Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Nun Study at the University of Minnesota

The Nun Study is a longitudinal study of aging and Alzheimer's disease. It began in 1986 as a pilot study on aging and disability using data collected from the older School Sisters of Notre Dame living in Mankato, Minn. The goal of the Nun Study is to determine the causes and prevention of Alzheimer's disease, other brain diseases, and the mental and physical disability associated with old age.

The 678 participants in the Nun Study were 75 to 102 years old when the study began, and the average age of the participants was 83 years.

Nuns were chosen for the study because of their homogeneous lifestyle and environments. Participants in this study are non-smokers, drink little if any alcohol, have the same marital status and reproductive history, have lived in similar housing, held similar jobs, and had similar access to preventive and medical care.

For more information on The Nun Study, visit the University of Minnesota website.

By Marie Nelson

Wider Opportunities for Women and the Minnesota Women's Consortium Unveil New State Data on Older Women’s Ability to Make Ends Meet

Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), in partnership with the Minnesota Women’s Consortium released new data on women’s retirement security in Minnesota. The data is an opportunity to look at and discuss the plight of older women as we commemorate Older Americans Month. Single older women fall short of making ends meet by over $4,000 a year in Minnesota’s least expensive communities and almost $8,600 in the most expensive counties. This new resource gives state and national policy solutions, including defending effective state initiatives such as the Alternative Care Program and the Property Tax Refund, to move Minnesota women toward economic security in retirement.

Click on the images above to view the new data.

For more information, contact Marie Nelson at
651-228-0338 or

By Marie Nelson

Thank you to our new endorser!

The Domestic Abuse Intervention Program in Duluth has worked for a number of years to offer domestic violence training and resources based on The Duluth Model to help community activists, domestic violence workers, practitioners in the criminal and civil justice systems, human service providers, and community leaders make a direct impact on domestic violence.

The Domestic Abuse Intervention Program chose to endorse the Minnesota Elder Index as a new tool to ensure that future planning and policies are based on the true costs of shelter, food, transportation and health care, so that Minnesota elders can continue to live with dignity in their own homes and communities.

Thank you for endorsing this new cost-of-living tool!

By Marie Nelson

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

We all do better when we all do better.

The Economix blog by the New York Times featured an intriguing post today on who exactly has benefited from women's progress.

To quote late Senator Paul Wellstone,
we all do better when we all do better.

Casey B. Mulligan raised some important points in her post, such as the job market is not a zero-sum game. "Employment gains for one group can create benefits for others." Also, job market gains for married women "can ease financial hardship from job losses by their husbands."

The Elder Economic Security Initiative is dedicated to improving the economic well being of all elders, with a special focus on the unique needs of elder women. To learn more about our efforts in Minnesota, visit the Wider Opportunities for Women website.

By Marie Nelson

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tell Congress Long-Term Services Are In Need of Reform

Thank you to the National Elder Economic Security Initiative for this call to action:

Thanks to the hard work of many people around the country, health reform is moving forward fast. In the coming weeks, Congress will decide what will be included in health reform legislation.

Today, Wednesday, May 13th, WOW is joining several groups, including the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, in sponsoring a call-in day to Congress. We’re asking people to remind their Senators that home and community-based long-term services and supports are an important part of health care.

Today, Wednesday, May 13th, call 1-800-828-0498 and ask to be connected to your Senators. Please remind them that long-term services and supports are an important part of health care and urge them to include those services in the health reform legislation being developed.

Thank you for helping get the word out about this critical issue.

By Marie Nelson

The Grant Study: What makes us happy?

For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been pursuing the complicated answer to a relatively simple question: What makes us happy? In the late 1930s, researchers began to follow 268 men as they entered college. Researchers studied their education, career, marriage, children, and other important life decisions as to how it effected their happiness. The study continues today, as the men are now elders, making it one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history.

Dr. George Vaillant directs the Grant Study, and in the video below explains what he's learned about happiness as his subjects have learned and aged.

By Marie Nelson

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Communities for a Lifetime signed into law

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the Communities for a Lifetime bill into law yesterday.

Communities for a Lifetime is similar to the Star City concept, in which a city receives a special designation for its efforts to improve the community. Star Cities work on economic development. Communities for a Lifetime work to meet the needs of residents over age 65. The bill's language further explains this: "'Communities for a lifetime' means partnerships of small cities, counties, municipalities, statutory or home rule charter cities or towns whose citizens seek to affirmatively extend to persons 65 years of age and older the opportunities, supports and services which will enable them to continue to be contributing, civically engaged residents."

To read the Communities for a Lifetime bill, click here.

The Minnesota Elder Economic Security Initiative supported the Communities for a Lifetime bill.

By Marie Nelson

Thursday, May 7, 2009

ElderCare Rights Alliance Film Festival

Save the date for the second annual film festival: Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Due to popular demand ElderCare Rights Alliance is presenting its second annual film festival featuring Terra Nova Films on aging. We are pleased to have Jim Vanden Bosch from Terra Nova Films returning again this year to facilitate the event. It will be held at the beautiful St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis. Mark you calendars and plan on joining us for this day- long innovative event. Stay tuned for details.

By Marie Nelson

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Tool: Minnesota's Women in Retirement

Wider Opportunities for Women and the Minnesota Women's Consortium teamed up to bring you a new resource in elder economic work. At A Glance: Minnesota's Women in Retirement explains why it is particularly difficult for Minnesota women to achieve retirement security. By providing background information on the Federal Poverty Level and Social Security payments, this tool explains the ways in which Minnesota elder women are struggling.

At A Glance also provides state and national income policy solutions, such as advocating for strengthened commitment to affordable housing and reforming paid family leave.

For pdf of At A Glance: Minnesota's Women in Retirement, contact Marie Nelson at or 651-228-0338.

By Marie Nelson

Friday, May 1, 2009

What does elder economic security mean in Minnesota?

It seems that, rather suddenly, retirement isn’t what it used to be.

The mental image most of us have about retirement probably resembles a Folger’s Coffee commercial. We think of happy, healthy, long-time married couples with white hair and loving embraces. We think of these couples living in the home in which their children were raised. We think of travel, gifts to the grandchildren, and time with life-long friends.

In Minnesota, the local average Social Security payment for men fell more than $3,800 short of economic security. A typical Minnesota renter who relied entirely on the local average Social Security for women fell nearly $8,000 short of economic security.

Economic security is not available to most elder Minnesotans. An elder couple with a mortgage can expect the following average expenses every month:
  • Housing: $1,085
  • Food: $430
  • Transportation: $414
  • Health Care: $600
  • Miscellaneous necessities: $368
An elder couple with a mortgage will need to meet $34,757 worth of their most basic needs every year. If both individuals receive the average Social Security payment and rely solely on that, they have an annual income of $26,435.

We do not want our grandparents and parents facing this kind of economic hardship. The Minnesota Elder Economic Security Initiative is determined to change the dialogue from elder poverty to elder economic security.

Elder economic security in Minnesota means that every Minnesota elder has adequate shelter, food, health care, transportation, and income to cover basic needs. To participate in this effort, contact Marie Nelson at the Minnesota Women’s Consortium at or 651-228-0338. Remember that May is Older Americans Month.

Thanks to Wider Opportunities for Women for organizing “Blog About It: Elder Economic Security on May 1, 2009.” Please participate in Blog About It by commenting on this blog or the National Elder Economic Security Initiative blog, or posting on your blog about what elder economic security means in your state.

By Marie Nelson