In the 2020s, Robots and New Technology To Have Greater Impact on Aging

Technological change is accelerating in every aspect of life and health care and aging services are part of it. Last week, it was reported that UPS is planning to use drones in the near future to deliver medical supplies to some health providers. Time magazine, in its November 4th Health Innovation issue, devotes much of the magazine to these issues. In one article, The Robot Will See You Now, it reports on a demonstration of a “social robot” that interacts with older persons at Knollwood Military Retirement Community near Washington. The Robotics and Innovation Lab at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland is working with the health facility to try out robots which are used in multiple tasks. Robots help to lift patients. There are delivery robots that “zip around hospital hallways like motorized room service carts.” There are “social” robots which comfort dementia patients. The article describes “Stevie” a “socially assertive” robot who engages with residents. “He” moves autonomously and like Alexa he can respond to questions. He can tell jokes and go door to door taking meal orders with his touchscreen attachment.

In the next three years there will be a 29% increase in the demand for these social robots and a 45% increase in demand for rehab robots. As the population ages, there will be an estimated shortfall of 151,000 paid care workers in the United States by 2030 and 355,000 by 2040.

There is a debate about whether this technology should be used to replace human contact, but health care experts and aging advocates say they can be of assistance to enhance services and provide information and support rather than replace people. It is an issue though that older persons and their advocates should be discussing. Here in Albany, many of us are talking about having a committee as part of our local village movement to discuss technology’s benefits and drawbacks. Above all, we want to be educated and know and understand what new innovations can enhance the quality of life.

US Population Older and More Diverse; 65+ To Outnumber 18 and Under by 2035

(Associated Press story)

The trends described below probably will be even greater in upstate New York and rural areas with the population continuing to be older with young people moving away from those areas. – Michael Burgess

The U.S. population will grow older and more diverse over the next four decades, according to new Census Bureau projections presented last week at a meeting of demographers.

As the U.S. median age increases, there will be a smaller ratio of workers in the labor force able to pay the payroll tax that funds Social Security payments to people of retirement age. In 15 years, the number of people over age 65 will be larger than the number of children for the first time in U.S. history.

A “demographic tidal wave” is one big reason for the nation’s expected aging and the eventual drop in natural population increase from births outpacing deaths. That wave is the Baby Boomers, born between the end of World War Two and around the time of the American invasion of The Beatles.

“The youngest Baby Boomers are 55 and older now, said Allison Plyer, a demographer attending the meeting. “In 10 years, they will be 65 and older, and as those folks pass away over the decades, that’s a very larger section of our population reaching an age where they will likely experience mortality,” Plyer said.

As the U.S. grows older, it will also become more diverse, with children leading the way. By next year, no single race group alone will make up more than half of U.S. children, the projections show.

Although non-Hispanic whites currently are a majority in the U.S., their numbers will dip below 50% of the population in 40 years, declining from 199 million next year to 179 million in 2060, the projections show.

“Immigrants do continue to fill in the ranks of working-age population and workforce as the Baby Boomers age,” Plyer said. “The most likely people to replace them will be people of color, particularly Latinos who are already here and have children.”

People who identify as two or more races will be the fastest-growing group in the next 40 years, with their population expanding as births outpace deaths.

Other fast-growing groups include Asians, whose growth will be driven by migration, and Hispanics, whose growth in the U.S. will be driven by natural increases, according to the projections.

The U.S. is expected to cross the 400 million-person threshold by 2058, as it adds 79 million more people in 40 years, but annual growth will slow down. The U.S. has about 326 million people today.

Population growth, currently 2.3 million people per year, is expected to slow to 1.6 million people a year by 2060.

Growth comes from immigration and from births outpacing deaths, but that natural increase will decline as the nation ages. The nation’s median age is expected to go from 38 today to 43 by 2060.

Young adults are getting married and having children at older ages than their parents and grandparents, and they won’t be having children in the numbers to replace the Baby Boomers, said Andrew Beveridge, a demographer at the City University of New York.

As the number of people over age 65 grows, the share of working-age adults — who pay, along with their employers, for Social Security through a payroll tax — will also decline. Next year, there are expected to be 3.5 working-age adults for every person of retirement age, but that ratio declines to 2.5 by 2060, according to the projections.

That ratio will put the U.S. more in line with Europe, though it won’t be as severe as in Japan, which for years has had an aging population without the help of migration to add to the population, the demographers said.

“It’s definitely a shift, but we’re not going to be like Japan,” Beveridge said.

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Virtual Reality Headset Helps Seniors in Assisted Living Explore the World

The Albany Times Union featured a story on Monday about how seniors in assisted living facilities are enjoying using virtual reality headsets to explore locations throughout the world as if they were there. The effort is part of the outreach by a for profit company seeking to provide activities using technology for older persons in facilities

Here is a link to the story

https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Schenectady-assisted-living-center-adopts-virtual-14486514.php

128,000 Use New York’s Paid Family Leave in 2018; 26,000 Care for Parents, Spouse

New York State’s Paid Family Leave program has released its first annual report for 2018, its first year of operation. The report indicates that 128,000 persons used the program in 2018. 89,000 used it to care for a newborn. Another 39,000 used paid leave for “family care,” caring for an ill member of the family. Of those 16,000 were using the program to care for a parent and 9900 to care for a spouse. 600 used the program to care for a grandparent. The remainder of those in the family care category were caring for children.

Those caring for newborns used an average of 33 days of paid leave, while those caring for a sick family member used an average of 21 days. The ages of those using the program for family care hovered around 1000 for age groups from 35-60 with the highest being about 1100 persons at age 56 using the program. Of those caring for a sick family member, 27,400 were women and 10,900 were men. 17,600 used the program for continuous care of a sick relative while over 16,000 used the program periodically during the year.

The program began on January 1, 2018 and is having its maximum benefits phased in through January 1, 2021. In 2018, the workers in the first year of the program were able to take up to eight weeks of paid leave at 50% of their average weekly wage. This year the maximum is ten weeks of leave at 55% of their average pay up to the statewide average weekly wage. By 2021, when fully phased in, the program will offer up to 12 weeks of paid leave at 67% of a workers average weekly waged capped at 67% of the stateside average weekly wage. Over 8 million New Yorkers are eligible for the program.

To read the full report from the state go to http://www.paidfamilyleave.ny.gov and click on the report on the home page.

Movement Growing for Long Term Care Benefit in States; Washington State Enacts Program

The movement to add a long term care benefit in the states is picking up momentum after the state of Washington enacted such a program that was signed by Governor Jay Inslee in May.  The program is financed by a 58/100 percent payroll tax into a state fund that will take about $300 annually from employees paychecks.  Those deductions are mandatory starting in 2022 for all workers except some who work part-time on a limited basis.  After ten years, a person would be eligible for a $100 daily allowance to pay for a number of services including home modifications, reimbursement for family caregivers, stays in assisted living and in home help.  The benefit would begin in 2025 after just three years for those with catastrophic health needs.   Most persons will be eligible if they need help with three “activities of daily living.”

The benefit is not intended to meet all the long term care needs of seriously ill persons. It would help persons with short term care that may be needed or to delay the eventual need for more extensive care or placement in a nursing home.

The program allows benefits up to a lifetime total of $36,000 that will be indexed for inflation.  The fund will collect about $1 billion per year and will save $34 million annually in health costs when started, according to one estimate.

There are 14 million middle income seniors who do not qualify for Medicaid or cannot afford provide long term care insurance.  It has been pointed out that the Washington program helps caregivers.  Washington has a $15 minimum wage so Sterling Harders, a union leader in health care noted that the new program will “help ensure that the caregivers who are providing this care are skilled, that they are trained, that they are certified, that they are paid fairly for the work they’re doing.

Michigan, Illinois and California are three other states that are seriously considering similar long term care programs.  Some of the Democratic presidential candidates want to enact long term care benefits at the federal level or include them in a Medicare for All plan. Also, Medicare is now allowing Medicare Advantage plans to include some community services including meals and transportation to be included in their plans.

Capital District Health Insurer Opens First Local “Customer Connect” Office in Hospital

The Capital District Physicians Health Plan (CDPHP), a nonprofit insurer in the Capital District and eastern part of New York State, has opened its first customer assistance office in a hospital at Schenectady’s Ellis Hospital.  The office called Customer Connect is the kind of program that consumer advocates have been hoping to see as health care is being transformed to be more patient centered.  The office will have several staff on hand to assist patients with insurance questions, medication management, facilitating transportation to follow up medical appointments and coordination with primary care physicians.    Dr. John Bennett, CEO of CDPHP, said that the goal is “to improve the patient care experience”  and to have “satisfied members and satisfied patients.”

Senior and health consumer advocates have been supportive of programs like community patient navigators who would perform similar functions outside the hospital. Advocates and service providers want to be involved and coordinate post hospital care to help reduce hospital re-admissions.  Hospital and health providers have emphasized in recent years that “social determinants of health” such as transportation, housing and nutrition, have a great impact on the ability of patients, especially the poor and elderly, to successfully follow improve their health status after an illness.

CDPHP is looking to establish similar programs with the two major hospitals and health system in the City of Albany, Albany Medical Center and St. Peters.

Albany Area Approved for New Jesuit Volunteer Program for Persons Age 50+

The national board of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (ivcusa.org) has approved an application from an organizing committee in Albany to open a site for the program in six counties in the Albany area (Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Rensselaer, Fulton and Montgomery).   The IVC is a Jesuit Catholic program open to persons 50 and older of any faith who want to volunteer in a community or a church agency serving the poor.  They make a commitment to serve for one or two days per week for ten months of the year.  The Albany site has been in the planning stage for over two years.  The program is expected to begin in the Albany area in the fall.  Over the summer, those who have expressed interest in serving will be matched with the agencies offering volunteer positions.  It is expected the volunteers who bring lifelong work experience to the placements and will serve in positions with more responsibility than most volunteer positions.   There will be about fifteen volunteers and placements as the program begins.  Catholic Charities of the Albany Diocese, Family Promise, St. Vincent’s Church (Albany), St. Catherine’s Center for Children, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI- Albany) are among the agencies which will have volunteers.

The IVC began in the mid 1990s as a related program to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) which was established many years earlier for young persons following college.  JVC volunteers still work and live in community together at many sites across the country.  The IVC volunteers will live in their own homes.  Both programs have a spiritual component.  IVC volunteers will meet and share spiritually in the Ignatian tradition on a monthly basis.  They also will have access a spiritual reflector during their service.  The Jesuits in the Catholic Church were founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola.