Archive for the ‘Women and Aging’ Category


We love to talk about love in our society, especially this time of year around Valentine’s Day. Discussions of the trappings of love – the flowers, the dinners, diamond jewelry commercials on TV – seem inescapable. A new trend on social media focuses on increasingly elaborate proposals featuring flash mobs, show choirs and even some national talk show hosts. From the popularity of romantic comedies to the over-the-top – and expensive – weddings favored by many couples, “love” receives a great deal of attention long after Valentine’s Day is over.

Unfortunately, these examples focus less on true love and more on romance … which might explain why so many marriages end in divorce. True love persists after the romance and excitement have ended. True love doesn’t necessarily come with happiness. It can mean a lot of pain, sadness and sacrifice – experiences that can’t be easily summed up in a greeting card or a cute YouTube video.

Over the past year, I’ve had the great privilege to get to know Kim Campbell, wife of the legendary Glen Campbell. Since Glen’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s in 2011, Kim has taken on the never-ending and often thankless role of caretaker for her husband. Her experiences reflect those of countless other caretakers supporting those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases. These caretakers must express their love despite the fact that the memories and personality of their loved ones gradually slip away. Those with Alzheimer’s often can’t express their love or gratitude, and sometimes can’t even recognize the one taking care of them, but people like Kim carry on because of a bond that transcends superficial romantic gestures. This is the true meaning of love that gets ignored on Valentine’s Day.

And this love doesn’t just apply to married couples or between parent and children. At Volunteers of America, we employ a small army of caregivers who dedicate their professional lives to caring for others. They do this work out of a deep love and concern for other people, often when they could be doing something more lucrative and less emotionally taxing.

Thank you for your support.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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Volunteers of America Historical Photo

Women are caretakers. They care for children, for parents, for elderly neighbors who don’t have anyone else to watch over them. They act as the glue holding together extended, multigenerational families. And all too often, unfortunately, women are the only caretakers in many families.

This is why so many of the programs offered by Volunteers of America focus on women, especially mothers. We understand the role they play as the foundations of their families and communities. We know we can’t begin to help the children, low-income seniors and many others who depend on these women if we don’t first stabilize the lives of the women themselves. This includes affordable housing, nutrition programs, and even addiction and mental health services, depending on the specific situation. By building stronger women, we also hope to build stronger families and communities.

Today, we’re seeing a growing number of women veterans joining the ranks of our homeless clients. These women bring with them unique problems that programs designed to help single male veterans fail to address … in particular, that many of these women are mothers with children who must be accommodated, as well. Military sexual trauma is another challenge that we’re only just now beginning to identify and understand.

Maud Booth co-founded Volunteers of America in 1896, in an era when women rarely worked outside the home, let alone led national human service organizations. She understood the benefit of tailoring programs to people’s individual needs, and being able to adapt as new social problems presented themselves. Helping women was always a top priority for her, starting with poor widows back in the days before Social Security. Maud remains an inspiration to us at Volunteers of America to this day.

Learn more about Volunteers of America’s programs, including those benefiting women and families.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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Let’s be honest about the “fiscal cliff” and the faulty logic that claims that charitable tax deduction is a benefit for the wealthy that won’t be missed. Political leaders touting this bromide are justifying proposals to redirect these dollars away from important work happening in communities nationwide.

Congress is seriously considering caps or cuts to the charitable deduction. The potential result—millions served by America’s nonprofit sector will be hit with the double whammy of government cutbacks and decline in the support of organizations like Volunteers of America, American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the American Cancer Society.

Quietly and humbly carrying out extraordinary missions every day, it may be easy to overlook the nonprofit sector as a growth industry and vital part of America’s social and economic fabric. Limiting or doing away with the charitable deduction at a time when people are still reeling from the recession and budget cutbacks simply makes no sense. It won’t help the federal government avoid the fiscal cliff. It will simply shift it to the nonprofit sector and communities that depend on it.

Hundreds of leaders serving our communities will travel to our nation’s capital December 4-5 to make sure elected officials understand what is at stake. These leaders of the Charitable Giving Coalition include more than 50 of America’s most active charities, nonprofits and other organizations. We are speaking out to protect a 100-year American philanthropic tradition that encourages giving back and strengthening communities. We’re also urging anyone committed to protecting the charitable deduction and the communities served by charitable giving to make sure their voices are heard.

We aim to pierce the “inside-the-beltway” bubble with a reality check from thousands of communities outside the beltway about what is at stake—crucial programs and services, from food pantries and medical research to youth programs and seed grants to support new businesses and job creation.

Data suggests that for every dollar deducted through this incentive, communities receive $3 of benefit. No other tax provision generates the kind of positive impact. But, if donors have less incentive to give, donations decline. The result is the loss of billions of dollars to support worthy causes, the jobs they provide, and the millions they serve.

According to Giving USA individual contributions to charitable causes in America account for 73 percent of all giving. These donations help achieve breakthroughs and benefits that put our country on a path of continuous improvement. A new public opinion poll commissioned by the United Way found that most Americans (79 percent) believe reducing or eliminating the charitable tax deduction would have a negative impact on charities and the people they serve. Of those who indicate they would reduce charitable giving, the majority (62 percent) indicate they would have to reduce their contributions by a significant amount—by 25 percent or more. Two out of every three Americans (67 percent) are opposed to reducing the charitable tax deduction.

The message is clear. Americans want to protect the charitable deduction.

And, consider this: Nonprofits generate $1.1 trillion every year through human services and provide 13.5 million jobs. They account for 5.4 percent of the GDP and 9 percent of all wages paid. The diverse nonprofit sector supports efforts to, for example, develop technology and medications to improve our health—like insulin, the polio vaccine, the MRI, electron microscope and pacemaker, provide educational opportunities and access to health services and ensure housing and shelter for the most vulnerable. Other nonprofits enhance the arts and cultural activities, conserve wetlands and protect the environment, protect civil and voting rights, and preserve historic treasures.

Now is not the time for Congress to dismantle a tradition that supports America’s nonprofits and the people and causes they serve. No doubt our nation faces a fiscal crisis that must be addressed, but Congress should stop seeing the charitable deduction as an easy mark and acknowledge the fiscal cliff they will create for America’s most vulnerable at a time they can least afford it. Giving strengthens our communities. Urge your members of Congress to preserve the charitable deduction.

Click here to add writing to your member of Congress to preserve charitable giving to your GOOD “to-do” list.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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Photo from June 1954: Glen at age one and his mom. She took care of him and now he cares for her. Funny how that works out.

At age 70, my mother took great pride in her independence. She loved her apartment and friends and was enjoying her “golden years” in Maine. Suddenly and unexpectedly, with one serious hospitalization, my mother lost her independence and became totally dependent on me. As her only child, I did my best to take charge of the situation, but I was not prepared and had no experience in this area.

After her condition stabilized, I was told that she would be moved to 24/7 care and a specific nursing home was recommended by the hospital. Her condition meant that she would never be able to go back to her home. This was a devastating blow for her and sent her into a deep depression. The situation was now a crisis for both of us. I had to make several critical decisions with basically no information or support. These included:

  • Was this the right nursing home that provided quality care?
  • What were the costs and how would they be paid for?
  • Did she have Medicare and what did it cover?
  • How much money did my mother have and was it enough?
  • How long would she be in the nursing home so I could line up another place for her to live?
  • And, when she came home, what kind of care would she need and how would it be provided?

The list seemed endless and was totally overwhelming to me. She qualified for Volunteers of America housing but I had no knowledge that it existed. It was all too much, too fast and I ended up in the hospital myself. Nobody should have to go through this. There has to be a better way! I swore that day that I would help make it easier for others to navigate this time of great change and crisis by sharing my own experience and educating as many people as possible about how important it is to prepare beforehand for the care of aging loved ones and the wonderful aging options Volunteers of America offers.

The Program of All-Inclusive Care (PACE) can provide the care and support that loved ones need. With growing interest from our affiliates, Aging with Options™ is committed to expanding this program nationally. We are excited that by the beginning of the New Year, we will have opened the Senior CommUnity Care PACE program in the Durham, N.C., area. By having more options for elderly care, we are helping our seniors maintain the dignity and independence they want and deserve.

– By Glenn Michaels, Director of Marketing, Communications and Community Engagement for Volunteers of America Northern New England

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On May 10, 2011, we convened our third-annual roundtable of experts at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to discuss the urgent issues facing older Americans today. This year’s discussion — Women and Aging 2011: Policy Implications for an Aging Population — focused specifically on the significance of aging women in the home, workplace and broader community, with an in-depth discussion on the public policy and other solutions needed to head off an impending crisis of the nation’s elderly.

“The good news is that women are living longer,” said panelist Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “The bad news is that they also living poorer and sicker. They earn less, save less and are still the primary caregivers [for older family members].”

Our National President Mike King shared with the audience and fellow panelists his experiences caring for his mother as she grew older, something he considered an honor rather than a burden. He added that it is critical to talk to aging family members about their needs and preferences before it’s too late.

“You can’t start the discussion on family care choices early enough,” King said.

Panelist Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, drew a contrast between her native Greek heritage and American culture.

“There is something in [American] culture that does not respect and revere age,” she said. “We need to redefine what it is to take care of older family members so that task is not perceived as drudgery.”

Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, executive vice president of multicultural markets and engagement for AARP, said she was personally surprised at how unprepared she is for the task of now caring for her own mother. “The biggest barriers are lack of knowledge and preparation,” she said.

Ms. Cortés-Vázquez said that challenges in caregiving for the elderly center on four areas: health issues; legal issues, including the need to make decisions about care well in advance; the need to prepare for aging at home rather than seeking institutional care; and the “myth” that Medicare will provide completely for one’s long-term care. She stressed that we must explore alternatives to Medicare such as long-term care insurance.

The May 10 roundtable, moderated by Medical journalist and best-selling author Dr. Bob Arnot, served as a launch for our new white paper — Boomer Bust 2011: Still Unprepared and Unaware — featuring new research that paints a disturbing picture of the financial realities faced by seniors and their caregivers. According to the white paper, women over age 60 make up a rapidly growing percentage of the people retired or facing retirement and comprise 80 percent of the caregivers for chronically ill or aging relatives.

Ness also emphasized the need to prepare for aging while also stressing that existing public policy “has a long way to go” to help caregivers reach their own old age with adequate preparation.

“Take care of your own health, and learn about financial planning,” she said. “Understand how you want to be cared for and communicate that to your future caregivers.”

We encourage you to remain active in this national debate either through our blog or through your own established blog.  Thanks to bloggers like Rosie Lumetta , Anthony Cirillo, Carol Bradley BursackLynne Spreen and ElderCarelink the conversatons we started at this event will remain at the forefront of public discussion.  You can help keep the momentum going by posting and encouraging those on your blogroll to do the same.  To get more information or to obtain exclusive blogger content contact David Burch

Whether you attended the event in person, watched the livestream, view the event now or follow the twitter conversation about it, please share your impression of the event and the important issues it raised.  With a projected 71.5 million people aged 65 or older by 2030 and long-term costs continuing to rise with many Americans unprepared for – and unaware of the those costs – the time is now to focus on changes necessary to ensure everyone receives the care they need as they grow older.

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