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Are conditions for elderly folks better than they were in 1937?


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TCM is re-airing Leo McCarey's MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW.

 

This story haunts me a bit, I must confess. I don't think conditions have changed much in almost 75 years. We have just as many older folks in America living at or near the poverty level as we ever did.

 

The phrase 'over the hill and to the poor house' is just as relevant as ever. Except one main difference is that the plight of the elderly is no longer subject matter for movies in age-conscious Hollywood.

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Probably the retirees that had it best were those of "The Greatest Generation" that retired in the 70's up until the 90's. That's because they often had lifetime employment by one employer, defined benefit plans, and retiree medical plans that filled in Medicare's gaps. Other forces are at work now eating away at seniors, the worst probably being runaway medical inflation. A CT scan cost $400 in 1986 - I should know, I had one. Today that same procedure costs $2400. I know my salary hasn't gone up six times since then.

 

Plus, people always think they are going to have more time to save than they do, then time runs out on them. They get laid off and can't get another job, or they outlive their good health by a couple of decades.

 

A lesser known film than "Make Way For Tomorrow" that is equally heart-breaking is "Over the Hill" from Fox in 1931. Ma Shelby finds herself put in a poor house after she is shuttled from one grown child's household to the other and even has her money stolen by one of her children - a preacher!

 

 

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Well, yes and no. People over 60 are healthier and are living much longer and if one has a nice nest egg, can retire to Florida or some tropical retreat. But most are on their own, fewer and fewer families takes care of their parents by having them live under one roof like you see on "The Waltons".

 

There seems to be less respect for the elderly by society than we use to see back then, just look at the crime rate against them - mugging/robbery and sexual assaults ( just recently an orderly at that hospital just a couple of days ago, the bas__rd.) :(

 

Today's offspring don't honor their parents like past generations, lot more went to retirement or shoved into nursing homes. One only knows how the present daycare generation will treat their parents down the line.

 

Back during the 1930's when Social Security started out, there was about 13 people working/paying into SS for every one getting it. Today its about a 3 to 1 ratio.

 

Future doesn't look too great.

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{font:arial, helvetica, sans-serif}"Back during the 1930's when Social Security started out, there was about 13 people working/paying into SS for every one getting it. Today its about a 3 to 1 ratio.

 

Future doesn't look too great."

 

You've got to look at more than workers to retiress. Of course, there were more workers to retiress when it fist started. There weren't many retirees benefitting from SS yet.

 

Also, you have to look at worker productivity. Workers today are twice as productive workers just 16 years ago. Image today's worker compared to a worker of 75 years ago. We don't use typewriters or keep records written by hand, for instance. The computer chip, the internet, and other advances in technology have made today's workers much more productive. But this is never discussed when talking about the future of SS.

 

With Medicare and an expanded SS compared to when it first started, I can't see how today's seniors aren't generally way better off than 1937. I believe seniors went from being the group with the highest poverty rate back in the 30s to the group with the lowest poverty rate today. Probably the most prosperous group overall in this country.{font}

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Over the last 70+ years Social Security has built up a nice surplus fund, the money going out to today's retired is money that they put in over their lifetime. As long as the system is maintained with a little tweaking it should go on indefinitely. The people who manage the system have to be dedicated to preserving it by predicting future pay outs and adjusting accordingly. It is only proper that the future retirement age should be adjusted upward by a few years because people are enjoying a longer life span. What we have to watch out for is falling for the scammers who want to "fix" the system but are really intent on destroying it. Clearly the elderly are on average way better off then those of 70 years ago. That fact proves the system is good and should be maintained.

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> {quote:title=mrroberts wrote:}{quote}Over the last 70+ years Social Security has built up a nice surplus fund, the money going out to today's retired is money that they put in over their lifetime. As long as the system is maintained with a little tweaking it should go on indefinitely. The people who manage the system have to be dedicated to preserving it by predicting future pay outs and adjusting accordingly. It is only proper that the future retirement age should be adjusted upward by a few years because people are enjoying a longer life span. What we have to watch out for is falling for the scammers who want to "fix" the system but are really intent on destroying it. Clearly the elderly are on average way better off then those of 70 years ago. That fact proves the system is good and should be maintained.

Agree about watching those that want to "fix" it. Like Wall Street and their allies in government. There was a push to "privatize" it back in 2005. How would that have worked out with the economic crash? There's still talk of it now. Same with Medicare. Turning it from a single payer system that covers most seniors medical care to Couponcare. Where you get a coupon you can redeem for private health insurance. Except it doesn't keep up with health care inflation and shifts the costs to the individual. But won't competition among private insurers keep costs down? RIGHT! They'll be falling all over themselves to get all those elderly patients.

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Today, the Social Security program is under the exact same ideologically motivated attack that it was in the 30's. The program was originally enacted against shrill and hysterical opposition which did not abate for a number of years. For decades, it was a maxim that "Social Security is the third rail of American politics". This sore has reopened in recent years, and some politicians are willing to flirt with touching that third rail. What has saved SS and Medicare over all these years and insulated them against revision and cancellation is the raw political reality that seniors vote in very large numbers. Mess with them, and some politician is going down in flames.

 

The mere existence of such a program is an affront to some. It's critics sometimes cloak their philosophical opposition to the program in financial terms- telling us that it is financially unstable or unsustainable. It can be made sustainable, but not by those whose vision of government does not encompass the idea of government addressing ANY social need. What we are going through today is a revival of political debate that takes us back to the 30's, as some would have us return to a 19th century role for government.

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It's a good question and I like the fact that "Make Way For Tomorrow" raised it for you. There are more options for independent living now but, of course, you need to be able to afford them, always the kicker. And does it really replace the time-honored (then) tradition of the parents coming home to roost with the family they had raised and nurtured? As the movie shows, it was an imperfect system subject to whim even then. Complicating things was the mindset that you were old at 50, which isn't as true today. I know there are many people today who are well-placed in independent and assisted living situations, but is it because the option of living with family members isn't as freely offered these days? I love the fact that Michelle's mother lives in the White House. It's the right message. As far as modern films, I think "Away From Her" with Julie Christie did the best job of looking at a complicated situation which also included identity loss. But again, that family could afford the institutional care. It's a real issue and appropriate for Christmastime, so thanks again for raising it.

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Thanks for the comments. One thing nobody has mentioned is the fact that not everyone has offspring.

 

Another thing we're not addressing is why we don't see independent films or documentaries tackle this issue in today's movies. Is it too depressing a subject? After all, just how much entertainment value is there in a story like MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW...?

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The idea of grandma and/or grandpa living with their kids in old age is a nice idea, but if they need any care, who's at home during the day? Most families today have both parents working. Unlike the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.

 

Many seniors probably don't want to live with their kids. Unless they absolutely have to. In the late 50s, my dad was a depot agent with the railroad. We live upstairs above the depot. Two parents and 4 kids and mom strictly a housewife. For 2 years after we moved to my dad's small hometown, my grandmother(in her 70s) lived in a nearby hotel in an apartment-style set up. I don't think she had a desire to live with us(no room anyway) even in those days. Of course, for those 2 years we were right next door.

 

As to elderly being better or worse off than 1937. Although poverty stats weren't kept officially until 1959, there have been studies using census data from the 30s that estimate overall poverty in 1935 was around 65% and for the elderly it was 75%-80%. That's unbelievable! Even in the early 1950s, the elderly poverty rate was close to 50%. Today the poverty rate for the elderly in UNDER 10%.

 

I also read somewhere that today's median family income of around $50,000 was around $15,000-$20,000(in today's dollars) in the 30s.

 

Edited by: rover27 on Dec 24, 2011 7:24 PM

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Of course, I may be pin-pointing a certain segment of the population...but I don't think the average American is going to have much more than $20,000 a year to live off in benefits when they retire. That is technically not at the poverty level, but it is not much above it.

 

Plus, let's say someone retires at 65 and lives to 95. That fixed income of $20,000 per year will definitely be at the poverty level in ten years, let alone 30 years from now. Then, we have medical costs always on the rise.

 

I don't like to sound pessimistic, but I think conditions are potentially as bad as they were in 1937 for the elderly. We need films about this topic. I don't care if it's in the TV-movie format. Just something.

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> {quote:title=TopBilled wrote:}{quote}Of course, I may be pin-pointing a certain segment of the population...but I don't think the average American is going to have much more than $20,000 a year to live off in benefits when they retire. That is technically not at the poverty level, but it is not much above it.

>

> Plus, let's say someone retires at 65 and lives to 95. That fixed income of $20,000 per year will definitely be at the poverty level in ten years, let alone 30 years from now. Then, we have medical costs always on the rise.

>

> I don't like to sound pessimistic, but I think conditions are potentially as bad as they were in 1937 for the elderly. We need films about this topic. I don't care if it's in the TV-movie format. Just something.

Remember Social Security benefits are indexed for inflation. Medicare is the area of most concern because costs are skyrocketing. Not because of Medicare itself, but just because health care costs in general are skyrocketing. That's why privatizing it and shifting costs to the individual is such a bad idea. Although I think Medicare beneficiaries are going to have to make some sacrifices in the future to keep it a viable program. The small fixes needed to keep SS going as is are much easier.

 

We are an aging nation until the baby boomer generation dies off.

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Topbilled wrote:

<< We need films about this topic. I don't care if it's in the TV-movie format. Just something. >>

 

There are a couple of documentaries about the subject.

"Aging in America - The Years Ahead" (2003)

http://www.fanlight.com/catalog/films/441_aia.php

 

The question is, who in their right mind will pay $195.00 for a 56 minutes DVD? :0

 

There is a PBS documentary "Living Old"

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/livingold/view/

 

One thing that is not mentioned here is the government *borrowing* against Social Security. I thought Roosevelt set that program up to be "untouchable"?

 

My parents got Railroad Retirement from the Norfolk and Western (now Norfolk Southern.) That was one of the best decisions my father ever made, it paid out better than Social Security and had some perks. They treat you *right!*

 

I myself is paying into Social Security so I have to be a little concerned over how its being handled.

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rover said

Remember Social Security benefits are indexed for inflation.

 

Yes, and food and gas are no longer included in the inflation index. So we are going to have next to nothing for inflation. Those are 2 big expenses in elderly folks lives. And if they don't factor food and gas - SS increases will be mighty small. Even though their expenses will continue to increase.

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Fred that is one of my favorite films from the 30's! Although *If I Had a Million (1932)* has aired on TCM, it is a rarely seen movie and has not ever come out on video. Each of it's 6 segments were filmed by a different director, and one of them faetures *WC Fields*! The one that you provided is stark, although it has a happy ending.

 

Ay one time is was customary to put the aged poor into county homes, along with the insane.

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Gee I hope so! This reminds me of the movie we will see tomorrow "Make way for Tomorrow" Where the elderly couple is considered a burden to their children. Also makes me feel kinda of guilty b/c my D.O.D {Dear ole Dad} is in a nursing home and I do not go visit very often! Shame on me!!

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Hi gwenny,

 

For many, the guilt issue over commitment can be dealt with by letting the attending physician make the decision. If the doctor feels the elderly patient is no longer competent to care for themselves, he can order commitment to a care facility.

 

If your dad is in the same town you are living in, you should see him more often. If he lives in a distant state, then it's more understandable if you don't end up visiting him frequently.

 

Sadly, one thing they see a lot of down in Florida is people who have retired there, having moved from other states, and end up in nursing homes far away from their families. Moving away from your family and friends for retirement sounds alluring to a great many, but only makes sense while you have your health and can take care of yourself. Once you can no longer do that and are committed to a care facility, you are a person alone, with no freedom to travel, away from your family. I cringe when I read hype articles on yahoo! touting places like Costa Rica or Ecuador for retirement! That's moving far away from your loved ones at a time in your life when you might be needing them.

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That Fields segment in If I Had a Million may be the best thing he ever did. It hasn't shown on TCM for nearly two years, but here it is on You Tube in two parts running 5:27 and 5:57. It's absolutely hilarious, and may possibly have inspired the producers of the DeVito / Dreyfuss classic, The Tin Men .

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDSW-ybm0mg

 

and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfIoKTTZuUo&feature=related

 

*"How did you like that, you great snorting road-hog!"*

 

*"Oh, Rollo, it's been a GLORIOUS day!"*

 

 

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Thank you Thelma for your responce! Yes D.O.D. lives in the same town. My mother can no longer care for him at home. So that is why he is there. He is actually doing real well right now. Whe he was at home he just laid around in the basement (nice finished place w/ a bedroom and rec room etc not a bad thing) not on a schedule, wouldnt listen to my mom, didnt take his medicines etc. So now that he is on a scheduled he is doing very well.

 

 

YES isnt that amazing how people do not think about there issues when they retire. I work in a Hospital in Colorado and I see retiree's make that mistake all the time! Not to break HIPPA or anything (no names) just a small example there was a couple from some small town in NewYork who were on a big road trip passing through. She was so crippled up she could hardly get around (in fact I had to haul her out of the hospital in a wheelchair when her husband the patient was discharged! He had gotten chestpain and was admitted to our hospital. Far from family & home. I fielded a lot of phone calls from concerned realatives.

 

 

YES as soon as I have wheels I will get over there to visit much more often!

 

 

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Hi gwenny,

 

When you do go visit your dad in the facility, check with them about tuning in to TCM on the rec room TV's and other monitors. I firmly believe that TCM is great entertainment therapy for the elderly residents of a nursing home. Many of the movies will take them back to their youth, and the channel will likely not upset them as much as some contemporary programming.

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