The ‘shock’ that awaits pensioners at retirement 2 January 2015 Last updated at 17:02 ETBy Jamie Robertson

US flag and pensioner in wheelchair

Heading for the exit. Americans – and pensioners in many other countries – will be shocked at how little they have to live on in retirement

A former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury warns that the US government is standing idly by. “We need to do something, we’re not doing anything,” she says.

Professor Alicia Munnell, who is now director of Boston College’s Centre for Retirement Research, tells BBC World Service’s In the Balance programme that most Americans’ voluntary 401(k) pension schemes are seriously under-funded.

In a new book, Falling Short, she says the only answer is to work longer and save more.

But it is part of a bigger global pensions gap between what is needed to fund pensions and what is actually available in private and public pension pots.

America’s 401(k) was introduced in 1978 as a tax-efficient way of encouraging individual citizens to save for retirement.

Old ladies dancing by statue of Eric MorecambeNo laughing matter – but if people put off retirement until they were 70 they would be in ‘good shape’, says Prof Munnell

But the average 401(k) fund, to which individuals and employers contribute, stands at $111,000. That’s about enough to provide just $400 (£256) a month in retirement.

Arizona€’s graying frontier offers glimpse of US challenges ahead – by Tim Gaynor December 2, 2014 5:00AM ET

La Paz County, where more than a third of residents are seniors, offers test case as more baby boomers nationwide retire

Retiree Ron Moss plays a twilight round of “tough golf” in Quartzsite, Arizona. People 65 or older make up over a third of the population of La Paz County, which includes Quartzsite.Tim Gaynor

PARKER, Ariz. — Retiree Joyce Baker has always been fiercely independent, living on a five-acre spread in the Sonoran Desert where she wielded a chainsaw to manage the woodland, clambered up a ladder to inspect the roof of her home each year and dispatched rattlesnakes with a volley of shots from her .38 pistol.

But three years ago her now 85-year-old husband, Paul Baker, was diagnosed with dementia. He was subsequently hospitalized after a fall that shattered ribs, and by the time he returned to their remote home, Joyce Baker, 75, found that she could no longer cope.

“I thought, ‘I’ll keep the goals real simple. All I really have to do is keep Paul and me — and our two cats, who are also old — fed, clean and safe’ … But within just a few days, I discovered that those goals are not simple,” said Joyce Baker, who finally reached out for help. “I was literally at my wits’ end, going in circles … You get where you can’t organize your own thoughts, let alone help somebody with Alzheimer’s get organized.”

Baker and her husband are among the fortunate seniors receiving vital home care in sparsely populated La Paz County in far western Arizona, which has one of the highest proportions of residents 65 or older anywhere in the United States.

As of October this year, there has been an eightfold increase in the number of people on the waiting list for adult day health care and respite services like home-delivered meals and help with bathing and laundry — totaling 2,345 for Arizona and 425 in the tri-county area bordering California that includes La Paz County. The elder care crisis in far western Arizona is significant, professionals believe, since it may hold some clues to the demographic challenges faced by the United States as a whole in coming years as millions of members of the baby boom generation reach 65 at a rate of about 10,000 a day.

In response to their needs, the Bakers got help from social services to put handrails in the bathroom to safeguard against further falls and also received freezer-ready home meals delivered to their home, at the end of a dirt road, once a week from the Community Senior Center in Parker, the La Paz County seat, 35 miles away.

“It makes life livable. There’s absolutely no way that I could shop for the food, prepare the food and clean up three times a day,” Joyce Baker said of the help that allows her to remain at home with her husband of 58 years. “If I didn’t have this help, I would be here alone because Paul would be in a facility.”

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‘If We Left, They Wouldn’t Have Nobody’ – NPR STAFF November 21, 2014 4:19 AM ET

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at Nov 21, 2014 5.36

Maurice Rowland (left) and Miguel Alvarez were working at an assisted living home last fall. When it shut down, Maurice -€- the cook --” and Miguel — the janitor --” stayed to take care of the residents left behind.

Maurice Rowland (left) and Miguel Alvarez were working at an assisted living home last fall. When it shut down, Maurice -€- the cook –” and Miguel — the janitor –” stayed to take care of the residents left behind. StoryCorps

When an assisted living home in California shut down last fall, many of its residents were left behind, with nowhere to go.

The staff at the Valley Springs Manor left when they stopped getting paid — except for cook Maurice Rowland and Miguel Alvarez, the janitor.

“There was about 16 residents left behind, and we had a conversation in the kitchen, ‘What are we going to do?’ ” Rowland says.

“If we left, they wouldn’t have nobody,” the 34-year-old Alvarez says.

Their roles quickly transformed for the elderly residents, who needed round-the-clock care.

“I would only go home for one hour, take a shower, get dressed, then be there for 24-hour days,” says Alvarez.

Rowland, 35, remembers passing out medications during those long days. He says he didn’t want to leave the residents — some coping with dementia — to fend for themselves.

“I just couldn’t see myself going home — next thing you know, they’re in the kitchen trying to cook their own food and burn the place down,” Rowland says. “Even though they wasn’t our family, they were kind of like our family for this short period of time.”

For Alvarez, the situation brought back memories from his childhood.

“My parents, when they were younger, they left me abandoned,” he says. “Knowing how they are going to feel, I didn’t want them to go through that.”

Alvarez and Rowland spent several days caring for the elderly residents of Valley Springs Manor until the fire department and sheriff took over.

The incident led to legislation in California known as the Residential Care for the Elderly Reform Act of 2014.

“If I would’ve left, I think that would have been on my conscience for a very long time,” says Rowland.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at

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Atul Gawande: “We Have Medicalized Aging, and That Experiment Is Failing Us” – —By Michael Mechanic | Oct. 2014

The prescription, he argues in “Being Mortal,” is to rethink our priorities for the dying—and give ’em something to live for.

Cats and dogs and birds and nursing home residents, living together. Thinkstock/suemack

The latest book from surgeon and best-selling author Atul Gawande may not change your whole life, but it could very well improve how it ends.

In Being Mortal, Gawande, a longtime staff writer for the New Yorker, takes on the utter failure of the medical profession when it comes to helping people die well, and the short-sightedness of the elder facilities that infantilize people rather than bother to figure out what they actually need to maintain a modicum of meaning in what’s left of their lives. In the process, he gives us a lesson on the basic physiology of aging and on the social and technological changes that led to most of us dying in hospitals and institutions rather than at home with our loved ones. And he chronicles the rise of the nursing home and the creation of assisted living as its antidote—if only it were.

The picture can seem pretty bleak. Many of Gawande’s subjects are dealing with the always-hopeful oncologists who, rather than accept the inevitable, coax their patients into trying futile fourth-line chemotherapies that nobody can pronounce. And then you’ve got hospitals axing their geriatrics departments (aging Boomers be damned) because Medicare won’t cover the extra costs of making someone’s last years worth living. There’s also a deeply personal aspect to the book, which goes on sale today. Gawande recounts the recent travails of his family, which began when his father, also a surgeon, was diagnosed with a cancer that would slowly eat away at his physical capabilities and ultimately end his life.

But Being Mortal is hopeful, too, and that’s why it could make a difference. Most of the changes we need to make aren’t expensive. Indeed, some of them could save us a bundle in cash and needless suffering. It turns out, for example, that terminal patients in hospice programs often live longer and better than their counterparts in treatment. In fact, the mere act of talking with caregivers about what you value as you near the end of your life leads to a longer one. Gawande also introduces us to quirky visionaries who took it upon themselves to improve matters. My favorite was Bill Thomas, a young doctor who somehow convinced state regulators to let him turn a nursing home into a menagerie. “I mean, he was a crazy-man!” Gawande told me with a laugh when I called to grill him on the details. But sometimes that’s what it takes to wake people up.

Mother Jones: In the book, you write about how, hundreds of years ago, there used to be these very popular guidebooks instructing people on how to die well. Have we, as a society, forgotten how to do that?

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Forget the bucket list: these are the things you should avoid before you die – Jessica Reed, Monday 15 September 2014 01.35 EDT

Paris: overrated.

The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead has a point: it’s time to kick the bucket list to the curb. She writes:

[The bucket list] is the YOLO-ization of cultural experience, whereby the pursuit of fleeting novelty is granted greater value than a patient dedication to an enduring attention – an attention which might ultimately enlarge the self, and not just pad one’s experiential résumé. The notion of the bucket list legitimizes this diminished conception of the value of repeated exposure to art and culture. Rather, it privileges a restless consumption, a hungry appetite for the new. I’ve seenStonehenge. Next?

Thinking about my own most transformative moments, I can’t identify one which I had specifically sought to make me feel more alive. Bungee jumping was fun, sure, and running a half marathon gave me a nice sense of accomplishment. But the moments I will remember on my death bed – those which made me feel honoured to be alive – came at unexpected times: laying down on a parking lot patch of grass at night with a lover; picking up an unpromising book only to be jolted by how it spoke to me at a specific time in my life; an old 1990s song serendipitously playing during a night drive; eating my grandmother’s last batch of apricot jam after she died; love-making that suddenly turned into a true communion.

In this kicking-the-bucket-list spirit, I asked colleagues and readers to share tried and tested experiences which are routinely added to wish lists but should be avoided at all costs. Think of it as a time-saving exercise for anyone considering swimming with dolphins to be a life-affirming idea.

A cruise in Alaska: not if you're young at heart, please.
A cruise in Alaska: not if you’re young at heart, please. Photograph: Douglas Peebles/Alamy
  • Going to the Vatican. There is not spiritual experience to be had at this holy place turned tourist-mecca. Touring the Vatican is like being in a mosh pit and you’ll be lucky to linger for longer than three minutes at any particular art site before being pushed along by the crowds. Standing shoulder to shoulder in the Sistine Chapel as just another part of the sweaty, heaving mass you will have your view of the roof constantly blocked by tourists holding up iPads (despite the no photos rule) and guards yelling for everyone to be quiet (despite the no talking rule). –@bkjabour
  • Go on a cruise. Going on a tour and being shepherded around like animals is bad enough. The idea of being trapped on a boat, surrounded by hundreds of miles of sea with nowhere to go, takes it to the next level. Maybe there is a class and age element to it, too. Truth is, I don’t want to be stuck on a boat with a bunch of elderly bogans. – m_onicatan
  • Have sex with a stranger. Jessica Lange’s character has some fantastic lines in the movie Tootsie, where she describes to Dustin Hoffman her fantasy of being approached for sex by a hot stranger and giving in to a desire that needs no further words to be communicated. In the movie, as in life, the fantasy rarely plays out that way. Leaving risks of desperately unsexy infection aside, one can be rubbered up like Jacques Cousteau on a dive in the Arctic and yet be afflicted with the worst sexual chemical contagion of all – the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin, convincing you that the random she’s in bed with is actually the love of her life. (anonymous)
  • Kiss the Blarney Stone. I went to Ireland for a week’s holiday with my father when I was about 18. The one piece of advice offered by people when asked for tips on things to do in the Cork area was to go and kiss the Blarney Stone. “It’ll give you the gift of the gab,” they said. “You have to do it!” So we went. But instead of receiving the gift of charm and eloquence, I received the gift of laryngitis and I couldn’t speak for a week. Overrated.– @itsalanevans
  • Hard drugs, “just to try it”. The reputation of heroin as a chemical waking dream of visionaries has only been romanticised by culture because some of the individuals killed by it did cool things. Their achievements were in spite of heroin, chaps, not because of it: junkie poet Michael Dransfield’s claim that once you become a heroin addict “you never want to be anything else” was prophetic; he never was anything else because heroin killed him. To spare any readers a desire to experiment with the drug, its effects are roughly that of a dental needle that pleasantly numbs your self-respect while causing you to stumble around like a mannequin with a bowel problem. (anonymous)
  • Snow sports. I was 26 before I saw snow for the first time and what a let down it was. It is is freezing, slippery and insanely expensive to do anything fun on it as an adult. – @bkjabour
You may learn the guitar to impress women ... but you'll never be Django Reinhardt.
You may learn the guitar to impress women … but you’ll never be Django Reinhardt. Photograph: AFP
  • Learn to play an instrument. Learning to play an instrument (usually the guitar) is a bucket list staple. It’s also a heinous act of self-deception, because really what we want is to “learn to look cool while playing a musical instrument”. Even if the bucket lister manages to exercise the discipline, patience and flair needed to truly master an instrument, it’s impossible to adult-educate yourself into the swagger of a Kurt Cobain or Janis Joplin. I discovered this the hard way by having the door closed on me repeatedly, both while practising and “performing”, as part of my ambition to jump the chasm from “guitarist whose music people can tolerate” to “guitarist whose music impresses women”. Save yourself the time and money and go to Stonehenge or something instead. –@adambrereton

Six seconds of exercise ‘can transform health’ – By James Gallagher Health editor, BBC News website 26 July 2014 Last updated at 19:46 ET

Short six-second bursts of vigorous exercise have the potential to transform the health of elderly people, say researchers in Scotland.

Old man running

Short six-second bursts of vigorous exercise have the potential to transform the health of elderly people, say researchers in Scotland.

A pilot study involving 12 pensioners showed going all-out in very short bursts, reduced blood pressure and improved general fitness over time.

The team at Abertay University believe it could help avert the “astronomical” costs of ill health in elderly people.

Experts said the study emphasised the benefits of exercise at any age.

High Intensity Training (HIT) has attracted a lot of attention for promising some of the same benefits as conventional exercise but in a much shorter time.

Instead of a comfortable half-hour jog or a few miles on the bike, HIT involves pushing yourself to your limits for a short period of time.

The team in Scotland say they were conducting the first trials in older people.

Get a sweat on

A group of pensioners came into the lab twice a week for six weeks and went hell for leather on an exercise bike for six seconds.

They would allow their heart rate to recover and then go for it again, eventually building up to one minute of exercise by the end of the trial.

“They were not exceptionally fast, but for someone of that age they were,” researcher Dr John Babraj said.

The results, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, showed participants had reduced their blood pressure by 9%, increased their ability to get oxygen to their muscles and found day-to-day activities like getting out of a chair or walking the dog easier.

Dr Babraj told the BBC the benefits could be huge: “We’ve got an ageing population and if we don’t encourage them to be active, the economic burden of that is going to be astronomical.

“A lot of diseases are associated with sedentary behaviour – like cardiovascular disease and diabetes – but if we can keep people active and functioning then we can reduce the risk.

“Also on the social side, they are less likely to be socially active and will interact with people more.”

More than 10 million people in the UK are over 65 and that figure is set to rise.

Dr Babraj says older people struggle to exercise as many are full-time carers, but argues High Intensity Training would be easier to fit in.

He said people could try it at home, but should see their doctor first to ensure there were no underlying health issues.

“Then the easiest way to do it yourself is to run up a hill, the steeper the hill, the harder it’s going to be, give it everything you’ve got for six seconds.”

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An Ingenious Design Solution for an Aging America BY LIZ STINSON 05.28.14 | 6:30 AM

Sabi Space is a collection of 13 bathroom accessories that cater to the aging set, but will probably end up in the bathrooms of 25-year-olds, tooScreen Shot 2014-05-29 at May 29, 2014 3.19


A couple years back Assaf Wand started Sabi, a company that makes high-design products for the aging set. It was a smart move for the former McKinsey Consultant and venture capitalist: Today, there are more than 76 million baby boomers alive, and they have a lot of money. Problem was, most of the stuff marketed to them was condescending and tone deaf; exactly the kind of products that make a person feel older, not younger.

Wand wanted to change that with Sabi. The company has already released a set of Yves Behar-designed pill boxes and water bottles, as well as a line of very stylish canes. The company’s newest endeavor, Sabi Space, is a collection of 13 bathroom accessories that cater to the aging set, but will probably end up in the bathrooms of 25-year-olds, too. Just as Oxo did for kitchen accessories, Sabi is betting that great design for the elderly, if done right, will naturally become a must-have product for the young because its many functional benefits.

To design the products in the Sabi Space line, the company tapped MAP Project, a creative studio founded by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby. When Wand first approached MAP, he didn’t even know what kind of product he was looking to develop. So MAP looked at research, interviewed people in Sabi’s demographic and came to a surprising conclusion. “We thought it would be about reaching and mobility,” says Jon Marshall, a founding director of MAP. And so they designed a slew of items like hand-holds. But it turns out that the biggest issue is creating a bathroom you want, without having to undergo the enormous pains of installation. Sabi’s insight was to create a system that can expand over time, chock full of human-centered design touches.

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Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Expanding To Catch Early Warning Signs – by JON HAMILTON March 19, 2014 4:00 PM

Doctors may eventually be able to diagnose "preclinical" Alzheimer's in patients who have abnormal brain scans but who aren't yet showing behavioral symptoms of the disease.

Doctors may eventually be able to diagnose “preclinical” Alzheimer’s in patients who have abnormal brain scans but who aren’t yet showing behavioral symptoms of the disease.


Alzheimer’s disease isn’t what it used to be. After 30 years of having doctors diagnose the disease by symptoms alone, researchers and advocacy groups are calling for new diagnostic criteria that recognize changes in the brain as well as changes in behavior.

The goal is to eventually allow doctors to diagnose “preclinical” Alzheimer’s in patients who do not have problems with memory or thinking, but who do have an abnormal brain scan or some other sign that the disease may be developing.

More than 5 million Americans fall within the existing diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s, according to the latest statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association.

The current symptom-based diagnosis “is really a representation of a disease process that’s been happening in the body for potentially 10 to 20 years,” saysMaria Carrillo, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer’s Association. That process includes the accumulation of amyloid plaques or neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, and eventually the death of brain cells.

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Services for seniors in danger as sequester cuts remain in place – by Sadhbh Walshe January 11, 2014 5:00AM ET

Snow was falling on a cold morning, and the usually busy streets outside theJefferson Senior Center in the East Harlem section of New York City were almost deserted and silent.

Inside the building, however, it was a hive of activity as kitchen staff worked frantically to prepare hundreds of hot meals to be delivered to New York’s homebound elderly. Though some staff worried that the snow might prevent employees from making it in, every meal was still set to be delivered to those who needed it — no matter how hard people had to work.

Richard Johnson delivers meals in the snow.
Sadhbh Walsh

“If we don’t go out, the folks won’t eat,” said 66-year-old Richard Johnson, one of the center’s employees, who has been delivering meals on wheels for the past 15 years and has shown up for work during blizzards and in the aftermath of hurricanes. “For a lot of our homebound, this is the only food they get.”

Hot meals and homebound care are a small component of the range of services the center — one of 250 still in operation around New York — offers to the city’s growing elderly population. Every day thousands of seniors flock to the centers to partake in “yoga for arthritis” classes, fitness training, computer training and arts and crafts lessons, or just to have some company and a nutritious lunch.

But although the demand for such services is increasing as the city experiences an aging boom, years of stagnant funding and now the federal sequester cuts are making providers nervous. Some fear that if the squeeze on funding continues at current rates, disaster could lie ahead.

“Every year, agencies have more people to serve with the same money or less,” said Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City. “Without adequate funding, we just can’t keep pace with demand.”

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My Obligatory, Lets get Fit in 2014 Post: 12 months to a fitter you Written by Gabriella Boston Published: December 31

The holiday parties are over, and now many Americans are setting fitness goals for the new year. For many of us, the simple goal of “fitness” might seem a long way off — the average American is 20 to 25 pounds overweight and isn’t physically active, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — but it’s far from unattainable.

We asked four local fitness experts how to make incremental changes throughout 2014 with the year-end goal of losing those extra 20 to 25 pounds and becoming stronger physically and mentally with the help of exercise, meditation and nutrition changes.

This is our “couch-to-fit” calendar for 2014, with guidance from Faith Hunter, a yoga teacher and owner of Embrace yoga studio in Adams Morgan; Mansur Mendizabal, a D.C.-based personal trainer; Chris Knight, a personal trainer and CrossFit Coach on Capitol Hill; and Heather Calcote, a D.C. dietitian and endurance athlete.

For additional information and instruction, turn to your doctor or personal trainer; results aren’t guaranteed. It is always advisable to check with your doctor before starting any new fitness routine.

(Illustration by Rachel Harris)


●Cardio: Start taking swift walks or light jogs for at least 30 minutes three times per week. This should be light to moderate activity, meaning you should be able to hold a conversation. Stretch for five minutes or more afterward. Start changing up your daily routines: Seek opportunities to choose standing over sitting, walking over driving and stairs instead of the elevator.

●Strength: Start with core and balance exercises two times per week. The goal is to create good posture and form; if you want an example of how to do a particular exercise, ask a trainer at your gym or look online for videos. Very little equipment is needed for these bodyweight exercises, but for balance we recommend trying aBosu ball, which is a half-sphere-shaped training tool that can add extra challenge to standing and sitting exercises. For a list of appropriate strength exercises, read our guide.

● Mind-body: Take a beginner yoga class at a gym or studio, or at home using a DVD or online class. Try to practice 30 minutes to an hour per week.

● Nutrition: Log your food intake at least three days a week. Use a calorie-counting app or Web site to figure out how many calories are recommended for you, and to create a 100- to 200-calorie deficit if you want to lose weight. A few options: or

Read about the other 11 months here: