are heads and brief summaries of articles posted by reporters in our 2023 “Class” of Journalists in Aging Fellows. These are the latest of more than 800 stories posted in English by the total of 217 Fellows, so far, during the program’s 13 years, many translated from their original versions in such languages as Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Bangla. The story links are listed chronologically. GSA also posts a complete archive of fellowship stories from this particular project at

*** “Little Tokyo Nutrition Services Is Taking Food Insecurity Off the Menu,” by Annakai Hayakawa GeshliderRafu Shimpo (March 4, 2023, Los Angeles Japanese American news): The Lede: “Every weekday, Setsuko Nakama packs a cooler full of meals in her backseat and sets out for Boyle Heights. Inside, foil bento hold nimono (stewed chicken, tofu and vegetables) with sides of kabocha and rice. Nestled beside these are styrofoam cups of cucumber salad and fresh cut strawberries. . . [Nakama, 75,] plans to deliver all 30 boxes in time for lunch.  

In a Nutshell: “According to a 2015 survey by Los Angeles County, 23% of Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders were food insecure — meaning they did not have access to sufficient food — and 11% of AA&NH/PI children lived in communities with poor or fair access to fresh food. Over one in five older adults (age 65 and up) in Boyle Heights lived below the poverty line in 2021, according to the U.S. Census.”

*** Memoir Writing in the Time of the Pandemic,” by Ann Hedreen3rd Act  Magazine (Spring 2023, Seattle): The Lede: “‘Quilt squares,’ I like to tell my memoir students on the first night of class. ‘Think of your memoir as a quilt. . .’ I have been teaching memoir writing for 11 years, but until the pandemic, . . . I had not even heard of Zoom.”

Quotes: “Seattle author Priscilla Long [said], ‘Old people had many more deaths and all that, and it was terrible, but at the same time we’re more resilient, we’re more experienced, we have a lot of relationships,’ said Long, who is 79” . . . Cho Shimizu, 85, who was incarcerated with his family at the Minidoka internment camp during World War II, told his family’s story in his 2014 memoir, Cho’s Story: From the Eyes of a Nisei Son. Shimizu said that the pandemic gave him time to think and to sharpen his writing skills.”

*** Diverse Caregivers,” by Cassie ChewChicago Health: Caregiving (Feb. 22, 2023): The Lede: “After her wife was diagnosed with stage IV cancer in 2011, Marsha Wetzel spent the next two years taking care of Judy, her partner of 30 years, until Judy entered hospice care. Within weeks of Judy’s death, her family evicted Wetzel from the home they shared. Suddenly, Wetzel, an older woman with a disability, was in need a place where she herself could receive long-term care. Finding senior housing where she could feel safe became her next battle. ‘As soon as she came out [to other residents in the care facility], she started to get harassed.’” 

Solutions: Jacqueline Boyd also was laying the groundwork for The Care Plan — a Chicago-based . . . company that provides advanced planning for people with unique needs, typically overlooked by the traditional medical community. This includes the 2.4 million Americans age 65 and older in the LGBTQ+ community. The Care Plan also serves Black and Brown communities, says Boyd. . .  They’re dealing with biases around race, sex, class, and language in the healthcare and aging industries.” 

*** “The Long-Term Care Equality Index: Here’s What You Need To Know,” by Nora MacalusoNext Avenue, (Feb. 17, 2023): The Lede: “LGBTQ+ older adults may have an easier time finding long-term care facilities that are welcoming and inclusive, and providers will have a benchmark to see how well they’re doing when a report this spring measures best practices across the country. SAGE, a group that advocates for LGBTQ+ seniors and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation are compiling an updated version of their Long-Term Care Equality Index (LEI). The index, designed to be a resource for LGBTQ+ older adults and caregivers, also aims to encourage providers such as assisted living centers and hospice communities to be more inclusive. The first report was released in 2021.” 

The Nutshell: “There have been ‘several situations’ in the past five or six years where people were denied entrance into long-term care communities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, or faced harassment for those reasons, said Sherrill Wayland, director of special initiatives for SAGE. ‘It just speaks to the ongoing stigma and discrimination that is happening,’”

*** More Older Adults Than Ever Are Taking Multiple Drugs,” by Barbara MantelNext Avenue (Feb. 17, 2023): The Lede: “At age 84, Elizabeth Thaler of Rochester, NY, was lucky. Her daughter and son-in-law lived nearby and noticed when her memory began to slip, and she became too weak to cook. Soon she stopped getting out of bed. They hired an experienced caregiver who suggested ‘we have my mother’s medications checked,” says Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, her daughter. . . But . . . ‘the doctor didn’t change a thing. . .’ So she signed her mother up for a service that sends doctors, nurses and technicians to people’s homes. . . Soon after, her mother became more coherent and took meals at the table instead of in bed.” 

The Stats: “More than 40% of Americans age 65 and older take five or more prescription drugs, a phenomenon known as polypharmacy, entailing a 200% increase over the past 20 years, as the Lown Institute (2020) reported. In addition, nearly 20% of older adults take 10 drugs or more. “Research shows that each additional medication raises a person’s risk of suffering an adverse drug event by 7 to 10%. Such events send as many as 750 older Americans to the hospital each day. . . Dr. Michael Steinman, at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, who co-directs the US Deprescribing Research Network, founded in 2019 with a grant from the National Institute on Aging.”

*** “Older people are often invisible in mental health settings. Here are some tips to get care,” by Michelle BaruchmanSeattle Times (February 9, 2023): The Nutshell: “While people of all ages may report feeling ignored and dismissed in medical and mental health settings, the sentiment is particularly prevalent among older adults, experts say. Health care providers often carry implicit biases that slip through and affect patients, even when their medical education has trained them otherwise. For older people . . . , ageism plays out often in one of three ways: They may be infantilized by providers. Providers can also be dismissive, assuming that older people can’t be suicidal or have intimate relationships. Other times, issues among older people get normalized as a so-called routine part of aging.”

*** “Research on Climate Change and Health Reveals Risks for Older Adults: A Q&A With Dr. Andrew Chang,”by Ambika KandasamySan Francisco Public Press (January 27, 2023): The Lede: “The series of deadly storms that inundated California . . . , causing widespread flooding and displacing elderly residents in various counties across the state, have underscored the need to protect older adults. The number of Californians over 60 is expected to climb by 166% between 2010 and 2060, according to data from the California Department of Aging.”

The Findings: “Dr. Andrew Chang,  at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and postdoctoral research fellow at the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute . . .and his colleagues examined medical literature to study the intricate and nuanced ways that climate change-fueled disasters and other environmental factors influence the cardiovascular health of older people. They  summarized their findings in the journal Current Cardiology Reports. . . The group of people who most suffers from the effects of climate change are our older adults.” 

*** “Intergenerational living offers benefits for seniors and students,” by Mark WoolseyRough Draft Atlanta/Atlanta Senior Life-Silver Streak (Jan. 26, 2023): The Lede: “Think about the term ‘intergenerational living’ and what comes up is likely this: Grandma and grandpa are in a small apartment over the garage. Mom and dad have their master bedroom on the main floor. The kids sleep upstairs. While that model is still around–and in fact is making a comeback after years of emphasis on independent living–some more adventurous methods of putting the generations together under one roof are showing results in Georgia and elsewhere. One of the most notable is FILE – or the Flint Intergenerational Living Experience – coordinated by officials at the University of Michigan at Flint. Under the program, four graduate students–two in physical therapy and two in occupational therapy–moved into a senior housing complex. The students lived rent-free in return for performing service hours.”*** “Have a Conversation (Not a Lecture) About Fraud With Older Adults,” by Alex RosenbergNerdWallet(January 27, 2023): The Lede: “People over 60 reported more than $1.7 billion lost to fraud and scams in 2021, according to the FBI’s 2021 Elder Fraud Report, . . . the highest losses of any group in the report.”

The Nutshell: “Family members and caregivers all probably have stories to tell about their own experiences with attempted scams. That’s why Taylor Patskanick of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab recommends a ‘multi-generational conversation’ on the subject. Open conversations about fraud and financial exploitation could help older adults avoid scams — but the younger participants could probably use a reminder, too.” A sidebar enumerates 5 ways to protect yourself from Medicare fraud.”  

*** “Why Is it Harder to Sleep When You Get Older?”, by Ruben CastanedaUS News & World Report (Jan. 26, 2023): The Dek: “As you get older, you may find that you have a harder time sleeping than you used to, but with a few changes, you can get back on track.” 

A Stat: “’The prevalence of sleep problems during the COVID-19 pandemic is high and affects about 40% of people from the general and health care populations,’ according to a meta-analysis of 44 papers published in 2021 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The research shows that people with active COVID-19 appear to have higher rates of sleep issues. However, individuals need not have active COVID-19 to experience poor sleep.” Castaneda covers health risks of poor sleep and a range of strategies, as well as advice on when to see one’s primary care physician.

*** Local female veteran group lets the community know ‘our stories count,’” by Abrianna Herron,Indianapolis Recorder (Jan. 26, 2023): The Lede: “For Dr. Dorothy Simpson-Taylor, serving in the U.S. Air Force was just the beginning of her contribution to her country and community. From 1963 to 1965, she served as a statistical specialist, collecting and analyzing data during the Vietnam War. After an honorable discharge, she began to advocate for veterans, a practice that has lasted more than 50 years, and now, the 78-year-old Black woman continues to serve veterans through the Sister Soldier Network.

What: The Sister Soldier Network is “a veteran organization that helps women transition from the military back into society, tell their stories, heal their mental and emotional wounds and continue serving their community. Today, the network provides programs and services for female veterans in Iowa, Indiana, Tennessee and North Carolina. . . They have recognized and told the story of soldiers such as Cathay Williams, the only known Black woman to serve in the U.S. Army as a Buffalo Soldier because she disguised herself as a man.”

*** “Fentanyl Is Killing Older, Black D.C. Residents,” by Chelsea CirruzzoAxios (January 23, 2023): 

The Stats: “In 2017, fentanyl was involved in 72% of overdoses in DC. In 2022, that number rose to 96%, according to January-August data from D.C.’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Black Washingtonians accounted for a majority (84%) of the opioid deaths since 2017. . . Around twice as many people between the ages of 50 and 69 have died of an opioid overdose since 2017, compared to people ages 30-49. . . Older users may not expect fentanyl to be in their drug supply, leading to accidental overdoses. . . DC officials have expanded access to the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone in pharmacies across the city in recent years. . . Some experts say D.C. needs to go further by creating 24/7 centers where people can use their own drugs safely, or a drop-in center where people can pick up free testing strips and naloxone. Both options were proposed in 2021 but didn’t land funding.”

*** “Community Groups Step In To Help Immigrant Elders Get Health Care,” by Nora MalacusoNext Avenue(January 23, 2023): The Lede: “The U.S. health care system is complicated for most people to navigate, and those who aren’t fluent in English or have no documented residency status have extra barriers to overcome.

Solutions: “Nonetheless, as the immigrant population ages, the demand for services is growing, and community and cultural groups around the country are stepping up to help. . . In South Philadelphia, home to a large population of Asian immigrants, there’s the Hansjörg Wyss Wellness Center, a partnership between provider chain Jefferson Health and the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition. The center . . . provides primary health care and social services to immigrants in the area. About 25% of Wyss clients are from the Latino community, most of whom are in the country without documentation, said center director Dr. Marc Altshuler. He said that the center also provided services to more than half of the 600 Afghan refugees who resettled in Philadelphia last year. This year, Ukrainian refugees added to the mix.”

National Facts: “The uninsured rate among undocumented immigrants is almost five times higher than that of U.S. citizens, according to an April 2022 report from the Healthy Illinois Campaign. . . A Kaiser Family Foundation report found similar results. . . Trump-era immigration restrictions and the pandemic likely added to the burden on non-citizens, the report said.”

*** “Providers say Medicare Advantage hinders new methadone benefit,” by Jesse Hellman, CQ Roll Call (Jan. 4, 2023): The Lede: “In 2018, responding to a wave of overdose deaths, Congress passed legislation requiring Medicare to pay for services at opioid treatment programs for the first time. But two years after . . . providers say their efforts are being hindered by Medicare Advantage — private insurance companies that administer benefits to about half of the Medicare population. They say the tactics Medicare Advantage has long used to control health care costs can also delay or block access to patient care, which can be especially dangerous or deadly for someone with a substance use disorder.”

The Upshot: “In 2022, 85 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees were in plans that require prior authorization for coverage of opioid treatment programs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. That includes UnitedHealthcare, which covers about 28 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees. [The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)] is proposing that Advantage plans use Medicare coverage rules when determining whether a request is ‘medically necessary.’ Currently, plans can create their own rules for making prior authorization decisions, and those criteria are often shielded from the public.”

Research: “A report released in April by the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General found that of prior authorization requests denied by Medicare Advantage plans, 13 percent were for services that would have been covered by traditional Medicare.”

*** “Working at 76: Inflation Forces Hard Choice for Older Adults,” by Anita Snow, Associated Press (Dec. 15, 2022): The Lede:“Lenore Angey never imagined she’d have to go back to work at age 76. With an ailing husband and the highest prices she can remember for everything from milk to gasoline, the retired school lunch worker from Cleveland, Ohio, now works part time as a salesperson at a local department store to cover the costs of food and medicine.  . .  Inflationary pressures may be starting to ease, but higher prices throughout much of 2022 are still taking a toll on older adults.”

The Nutshell: “The problem will become more widespread in the coming years as more baby boomers, who began turning 65 in 2011, join the ranks of the retired. In 2050, the U.S. population ages 65 and over will be 83.9 million, nearly double what it was (43.1 million) in 2012, the Census Bureau projects. Angey was among participants in an AARP report released [in November] that showed more than a third of people 65 and older described their financial situation at midyear as worse than it was 12 months before. It was a huge jump from the 13% of adults 65 and older who said the same thing in January.” 

*** Llamadas telefónicas: una caricia al alma para los adultos mayores,” (Telephone Calls: A Caress to the Soul of the Elderly”) by Mey Lyn Mitteen, Excélsior, Dec. 27, 2022): 

The Lede“Justa Flores came to the United States at the age of 40. In her native Guatemala she left behind a broken marriage and three children. Her goal was to make money, build a house, and secure a roof for her family. She invested all her time working and never remarried. Today, at 77 years old, she will spend New Year’s Eve alone in her home in South Central Los Angeles. When her phone rings and the voice on the other end of the line says: ‘Hello Justa, how are you?’ . . . One of these voices is from Patricia Guerrero, director of the organization and who founded ‘Club de Oro’ almost 14 years ago. ‘We talk to the seniors to find out what they have done, how they feel in regards to their health or if they need anything.”

(The Original Spanish-language version begins: “Justa Flores llegó a Estados Unidos a los 40 años de edad. En su natal Guatemala dejó un matrimonio roto y tres hijos. Su objetivo era hacer dinero, construir una casa y asegurar un techo para su familia. Así, ocupó todo su tiempo en trabajar y nunca se volvió a casar. Hoy, a sus 77 años, pasará las fiestas de fin de año en su vivienda del sur-centro de Los Ángeles, sola.”)

The Nutshell: She says that the organization has 9,000 registered members and  . . . she knows that relatives only call their elderly three times a year: on Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. ‘We try to do it constantly,’ says Patricia. . . During the pandemic, . . . ‘People were crying and they were scared… We did Facebook Live to sing but not everyone knows how to use the social network, so we started to call to encourage them. . . She says that in a week she can make more than 500 calls to seniors in the organization, whose ages range from 65 to 98 years.”

We’ve been fortunate to have had numerous nonprofit funders for the Journalists in Aging Fellows Program over the years, and we’re grateful that so many have seen the importance of developing a multicultural range of journalists trained in covering the complex issues of aging. For the class of 2022-23 funders includes the Silver Century FoundationJohn A. Hartford FoundationArchstone Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund and the NIHCM Foundation, plus a generous contribution from John Migliaccio

The Journalists Network on Generations (JNG), founded in 1993, publishes Generations Beat Online News ( JNG provides information and networking opportunities for journalists covering generational issues, but not those representing services, products or lobbying agendas. Copyright 2023 JNG. For more information contact GBO Editor Paul Kleyman.

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