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Staying on Course: Senior Center Event Helps Plan for the Future

Matthew Hersh

A day-long seminar geared to help people plan for the future is scheduled for this coming weekend, and not a moment too soon, according to organizers:

"The government resources that our parents relied on look a little unreliable at this point, and the demographics don't look good," according to Susan Hoskins, executive director of the Princeton Senior Resource Center, which is hosting its second "Plan for the Future Day 2005" this Saturday. The event is geared to offer not only financial information, but tips on maintaining independence, and staying active.

Ms. Hoskins offered a rough estimate of the efficacy of the federal social security program, saying that the amount of guidance is diminishing as the baby boomer population begins to enter the retirement phase.

"When Social Security was set up, there were 30 employees to support every retiree, and now with the baby boomers, we're going the opposite direction: we're going to hit the one-to-one."

Most people, Ms. Hoskins added, cannot afford to support themselves as retirees in addition to an elderly parent. "People need to be saving for themselves."

The PSRC director pointed to an article published in May on former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop's Web site, titled "The Value of Living Wills Under Fire," that says while living wills are praised and encouraged, they are often not fully effective.

One reason for that, according to the report, is that living wills are for the old and ailing. That was highlighted in the recent family, and eventually state and federal, battle over the life of Terry Schiavo, who, at only 38, did not have a living will. Both Ms. Schiavo's parents and her husband tried to speak for her.

But Ms. Hoskins said that while planning for the future is no less necessary for retirees who can potentially have 30 or 40 years of living ahead of them, the planning is not just for them.

"People don't want to talk about what to do or will just say 'oh yeah, I'll get around to it'," she said. "It's a guide for your family and your doctor to know what your feelings are."

Older adults might be turned off by the process because of the solicitation by mail, phone, or e-mail, that begins once one begins to reach retirement age, Ms. Hoskins said, adding that the promise of "free estimates" and grim messages warning that life insurance alone is not enough to cover potential needs begin to blend into a kind of junk mail white noise.

"Because they get bombarded with so much, you say 'no' to all of it," Ms. Hoskins said.

PSRC now hosts "Plan for the Future" every other year, offering lectures and workshops conducted by community members who are "not going to go away with people's addresses and phone numbers to call them.

"The focus is on education," Ms. Hoskins said.

Scheduled presenters for this Saturday's event include Vivian Greenberg, the keynote speaker, who will lecture on "A New Perspective on Healthy Aging." A local therapist and columnist for The Times of Trenton, Ms. Greenberg's presentation will kick off a series of eight workshops focusing on topics including financial planning and long-term care insurance (nursing home care, etc.). Representatives from the New Jersey Medicaid Office will also be on-hand for consultation.

Other workshops focus on the technological element involved with aging individuals, particularly, what sort of technology is available for those losing their hearing or vision. "There are things in technology that allow you to continue carrying on with your life," Ms. Hoskins said.

The closing speaker, Debbie Breslin, program director of the state Health Insurance Assistance Program, will speak on "Medicare Part D: Your Options Under the Medicare Prescription Program."

For more information or to register for the seminar, call (609) 924-7108.


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