Paul Kusuda’s column
WE GET OLD—SO WHAT’S TO WORRY? PART 2 OF 2
Paul H. Kusuda
financial situations covered through Social Security/Supplementary Security Benefits, Medicare, Medicaid,retirement
benefits, savings, etc.  Some do not; some face day-to-day economic problems.   According to a 2012 study by the
Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, “’Retirement readiness’ has become a common term…inspired by the
imperative for Americans to take an even greater role in funding their retirement due to increases in life expectancies…”  It
is described “…as a gauge to determine whether a worker’s nest egg is adequate to retire at age 65 and generate
sufficient income to last throughout his/her retirement years.”  “Only 39 percent agreed…building a large enough nest
egg…69 percent…that they could work until age 65 and not save enough to meet their retirement age.”  Workers were
“…adjusting their expectations and the notion of retiring at age 65…changed…to either work past age 65 and/or work part-
time in retirement.”  Society must solve this dilemma, and Social Security can be but part of the solution.

Continued employment may tantalize as a potential solution; however, as noted in a February 2, 2013 New York Times
article “In Hard Economy for All Ages, Older Isn’t Better—It’s Brutal”:   “Unemployment rates for Americans nearing
retirement are far lower than for young people…But once out of a job, older workers have a much harder time finding
another one…older workers are more likely to have been laid off from industries that are downsizing…are more likely to
have a disability of some sort perhaps limiting the range of jobs…They may also be less inclined, at least initially, to take
jobs that pay far less than their old positions.”   (Also,) “…employers can easily find a young, energetic worker who will
accept lower pay and who can potentially stick around for decades rather than a few years…In a survey…of older workers
who were laid off during the recession, just one in six had found another job, and half of that group had accepted pay
cuts.”  It appears that public-funded programs will have to increase their focus on employment or re-employment for aged
persons who want to enter or re-enter the job market.  More opportunities must be made available for training, retraining,
and placement.

An interesting fact about employment that usually escapes general notice was includedin a March 30, 2016, article in New
America Media—Seniors Working Hard for Their Money: 10 Million, Many Ethnic, in Tough Jobs.”  It pointed out that among
“…workers ages 58-plus…six-out-of-10 older Latino worker, nearly half of Black and Asian workers, and four-in-10 Whites
are doing difficult physical labor or in stressful employment situations.  For those with less than high-school education, 81
percent were in grinding jobs—up from 77 percent five years before.  And 55 percent of older immigrants are in physically
tough jobs or working conditions.” That, of course, indicates an additional consideration in addition to the age factor.

Back to thinking about health as a concern to the aged.  Without availability of health-maintenance factors, including
medications, surgical interventions, and professional care, the increase in number of people getting older would not be
the social phenomenon that needs attention and planning for now and the near future. A June 10, 2015, article by Martha
Ross in Brookings HEALTH 360 noted:  
“The aging of the U.S. population has profound implications for the health care
system…older adults use more health care services than younger people and typically have more complex health
issues…Yet the preparation of the health care workforce to meet the needs of older adults remains ‘woefully inadequate.’”

The shortage in physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and nurses has been known for years, and steps have been taken to
increase the number.  A September 22, 2015, New York Times article pointed out, however, that
“Most health care
professionals have had little to no training in the care of older adults. Currently, 97 percent of all medical students in the
United States do not take a single course in geriatrics…Recent studies show that good geriatric care can make an
enormous difference.  Older adults whose health is monitored by a geriatrician enjoy more years of independent living and
lower presence of disease.”  
 

An article in the February 3, 2016, issue of Atlantic Monthly revealed an interesting fact:  “America’s 3 million nurses make
up the largest segment of the health-care workforce in the U.S., and nursing is one of the fastest-growing occupations in
the country.  Despite that growth, demand is outpacing supply.”  A concomitant issue, not usually thought of by most of us,
was brought out:  “Like the patients they serve, the country’s nurses are also aging.  Around a million registered nurses
(RNs) are currently older than 50, meaning one-third of the current nursing workforce will reach retirement age in the next
10 to 15 years…While the number of new nursing students and graduates is growing, the nursing-education system hasn’
t kept pace.”  The reason?  There are qualified applicants, but there is a shortage of faculty, clinical sites, classroom
space, clinical preceptors.

Still another problem faces the aged population.  If independent living in own homes or in apartments is not possible, an
alternative is assisted living.  Some will require round-the-clock care available in nursing homes.  During the past few
years, much progress was made in reducing nursing home beds through use of alternative facilities, including assisted
living arrangements, group homes, and community-based residential facilities.  However, with longevity has come an
increase in frail elderly population, many requiring more assistance to meet daily needs to get about.  According to a
December 7, 2015, article in CNBC by Dan McGrath, co-founder of Jester Financial Technology:  “…from 2000 to 2009 the
total number of nursing homes in the U.S. decreased by 9 percent.  Additionally, from 2007 to 2011 new construction of
nursing-home units decreased by 35 percent.  The bottom line is, there simply will not be enough beds to serve an aging
population.”
So, what’s to worry?  Indeed!  There are lots to worry about.  Last month, I reflected on some of
the problems facing the elderly.  As AARP once had printed on some tee shirts,“Growing old
ain’t for sissies.”  I mentioned a few downsides that come with aging, such as financial
resources, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, loss of independence, housing, and elder
abuse.  Some can be dealt with in one way or another, and elderly persons manage to get by,
sometimes with the help of family members or others or through medical/surgical/
pharmacological intervention. For example, family members or others can visit or telephone
from time to time, pace-makers can be installed to maintain heart rhythm, loss of visual
capacity because of cataract formation can be surgically corrected, reduced hearing capacity
can be dealt with through the use of hearing aids, and medications can be prescribed to
enhance social/physical/mental health.  The downsides, of course, lead inevitably to their
repercussions or the second part—how best to deal with the downsides.

Health is an important issue of concern to those of us who are aging beyond actuarial
prognostications.  Another important one is economics.  Many have parts, or all, of their
Wow!  So, what’s to worry
about?  Not only do many of us
face downsides, we also have to
face inadequate resources to
ease problems illustrated by the
downsides.  Will we have
sufficient resources available or
will we face a future for which
planning has not been
successful?  All things
considered, best plans will
require funding, both public and
private, that unfortunately is in
short supply.  Will there be any
kind of solution?  I don’t know.   
Also, I don’t know whether it can
be found, funded, or
implemented.