While many employment indicators for the 55+ were unchanged from June, the July 2017 Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that more people ages 55+ were employed and a lower percentage of jobseekers ages 55+ were experiencing long-term unemployment. Overall, the economy added 209,000 jobs in July, down from 231,000 (revised) in June. The unemployment rate for those ages 55 and older was virtually unchanged at 3.2 percent with 1.2 million of the 55+ unemployed. The labor force participation rate for the 55+ was also unchanged at 40.1 percent.
Spotlight on employee tenure
With unemployment at a 16-year low and many employers concerned about skills shortages, organizations are putting a renewed emphasis on retaining their best employees for as long as possible. An attribute often ascribed to older workers is employer loyalty, best expressed through longer job tenure. BLS data has shown that older workers do indeed stay with their employers longer compared with their younger counterparts. The most recent data on overall median tenure (the point at which half of all wage and salary workers had more tenure and half had less tenure) was 4.2 years in January 2016. This was a decline from 4.6 years in January 2014.
Median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 was 10.1 years, more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 (2.8 years). A greater percentage of older workers also had been with their employers for at least a decade compared with younger workers. Workers ages 60 to 64 were particularly likely to have long tenures. Fifty-five percent of workers in this age range were with their employers for a decade or more. Meanwhile, only 13 percent of workers ages 30 to 34 and 24 percent of workers ages 35 to 39 had tenures of 10 years or more.
Many factors can influence job tenures. Education levels appear to influence tenure, with individuals with lower levels of education typically also having lower median tenures. The industry and occupational mix within the economy can also be a factor. For example, public sector workers, which are more likely to include older individuals, had more than double the median tenure of private-sector workers in 2016. Further, workers in management, professional, and related occupations had the highest median tenure, at 5.1 years, while food service workers had the lowest median tenure, at only 1.9 years. Other factors beyond the worker’s control, like widespread layoffs that change with the business cycle, can affect job tenures as well.
Because longer tenure is associated with age, the aging of the workforce could influence tenure rates in the years ahead.
For more details on this month’s employment numbers, check out the July Employment Data Digest, PPI’s monthly review of job trends for those ages 55 and over.
Jen Schramm is a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute. As part of the Financial Security Team, she identifies policy challenges and opportunities related to workers age 50 and above. Through research and analyses of emerging employment trends, she develops policy options to inform AARP’s strategy on work and jobs, including helping older workers find and retain jobs.
Prescription drug abuse is a serious and growing public health issue in the United States. While media attention and policy efforts often focus on younger populations, older adults are not immune to the problem. A new AARP Public Policy Institute report finds that while the prevalence of prescription drug misuse is higher among younger ages, it would be a mistake to overlook such behavior among older adults. Here’s why.
First, a number of factors make older adults more susceptible to prescription drug misuse. Older adults typically take more prescription medications than younger adults (figure 1)—often multiple drugs at the same time—increasing the likelihood of problems arising. Age-related physical, emotional, cognitive, and functional changes can also increase the potential for misuse, either unintentional or intentional.
Further, prescription drug abuse often goes unrecognized or misdiagnosed in older adults. There are several possible explanations, including coexisting health conditions that can make it hard to identify abuse. Meanwhile, providers often lack the training and diagnostic criteria needed to properly detect the problem.
The result? Many older adults who abuse prescription drugs never receive a proper diagnosis or treatment.
This is a complex issue that policymakers and health professionals should tackle accordingly. As our aging population grows, the number of older adults at risk for abusing prescription drugs will likely grow as well. We need age-appropriate diagnostic and treatment practices that focus on changing prescriber behavior (like limiting overprescribing) and improving access to effective treatments for prescription drug abuse. At the same time, it’s also important to ensure that policymakers don’t implement overly broad policies that could limit access to prescription drugs for older adults with legitimate health needs.
Finally, everyone, not just providers, must become aware of this issue. It’s critical that family caregivers and the general public understand the potential for and consequences of prescription drug abuse among older adults. Among older adults ages 50-64 who abuse painkillers, 42 percent get them from friends or family (figure 2). Addressing prescription drug abuse among older adults will require everyone working together.
Olivia Dean is a policy analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute. Her work focuses on public health, mental health, health disparities and healthy behavior.
Most of us take our mobility for granted. We grab our keys and head out to work, buy groceries, and shuttle our kids to movies and soccer practice—all without a second thought. But for the one-third of Americans who don’t drive and many others who lack access to a working vehicle, transportation options don’t come easy—especially in rural America, where transportation has long been a seemingly intractable problem.
The technology revolution is showing potential to help solve that problem and enable more Americans to take part in the economic and social lives of their communities. One new and promising service is Liberty.
The Robinson family at a neighbor’s dairy farm
21st Century Model Meets Rural America
Liberty has been described as the Uber for rural America, since it connects riders to drivers through a mobile app similar to those used by Lyft and Uber. But to founder and CEO Valerie Lefler, “Liberty is about more than just giving rides. It’s about providing Mobility as a Service.”
The company engages local partners to identify a community’s transportation gaps and then works to fill them. Liberty charges customers $1.10 to book and $1 dollar per mile on average. In addition to the app, customers can schedule rides through Liberty’s call center. Liberty uses area-specific mobility managers who provide a direct line of communication to customers and also work to build partnerships in the community.
Just launched in 2016, Liberty’s rural strategy has already brought it to three states (Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota), with seven total expected by year’s end. Applications to bring service to more than 60 counties in 2018 could mean the company will be operating in 16 states by the end of next year.
Target Market Typified
Yankton, S.D., (county population 22,616) epitomizes rural transportation challenges. Buses require a 24-hour advance reservation and only operate weekdays 7:30 to 4:30, and taxicab supply doesn’t meet demand.
The city recently was able to secure a $25,000 grant from the local economic development corporation to bring Liberty to Yankton County. The Mayor took an inaugural ride on June 30.
“They are not looking to own the market, but fill gaps in the service,” said City Commissioner Nathan Johnson, who was instrumental in bringing Liberty to town.
Beth Robinson was one of Liberty’s first customers. Robinson is a mother of three children and a family caregiver for her husband, Chris, who has a terminal heart defect and uses a wheelchair part-time. Since the onset of Chris’ illness in 2010, Beth’s caregiving responsibilities have prevented her from working outside the home. The family relies almost exclusively on Chris’ disability income.
Locating rental housing that was both affordable and accessible in town proved challenging. They rented a five bedroom farmhouse outside town at about half the price of a three bedroom apartment in Yankton. But soon after moving, their vehicle broke down. It’s been out of service ever since.
Then Beth discovered Liberty. Chris, after catching an accessible bus for the 17-mile journey into town, was unable to schedule his return trip. Liberty does not yet have access to accessible vehicles in Yankton, but the area manager and her husband, a liberty driver, came through. They lifted the 150-pound wheelchair into the back of a small SUV and got Chris safely home, groceries and all.
“That had us for customers for life after that,” said Beth.
Since then, the family has taken 6-7 Liberty trips—to buy groceries, check out books from the library, and get her kids to a summer cooking class.
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Whether innovative companies such as Liberty will be able to survive in resource-constrained rural markets and whether they can complement, rather than compete with, existing public transportation are open questions. To enter a market, such services will likely need start-up funds and local partners who can help subsidize trips for those unable to pay the full cost of a ride. But the enthusiasm communities have shown for this service gives hope that a generations-old problem for rural America just might have a solution. Such issues and solutions will be explored in more detail in future blog posts.
About the author: Jana Lynott is a senior strategic policy adviser with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she manages the AARP transportation research agenda. As a land use and transportation planner, she brings practical expertise to the research field.
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New affordable housing development near Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station.
Many perceive Washington, DC as being a livable community. It has plenty of shops, interesting neighborhoods, fun destinations, lively streets, and transit options.
Yet is the nation’s capital truly livable? A livable community is livable for people of all ages. Shops should include stores with healthy food choices and pharmacies, while interesting neighborhoods mean housing for diverse household types. Fun destinations should feature not just costly options, but recreation centers, libraries, and parks. Lively streets should be safe for pedestrians, bikes, and cars.
A look at the city’s livability status and efforts going forward highlight the kinds of successes and challenges for many cities across the country.
Top 10 Success
Fortunately, the nation’s capital does boast many positive livability features. Washington ranks in the top 10 livable large cities, according to AARP’s Livability Index: Great Neighborhoods for All Ages. The Index helps communities determine how well they meet the needs of residents across their lifespan. Livability attributes benefiting older residents typically benefit younger ones as well.
The Index measures indicators across seven categories: health, environment (air and water quality), social and civic engagement; accessible and affordable housing; transportation; supportive services; and economic and educational opportunity. In our latest update, the District receives a livability score of 59 –higher than the average of 50, scoring best in engagement, transportation, and neighborhood.
Eyeing Livability 2.0
DC, like all communities no matter how successful, still has work to do. As the Index shows, the nation’s capital faces challenges in features related to the environment and to opportunity, and it also is working to meet the needs of its residents as they age. As a member of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, the District is making livability a top priority. The District’s age-friendly action plan, based on community assessment and input, addresses affordable housing, social isolation, and neighborhood safety. A recent progress report highlights achievements such as an intergenerational housing complex, an expansion of affordable units targeting very-low income residents, and a partnership to obtain transportation for older adult residents.
Yet success often brings challenges. Features that make cities more livable and attractive can push housing demand and prices higher. As a result, retaining and building affordable housing, especially in popular urban areas, become increasingly difficult. Sure enough, the Index shows Washington struggling with high housing-related costs and a lower-than-average rate of accessible homes for people with limited mobility. Washington is not alone in grappling with how to ensure that everyone has a place to live, for this is happening across the country.
The District is addressing its affordability and housing challenges through strategies such as low-income housing tax credits, inclusionary zoning, and funding for services for homeless families. In 2016, the city committed $100 million to its Housing Production Trust Fund. The investment will fund 12 new developments including a project consisting of units specifically slated for older adults. Other new and renovated housing units add more affordable options. Many such units are close to public transportation, neighborhood amenities, and social services. Additionally, the city helps older adults and people with disabilities renovate homes with features that make them safer. These policies all help residents to remain in their communities as prices rise.
A Vision Requiring Collaboration
Meanwhile, the work continues in many communities. As DC shows, achieving greater livability for everyone requires a strong collaboration among residents, businesses, agencies, local organizations, and developers. Partners can provide key data, add their perspectives, and share expertise—ultimately resulting in effective and innovative solutions that improve communities and address challenges.
Community services and amenities along Rhode Island Avenue and 12th St. NE.
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Shannon Guzman is a policy research senior analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she works on housing, transportation and land-use issues. Shannon focuses on policies and programs that create livable communities for people of all ages. For more information about livable communities visit, www.aarp.org/livable. Photo: DFinney
If you look at the 2017 Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Scorecard, you may notice that something is different in this third edition– housing and transportation indicators are included for the first time. Affordable and accessible housing and transportation options are key components of a livable community. Having options that people can access, regardless of their age, income, physical ability or other factors brings them closer to the community features and services they need to remain engaged in their communities.
AARP’s Livability Index gives higher housing scores to neighborhoods in counties with more subsidized (sometimes known as affordable) housing, as it ensures that people of all incomes can have access to a place to live. One of the elements of a high-functioning LTSS system is that it gives people choices about where to live and receive services. Affordable housing is essential to shifting the delivery of LTSS from an institutional model towards home and community-based care. However, a major barrier to transitioning people out of institutions and back to their communities is the lack of affordable and accessible housing options. The Scorecard includes a measure of the supply of subsidized housing at the state level, an important resource to help individuals with lower incomes and LTSS needs stay in the community and receive services at home or in a community setting.
This Scorecard measure captures the total amount of subsidized housing opportunities—spanning many different programs—divided by the total number of housing units in a state. The total number of subsidized housing opportunities has risen since 2011, but it still falls short of current and future needs.
This chart shows the supply of subsidized housing opportunities in each state in 2015 (blue bars), the improvement from four years earlier (red line), and the gap in affordable housing opportunities (light blue solid area). Nationally, there are more than 18 million renters at or below area median income (most of whom are cost-burdened by housing) and fewer than 8 million potentially subsidized units. There is still an affordable housing crisis in our country.
The solution seems simple – we should build more of this housing. Federal programs such as Section 202 have historically built new affordable housing for older adults with low incomes. However, the federal government has stopped funding new construction of this and similar programs, and fewer affordable apartments are available under these programs. Vouchers have become more popular due to their efficiency, but holders may have a hard time finding appropriate housing and landlords who will accept their voucher in more livable neighborhoods. Those counting on a subsidized unit might find that there are not enough available in a helpful location.
Decades ago, we did not anticipate that people with LTSS needs would stay in their communities, so most of our neighborhoods were not designed for their needs. While communities work to build more housing with “universal design” features, many units may have steps and other barriers that are problematic for those with LTSS needs. This must change if our communities are going to meet the goal of providing options for all people of all ages.
The good news is that there are more opportunities today (the blue bars in the chart) than in the past (the red line) as vouchers have increased and programs such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program build more units. States can help by allocating these tax credits in ways that enhance livability, developing housing trust funds, grants or loan programs, or taking other steps. However, it is clear that government cannot solve this alone, especially when proposals to build new affordable housing meet objections. Building livable communities for all must be a goal for all – not just policymakers, but builders, homeowners, residents and neighbors.
Join Dr. Harrell and other AARP experts for a twitter chat to discuss housing needs and the LTSS Scorecard at 1pm EDT on July 19. Join the conversation using #PickUpthePace and share your questions and insights.
Rodney Harrell, PhD, is Director of Livable Communities for the AARP Public Policy Institute. His expertise includes neighborhood choice, housing affordability and accessibility, transit-oriented development, community redevelopment, sustainable community initiatives and other livable communities issues.
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Approximately 10,000 people in the United States turn 65 every day. Half of them will one day find themselves needing a high level of help with basic daily activities like walking, eating, getting out of bed in the morning, and bathing—assistance known as long-term services and supports (LTSS).
LTSS comes in different forms. It may be provided in the home, assisted living, nursing facilities, or integrated settings such as those that provide both health care and supportive services. LTSS also include supportive services provided to family members and other unpaid caregivers.
Anyone who has interacted with the “system” of long-term care, from older adults to people with disabilities and family caregivers, understands that it’s not really a system at all. It’s a patchwork of programs, policies, and funding streams largely built around federal and state decisions dating back nearly five decades.
Meanwhile, the number of aging Americans with significant health and personal needs is projected to grow from 6 million to almost 16 million in the next several decades. While each experience is unique, roughly three out of four older adults with this level of need live in their homes and communities. For those needing care, roughly 30 percent will need it for less than a year, but 25 percent will need it for five years or more.
Against this backdrop of an impending surge in demand for LTSS, decision makers in Washington, D.C., are debating a major overhaul of health care policy. The recent release of our Long-Term Services and Supports State Scorecard, therefore, could not have come at a more appropriate time.
Quadrupling the Rate of Change
Compiling state data and presenting it as usable and actionable material, the Scorecard comprises a multi-component report and interactive online tool. It provides state-level information on creating a high-performing system of care in order to drive progress toward improvement in services for older adults and people with physical disabilities, and their family caregivers. The focus is on the state level because our country does not have a single national system to address LTSS needs. The Scorecard examines 25 indicators across five LTSS categories—Affordability and Access, Choice of Setting and Provider, Quality of Life and Quality of Care, Support for Family Caregivers, and Effective Transitions.
Now in its third iteration, the Scorecard helps states understand their strengths – and there are many efforts to be proud of – as well as (perhaps more importantly) areas where they need to improve if they are going to meet the LTSS needs of their growing aging populations.
The Scorecard’s overarching message: much work remains—even for the top-performing states. That’s why we titled this edition Picking Up the Pace of Change. As we continue to edge toward 2026, the watershed year that boomers will first start to turn 80 and their LTSS needs will increase, few states have achieved meaningful change (generally defined as 10 percent or more over the past two to four years) on most of the measures that the Scorecard was able to track over time.
States, for example, have made steady but slow progress in increasing the proportion of Medicaid spending going toward home and community-based services – services the majority of people want – as opposed to nursing facilities, from 39 percent in 2011 to 41 percent in 2014 (the most current year of available data). At the current national rate of change, it would take 36 years for the average of the bottom five states in this category to reach the level of the median state today, and another 51 years for the median state to reach the level of the average of the top five states (64 percent).
We don’t have that much time. To reach these benchmarks by 2026, the rate of improvement must triple and in some cases quadruple. Meanwhile, as Congress debates health care reform, Medicaid funding levels allotted to states by the federal government hang in the balance. Significant portions of Medicaid dollars passed from the federal government to states play a key role in LTSS—and outcomes of the current health care debate could impact states’ ability to build on or even sustain their current residents’ needs.
The Right Information at the Right Time
During this critical time, both in terms of demographic trends and policymaking, the value of LTSS and urgency of taking action to strengthen it become all the more apparent. The Scorecard not only highlights the importance and urgency, it serves as a tool for states. It helps states identify where they need to focus their resources and efforts, while also enabling them to communicate with and learn from one another. (In fact, the Scorecard package includes such “promising practices” identified within specific states.)
Thus, we must ensure the Scorecard’s crucial information reaches decision makers – both state legislators and national policymakers – as the services and supports it evaluates are central to the well-being of older adults, people with disabilities, and family caregivers. Every stakeholder has a role to play in picking up the pace of change so we can all age with dignity, choice, and independence.
The Scorecard and related materials are available at http://www.longtermscorecard.org/.