Category Archives: Health

Wine Around the World 2017: An Aging Population is Transforming Britain

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

An Aging Population is Transforming Britain

By 2040, nearly one in seven Britons will be over 75, according to a recent study, which also reveals that almost a third of people born today in the UK can expect to live to 100. In 2014, the average age in the UK exceeded 40 for the first time. As the baby boomer generation enters retirement, the UK will also reach a dramatic demographic turning point: 2017 will see the ratio of non-workers to workers start to rise for the first time since the early 1980s.

This vastly improved life expectancy, which is growing by five hours a day, was one of the great triumphs of the last century. It is now, however, the source of the greatest challenges – and opportunities – of this era, for the UK and many other countries around the world.

Demographic change of this scale requires a long-term perspective. This ageing population brings great opportunities – but also challenges. The tax burden associated with an aging society and higher dependency ratio – the ratio of non-workers to workers – will rise to £15billion a year by 2060.

How will Britain cope? Further increases in the state pension age, as the government is currently considering, will not be enough. The aging population will also need to pursue full employment to maintain the “effective” dependency ratio for many decades to come, and of course the main beneficiaries of this will be disabled and older workers who are struggling to return to the labour market.

In the absence of governmental long-term responses, aging baby boomers in the UK are seizing the reins for the second time. When they were teenagers, this generation transformed the morals and structure of the 1960s with their mantra of “I want.” Their new mantra is “I need” and, thanks to both low birth rates and high life expectancies, their voice is once again the dominant one.

Wine Around the World 2017: Austria Meeting the culturally diverse needs of aging migrants

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

Meeting the culturally diverse needs of aging migrants

Like most of Europe, Austria faces significant population aging. Its fertility and mortality rates are decreasing as its life expectancies increase. In Germany, the median age is almost 47; in Italy, 45; in Austria and Greece, 44. These trends pose a very serious challenge to European society. As Europe ages, the costs of healthcare and pensions will increase dramatically while tax revenues decrease. The savings rate will decrease too, since retirees have little incentive to save, which means investment will lessen, potentially slowing the economy further. The effect could be a fiscal catastrophe.

So, when millions of migrants, disproportionately young and male, came knocking on the borders of Western Europe years ago, many sensed an opportunity to integrate the migrants into Austrian society, boosting the country’s shrinking labor force, contributing taxes to help alleviate the country’s looming revenue problem, and increasing the nation’s savings rate. Largely, those goals were not realized.

In addition to the challenges of such migration, the health of older immigrants can have important consequences for needed social support and demands placed on health systems. In a recent study of 11 European countries, migrants generally have worse health than the native population. In these countries, there is a little evidence of the “healthy migrant” at ages 50 years and over. In general, it appears that growing numbers of immigrants may portend more health problems in the population in subsequent years.

Roughly 1.6 million inhabitants of Austria have a migration background, of which 10.2% are older than 65 years with a growing number expected for the near future as well. Yet in Austria, there has been little or no discussion of the need for culturally sensitive health care options. Elderly care for migrants is largely decoded as special needs care. Migrants’ special needs range from a language-based treatment (especially for patients with dementia) to the respect of cultural habits, tastes and religious backgrounds.

Austria now needs to focus on the impact of growing immigration on the health and social security needs of a growing and aging immigrant population. In general, growing numbers of immigrants may be linked to more health problems in the population in subsequent years, requiring new strategies in eldercare.

Wine Around the World 2017: Japan’s lessons from an elder-care approach gone wrong

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

Lessons from an elder-care approach gone wrong 

Japan is a country that combines the oldest population in the world with levels of public debt to match Zimbabwe. Their experience illustrates the consequences of retracting state support for eldercare too far and relying on individual and familial support.

Until 2000, publicly-funded social care was nonexistent in Japan; caring for the elderly was a family responsibility. There were two main consequences of this approach. First, there were many reports of neglect and abuse towards older people being looked after by family members. In a survey conducted by the Japanese government, a third of carers reported feeling “hatred” towards the person they looked after. Caring also restricted the employment options of a growing number of Japanese women.

A second issue was the development of a phenomenon known as “social hospitalisation.” Older people were being admitted to hospital for long periods–not for any medical reason, but simply because they could not be looked after anywhere else.

The response from the Japanese government was radical. They introduced long-term care insurance, offering social care to those aged 65+ on the basis of needs alone. The system is part-funded by compulsory premiums for all those over the age of 40, and part-funded by national and local taxation. Users are also expected to contribute a 10% co-payment towards the cost of the service. The costs are seen as affordable and the scheme is extremely popular.

The result is that older people in Japan can access a wide range of institutional and community-based services.

However, it would be a mistake to see this as a problem solved. The uptake of services has far outstripped expectations and the Japanese government is faced with spiralling costs. Their response has been to introduce higher co-payments for wealthier adults, but the challenges continue. Other countries would be well-served to study the long-term impact of Japan’s decisions in order to course correct.

Wine Around the World 2017: California recognizing the need to provide culturally competent care to seniors

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

Recognizing the need to provide culturally competent care to seniors

California’s senior population is entering a period of rapid growth. By 2030, as the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age, the over-65 population will grow by four million people. It will also become much more racially and ethnically diverse, with the fastest growth among Latinos and Asians. Many more seniors are likely to be single and/or childless—suggesting an increased number of people living alone. All of these changes will have a significant impact on senior support services in California.

By 2030 the demand for nursing home care in California will begin to increase after decades of decline. California’s community college system will be critical in training workers to meet the state’s healthcare workforce needs for the growing and changing senior population.

The growing diversity of this aging population illustrates a growing need for culturally competent care—that is, care that respects the beliefs and responds to the linguistic needs of seniors from diverse backgrounds. Respect is at the heart of cultural competence–patients who feel their healthcare providers respect their beliefs, customs, values, language, and traditions are more likely to communicate freely and honestly, which can, in turn, reduce disparities in healthcare and improve patient outcomes.

Disparities in health-care and dissatisfaction are more pronounced among racial minorities. According to a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians received worse care and had worse access to care than their non-Hispanic White counterparts. The report also highlighted language barriers as a significant contributor to disparities in care. For example, patients who speak Spanish at home were more likely than patients who speak English at home to report poor communication with nurses.

When patients feel heard and understood by their healthcare providers, they are more likely to participate in preventive health care and less likely to miss health appointments. This can reduce medical errors and related legal costs for healthcare facilities, and it can improve health outcomes for patients. California, like other areas with increasing minority populations, will be well served to focus on creating culturally competent caregivers.

Wine Around the World 2017: Creating futuristic answers to aging issues in France

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

Creating futuristic answers to aging issues in France

Traditionally, it is considered natural among the French for senior relatives to be cared for by the family. In accordance with the law, children are required to provide for their aging parents.

This, in particular, explains why old people’s homes and retirement homes are less common in France than in other Western countries. However, this has begun to change.

A recent survey in France confirms that 90 percent of people aged 50 or older would prefer to live in their own homes as long as possible. A quarter of those over 85, though, are already in some form of assisted living, which amounts to around 450,000 people.

One company is creating a technological approach to meeting those increasing needs: A robot called Kompaï, from France-based Robosoft, features a touch-screen display on an easel and a bowling ball–sized head with a “face.” Although the face is currently just for emotional comfort, future versions will light up and show expressions.

The vision for Kompaï is as follows: Family members would call the robot via Skype. The robot would then use ultrasonic sensors to detect the location of the person being called and navigate to that person, who answers the Skype video conference call via Kompaï’s multitouch tablet PC and Webcam. Kompaï could likewise be used as an interface to Facebook or some other social network. Interactive speech recognition would be available to help elderly or otherwise dependent people access the Internet using a simple graphic and tactile interface.

Kompaï could also store a person’s daily schedule and shopping lists, and access online calendars or weather. Robosoft is now being tested in hospitals, geriatric centers, and homes in France, Hungary and Austria to see how the technology is accepted.

Robosoft is looking to partner with companies that make wireless physiological sensors worn by a robot’s owner that could communicate blood pressure, pulse, body temperature and other data via Bluetooth to the robot, which would then relay that information to the person’s doctor.

In this way, the needs of France’s aging population might be met more efficiently.

Wine Around the World 2017: Croatia Looks at Policy for Caring for the Aging

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

Creating National Policy on Caring for the Aging

In Croatia, a burgeoning elderly population and rapid socio-economic change have strained health services to the point where health care providers, policymakers, and citizens alike have begun to recognize an immediate need for alternative options for geriatric care–in a nation where geriatrics and gerontology have not yet evolved into recognized specialties.

There are not enough retirement homes, waiting lists are long, there are no hospices, there is no program to educate families in how to care for the elderly, there are no guidance centers. Home care is developing. Unfortunately, a major problem is an insolvent community that cannot contribute enough resources.

Croatia wants to address the issues of a growing aging population and the absence of a national policy on how to care for the aging. They want to look at alternative means of elder care: day care, assisted living, home care, and ways to move people out of hospitals.There are currently two options for residential elder care in Croatia: retirement homes, which provide assistance with activities of daily living and with administration of medications, and health and welfare institutes, which house those with chronic conditions. These facilities are funded through a combination of government welfare supplements and private pay; residents’ relatives are required to assist with payment when they are able to. The pressure to get into residential care facilities is intense. There are more than 10,000 people on waiting lists for these homes, and applicants often must wait up to three years for placement.

After visiting The Franciscan at St. Leonard in Centerville, Ohio, on an exchange recently, nursing home administrators conceived a plan to introduce adult day care to Croatia, resulting in the opening of a nursing home in Sibenik that provides three meals a day and a range of leisure activities–including painting, singing, dancing and playing cards–for elderly citizens.

Wine Around the World 2017: Aging in Greece

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

What can Greece teach us about aging well?

Greece is aging faster than any other nation in Europe, adding to the difficulties facing the country in resolving its massive economic problems.

Ikaria, a small Greek island, has been dubbed a “blue zone,” one of the few places in the world where people lead healthy, active lives past the age of 100. People on this island are living to 90 almost three times as often as Americans, and are far less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or depression. Their low-stress lifestyles, level of physical activity, and a few other habits unique to their culture could be the secret.

Here are four things the Greeks can teach us about aging well:

  1. They know how to take a break from the stresses of daily life. As with many countries with hot climates, people in Greece stop midday to take a quick, but restorative nap. Research has found that Greek men who napped just half an hour a day were much less likely to have heart attacks.
  2. They drink to their health. Boiled Greek coffee is a staple in Ikaria and it’s loaded with polyphenols and antioxidants that protect your body from aging and a variety of chronic diseases. Drinkers of this coffee were found to have improved endothelial function—which protects your blood vessels—compared to those who drank other types of coffee.
  3. Their diet is heart-healthy: the freshest olive oil, a rainbow of vegetables, tons of lentils and beans, while taking it easy on the meat. This diet has been linked with benefits ranging from a lower risk of heart disease and cancer, to even lessening the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.
  4. Family is everything. A welcoming sense of community and family ties are a major part of life in Greece. In Ikaria, a typical evening routine includes visiting neighbors. Studies have not only shown that older people tend to eat worse when they’re alone, but loneliness in later life can lead to poor health and earlier death.

Help Us Help Seniors Beat the Heat!

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::UPDATE July 8, 2016 Thanks to promotion and help from the folks over at WTZQ, the community has donated 12 fans and the funds to by 8 more. That’s 20 fans to help older adults in Henderson County beat the heat! While that’s great news, we’re only a quarter of the way through July, and we’re still accepting donations of new, unused fans or funds to purchase additional units. Thank you, Henderson County! ::

It’s that time again! For many years we have participated in a heat relief program through grants. This year’s grant was awarded from Duke Energy Progress & Duke Energy Carolinas. These grants allow our agency to purchase and distribute fans to eligible residents of Henderson County in need of relief from the heat.

The need for fans this summer has been greater than years before and after distributing 77 units, we have run out of fans, as well as funds to purchase additional fans. With the hottest part of the summer approaching, we expect the need to increase and we already have a waiting list.

Please consider your neighbors and help us help our community! We are now asking for donations of new, unused fans. Fans must be new due to liability and safety concerns. Cash & check donations are also welcome, or you can donate online here: coahc.org/donate. The cost of the box fans we distribute is approximately $20. All donations can be mailed to or dropped off at our main office at 105 King Creek Blvd, Hendersonville, NC 28792. If you have questions, feel free to call us at (828) 692-4203.

The Differences Between Medicare and Medicaid for Seniors

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by Erica Erickson

Most Americans have heard of Medicare and Medicaid, but many do not have a clear understanding of the differences between these two programs or the types of coverage they provide. The following is a brief overview of Medicare and Medicaid to help clarify the major differences between the programs.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program that offers coverage to everyone over 65 years of age and people under 65 with certain disabilities. Medicare Part A is the standard coverage, which covers hospitalizations, short term nursing home stays, and hospice care. Medicare Part B covers outpatient doctor visits and related appointments. Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage. Medicare Part C is often referred to as a Medicare Advantage Plan, and is purchased through a separate insurance company. Part C policies typically cover Parts A, B, and D and may help cover copays and services not covered by standard Medicare coverage. Private insurance companies also offer a variety of other plans to help cover gaps in Medicare coverage.

Medicaid is a separate insurance program focused on providing coverage to people with limited resources. Medicaid is funded by both the federal and state governments and is administered by the state. There are many different Medicaid programs, most of which have specific income and asset limits. Most seniors who apply for Medicaid apply for programs to help them pay for their Medicare premiums and copays or to help them pay for assisted living, memory care, or long term skilled nursing care in a nursing home.

Because Medicare will only pay for up to 100 days of nursing home care, if a senior needs to stay in a nursing home for a longer period of time and cannot afford the cost (often exceeding $7,000 per month), the senior should apply for Medicaid for Long Term Care. There is no income limit to qualify for this Medicaid program, but the senior’s monthly income will go to pay the nursing home and then Medicaid will cover the balance. There are asset limits, but the senior can keep their home, one car, their household and personal belongings, and certain other assets, including cash and investments. If the senior is married and there is a spouse who will remain at home, that spouse can keep all of the assets listed above, their own income, plus up to about $119,000 cash or other assets, depending on their specific situation.

Medicaid has a 5 year look back period for gifts and if a senior gives away assets within 5 years of applying for Medicaid, they may be disqualified or penalized. The Medicaid application process is complicated and many seniors who may not think they qualify or who have been turned down in the past, may actually qualify for coverage. Additionally, there are many landmines and many ways seniors may inadvertently disqualify themselves from coverage, so before applying or after being turned down for coverage, it is strongly recommended that the senior consult an elder law attorney for guidance.

This article was written by Erica M. Erickson, an Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at Strauss & Associates, P.A., with offices in Hendersonville and Brevard, North Carolina. Erica can be reached at (828) 696-1811 or erica@strausslaw.com and she is happy to answer any questions you may have or to provide you with a free consultation regarding your estate planning needs, including Medicaid planning, wills, trusts, and more.

Healthy Aging into 2016: A COA Staff List

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As we move into 2016, people across the globe are making their New Year’s Resolutions. This is a time-honored tradition across millennia, and though there are debates on where and when the tradition of resolutions began, it has carried through to current day. There are countless studies, articles, and opinions on how to make and keep your resolutions. So, instead of giving you a bunch of quotes from folks we don’t know, here’s a list of suggestions from some of our wonderful staff.

If at all possible, always park a little farther away from your destination spot to get in those few extra steps.” ~ Caron C.

Live everyday like you are still 21 years old. Always be curious; allow yourself to wonder.” ~ Maria H.

“Give out those smiles and hugs in abundance. Kindness makes the world go round.” ~ Wendy Lou

“Just get moving.” ~ Betsy K.

“It cost nothing to be a decent person.” ~ Trina S. 

“Don’t wait till tomorrow to be happy.” ~ Carole K.

Try to avoid processed foods and fast food whenever possible.  Get cooking, eat fresh, be happy.” ~ Harry W. 

“Snuggle up on the couch and watch a funny movie or TV show.  Laughter lifts the spirit and is good exercise for your internal organs.” ~ Lisa G.

“You have to keep laughing!” ~ Michele L.

“70% of aging is lifestyle. Be active and eat healthy foods!” ~ Suzanne S.

“Bloom where you’re planted!” ~ Lynne G.

“Sing in the sunshine and laugh every day. Yeah, I know it’s from a John Denver song, but it’s a good one.” ~ Phillip R.

“Tell a joke every day.” Megan M.

“Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s ok to fumble every once in awhile.” ~ Alexis W.

“Take a walk. Read a book. Take a nap. Take care of you!” ~ Annette B.