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Headlines & Happenings: August 2018

Stria Staff August 30, 2018
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We know you’re busy! Here’s what you need to know to keep current, stay smart and make progress. 

Social Security Turned 83
In August 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, creating an historic program that, among other things, led to significant reduction in poverty among older Americans. More than 8 in 10 people 65+ receive Social Security—and for 33 percent, it is all or nearly all of their income.

Check out the Twitter hashtag #SocSec83 for a snapshot of how the anniversary was recognized in social. Justice In Aging marked the date by reminding us that, despite its long legacy, Social Security is under fire. They cited Senator Marco Rubio’s August 1 proposal that new parents should pay for family leave with future Social Security benefits—a plan they call “unworkable.”

Meanwhile, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania announced their new conclusion that growing national debt will drive social security to insolvency faster that previously thought. Financial Advisor reported that the Penn Wharton team estimates that fund will be completely depleted in 2032, rather than in 2034 as Social Security Trustees predict. Why the difference? It’s a wonky question of macroeconomic factors (check out the report itself for complete information), but the bottom line is Congress will need to take action to restore stability.

Want to learn more? If you’re in Chicago, attending the National Academy of Social Insurance event on September 5 might be a good place to start!

Best Buy Acquired GreatCall for $800 Million
In August, Best Buy announced that it’s buying GreatCall, the company behind the JitterBug phone, for a cash deal of $800 million. Investor’s Business Daily reports that this is Best Buy’s largest transaction to date and is being looked at favorably by market analysts.

Aging In Place Technology Watch looked at the history of Best Buy in the longevity space. Noting the retailer’s 2011 move to join a “living lab” consortium, its launch of “Assured Living” services and this acquisition, blogger Lori Orlav sees “a steady progression of filling in an increasingly robust menu of offerings to serve the 50 million people aged 65+ in the US and their family members.” That’s part of the story, but the move also reflects Best Buy’s long-term bet that offering tech services will drive growth.

Boomer Bankruptcy Worries Grew
At Stria, we are hearing more and more about Boomers teetering on the edge of financial crisis—and a new report this month isn’t offering new optimism. The Graying of U.S. Bankruptcy: Fallout from Life in a Risk Society study reports a tripling of the bankruptcy rate among Americans 75+ and an almost five-fold increase in the percentage of older persons in the U.S. bankruptcy system. Do yourself a favor and read the fantastic story in The New York Times on this troubling data, which notes “The signs of potential trouble—vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings—have been building for years.”

Tech Giants Pledged to Help Fix Health Data
In mid-August, Alphabet, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and other tech heavyweights pledged to eliminate technological barriers that have hindered online access to healthcare data for both doctors and care recipients. They proposed a common set of standards and committed to make products that support them. As CNBC reported, health insiders view the announcement as recognition that something needs to change in how we share data across the health sector. The move was supported by the Administration, according to The Hill, which quoted a White House advisor saying “Today’s announcements represent a watershed moment toward fostering more innovation in America’s healthcare systems.”

Senior Housing Occupancy Reached New Lows
Occupancy rates for senior housing communities dropped to 87.9 percent, an 8 year low according to Senior Housing News. According to NIC’s chief of Research & Analytics, Chuck Harry, this is part of an ongoing trend: “The seniors housing occupancy rate has trended downward over the past 10 quarters, which is only 2 quarters short of its 12-quarter downturn during the Great Recession.”

George Yedinak of Senior Housing News wonders if this is an indication of that another recession is at hand. He writes that the senior housing industry “could be seen as a  bellwether.” (FYI assisted living and memory care occupancy rates are down too—but in better news, senior housing pricing has been strong.) Keep an eye on this story—and check out the report release from NIC for complete details in the meantime.

Promising New Alzheimer’s Trial Sparked Debate
We’ve seen a lot of news about Alzheimer’s research this summer. In addition to several studies about the benefits of aspirin and the connection of the disease to degenerative eye disease and dialysis, a widely shared New York Times story from July reported on a new drug that appears to slow progression of dementia. The drug known as BAN2401 reduced amyloid levels. (Amyloid proteins make up plaques, which some say cause the brain degradation that happens with Alzheimer’s.)

But as Stat reports, not everyone is seeing this as a breakthrough. This study was able to reduce amyloids—but didn’t always reduce cognitive decline. As Dr. Lon Schneider, director of the California Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Southern California told Stat: “So, yeah we’re knocking down amyloid, but so far we’re not changing behavior much.”

What did we miss? Send you round-up-worthy stories for September to info@strianews.com for consideration.
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