Posts Tagged ‘AARP’

Driving, Aging and Dealing With Family Dynamics

APRIL 1, 2013 VOLUME 20 NUMBER 13
Driving. It’s an issue for seniors. And their families.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drivers over age 75 are at particular risk for fatal accidents, and that risk continues to grow as those older drivers age. The CDC is candid: it’s hard to tell how much of that is related to increased frailty and susceptibility to injury, and how much is the result of worsening vision and slower reaction times. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter: fatality rates are much higher for older drivers (on a per-mile-driven basis) than even for brand-new drivers under age 20.

When is it time to stop driving, and who is best able to tell the time has arrived? Or are those even the right questions to be asking? If you have an older family member, or you are aging yourself (yes, we know that that includes every reader), then you should be concerned about the issue. Fortunately, there is some help available.

First, let’s wrestle with what may be the biggest problems in encouraging a senior to drive less, or to stop driving: there is plenty of emotion and psychology involved, and there are too-few alternatives. It is seldom good enough to just insist on your parent or spouse giving up the car keys. You need to consider the problem from their perspective.

In our modern American culture, we tend to identify with our automobiles. I may favor a flashy, brightly-colored muscle car; you may prefer a solid, responsible and reliable set of wheels. My brother, on the other hand, might be a nut about saving gas. All three of us are making statements about our interests, preferences and personalities when we pick out a car. There is little else which says so much about us and simultaneously provides so much freedom.

So if you think I ought to stop driving, I am going to be very resistant. At root, my objections might be very practical — it’s too hard to get errands done, I don’t want to rely on anyone else, I’m not really driving that much any more anyway — but those objections will be more forceful because you are getting too close to my sense of self.

Before you tackle restricting the driving of an aging family member, it would be wise to review the arguments, prepare some strategies, and figure out what has worked for others. The good news: there are several good resources to help you with that project.

Let’s start with the AARP, which has done extensive work on driver safety and education. The AARP’s focus on aging drivers is unsurprising, but you may be surprised at how well they have analyzed the issue and how much material is available. Start with the online seminar called “We Need to Talk.” It will take about an hour (a little more if you stop along the way to scratch out questions or approaches, or if you re-review some sections). You may be surprised at how well it helps prepare you for your talk with a family member about your concerns.

Maybe what you really want is a review of driving skills, or a refresher course with emphasis on abilities that change over time. The AARP has some help there, too — it offers a link to driver safety courses for seniors. A quick check as we wrote this found three courses within a few miles of the Fleming & Curti, PLC, offices scheduled in the next month. Plus there’s an online version of the course, too.

Maybe you’re past this point with your family member. Can you disable the vehicle, force a review of their driving ability, or take stronger action? Yes, but first look at two publications produced by AARP, MIT’s AgeLab and The Hartford Insurance Company. One, “We Need to Talk,” is the basis for the AARP seminar described above. You can also order printed copies if you want to leave one lying around, or share with siblings or other family members. Copies are free, and you’ll get them in the mail in just a couple of days. While you’re online, you might also download or order “At the Crossroads,” another excellent resource offered by the same consortium.

Arizona drivers’ licenses are valid until age 65 without retesting (you do have to have your picture taken at least every twelve years or so). After 65 a driver has to take a vision test at least every five years, but there is no automatic retest for driving ability.

There is, however, one way to get a family member retested: any one who is concerned about driving ability can request a review for a family member, neighbor, patient or client (many of the requests are filed by doctors and other medical and social service professionals). You can initiate a review by filing a form 96-0469 with the Motor Vehicle Division; after looking at your description, MVD may require a doctor’s report and/or a driving test.

Are you worried about the possibility that you might cause this kind of concern, and force your own children to take similar steps? We have one suggestion for you to head off a similar scenario for your own future: talk to your family, and maybe even consider signing an agreement with your family about driving. You can give someone — perhaps the same person you name as agent on a health care power of attorney, perhaps someone else — instructions to tell you when you need to stop driving, and the power to take steps to stop you from putting yourself and others at risk.

The reality: such an agreement probably has no legal validity. But it could give your chosen family member the moral and psychological power they need to tackle a very difficult problem when you are unable to make the decision for yourself. At Fleming & Curti, PLC, we include such a power in most of our health care powers of attorney; if you would like to sign an agreement on your own, there’s one in the back of the “At the Crossroads” booklet described above. There is also a separate copy of such an agreement on The Hartford’s website; you can download it, review it and sign it on your own. But we really favor talking with your family about it.

A final thought: at least once a week or so, we have a client tell us “I’ll be the first to know when I need help.” Sadly, that has not been borne out by our experience at all.

Long-Term Care Insurance: A 2013 Update

MARCH 16, 2013 VOLUME 20 NUMBER 11
A colleague recently asked if we knew why long-term care insurance premiums might be climbing significantly in the next month or so. We didn’t, but it got us thinking about how the industry has changed over the past few years. Is it still a good idea to purchase insurance to cover possible costs of institutional or home care in the future? If so, who should be considering such policies, and what should they expect to pay?

First, the cost figures. The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, an industry trade group, conducts a survey of prices every year. The AALTCI’s 2013 figures were released, as it happens, this month. The short version: long-term care insurance costs have risen significantly in the past year. They calculate, for instance, that a 55-year old buying a typical policy might expect to pay $2,065 per year in premiums; the same policy last year would have cost $1,720. That’s about a 20% increase in cost, during a year where the general cost of living increased at something more like 2%.

Of course, your mileage may vary. If you are older or younger, married rather than single, or purchase a “richer” policy or one with less coverage, you might see a greater or lesser increase. But there’s no doubt that the cost of long-term care insurance has increased in the past year, continuing a trend of the past several years. Jane Bryant Quinn, a leading columnist for AARP Magazine, last year reported that premiums were up as much as 50% over the preceding five-year period.

More significant, perhaps, is the problem of a contracting market. Both buyers and insurance companies are leaving the long-term care insurance marketplace (though the number of new policies has rebounded somewhat since the economic downturn of five years ago).

So what’s happening to the marketplace? Historically low interest rates have the perverse effect of increasing insurance costs (since insurance companies are investing your premium dollars in order to generate income to pay future claims, costs of administration and profits). Life expectancies continue to increase, and uncertainty about the length of a policy-holder’s life makes actuaries a little twitchy — and conservative. Medical advances introduce the possibility of cures for some of the diseases that cut life expectancies short — and create the paradoxical possibility of extended nursing home stays. And, surprisingly, existing policyholders are not dropping their policies at the rate predicted years ago — meaning that more claims are being made on older policies than insurance companies anticipated. While most insurance products experience a “lapse” rate of about 5%, the figure for long-term care insurance is more like 1%. In short, the long-term care insurance industry is in trouble.

That might mean that long-term care insurance is more expensive, or harder to locate, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that consumers should avoid the product. The cost of long-term care can easily exceed $100,000 per year in a nursing home or in home care (in fact, home care is often more expensive than institutional placement).

It is, of course, impossible to predict which potential buyers will need long-term care insurance. But there are some generalizations about the purchasers of LTCI policies that might give some guidance — if only on the theory that the marketplace is wiser than individual buyers. Here are some observations about typical buyers and policies, drawn from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance reports and financial writers over the past few years:

  • The average age of new LTCI policy purchasers is dropping. Twenty years ago it was almost 70. Today it is below 60 (it was 59 in 2010-2011, according to America’s Health Insurance Plans, an insurance industry trade group).
  • Not too surprisingly, wealthier people buy more policies. The AHIP study reports that more than half of policies are purchased by people with incomes over $75,000 per year; more than three-quarters of all policies are owned by people with liquid assets of more than $100,000.
  • There is a correlation between education levels and policy purchases. Nearly three-quarters of long-term care insurance buyers are college-educated. For comparison purposes: about a quarter of all those over age 50 have college degrees.
  • Women and men buy long-term care insurance policies at rates almost exactly equal to their respective shares of the over-50 population. Married people buy policies at a slightly higher rate than their representation in the age group, and divorced, separated and widowed seniors are much less likely to purchase policies.
  • One of the significant drivers of cost of a particular LTCI policy: inflation protection. About three-quarters of policies sold in  recent years include a provision for automatic increases in coverage — most of those provide for about a 3%/year increase, down from the 5%/year that was more common twenty years ago.
  • In 1990 nearly two-thirds of LTCI policies covered nursing home or institutional care only. Today almost all policies (95%) cover both nursing home and home care. But more than half of the more modern policies will still be exhausted if the buyer spends four years in a nursing home.

Does all this mean that you don’t have to worry about long-term care costs unless you are age 59, college-educated and earning an income of $75,000 or more? Of course not. In fact, it may be more important that you shop for insurance if you are younger and more solidly middle-class (as judged by your income and assets). You might have more to lose, and a harder time paying for nursing care you might end up needing. We urge you to talk with an insurance salesperson about long-term care coverage.

Dealing With the Older Driver: Driving Skills Assessments

MARCH 24, 2003 VOLUME 10, NUMBER 38

Elder Law Issues has devoted several recent weeks’ articles to some of the problems involving aging drivers. If you are concerned about your own driving skills or those of an older family member, you may wish to obtain a formal skills assessment.

The Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) provides information about driving assessments and referrals to certified specialists. ADED recommends that a driving assessment include testing on visual perception, functional ability, reaction time and a road test.

Visual processing speed, an important component of safe driving, decreases as we age. The Useful Field of View (UFOV) test is a measure of visual processing speed that is increasingly touted as a reliable predictor of accident probability. Researchers at University of Alabama-Birmingham UAB have worked on UFOV for more than a decade.

UFOV is given in three parts. First, a silhouette of a car or truck flashes for less than a second on a computer screen and test takers must touch the word on the screen that corresponds to the vehicle type. Second, test takers must remember where a circular shape flashed on the screen near the vehicle. Last, they must be able to ignore a third object which appears only as a distraction.

Encouraging news: UFOV can be a training tool as well as a diagnostic instrument. According to UFOV researcher Dr. Karlene Ball, in those elderly drivers with poor visual processing skills, training with a modified version of the computer test for four to seven hours may raise visual processing speed to within normal levels.

Recovering stroke victims may wish to explore with a driving rehabilitation specialist or occupational therapist the possibility of incorporating adaptive aids. Cars can be adapted for post-stroke patients so that they accommodate the driver’s “good” side, or allow steering by a modified hand or foot control. Simple adaptations such as adding larger rear and side-view mirrors to cars may assist many drivers with decreased neck mobility.

In addition to ADED, local occupational therapists, local area agencies on aging, your state department of motor vehicles, or your physician may provide driving assessment referrals. Remember that mature driver courses are offered by a variety of organizations, the best-known of which is AARP’s Driver Safety Program. (formerly 55 Alive). Course schedules nationwide may be found on AARP’s website or by calling its toll-free line at (888)AARP-NOW. Participating in safety courses entitles older drivers to insurance discounts mandated by law in most states.

What Can Be Done About Driving Skills As We Age?

OCTOBER 7, 2002 VOLUME 10, NUMBER 14
Driving is an enormously important issue to our elderly (and disabled) clients, their family and friends. In the western U.S. and particularly in Tucson, transportation without a car is difficult and inconvenient. Safety of both the driver and the public is paramount, but the loss of independence and self-esteem as well as easy access to groceries and medical care must be addressed when a loved one can no longer safely drive.

There is no mandatory cut-off age for giving up driving. However, even the healthiest senior citizens experience age-related “slowing down” at some point — less flexibility in movement, a decrease in night vision, blurred vision from cataracts, hearing loss, etc. When decreased physical or psychological function cause unsafe behavior —either on the road or in other activities — driving should be suspended until that behavior is evaluated.

If one has difficulty seeing to prepare meals or cannot hear when there is loud knocking at the door, driving is likely also a hazard. All drivers, but especially seniors (who tend to take increasing amounts of medication as they age) must be attuned to the fact that many medications create hazardous driving situations. For example, allergy medications as well as drugs used to treat high blood pressure often have a strong sedative effect.

Seniors and their friends/families have many information resources. Information available online includes the AAA-sponsored website www.SeniorDrivers.org and www.la4seniors.com, both of which help in identifying and addressing driving problems. For drivers concerned about maintaining their skill levels, AARP’s “55 Alive Driver Safety Program” is taught locally at the Pima Council on Aging (enrollment is limited; contact them at 298-3120 first.)

In 1999, the American Medical Association changed its ethical guidelines so that physicians, despite their duty to keep confidences, may report a patient’s driving impairments in order to protect public safety. Physicians or family members concerned that a senior should not be driving may contact the AZ Dept of Motor Vehicles, Medical Review Program at 1452 N Eliseo C. Felix, Jr. Way, Avondale, AZ 85323 [(623) 925-5795]. Advanced age alone is insufficient; the letter of concern should detail the driver’s deficits and must contain the driver’s name, address, date of birth, and if possible the driver’s license number.

Revoking a driver’s license may not stop the impaired driver. In a future newsletter we will discuss some strategies to deal with that problem.

New Studies Show Children As Caregivers For Aging Parents

APRIL 7, 1997 VOLUME 4, NUMBER 40

Two recent studies demonstrate that children of the frail elderly spend more time and money on care of their parents than is widely supposed. Despite the popular image of “baby-boomer” children as self-involved and neglectful of their elders’ needs, the research indicates that the amount of effort invested in elder care has actually increased over the past decade.

In 1987, according to one of the studies (sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons, the National Alliance for Caregiving and others), seven million families were involved in providing long-term care for parents or other relatives. That number has more than tripled, to 22.4 million.

Fully half of employed caregivers have missed work time to care for their elders in recent years, reflecting an increase from just over two-fifths a decade ago. Another surprise: almost half of long-distance caregivers are male, despite the stereotype of daughters providing all the care for aging parents. The average age of long-distance caregivers: 46–which places the average caregiver solidly in the baby boom generation.

Long-distance caregivers make up a distinct portion of the children providing care for elderly relatives. 70% of those out-of-town care providers are employed, and they provide assistance with everything from bill-paying to hiring and managing on-site caretakers.

The second recent study, commissioned by the National Council on Aging, shows similar results. The NCOA focused its study on caregivers who live at least an hour from their elders. While that study showed that only 15% of caregivers have taken unpaid leave from their jobs to deal with elder care responsibilities, it suggests that out-of-town caretakers provide more than just their time to support aging elders. In fact, the NCOA caretakers had spent an average of $196 per month of their own money to provide or oversee care, and spent 35 hours per month on making the arrangements and visits necessary to keep their elders safe and provided for.

The NCOA study (funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts) also revealed another important detail about long-distance elder care: the length of time such arrangements continue. According to the study, the average long-distance caretaker had been involved in helping out for just over five years.

Both studies demonstrate the reality of caregiving at a time when public policy debates focus on the spiraling costs of long-term care. According to the conventional wisdom, children (and especially baby boomers) are interested primarily in receiving their depression-era parents’ estates as quickly as possible. That is the view that invests policy determinations, from Congress’ recent attempt to make criminals out of parents who give away property before institutionalization to Medicaid’s refusal to provide any substantial home care alternative to nursing home placement.

Even as the American population ages inexorably, the public debate shifts away from reasoned solutions of the growing funding problem associated with long-term care and toward demonizing of the segment of society most likely to require assistance. The long-term care insurance industry, eager to develop a market in this growth field (a tiny fraction of long-term care costs is currently paid by insurance, with the majority of funding coming from the federal Medicaid program), has led the charge with a two-fold attack: accusing children of the frail elderly of greed while trying to frighten the elderly themselves with visions of bankrupt government programs and allegedly substandard care. Unfortunately for those who make the first claim, the AARP and NCOA studies clearly demonstrate that the elderly receive tremendous assistance from their children, even across long distances.

Long Term Care Insurance: Who Needs It? Which Policy?

JANUARY 27, 1997 VOLUME 4, NUMBER 30

With nursing home costs approaching $40,000 per year for most residents, the government’s Medicaid program has for decades been the “safety net” for families with long-term care needs. In recent years, escalating Medicaid costs and increases in the portion of national nursing home bill paid by the program have resulted in Congressional efforts to reduce Medicaid eligibility and coverage. Prudent elders should be considering other ways to ensure that nursing home stays can be paid for if needed.

A relative handful of individuals have long-term care available from religious or service group affiliations. Another small portion of the population can rely on government programs other than Medicaid, but for most elders the only alternatives are to accumulate substantial personal wealth (a common goal, though sometimes difficult to realize) or purchase long-term care insurance (LTCI).

A recent review of LTCI purchasing strategies by Elder Law Forum (a newsletter published by Legal Counsel for the Elderly, Inc., and sponsored by AARP) points out some of the considerations for typical buyers. The review makes several points for the “typical” LTCI buyer:

  • About half of 65-year-old women and a third of the men will spend some time in a nursing home.
  • Most nursing home stays will be short, with the median length of institutionalization being slightly less than one year.
  • LTCI premiums currently average about $1,000 per year for 60-year-olds, and rise to $1,500 for 65-year-olds and $2,000 for 70-year-olds.

If you (or a relative or client) are concerned about long-term care costs, some pertinent questions to consider include:

  • When should you buy? The average age of new policyholders is currently 67. Many employers now offer group plans, and a few younger people may buy policies. But for most people, waiting until age 60 to make the purchase is probably reasonable.
  • Should both a husband and wife buy policies? In many cases, one spouse or the other may be uninsurable due to illness or age. The “well” spouse should particularly consider LTCI, since she (most commonly) is likely to survive the “ill” spouse, and therefore have no spouse to care for her. Of course, this is another way of saying that the well spouse is likely to spend some considerable time providing care for the ill, uninsurable spouse, as well.
  • Does family history matter? If a potential LTCI buyer has a family history of strokes, high blood pressure, dementia, Parkinson’s or other conditions likely to require long-term care, insurance is more strongly indicated. Such persons should make the initial purchase at younger ages, since the onset of disability will usually make them uninsurable.
  • Does net worth make a difference? Couples with a net worth of less than $100,000 (not counting the family home), and individuals worth less than $50,000, may not need to consider LTCI, since (current) Medicaid rules will permit them to receive government assistance within a year or two of nursing home admission. Prospective LTCI buyers with large estates may not need the insurance, particularly if their estates generate $40,000 in annual income over and above their (or their spouse’s) other living expenses. In other words, LTCI is primarily of interest to the middle-class elderly.
  • How important are individual policy provisions? Very. Some policies provide excellent coverage for home health care, while others do not; a policy without home care provisions might unnecessarily force the owner into an institution.

A checklist for comparison shoppers can help frame some of the issues. For a helpful checklist, contact FLEMING & CURTI at the fax, e-mail or street address below.
330 N. Granada Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85701
520-622-0400 / FAX: 520-203-0240

Gifts By Medicaid Applicants Are Not The Problem, Study Says

JANUARY 13, 1997 VOLUME 4, NUMBER 28

It is (as of January 1) a federal felony for those facing nursing home placement to make gifts for the purpose of becoming eligible for Medicaid (in Arizona, ALTCS) coverage. Much has been written about the ambiguity and unenforceability of the new law. For example, Elder Law Issues, November 25, 1996, and August 19, 1996, focused on the meaning, history and poor drafting of the new enactment.

Now Congress is considering repeal of the two-week old criminalization provision. Congressman Steven La Tourette, a second-term Republican from Ohio, has introduced House Resolution 216, which would strike the new section of Medicaid law before the first prosecution could be threatened. Powerful forces in Washington, including the AARP and other advocacy groups, have lobbied forcefully for the repeal. Indications are that the threat of jail for middle-class seniors will now fade away.

The legislative assumptions underlying the original enactment of this punitive law have remained unchallenged, however. According to some in Congress (and, more importantly, lobbyists for the long-term care insurance industry), the practice of making gifts to qualify for Medicaid is widespread and is costing state and federal governments millions of dollars. Sadly, Congress appears to have bought into this myth without question, and in spite of the actual evidence.

In a study prepared for publication in the periodical Generations, Washington researcher Joshua Wiener of the Urban Institute has analyzed the actual incidence of transfers by seniors. His conclusion: both the numbers of persons making transfers and the amount of money transferred to obtain Medicaid eligibility are much lower than commonly thought.

Wiener notes earlier research which shows that three quarters of nursing home admittees are already impoverished, with less than $50,000 in assets other than their homes. Over half had less than $10,000 of cash available. In other words, the typical nursing home admittee is able to pay for less than six months of nursing home care (and less than two months in many communities, with sharply higher nursing home costs) in any event. It is unrealistic to expect any substantial cost savings for the Medicaid program from further restrictions on transfer rules.

Furthermore, historical data indicates that seniors infrequently give away their assets to become eligible for nursing home assistance. Between 1988 and 1992, Congress substantially liberalized the rules for married couples to become eligible for Medicaid, while simultaneously clarifying the transfer rules. During that time, the portion of nursing home residents covered by Medicaid increased by only two percentage points. Wiener notes that the increase should be almost entirely attributable to the change in married couple rules, suggesting that the number of people making gifts to become eligible must be almost insignificant.

Finally, Wiener notes that the administrative costs attendant on any plan to reduce transfers must be considered. In the case of Congress’ ill-conceived plan to criminalize gifts, for example, the costs of administrative rule-making, prosecution and incarceration might exceed any reduction in Medicaid costs.

On a related issue, Wiener also assesses the effect of new, stronger federal rules on estate recovery. As a practical matter, estate recovery programs rely on Medicaid recipients retaining an interest in their homes throughout their nursing home stay; research suggests that only 14% of Medicaid recipients own their homes at the time of institutionalization, so the possibilities for recovery are not high. In Oregon, the state with the best record of estate recovery, about 2.5% of Medicaid costs are recovered.

(Elder) Figures Never Lie …

JANUARY 8, 1996 VOLUME 3, NUMBER 28

Discussions about the future of long-term care in the United States are obviously dependent on the current and projected extent of the need for care. While many working in the field have an intuitive feel for the frequency of use of nursing homes, the statistics can nonetheless be surprising.

Admission Rates

According to a 1991 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, 33% of men turning 65 in the prior year would spend at least some time in a nursing home. For women, that number grew to 52%.

While total admissions for women are significantly higher, short-term admissions are much less sex-dependent. Of that same 65-year-old group, 21% of women and 19% of men will be admitted for stays of less than one year. But for longer stays, women begin to dramatically outnumber men.

10% of men and 18% of women will spend between one and five years in the nursing home. Only 4% of the 65-year-old men will spend more than five years in the nursing home, while 13% of their female counterparts will do so.

Nursing Home Financing

According to the American Association of Retired Persons, over half of the cost of nursing home care is paid by the federal-state Medicaid program (ALTCS in Arizona). The actual figure is 51.7% of all nursing home costs, compared to 8.8% for the Medicare program and 2.2% for other public programs.

Long-term care insurance and medical insurance account for 2.4% of nursing home costs, with private programs (such as charities) provide 2.2%.

The remaining 33% of nursing home costs are paid by patients from their income and savings. It is not clear, however, whether the patients’ “share of cost” contributions to Medicaid coverage are included in this statistic.

1996 Medicare and Social Security Rates

Although numbers may change as the budget compromise takes final shape, 1996 numbers for Medicare and Social Security are currently in place. Until further changes, the following figures apply:

Medicare Part A

Hospital Deductible $736/illness
Daily Coinsurance (Hospital)
Days 1-60 $0
Days 61-90 $184
Lifetime Reserve $368
Daily Coinsurance (Skilled Nursing)
Days 1-20 $0
Days 21-100 $92
Premium (for those not otherwise qualified) $289/month

Medicare Part B

Premium $42.50/month
Deductible $100/year
Coinsurance
20% of approved charge
Balance Billing
15% of approved charge

Social Security

Cost of Living Adjustment 2.6%
Retirement Earnings Limits
Age 65-69 $11,520/year ($960/month)
($1 in benefits withheld for every $3 of earnings over the limit)
Under 65 $8,280/year ($690/month)
($1 in benefits withheld for every $2 of earnings over the limit)
Maximum SSI Benefit
Individuals $470/month
Couples $705/month

Group Homes, Retirees Win in Separate Court Decisions

OCTOBER 23, 1995 VOLUME 3, NUMBER 17

Two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases, though each dealing with a limited population, may have an effect on clients. In one, the Court dealt with group homes and boarding homes; in the other, the Court addressed long-standing state tax inequities.

Group Home Regulation

Oxford House, a Washington drug and alcohol treatment program, tried to open a group home in the city of Edmonds. Local planners objected, citing a city ordinance which prohibited more than five unrelated individuals from living together.

Oxford House appealed the denial through the federal court system, losing in the District Court but winning in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now the Supreme Court has agreed that Edmonds’ rule is too restrictive.

The American Association of Retired People (AARP) joined Oxford House in opposing the rule. Though the proposed use in this case was a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, AARP noted that it would restrict the ability of boarding homes, foster homes and similar facilities to care for elderly clients in residential areas. The Supreme Court agreed.

The Oxford House decision relies on the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, which prohibits zoning ordinances restricting occupancy limits unless they are reasonable. The Supreme Court noted that the Edmonds ordinance did not restrict the number of family members who could live in one residence, so deduced that the limitation was based on something other than a desire to control the size of households. Since the limit was different for unrelated housemates, it was inherently unreasonable. Edmonds v. Oxford House, 115 S. Ct. 1776 (1995).

[Note: Tucson had a similar zoning provision until the mid-1980s]

Taxes on Federal Retirees

In the 1980s, Georgia (along with Arizona) was one of about 20 states that tried to impose state income taxes on federal pensions while exempting state pension income. Those tax efforts were struck down after only a few years of collections.

Georgia (like Arizona) initially argued that refunds for the illegally collected tax should be limited to those taxpayers who protested the tax at the time of payment. Since few had protested, this rule would have saved Georgia an estimated $100 million in refunds to 50,000 retirees. The Supreme Court, in its 1994 term, ruled Georgia’s proposal unacceptable, and ordered the state to adopt “meaningful backward-looking relief” for taxpayers who were illegally taxed. Reich v. Collins, 115 S.Ct. 547 (1994).

[Note: Arizona has grappled with the same problem, and has now adopted legislation to permit taxes to be recovered. Many of the taxpayers have now died, and the claims for repayment must be pursued by heirs.]

Elderly on Mailing Lists

OCTOBER 31, 1994 VOLUME 2, NUMBER 17

The American Association of Retired Persons is warning its members about mail-order scams. According to the AARP, mail-order con artists have begun to aggressively target elderly people.

Mail solicitations, sometimes involving bogus offers, “sweepstakes” and questionable health remedies and safety items, are showing up with accelerating frequency in the mail boxes of the elderly. Elderly recipients are particularly vulnerable to such tactics, says the AARP, because they tend to be more trusting, they often live alone and they have fewer ways of checking out the validity of the offers or representations.

A study funded by AARP categorized one-third of those over 75 as “highly vulnerable” to fraud. That compares to 24% with the same classification among those age 65 to 75, and 7% of those younger than 65. In addition, elderly consumers tend to be more passive after they have been duped. Twenty percent of those over age 65 say they have never demanded a refund, filed a complaint or taken similar action against a company. Among younger consumers, only 8% have been so consistently forgiving.

Hispanics Singled Out

At the same time, another group indicates that telemarketing scams have particularly focused on hispanics. Since many hispanics lack English proficiency, and since they tend not to report fraud, hispanics have been frequent victims.

The National Council of La Raza has announced a new campaign aimed at teaching hispanic consumers how to spot, stop and report telemarketing fraud. The program includes counsellors who speak Spanish and public service information. La Raza’s hotline can be reached at (800) 876-7060.

Take Stock/Take Charge

A new program aimed at health promotion and disease prevention among the elderly has been announced by Jewish Family and Children’s Service, with funding from United Way. The program involves interactive educational seminars entitled “Take Stock/Take Charge ” aimed at those age 55 or older.

The seminars will utilize what is billed as a holistic approach, focusing on disease prevention topics with activities designed to promote independent functioning and decision-making capacity. Particular emphasis will be given to the importance of early detection, regular examinations, nutrition, exercise, immunizations, rest and relaxation, home and auto safety and medication management. Seminars can be arranged for senior groups by contacting Gina Gills through JFCS at 795-0300.

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