Senior Citizens

The Takeaway

Love, Sex and Alzheimer's: The Question of Consent

Friday, April 24, 2015

An Iowa man this week was found not guilty of sexually abusing his wife, whom nursing home staff members said was cognitively unable to give consent. How are these cases to be handled?

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Clock Your Sleep: Seniors

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dr. Shelby Harris, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center talks to you about aging and sleep--whether seniors need less sleep and how sleep plays a role in other health issues as we age.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Understanding Senior Citizen Hangouts

Thursday, January 23, 2014

After a conflict between elderly Korean residents in Queens and a local McDonald's where the seniors congregate, Bobbie Sackman, Director of Public Policy at the Council of Senior Centers and Services of NYC, explains the importance of community spaces where seniors can socialize. She is joined by New York State Assembly Member Ron Kim, who talks about the compromise he brokered between the elderly patrons who linger at a Flushing McDonald's and the fast-food restaurant.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

The Rising Number of Older Immigrants

Monday, July 29, 2013

New York City has the largest number of foreign-born immigrants of any city in the U.S., which presents specific challenges for the city. Jonathan Bowles, director of Center for an Urban Future, talks about the changing demographics of New York's older residents.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

What You Need To Know About the Heat and Your Health

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Frequently asked questions about how to stay safe in elevated temperatures.

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New Investigation Finds High Anti-psychotic Use in Nursing Homes

Friday, March 01, 2013

There is widespread and poorly regulated use of anti-psychotic medications by several New York City nursing homes, according to a new investigation by the Gotham Gazette.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

New York Great for Retirees

Thursday, August 09, 2012

NYC made Kiplinger's top 5 list for retiree-livingSandy Block, senior associate editor for Kiplinger's Personal Finance explains why it's great for seniors.

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The Takeaway

Over Fifty and Unemployed

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In study after study, we’re told that the economic recovery is real. But tell that to unemployed Americans over 55. More than half of jobless seniors, about 1.1 million people, have been unemployed for more than six months, up from 23 percent four years ago, according to a government report released last week. But these aren’t just numbers — they’re people all over the country.

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Transportation Nation

In Florida, Aging Population Struggles to Get Around

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

ITN driver John McCallister helps a client (photo courtesty of the Independent Transportation Network, Orlando)

(Orlando, FL -- WMFE) With more than three million residents over the age of 65, Florida's population has the highest proportion of senior citizens of any state in the US. One challenge facing many of Florida's seniors is how to get out and about once they can no longer drive.

In Orlando, some 300 seniors subscribe to the Independent Transportation Network private non-profit car service. Bea Chernok uses ITN a couple of times a week, for everything from doctors visits to social excursions.

"Last week, on a Sunday, they took me down to the Carr Auditorium, I saw an opera, they picked me up, and I wasn’t afraid," she says.

Chernok says ordinarily she wouldn't go out at night, but she feels safe with the ITN drivers, like John McCallister.

McCallister started volunteering after he retired about three years ago.

"Since then I’ve driven about 30 thousand miles," he says. "After three and a half years of picking up the same people every week, boy, you become family.”

Hospitals are a major destination for ITN drivers according to executive director Kimber Threet.

"Obviously when you’re offering this type of service and our target market is seniors, they typically have a need for medical services," Threet says.

"We’ve included all of the medical buildings especially down on Orange Avenue here in Orlando. That’s where all of your main hotspots are.”

Starting in 2014, seniors will have more transportation options in the medical corridor. They’ll be able to take advantage of the SunRail commuter train stop at Florida Hospital on North Orange. Taxis are also part of the transportation mix for seniors, but Threet says the shorter trips that many ITN clients take aren't always financially attractive to cab drivers.

ITN's average trip length is three and a half miles, which costs the rider about nine dollars. There’s also a 60 dollar annual membership fee.

That’s too expensive for some, but public mass transit does provide an alternative. Central Florida’s Lynx bus service operates a fleet of minivans and cars for its Access Lynx door to door service. More than 11 thousand people- not just seniors- use it, but director Bill Hearndon admits Access Lynx isn’t perfect.

“We’re out there traveling in the same congestion as everyone else is. If there’s an accident on I-4, our day’s shot," he says.

"If it rains, traffic tie ups happen through out the service area and our on-time performance is down the drain."

Still, Hearndon says for some customers, Access Lynx provides the only social interaction they get.

"We have customers who if it weren’t for our service, would be stuck at home, would be shut in."

Hearndon says there isn’t enough money to meet demand for the door to door service. Access Lynx already turns down 2,000 applicants each year.

"Lynx doesn’t have a dedicated funding source. So every year we literally have to go begging for funding,” he says.

That leaves churches, synagogues, mosques and other community organizations working to help fill a growing transportation need. Pegge Stickel organizes a car service with close to a hundred volunteer drivers at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park.

Stickel's volunteer model doesn’t require regular commitment from drivers. She says it’s so successful 13 other faith communities in Orlando have adopted it. But she worries people can rely too much on the work of volunteers.

“When the city can’t, when the county can’t, when the federal government can’t, when the private, non-profits can’t, they turn to the faith communities, and then unfortunately we become overwhelmed with the burden of responsibility,” says Stickel.

Voluntary organizations are under pressure, and public mass transit and private non-profit car services also face a funding squeeze. However, advocates for the elderly agree more time and money needs to be invested to help seniors stay mobile.

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Transportation Nation

BAY AREA SPECIAL: Teaching Seniors to Ride the Bus, BART's New GM, and Art on the BART

Thursday, October 27, 2011

KALW's newsmagazine, Crosscurrents,  took a deep dive into Bay Area transportation issues yesterday. We dedicated an entire show to transit: Our reporters visited a senior citizens' transit school, sat down with BART's new general manager, and got inspired by fellow commuters with artist Brett Amory.  Our host even narrated the show from buses and subways all over San Francisco!

Check out the whole show here, or listen to the stories individually below.

Senior Survival School

by Molly Samuel

Listen here.

Under CC license from danisabella

Take a quick look around while on the bus or the subway, and you’ll notice that a lot of the people who depend on public transit are seniors. But not all seniors are that comfortable navigating the system. So at ages 70, 80, and 90, some seniors are going back to school.

San Francisco resident Fran Chan is 89. She gave up driving about three years ago because she was worried about getting into an accident. And though there are some places she doesn’t get to anymore, she says she doesn’t have many complaints about riding the bus. For one thing, she always gets a seat up front.

“It never fails, but I used to feel hurt,” she said, as she settled into a seat reserved for seniors on the bus she takes almost every day. “Old age is funny. It creeps up on you. All of the sudden, you look in a mirror, and my God, you’re old.”

Chan is independent, and public transit helps her stay that way. She can step outside her apartment and take the bus wherever she needs to go.

“Old people have to decide whether you’re going to stay alone or move into group housing,” said Chan. “And you vacillate. But I finally decided that I can’t go live with other older people.”

Chan’s not alone in her choice to live alone. According to the AARP, the vast majority of seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes rather than move into a retirement community. And in cities, that usually means taking public transit.

San Francisco’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees the regional Clipper transit card, counted nearly one and a half million rides by seniors just in August. And not everyone uses a Clipper card.

Fran Chan feels pretty comfortable using San Francisco’s buses, but not all seniors are so savvy. For them, there’s Senior Survival School.

Senior Survival School is a free program run by a San Francisco advocacy organization called Planning for Elders. They hold workshops on the challenges of navigating city living in senior centers around San Francisco. Today, they’ve brought in Matt West, who’s in charge of making sure Muni works for older people. He’s talking to about a dozen seniors who’ve gathered at a senior center to learn more about public transit.

“All our buses are accessible,” explains West. “They have the kneeler and the lift. Kneeler. Our state cars do have the little platforms that you can access from various locations.”

West answers questions from the crowd. Some are curious if the paratransit will take them to a 49ers game (the answer is yes). Others complain that other passengers won’t give up their seats to seniors, which is required.

“That’s the bind we’re in, because we’re trying to legislate people being polite” says West, explaining that MUNI plans to address the lack of seats and space for seniors with walkers and canes when they purchase new buses.

Since the number of seniors riding MUNI is only going up, city planners are looking at some long-term ideas as well as short-term fixes like creating smaller community routes that serve particular neighborhoods. But tight budgets mean there are trade-offs.

“A lot of the issues we see coming up are recently the cuts in services,” said Sarah Jarmon, the director of Senior Survival School. “Last year there was a 10% cut in the lines.”

Jarmon said that the elimination of stops is one of the biggest problems seniors face. But it’s also not the only one. For one thing, it can be scary to get on a bus. Jarmon said many seniors are afraid of falling.

“People get pushed around a lot on the bus. They’re not seated before they take off.”

James Chionsini, from the Senior Survival School, says another problem is that buses don’t always stop.

“It happens all the time,” he said. “I’ve seen them pass people up. And a crowded bus is going to be a missed bus for someone in a wheelchair.”

Seniors in the East Bay face many of the same challenges as their San Francisco peers. Cuts in service, for instance, are an ongoing issue. But there are also some more fundamental challenges. For one thing, the East Bay’s bigger. San Francisco’s Muni has about 5,000 stops and AC Transit in the East Bay has about 6,000. But Muni only has to serve about 47 square miles while AC Transit covers over 360 square miles. In short: almost the same number of stops, but AC Transit is much more spread out.

East Bay resident Jackie Rocket grew up riding public transportation in Oakland. She could get almost anywhere she wanted to go on buses and streetcars. Now, things are different. She lives in the more suburban city of Fremont, and drives just about everywhere.

“Practically speaking,” she said. “If the time comes that I can no longer safely use my car, then I’ll have to give up driving.

To prepare for that day, she’s attending Transit Training, a course similar to Senior Survival School sponsored by the city of Fremont. Unlike the seniors in the San Francisco class, who are for the most part familiar with Muni, most students in this class don’t ride the bus that often. In this more suburban, car-friendly city, they still drive. So a big part of what they’re learning is just the basics of how to navigate subways and the bus system.

Rocket, along with the other seniors participating in the class, has very specific reasons for being here.

“Seniors need to know these things,” she said. “When you sit down, when it says you’re retired. You sit down at home, your muscles atrophy, your heart goes and then you die. So by going and doing as much as you possibly can, it helps you keep getting younger.”

But her route isn’t as easy as Fran Chan’s in San Francisco. While she’s game to ride AC Transit, the closest stop to her house isn’t close enough.

“Where I would have to go would be one, two, three, three blocks before I got to a bus stop. Long blocks, not short ones. And that would be impossible for me.”

Transportation for America, a national advocacy group based in Washington D.C., projects that by 2015, 65,000 seniors won’t have adequate access to public transit in Oakland. In San Francisco, it’s 34,000. And that’s just two cities.

As James Chionsini from Planning for Elders points out, economics and politics aside, one thing’s for sure, “The old folks are coming right now,” he said. “So get ready, know what I mean? Because they’ll run you down if you’re not prepared.”

BART's New General Manager Goes Back to the Basics

by Casey Miner

Listen here.

BART's new general manager Grace Crunican. Photo courtesy of BART.

In many ways, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, the region’s subway system) is the backbone of the Bay Area’s transit system. But in recent months the transit agency has dealt with a number of challenges, especially following the highly-publicized departure of former general manager Dorothy Duggar. BART’s new general manager, Grace Crunican has been on the job for just under two months. And she’s already taking on a number of major issues facing the agency, from heavy criticism of its police force to questions about how it will fund much-needed improvements to its aging cars.

KALW’s Casey Miner sat down with Crunican and asked her how she’s been getting up to speed.

GRACE CRUNICAN: I've tried to meet with as many people as I can. I've been out on the platforms once a week, at least, meeting the riders. I think those are the most important we serve, the costumers. Riders want good service, they want reliability. I've actually heard some very good things from the riders about the service, the predictability of it. Everyone’s interested in the new cars and getting good cushions and getting rid off the carpet on the floors that's been a pretty uniform message people have sent.

CASEY MINER: Were you expecting people to be so invested in the cushions and the seats and the carpets?

CRUNICAN: Absolutely, I think when you talk to riders or users of your system it's good you get that kind of input. They talk about what they care about and that's what they care about.

MINER: So in terms of your priorities for BART going forward, what would you say would be your top three things on your lists?

CRUNICAN: Well I want to deal with some of the issues from the past that got us into the soup and we're dealing with the cell phone policy. We'll be dealing with the journalist issue, some of those things, just taking things head on. I am a really straight-forward gal so we want to deal with the past. And then responding to costumers and getting them a good return on their value…

And then the community at large – I think BART needs to be a little bit more supportive of the communities it serves, so each station really is a focal point for folks, and those stations can respond a little bit better to the communities that's there. Some of the stations that I've looked at could be anywhere; they don't have color and vibrancy and reach out to the community. So we have a vide variety of communities we serve in the Bay Area, and a little less uniformity in structure, and maybe a little bit more outreach, even in color and cleanliness and the neighborliness that the stations provide.

I'll give you one example: I went to the 16th Street Mission District station in San Francisco, and there was lovely color around the station but we had those cyclone fences around the palm trees that are there. Maybe that was to protect the palm trees, but it really took away from the art that the community had put forward. So if we could be a little bit better neighbor and understand we are not all about infrastructure, but we're about the community, I think that would be a step ahead.

Having said that, when I talked to the commuters they were really all about the service to start with, and so I want to make sure we aren’t  giving up that reliable service, and we're focused on the cars and car replacement and the elevators and the escalators. So we are about infrastructure but we could also be about community.

MINER: I just wanted to ask you in a little bit more in detail: In terms of some of the protest going on in the Charles Hill shooting showing that some of the review of the police department and oversight procedures – auxiliary ways that BART deals with journalists… How are you approaching these problems and what do you see your role as in kind of jumping into this?

CRUNICAN: Well let's take the police for example. There's a noble report, I've read parts of it and I am in the process of reading all of it. That report lays out some activities that the police need to follow, training protocols that needs to happen, reporting protocols that need to happen. So I am going through that report with the chief and finding out what we're doing and what we're on target with.

We had a hearing in Sacramento we explained that to the assembly that were gathered there: The representatives and what we're trying to do now is that we walk through and try to make sure that we're on top of that and even ahead of it if you will.

Let's take the case of the journalists: Some of the ones that were detained were students, and this is to the credit of the communications department. They are reaching out to the students and the professor and actually going there and I think inviting them here as well and going to their class and talking about what happened and talking about what could have been done differently, both from BART’s point of view and from student journalist point of view.

It'll take care of some people’s concerns. It won’t take care of everyone’s concern, but if we do that and we put on our webpage what happened or we respond in letters to them who have written to us I think people will see that we're trying to do a good job of responding well.

MINER: You were mentioning the BART as a very geographically diverse system. It's very diverse in other ways. Is there other ways that you see that BART can become more a part of the community or more integrated than some other regionally transportation systems?

CRUNICAN: If it's easy to get to the station on foot and it's a pleasant trip you'll walk as best you can. If you can bike and it's convenient you'll bike. And those are healthier choices than driving. I drove this morning to the BART station and jumped on the BART for example. The more we enhance those options, the more we enhance those kind of activities the more choices people have. The better the community I think will be, there'll be healthier community and they'll get a better return on their dollar because our systems won’t be in conflict. We'll try to erase some of those conflicts and keep the costs low and the service up.

MINER: How do you envision BART in the next five or 10 years… If you could have anything you wanted based on what you've learned so far, what would you say?

CRUNICAN: A little bit of growth, a lot of taking care of the inside the existing stations, a lot of taking care of the elevators the maintains that sort of thing. It's kind of back to basics for us.

Waiting Around with Brett Amory

by Julie Caine

Listen here.

Bay Area artist Brett Amory's series "Waiting" is inspired by fellow commuters.

In Bay Area artist Brett Amory’s “Waiting” series of paintings, isolated figures inhabit washed out, spare landscapes—solitary people waiting at bus stops and crosswalks, on subway platforms or at the airport. It’s an ongoing series, focused on themes of anticipation, distraction, and the culture of public transit.

“I was taking BART every day to work. I was living in San Francisco and I was working in Emeryville,” said Amory, 35, from his studio at the back of an old Korean youth center in Oakland. “I noticed how BART would be packed with people, and there’d be this disconnect. People rarely look at each other, let alone speak to each other.”

For most of us, getting to work is one of the least inspiring parts of the day—a time out of time, when we’re simply waiting to be somewhere else. We crowd onto BART trains or buses with headphones snaking from our ears, heads bowed down towards smartphones and iPads, or turning the pages of books and newspapers.

“While we're waiting for something, we're off in our own thoughts,” said Amory. “We’re thinking about our past, we're thinking about our future, but most of us aren't in the present moment. And we're not really paying any attention to our surroundings or who's around us.”

But Amory sees things differently. For him, public transportation is also a gathering place—kind of like a town square on wheels. And it’s given him the perfect venue to find the subjects of his paintings.

“It’s normal, but it’s strange,” he said. “You share so much of your lives with these people you don’t know, that you never talk to, but you see them every day, so you feel like you know them.”

He makes sketches and takes snapshots of people he wants to paint, careful to catch them in candid moments. The end products are much more dramatic than the mundane activities they depict: Some of his paintings are as big as ten by seven feet. And he’s brought them to places far from the Bay Area: his work has shown in galleries in Los Angeles, New York, and London.

“I like to bring attention to people who are overlooked in society,” he said. “That’s why I started the series. Usually the people in my paintings don’t really fit in—they seem awkward. You know, you see them on the sidewalk, or you see them walking down the street, and you might think, ‘I wonder what they do when they go home?’ But then you forget about them. When I show them at a gallery, or put them up on the street, you’re forced to look at them because the scale is so monumental.”

Amory's work has been getting lots of attention lately, in gallery shows in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and London. To check out his work, visit




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The Takeaway

Is it Time to Cut Your Aging Parents Loose?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We frequently talk about retired people living on limited budgets. But what about their adult children?

It turns out that many people with aging parents are struggling financially, and even facing professional setbacks. But are their sacrifices really for the best? And is there a time when they should just cut their aging parents loose to fend for themselves?

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Senior-Friendly City

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Linda Gibbs, deputy mayor for Health and Human Services, talks about the city's initiative to make the Upper West Side and East Harlem more accomodating to senior citizens' needs.

The New York Academy of Medicine has several maps online showing where seniors live, the most convenient transportation, and the poverty rates for the elderly in New York City. Take a look, and tell us what you notice.

And tell us what New York City life is like for you if you're a senior citizen, and what could be done to make it better.

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