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Caught in the Middle

Interesting MSNBC article called 'Caught in the Middle' on the Sandwich Generation today shared with us from Ecumen’s Nicole Behm-Koep.Aging has so long been framed as something that impacts only the old. But here’s a story of a baby boomer caring for children and a parent who has dementia. In addition to those two full-time jobs she has another job outside of the house. Although it’s not explicitly said in the article, you can see how caring for senior parents connects to the workplace (time missed due to a parent’s needs), housing (a parent who doesn’t want to live in a nursing home and instead moves in with a son or daughter), transportation (helping Mom get to her morning care program) and a host of other areas that at first glance don’t seem to have anything to do with aging. As we advocate for changing aging as a profession, we have to start showing how aging is tied to so many other areas of our society. And what we do or don’t do … impacts many more people than seniors. Aging is about all of us.For more on this subject as it relates to caregiving, check out the research by the National Alliance on Caregiving.


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Aging Services Leaders Talk Wellness

Posted by Jessica Drecktrah, Director of Special ProjectsPreliminary findings of the “National Whole-Person Wellness Survey,” sponsored by Mather Lifeways and Ziegler Capital Markets Group can be found within the current issue of Nursing Homes Magazine. This survey looks at how nearly 100 leaders within aging services envision of the future of wellness programming for vital, successful aging.One of the merits of this particular survey is that it gives a snap shot view of how aging services professionals are developing programs along the six dimensions of wellness (i.e., physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and vocational). Currently, most wellness program opportunities exist along the social, physical, and spiritual dimensions. Respondents, however, see a different future ahead for programs aimed at the vocational, intellectual, and emotional growth dimensions; particularly in the areas of support groups, counseling opportunities (peer to peer and mentoring), educational programming, and volunteer opportunities.Furthermore, respondents note that aging services professionals have become motivated by the wellness initiative to make large changes within the physical plant. Currently, the majority of communities have exercise rooms, activity/game rooms, and libraries, the “traditional” staples of wellness space. Moreover, many communities have formal dining areas and formal space allocated for worship use. Coming up within the next five years, consumers will see more and more senior housing with spa treatment areas, café/refreshment areas, and pools as part of a much different type of senior living.


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Evercare 100 at 100 Survey

The 'Evercare 100 @ 100 Survey' is a new survey of centenarians that looks at keys to successful aging. What’s particularly interesting is that a number of the people in the survey use technology, such as the internet and iPods. It again breaks down these stereotypes that seniors can’t or won’t use technology. Also when you look at how baby boomers use of technology in the Ecumen Age Wave Study it becomes abundantly clear that technology is going to be a big part of our profession. We’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg in using technology to help seniors live better and more independently. With the coming age wave, shortage in caregivers, and people’s overwhelming desire to live at home for as long as possible, we have to unleash the full potential of technology. As part of that effort, Minnesota’s Sen. Norm Coleman has launched an interesting bill that should be a broad bi-partisan effort.


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Mobile Assisted Living Initiative Earns Senior Housing Community Emmanuel Gubernatorial Award

Governor Pawlenty and Janet Green Pictured: Gov. Pawlenty and Janet GreenEcumen’s Emmanuel Community in Detroit Lakes, Minn., has been honored by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as a recipient of one of the inaugural Best PracticesAwards by the Governor’s Council on Faith and Community Service Initiatives. Senior housing community Emmanuel, a leader in the aging services profession, was one of just 7 recipients statewide to receive the honor. Emmanuel Community and Ecumen leader Janet Green accepted the award from Governor Pawlenty during a Capitol reception last month.The Best Practices award recognizes Emmanuel’s innovative initiative focused on vital, successful aging to deliver assisted living services to seniors in their Detroit Lakes apartments, so that they can stay in their home. Currently 78 customers benefit from this program that reduces nursing home use. Emmanuel Community is now working on extending this award-winning program to other Minnesota seniors and help the state prepare for the age wave.Governor Pawlenty commended Emmanuel Community for helping its customers stay in a community that they love and deliver senior independent living.“Emmanuel’s focus on promoting senior independent living and vital, successful aging is tremendous,” said Kathryn Roberts, CEO and president of Ecumen. “We need to expand these innovations to serve more Minnesota seniors today and prepare for the age wave of baby boomers.”


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Thank You, Herb!

Minnesota lost a wonderful person, broadcasting legend, and a great role model for successful aging when Minnesota Twins announcer Herb Carneal passed away at his home on April 1st.We were very fortunate at Ecumen to have worked with Herb. Two years ago we worked with the Twins on a bobblehead partnership that celebrated the 1965 World Series team. As part of that partnership Herb, Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva shared their perspectives on aging in this series of interviews. Herb lived the life he desired, surrounded by people he loved and who loved him, and doing what he enjoyed most. He was a role model for all of us.According to Dave Campbell of the Associated Press, Garrison Keillor, another radio man whose voice made him a Minnesota icon, once wrote a tune for one of his Prairie Home Companion shows that was titled 'Porch Song.' In that whimsy, folksy tribute to summer’s simple pleasures, Keillor included this stanza:Just give me two pillows and a bottle of beer. And the Twins game on radio next to my ear. Some hark to the sound of the loon or the teal. But I love the voice of Herb Carneal.'To hear the one-of-a-kind voice that generations of Minnesotans grew up with, visit the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting, which features clips from his 50th Anniversary in Major League Baseball.


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What is The Changing Aging Blog?

Posted by Eric Schubert, Ecumen, Director of CommunicationsHopefully, The Changing Aging Blog is a lot of fun and a place that people finding interesting, learn new stuff and meet others who are working to change aging for the better. So who is Ecumen? Well, we are Minnesota’s largest non-profit senior housing and services company. We own senior housing, manage it for others and develop it. We’re also working very hard to invent and develop products and services that promote vital, successful aging. We’re not alone. And that’s where this blog comes in. We’re going to use this spot to share ideas, connect to interesting articles, post opinions, ask questions, and share things that are interesting around the subject of aging, especially aging vitally, which should be an opportunity for all of us as human beings.Aging is fascinating because we all do it. And now with the aging baby boomer population, we’re going to have more people than ever before doing it. It used to be that you retired and then you died a few years later. Social Security was built on the expectancy that you’d only collect its dollars for a few years. Now people are hitting their mid 60s and just starting to hit their stride. That creates a whole new ballgame in so many ways from public policy, to housing, to community development to technology to media to just about everything. We have many days ahead of us and we look forward to being an arena where you can visit and find and share information from the brave new world of aging.


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Editorial: State can encourage in-home senior care

Posted in the Minneapolis Star TribuneStart transforming nursing homes into service centers. The day is coming when advanced aging will no longer mean leaving home for most Minnesotans. For many, it will lead to the installation of electronic sensors in their homes. High-tech monitors will alert family members or care supervisors when a refrigerator isn’t opened often enough, a bathroom is visited too often, medicine is not consumed or movement is not detected.Some of what Minnesotans now call nursing homes will be older adult service centers' that monitor those readouts, offer drop-in care and clinics, host classes and events, and dispatch providers of in-home services. Others will be 'life care communities' that offer a variety of residential options for the chronically ill and disabled.The Legislature should seek to hasten the arrival of that future. When it does, Minnesota’s frail elderly will have more of the independence they want, and their care will be less burdensome to taxpayers. State and federal taxpayers foot the bill for about two-thirds of Minnesota nursing home residents; those tabs are running in the range of $50,000 per year.The transformation of elder care would be spurred by enactment this session of a bill sponsored by state Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, offering income tax credits for installation of electronic 'senior sensors.' Lawmakers should also explore ways to encourage the purchase of long-term care insurance and to allow a Medicaid-eligible senior to use those funds to pay a friend or relative to provide home care.But until the good day comes when few frail seniors need to leave home for care, the Legislature must also attend to the condition of Minnesota nursing homes. They are hurting: Minnesota has lost 10 percent of its nursing facilities to financial failure since 2000, and one of every four remaining is considered by industry associations at risk of closure.State underfunding and hyper-regulation are major reasons why. Nursing homes can’t raise rates without state approval. No approval came for 2004-05, and the 2006-07 increase didn’t keep pace with inflation.Industry representatives are asking the Legislature for catch-up funding for fiscal 2008 and keep-up money for 2009, totaling $64 million. That’s more than three times the increase Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget allots for long-term care, and likely more than the DFL-controlled Legislature can muster. But legislators will be derelict in their duty if they turn their backs completely on the facilities' pleas. What’s more, they’ll do a disservice to tomorrow’s seniors if they spurn the industry’s request for $10 million a year to help underwrite the projects that will turn nursing homes into older adult service centers.A recent poll of Minnesota baby boomers by Ecumen, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of eldercare, found that they have no desire to end their days in nursing homes. Forward-looking state investments are needed now to make sure they won’t have to.


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Boomers study shows future demand for health technology

From the Minneapolis St. Paul Business JournalBYLINE: Lauren WilbertBaby boomers in Minnesota consider themselves young until at least age 80 and say they will invest in technology to help them live independently, according to a survey released this week by Ecumen.That will open opportunities for businesses that successfully cater to those needs, particularly in the insurance, technology, senior housing and advertising industries. Some businesses already are creating a new niche to cater to the young at heart' seniors, while others will need to work on their marketing to connect with this audience.Ecumen, a Shoreview-based senior-housing nonprofit, surveyed 564 Minnesota baby boomers between the ages of 42 and 60 for the organization’s first Age Wave study.he research found that Minnesota boomers overwhelmingly believe technology will play a major role in their aging experience. Half said they’d spend $100 a month on technology to help them live independently, and 5 percent said they’d spend as much as $500 per month.Many boomers already are buying health technology for their aging parents and are savvy about products on the market, said Eric Schubert, Ecumen’s director of communications.'Technology is a huge part of their life,' Schubert said. 'Boomers have grown up in this TiVo, iPod age, and every sector of life that boomers have gone through, there’s been huge change.'Ecumen might even seek out partnerships with large retailers to sell digital health technology. Other businesses might look at the trends and develop partnerships of their own, Schubert said. 'While we’d love to bring everything to market, there’s clearly some [companies] better poised to act on things.'Tweak the messageBoomers' buying power will continue to grow, as evident in the sheer number of them. Ecumen’s study estimates that by 2020, Minnesota will have more seniors than children.Take into account that boomers plan to work into their 70s and even beyond and it becomes clear that the 'silver tsunami' will affect the way employers structure their hours. Many companies are trying to provide flexible work schedules to accommodate this work force. In retirement, boomers will do something they enjoy, and businesses can benefit from boomers' expertise,Schubert said.Insurance is another area set for changes. Most senior plans are sold as 'long-term care insurance,' a name that boomers hate, he said. 'It’s basically the precept that aging is about living, no matter what stage you’re at. So often aging is about the end of life and declinism, and boomers just aren’t going to go with this.'Boomers would rather buy a hybrid health care package that resembles a life-insurance policy that they could leave for their heirs, he said.Preferences in housing also are creating huge opportunities for developers and places like Ecumen.No one surveyed said they would like to live in a nursing home, and most said they’d prefer to live in a rural or suburban setting over an urban one.Entering the marketCommercial Equity Partners (CEP), based in Woodbury, is just one example of companies racing to enter the boomer market.CEP, which specializes in building business campuses, has partnered with Ecumen to develop a senior-living community in Woodbury adjacent to HealthEast Care System’s Woodwinds Hospital.The project would be 325,000 square feet and include a fitness center, common area, housing for 250 people, restaurants, a general store and transportation to places outside the development.CEP first has to convince Woodbury’s City Council to change the zoning, which now is designated for medical office developments. But already, the project is attracting investors and potential residents, said Bill Knutson, CEP’s vice president of senior housing.'It’s [focused around] emerging needs in health care, and our role is to understand how all these relationships can mesh.'


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Minnesota / Independence leads list of baby boomers' old-age wishes: Study urges fresh options to support in-home care

Posted in the Pioneer PressBYLINE: Jeremy Olson, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.Feb. 20--Minnesota’s baby boomers want exactly what the state’s long-term care system lacks: technology and creative programs that will help them remain independent and at home in their frail and elderly years.That is one of the main conclusions of a study and survey being released today by Ecumen, a Shoreview-based provider of nursing homes and community services for the elderly.Executives with the organization hope the results will inspire lawmakers and caregivers to try new approaches and programs before the massive boomer generation reaches retirement age.Nine of 10 boomers in the survey said they want to live in their own homes rather than in rental apartments or nursing facilities. Most of the 564 survey respondents, ages 42 to 60, said they would pay more for a long-term care system that provides better community services.Boomers are saying, 'Give us some more options,' ' said Eric Schubert, Ecumen’s communications director. ' 'Help us live where we want to live, how we want to live.' 'What that population wants and what it needs may actually be one and the same. The nation’s reliance on institutional care for the frail and elderly is bringing many state Medicaid programs to the breaking point. Minnesota spends nearly $1 billion per year just for nursing home care, but that figure is expected to reach $20 billion by 2050.'It’s not rocket science to figure out that within about 10 years this is going to overtake the state budget if we don’t start taking some steps now,' said Rep. Joe Atkins, D-Inver Grove Heights. He is a member of the Minnesota 2020 caucus that is focused on solutions in long-term care.Ecumen officials said Minnesota could start finding solutions by copying successful programs in other states. Vermont has received special permission from the federal government to spend Medicaid dollars on community supports for seniors living at home.Atkins has co-authored a bipartisan bill that would help Minnesota seniors acquire available technology to help them live independently at home. QuietCare, for example, is a system of sensors that gauges people’s health and daily activity and relays that information to family members or caregivers.While the move toward independent living would save the state money and give baby boomers what they want, some policymakers worry it won’t be sustainable.The Ecumen survey didn’t address whether children or other relatives of the aging baby boom population are ready and willing to accept the role of at-home caregivers, said Bob DeBoer, director of policy development for the Citizens League, a civic group that is hosting a public event today to release the Ecumen survey results.If the system spends more money on relatives providing at-home care, 'will that really make a difference in this culture?' he asked. 'Will people do it? We don’t even know the answer to that.'While the survey showed boomers are actively planning for retirement, it also shows many are disinterested in long-term care insurance products and confused about who actually pays for nursing care at home or in group homes.The survey results will hopefully inform the baby boomer generation and start conversations about lapses in long-term care so the boomers can use the group’s size and clout to encourage change, said Kathryn Roberts, Ecumen’s president and chief executive.


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Silent guardians

Posted in the StarTribune Motion sensors, virtual dinner companions and a talking pill could help baby boomers age more independently.By H.J. Cummins, Star TribuneToday, motion sensors can monitor the comings and goings of elderly Americans so they can live safely and independently in their own homes.One day soon, a cellular telephone will detect any new quaver in the voice, and a cuff link will notice any worrisome change of gait.Eventually a talking computer screen will tell the elderly whether they should take an aspirin for a headache -- considering their 12 or 16 or 20 other medications.Yesterday’s science fiction is tomorrow’s assisted living, say prognosticators now watching 77 million baby boomers grow old.The boomers' wish to age independently has businesses jumping in with a host of new products and services. The businesses include giants such as Intel and Pfizer as well as Minnesota enterprises such as Shoreview-based Ecumen, a nonprofit with senior housing centers in 80 communities, and HealthSense in Mendota Heights, which sells a monitoring system it calls eNeighbor.And for good reason: One projection has the digital home-health market growing 36 percent a year, to $2.1 billion in 2010. And the United States is behind Europe and Japan when it comes to developing such technologies.To help new technology reach Minnesota seniors, Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, plans to introduce a bill Monday with tax credits of up to $1,000 for assistive technologies -- everything from telephone amplifiers to devices yet to be imagined -- that help them stay in their homes.Early alertsIn June 2005, Ecumen put motion sensors called QuietCare in the rooms of six of its residents, spokesman Eric Schubert said. That number is now more than 600.The sensors figure out a resident’s daily routine, and any deviation sends a computer message to the housing staff. The extra monitoring can keep residents longer in assisted living and out of nursing homes, for example, Schubert explained.Ecumen also plans to sell the monitoring service beyond its walls to elderly residents looking for a little support to stay in their homes.One of the first QuietCare clients at Ecumen’s Lakeview Commons in Maplewood was Honor Hacker, 81, a retired high school teacher who has been at the assisted-living center since June 2004. Six devices, each slightly smaller than an eyeglasses case, are placed high on a wall in each room, as well as in refrigerators and medication containers in each apartment.You’re completely unaware that they’re there,' Hacker said.But once last year, the sensors reported little movement in Hacker’s apartment -- unusual for the busy retiree, center director Wendy Traffie said -- which triggered quick follow-up treatment for an upper respiratory infection.That’s especially important for Hacker, who has asthma.For families looking to install a motion-detection system in a home, the going rate is between $200 and several thousand dollars plus $60 to $100 a month in monitoring fees, according to Bryan Fuhr, one of the owners at HealthSense.HealthSense’s eNeighbor product went on sale last June, and most have been installed in Twin Cities homes, Fuhr said. The eNeighbor system is set up to first call the client at home if the sensors pick up anything unusual.If the client answers and says, 'Everything’s fine,' that’s the end of it, Fuhr said. Otherwise, the system proceeds down a list of pre-designated contacts: a neighbor, then a son or daughter, then 911, for example.HealthSense is developing a variation on this for the Defense Department for use by people with traumatic brain injuries, he said.High technologyHelping the trend along is boomers' comfort with technology.In an Ecumen survey of almost 600 Minnesotans ages 42 to 60, nine in 10 said that they use the Internet and that they expect technology to help them live longer and more independently, Schubert said.'People of all ages are not afraid of technology any more,' said Cecelia Horwitz, executive director of the Center for Future Health in New York, which published a 2007 report titled 'Self Care’s Promising Future.'What they are afraid of is that there’s more data about them so the insurance companies might cut them off,' she said. 'That’s a big issue.'Another issue is regulatory hurdles slowing down research and development in this country, said Kathy Bakkenist, an Ecumen vice president and public policy chair of the Center for Aging Services Technologies, an industry and research consortium.'Intel right now is setting up to test a series of products in Ireland, because they cannot get permission to test [them] in the United States,' Bakkenist said.She expects that Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman and Rep. Jim Ramstad soon will introduce a bill in Congress to support a two-year study to promote the potential of assistive technology.What that technology will be is the subject of many imaginations now.A 'virtual dining table' is being developed that can connect distant family and friends with real-time video and sound, Horwitz said. It’s companionship for people living alone, and helps to ensure they don’t skip meals.Also in the works is 'Chester, the Talking Pill,' an animated character on a computer screen, Horowitz said. If elderly users aren’t feeling good, the computer will know all their medications and possible side effects.'The system can even be intuitive,' she said. 'If you ask if you can take some aspirin, it can say, 'Your doctor says you can take Tylenol.' Then the system will ask, 'Why? Do you have a headache?' and even, 'On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is your headache?' 'Feed that computer readings such as blood pressure or heart rate, collected by tiny monitors in earrings or a belt or a shirt, and 'Chester' could announce: 'Have a glass of water. You’re dehydrated,' Horwitz said.All that technology promotes more self-care, which keeps people independent, she said.'You don’t want to create a need for more doctors,' Horwitz said. 'You want to empower patients to take care of themselves as much as possible.'