GBO NEWS: 14th Journalists in Aging Fellows Making News; Harvard’s Housing Older Adults Study; NYT-KHN Dying Broke Series on Care Cost; Black Nursing Homes; The Elders’ Statement on Gaza; LAT’s Hiltzik on Social Security Falsehoods; Suicides of Old White Men; & MORE


E-News of the Journalists Network on Generations.  

December 9, 2023 — Volume 30, Number 12

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 IssueHopeful Hanukkah Wishes in a Dark Time for the Festival of Lights.

1. JOURNALISTS IN AGING FELLOWSHIP STORIES: *** Our 14th Journalists in Aging Fellows Making News at November’s GSA’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Tampa from Christian Science Monitor to Wisconsin State Journal

2. GOOD SOURCES: *** Harvard’s Housing America’s Older Adults says home costs cost burdened “all-time high,” 11.2 million older adults; *** The Elders Statement on Foreign Aid Role in Gaza Atrocities; *** “Private Equity Promised to Revolutionize Health Care. Is It Making Things Worse?” Commonwealth Fund report.


*** “Dying Broke” series by KFF Health News and the NY Times includes —

  • Desperate Families Search for Affordable Home Care”;
  • “What to Know About Home Care Services”;
  • “Facing Financial Ruin as Costs Soar for Elder Care”; 
  • Adult Children Discuss the Trials of Caring for Their Aging Parents.” 

*** “Is America cheating its children to subsidize old people? Refuting a common falsehood,” by Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times; 

*** “Black-owned nursing homes continue little-known legacy, fill needs unmet by troubled industry,” by B. Denise HawkinsBlack News & Views (National Association of Black Journalists);

*** Series: Climate Change Threatens Chinatown Elders, by Ambika Kandasamy, San Francisco Public Press.



*** The 14th Journalists in Aging Fellows training program was held with our nonprofit partner, the Gerontological Society of America, at GSA’s Annual Scientific Meeting, Nov. 8-12, 2023, in Tampa, Fla., a water glistened city so distractingly beautiful, it took this editor a day to realize I’d not seen a single newspaper, even around the downtown hotels or convention center. (My inquiry at the hotel desk brought blank stares and speculation that a store several blocks away may carry papers.) 

My late friend, innovative San Francisco broadcaster Wes “Scoop” Nisker, was known for his tag line, “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.” In our case, having not found evidence of news in Tampa, we did our best to generate some news about our aging lives. 

As always we started the conference with a journalists-only day on prime topics in aging, before the Fellows ventured on to researching their proposed story topics among the academic meeting’s 4000 gerontologists from 50 countries, who attended and presented hundreds of lectures and panels, plus thousands of research papers. 

Although selected Fellows are never obligated to write about the GSA conference, one this year did so, capturing the scope and energy of the full conference. Clara Germani of the Christian Science Monitor filed her piece, “Letter from Tampa: Aging gets a makeover at this gerontology summit,” which ran Nov. 17. She discerned, “The driving angle of the organization these days is reframing perceptions of aging – liberating it from misconceptions and from discrimination.” 

Germani, a veteran reporter and editor, continued, “The formal scholarly presentations had new takes on care for the caregivers of elders, the effects of war in early life on aging, the double grip of ageism plus race or gender discrimination, aging education starting in grade school, how hearing aids may avert dementia, third-act careers, hoarding as decision-making avoidance, ‘driving cessation’ (aka taking the car keys away from Dad), robot companions, elder tech literacy, and so on.”

She observed, “Lacing through almost every discussion on any topic was the constant mental check for ageism. The World Health Organization calls ageism the most widespread form of discrimination in the world, saying it is even more implicit and hence unchallenged than sexism or racism.” 

Among those Germani quoted from our special sessions for the Fellows was biologist Steven Austad, PhD, author of Methuselah’s Zoo: What Nature Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Healthier Lives (MIT Press, 2022, and also just released in paperback). She wrote that he told the reporting fellows, “’If Joe Biden or Donald Trump fall, it’s big news. But I think the big news should be, well, what happened after the fall?’ He was referring to President Biden’s fall while cycling last June: ‘The bike fell. He scraped himself, got up, and he was fine.” (Also, hear Austad interviewed by NPR’s On the Media (10 minutes) about the ageist coverage of older politicians, such as Biden, about whom he commented that the president may have had “lapses in speech, but not lapses in reasoning.”)

*** Also filing from the fellowship, David Wahlberg, is among those digging out local angles for his paper, the Wisconsin State Journal. One of seven Continuing Fellows who were invited to return this year, the Madison, Wisconsin-based reporter wrote, Wisconsin’s ‘Happy Days cohort’ is helping researchers understand aging,”(Nov. 27, 2023), about the latest findings of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study Decades-Long Research.

The Lede: “Being in band, orchestra, debate club, student government or other mind-focused activities in high school is linked to better memory capacity at age 65. Wives who disagree with their husbands on whether their marriages are close are more likely to have cognitive problems in older age than wives in couples who agree their relationships are close or not close. People who spent their earliest years near lead mines in southwestern Wisconsin around 1940 are more likely to experience mental impairment later in life.

“Those are among a treasure trove of findings culled from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, one of the country’s longest-running research efforts. For more than 65 years, graduates from Wisconsin high schools in 1957 have periodically answered questions on topics ranging from education, marriage and sex to employment and retirement. Dubbed the ‘Happy Days cohort,’ after the 1970s television sitcom set in Milwaukee in the 1950s, the roughly 5,000 people still tracked by the study are entering their mid-80s, with most now turning 84. Through surveys, cognitive tests, saliva samples — and, soon, blood — they’re giving researchers a window into issues of advanced aging.”

*** For a more personal experience of the conference, first-time Fellow and long-time columnist and author on retirement, John Wasik, posted “Seeing the World Anew With One Eye: How to Refine Your Vision,” on his “Refinement”  Substack blog (Nov. 17, 2023). 

Currently a columnist for Forbes  and occasional contributor to the New York Times “Retiring” column, Wasik reflected, “In recent years, as I got older, I’ve collided with the conventional thinking on aging and retirement. With ongoing engagement and activity, one need not become sedentary, passive and afflicted with any number of maladies. I choose ‘refinement’ over retirement. I want to get better at what I’m doing, which is writing, speaking, making music and engaging on climate action and policy.”

Wasik, author of 19 books, continued, “A recent surprising intersection was with the GSA’s keynote speaker Frank Bruni, a long-time columnist for The New York Times. Frank is now a journalism professor at Duke University, a Times contributor and author of “The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found.” His book is a memoir on when he lost sight in his right eye and his renewed focus on the world within and around him. . .  I was gobsmacked by our similarities. Besides writing for the same publication for years, both of us lost sight in our right eye, were authors, dog lovers and were adjusting our life orbit to accommodate limited retinal acuity and acquiring a new sense of vision. 

“Most of what society tells us is that getting older means an inevitable loss of faculties, mobility and mental acuity. While some of that happens, for most of us, the opposite can be true. . .  As Bruni notes, we can transition into ‘deep experiencing.’ We can surely adopt a greater sense of agency. What we do matters.” On sharing his story with Bruni, inscribed Wasik’s copy of The Beauty of Dusk, “To John, for one-eyed solidarity.”


*** Housing America’s Older Adults, Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University, 36 pages. Thanks to reader Andre Shashaty, former editor/publisher of Affordable Housing Finance News for forwarding the Joint Center’s latest of its updates on the housing status and struggles of older Americans. The report reminds readers, “

Within the decade, the first baby boomers will turn age 80 . . . As the nation’s population of older adults swells, so, too, does demand for housing that is both affordable and able to accommodate older adults’ changing needs.”

The study’s “Executive Summary” goes on, “Housing is expensive for many older adults, whose incomes often are fixed or decline over time. In 2021, nearly 11.2 million older adults were cost burdened, meaning they spent more than 30 percent of household income on housing costs, an all-time high and a significant increase from the 9.7 million recorded in 2016. Likewise, homelessness is rising among older individuals. Though government programs provide crucial housing assistance to millions of older adults, demand dramatically outstrips supply, with years-long waitlists in some areas. There is also the question of how housing can support older adults’ health and independence.”

The Harvard Joint Center’s reports and staff provide an excellent and well detailed overview of US housing issues across the age spectrum. In addition, our semi-retired friend, Shashaty, offered, “If I can help anyone in your journalists’ network dig into the housing story, I’d be happy to do so.” (He’s the author of Rebuilding a Dream, about how America’s urban crisis has driven housing costs to unaffordable levels.) GBONews readers may do well to take up his invitation to pick his expert cortex for background and sources on housing in America. He’s at Say Paul at GBONews sent you.

*** “The Elders call for urgent review of foreign military assistance to Israel over Gaza atrocities” (Dec. 4, 2023).  The Elders was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 as “an independent group of global leaders working for peace, justice, human rights and a sustainable planet.” The statement on the current Israel-Palestine war was posted by the organization’s Chair Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Among a dozen signees to the statement are Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General and Deputy Chair of The Elders; Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Colombia; Elbegdorj Tsakhia, former President and Prime Minister of Mongolia; and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The statement begins, “The Elders today call for governments providing military assistance to Israel to review their approach, and set conditions for any future provision. They warn that Israel’s renewed military campaign in Gaza risks fueling an escalating cycle of mass atrocities.” 

Here’s their link for media requests:

*** “Private Equity Promised to Revolutionize Health Care. Is It Making Things Worse?” The Dose report from the Commonwealth Fund, transcript with 29 minute podcast (Nov. 3, 2023): The Lede: “Health care is a $4.3 trillion business in the United States, accounting for 18 percent of the nation’s economy. It should come as no surprise then that the industry has become attractive to private investors, who promise cost savings, expanded use of technology, and streamlined operations. But according to Yale University’s Howard Forman, M.D., ‘Most private equity money does seem to be making matters worse rather than better.’ One issue is that investors chase the healthiest and most profitable patients, undermining another kind of equity – health equity – in an already deeply unequal health care system.’ Forman, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, public health, management, and economics, [talks] about private equity’s growing role in American health care.”


*** “Facing Financial Ruin as Costs Soar for Elder Care,” byReed Abelson, New York Times andJordan RauKFF Health News (Nov. 14, 2023):  The Lede: “Margaret Newcomb, 69, a retired French teacher, is desperately trying to protect her retirement savings by caring for her 82-year-old husband, who has severe dementia, at home in Seattle. . .  Millions of families are facing such daunting life choices — and potential financial ruin — as the escalating costs of in-home care, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes devour the savings and incomes of older Americans and their relatives.”

The Stats: “The prospect of dying broke looms as an imminent threat for the boomer generation. Roughly 10,000 of them will turn 65 every day until 2030, expecting to live into their 80s and 90s as the price tag for long-term care explodes, outpacing inflation and reaching a half-trillion dollars a year, according to federal researchers.” 

A Quote: “People are exposed to the possibility of depleting almost all their wealth,” said Richard W. Johnson, director of the program on retirement policy at the Urban Institute. 

THE SERIES“Facing Financial Ruin” is part of the series titled, “Dying Broke” by KFF Health News and the NY Times (Nov. 14 and Dec. 4, 2023). The two packages, each with a main piece and sidebar, included:

* “Desperate Families Search for Affordable Home Care,”  by the Times’ Abelson (Dec. 4, 2023) – “Facing a severe shortage of aides and high costs, people trying to keep aging loved ones at home often cobble together a patchwork of family and friends to help.” It’s paired with “What to Know About Home Care Services” — “Finding an aide to help an older person stay at home safely takes work. Here’s a guide.”

*  The sidebar with “Facing Financial Ruin” was “Adult Children Discuss the Trials of Caring for Their Aging Parents,”  profiling seven caregivers for their infirm parents. (Nov. 14, 2023)

In a Nutshell: The mainbar, “Facing Financial Ruin,” states:  “The United States has no coherent system of long-term care, mostly a patchwork. The private market, where a minuscule portion of families buy long-term care insurance, has shriveled, reduced over years of giant rate hikes by insurers that had underestimated how much care people would actually use. Labor shortages have left families searching for workers willing to care for their elders in the home. And the cost of a spot in an assisted living facility has soared to an unaffordable level for most middle-class Americans. They have to run out of money to qualify for nursing home care paid for by the government.”

And: “The United States devotes a smaller share of its gross domestic product to long-term care than do most other wealthy countries, including Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Sweden, and Japan, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The United States lags its international peers in another way: It dedicates far less of its overall health spending toward long-term care.”

*** “Is America cheating its children to subsidize old people? Refuting a common falsehood,”  by Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times (Nov. 30, 2023): The Lede: The Pulitzer Prize-winning business columnist and author writes, “Whether it’s because the current partisan environment has us fixated on age in America, or because everyone is seeking an explanation for Americans’ discontent with a growing economy, or for some other reason, an old yarn about a generational war in the country has been making the rounds lately.”

The Culprits: “The idea that America is subsidizing its seniors at the expense of future generations has surfaced in the Washington Post (“Why we’re borrowing to fund the elderly while neglecting everyone else”), the Wall Street Journal (“Older Americans Are Better off Than Ever”) and twice in the New York Times (“For the Good of the Country, Older Americans Should Work More and Take Less,” and “Older Americans are Winning the Battle of the Generations”). It also played a starring role in an exceptionally dumb article about Social Security at that I deconstructed just last week.”

Untruths? “These pieces would be instructive for policy makers, if they were true. But they’re not true. . . What the most recent screeds tend to have in common is the notion that we spend enormously greater sums on elderly people than on our children, and that it’s an economic choice with inescapable consequences in a fiscal zero-sum game — ‘the fundamental challenge that clouds our long-term fiscal outlook,’ writes Catherine Rampell, the author of the Washington Post’s version. . . Spending on Social Security and Medicare is the culprit: The cost of entitlements, Rampell writes, ‘will continue to crowd out future spending obligations in years ahead as the country ages and birthrates fall.’  

“But that’s completely wrong. . . The truth is that America has more than enough resources to meet all its social needs, of all generations.”

Debatable: “Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, currently running for second place in the GOP presidential nomination sweepstakes, emitted a fire hose of misconceptions and lies in an appearance on Bloomberg News in August, starting with the assertion that Social Security and Medicare are heading for bankruptcy, which is completely untrue. She went on to suggest that “we change retirement age to reflect life expectancy…. What we do know is 65 is way too low.”

In Fact: “Actually, the Social Security full retirement age is not 65. For those reaching age 64 this year, it’s 66 and 10 months, and for those 63 and younger, it’s 67 — dates that were set in 1983 . . . Anyone can start collecting at age 62. . . More to the point, life expectancy is a moving target, varying by race, educational attainment and income.

“Indeed, new figures from the National Academy of Sciences [show] . . . among people born in 1960, those in the lowest 20% of income earners — households earning $28,000 or less — males reaching age 50 could expect on average to live to age 76 and females to age 78. Among those in the highest 20% of earners — households with about $150,000 in average earnings — life expectancy for those reaching age 50 is nearly 89 for males and 92 for females. The gap has widened considerably over the last 30 years, the National Academy of Sciences found.”

So What? “The bottom line is that all this talk of generational war is a diversion, aimed at obscuring what really accounts for inequality in our economic system. It’s not the young versus the old, but the rich versus all the rest, a battle in which the 1%, determined to hold on to all that they have, convince the 99% by distracting them with talk of ‘generational war. As long as politicians and the press buy this act and sell it to the public, the rich will be winning.”

*** “Black-owned nursing homes continue little-known legacy, fill needs unmet by troubled industry,” by B. Denise HawkinsBlack News & Views (National Association of Black Journalists, Oct. 30, 2023): 

The Lede: “In the years following the Civil War, some of the most vulnerable people were Black seniors who survived slavery. There was no social welfare support or government programs to help meet the long-term care (LTC) needs of this poor and aged population. But there were Black churches, social and civic organizations, and Black people, most with little or no means, who were among the first to rally and respond to their needs, providing shelter and other safety nets. They were led by people like anti-slavery hero Harriet Tubman, who in her seventies built a home for Black elders on the property she owned in Auburn, New York.”

A Quote: “ ‘After slavery, we [Black people] came together to take care of our poor and elderly, usually with support from Black churches and mission organizations. This was kind of the starting place for our nursing homes. . . ‘ says Steven Nash, president and CEO of the Stoddard Baptist Home Foundation serving mostly Black seniors in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. 

“Stoddard was founded on May 8, 1890, and is the longest serving Black-owned and operated nursing home in the United States, Nash said. Today, more than ever, Nash said, he and other Black providers might look for inspiration to those nursing home pioneers, as they struggle to survive within a long-term care industry that is reeling in COVID’s wake. Care providers for mostly low-income elders of color face even greater challenges than their predominantly white counterparts, because of woefully inadequate Medicaid reimbursements, staffing shortages, and other constraints.”

*** “Why Older Men Are Killing Themselves at Alarming Rates,” by Sharon Jayson, AARP (Nov. 28, 2023): The Lede: “Suicide rates among older adults are rising, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and men are most at risk. Between 2001 and 2021, suicide rates increased significantly for men ages 55 to 74 and women 55 to 84. Among older men, the suicide rate generally increased with age, with men 85 and older having the highest of any age group (55.7 suicide deaths for every 100,000 people). The report also found that firearm-related suicide was much more common in older men.”

Some Stats: The study is from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Analysis and Epidemiology , by Matthew F. Garnett, Merianne Rose Spencer, and Julie D. Weeks. The AARP story continues, “Provisional data for 2022 from the CDC indicates that almost 53 percent of the record 49,449 deaths by suicide in the United States were among individuals age 45 and older. Among those ages 45 to 64, deaths by suicide increased nearly 7 percent since 2021; they rose more than 8 percent for those 65-plus. . .  During the same period, suicide deaths dropped more than 8 percent among individuals under age 24 and rose less than 1 percent among ages 25 to 44.”

Women? “Because experts say women are more likely than men to seek help from health professionals for mental or physical conditions, older men may need some prodding.”

A Quote: “’We need to recognize that in the United States, late-life suicide is most common among white males,’ says Silvia Sara Canetto, a Colorado State University psychology professor . . . She says beliefs in the United States are that ‘suicide is relatively understandable and relatively permissible for older adults and for persons with a physical illness or disability’ and that ‘suicide is a masculine act, especially when it involves a firearm.’ Her research has found that these beliefs are more likely to be endorsed by whites, which likely contributes to the high mortality by suicide of white older men.”

GBONews Editor Comments: What’s striking about these high suicide rates for white males—two-to-three times the level for the general population—is that it’s much the same as when I first reported it several decades ago. About 10 years ago, when I directed the elders newsbeat at New America Media (NAM), I assisted a colleague who followed veterans issues. Although he found data sparse, he was able to locate preliminary statistics suggesting that overall older white male WWII and Korean War vets in California actually had similar suicide rates to the total population – when disaggregated from those who had been veterans. For those with military service, the incidence of suicides was much higher, likely elevated the average for US white men. (That article hasn’t been available since the NAM website folded in 2017.) Meanwhile, I’ve not seen studies or stories since then examining whether this may hold up on further scrutiny. 

*** “Protecting Chinatown’s Older Adults from Climate Disasters Requires More Funding, Nonprofits Say,” by Ambika KandasamySan Francisco Public Press (Dec. 8, 2023): This long-form article by Kandasamy, a Journalists in Aging Fellow, is part of an in-depth story and photo series.  

The Series Dek: “Older adults are among those most at risk during climate change-driven weather disasters. This series examines the physical and mental health effects of these events on older people and explores how these challenges are unfolding in San Francisco’s Chinatown, a neighborhood considered by the city as particularly vulnerable to the hazards of climate change.

The Series also includes: 

Photo essay: For Chinatown’s Older Residents in Single-Room Occupancy Buildings, Climate Disasters Pose Greater Risks;

Q&A with Dr. Andrew Chang on the physical toll of climate change on older adults

Q&A with Dr. Robin Cooper on the emotional toll of climate change on older adults

Q&A with Eddie Ahn on how Brightline Defense takes on air pollution and environmental justice concerns .


*** Herbert Gold managed an ironic smile during one of my weekly visits with him this past summer when I related my comment to the author of yet another book on how to live to 100. I’d observed that the advice may not set so well with someone who is 99. Herb Gold, a bestselling novelist and sometimes journalist, appreciated his longevity with a wry word now and then. He did hope to celebrate his 100th this coming March 9, but a steep health decline ended that possibility on Nov. 19. 

I once asked Herb how many books he’d published, to which he quipped, “I’m not a mathematician.” San Francisco Chronicle obituary writer Sam Whiting, though tallied (Nov. 26, 2023), “Over the course of a career that went back to his mid-20s when he published his first novel, Gold accumulated a catalog that counted 23 or 24 novels, five collections of stories or essays, and eight nonfiction books of reportage or memoir.” Hmm, 36, 37.

It was a great privilege of my own nearly eight decades to have enjoyed the company of this dear and caring man, and I’d miss him even more were he not so much still in my thoughts and heart. Herb was well aware that the literary world had mostly passed him by; the Chronicle obit was headlined, “Old-School S.F. Novelist Was Last of Era.” (I’d protest–having read about half of his books, this editor can attest that Herb’s brilliant prose and contemporary themes, from drug culture to political oppression to international sex trafficking, stand up well to today’s headlines. Aging, too.) Despite that, he exulted in the greater cumulus of his century: Along with his five children, four of them surviving, Gold was deeply devoted to his six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 

That sum of his commitment to family (and Family, Arbor House, 1981, was among his funniest and most poignant titles), is reflected in the poem that concluded Herb’s New York Times obituary by William Grimes. The poem, published just this past September in Scribner’s Best American Poetry of 2023, follows:

Other News on Page 24

Someone famous will die that day,
My day,
And the newspaper will report:
“More obituaries on page 24.” 

For the curiosity of some,
the regret of several,
and the grief of a few.

Those few, they matter,
So they have a nice walk
in the Marin headlands
Shadowed by a weary and worn mountain
(still green! still fragrant!
with pine and transplanted eucalyptus,
and most important: Still there!),
where I’m proud that the few gather trash,
But drop my ashes downwind,
And remember as I fly away.

–Herbert Gold

I believe Herb Gold would have approved of the famous person whose death did command the headlines for that day, Rosalyn Carter. But those that matter – more than a few, really – were also pleased to see that his obit in the following Sunday’s S.F. Chronicle started on page one, jumping to a full broadsheet inside. And Grimes’ tribute in the NYT’s National edition (Nov. 22, 2023) commanded the top half of B11.

More than trash and ashes, my friend, may memories of your eloquent writing and good spirit continue flying upwind. 

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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