Our economic system of free market capitalism is evolving, and we are not adapting well.  Our citizens tend overwhelmingly to agree there is a problem, but we are deeply divided about what to do about it.

Thirty years ago, leaders in most sectors talked about taking financial care of “stakeholders,” not just stockholders. Stakeholders would include shareholders, executives, professionals, laborers, and customers. They all deserved attention to their well-being, and the American Dream seemed within reach of all.

 “At some point in your childhood, you and your friends went outside to play together for the last time, and none of you knew it.” (Author unknown.) This popped up in my Facebook feed a couple weeks ago. The memories flooded back to my childhood days with my best friend, who has made Texas her home. I shared it with her, and we both zoomed back to the 60’s.

Older adults increasingly use social media as a platform to find news and information, share their experiences and connect with friends and family. New studies show social media use can also be good for their health. But with the benefits, can come some risk.

Today, 34% of Americans ages 65 and up say they use social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter; a 20% increase from 2013. The rates are even higher among ‘younger’ seniors. More than four-in-ten (45%) American’s age 65-75 say they use social networking sites, according to Gallup polls.

Social media has become an important portal for reducing isolation, loneliness and other depressive symptoms among older adults and can be beneficial to overall health of older adults.

Questions and Answers

Q:  I’m turning 65 this year and I know I have to sign up for Medicare, but it is really confusing.  Every day I get mailings from different insurance companies about their Medicare plans!  How do I choose what’s best for me and how will I know what they are going to take out of my Social Security check?

A:  It can be daunting to consider Medicare options, especially with all those letters and the terminology.  One good thing is that you have a full seven months to make these choices --- three months before you turn 65, your birth month, and the three months after you turn 65.  In general, under original Medicare, Part A helps cover hospital costs and Part B helps cover other medical costs such as doctors, outpatient services, and durable medical equipment.  Part D helps cover prescription drug costs.  Individuals can instead choose a Medicare Advantage Plan, sometimes called Part C, which usually combines Parts A and B, and often Part D as well, by offering services through a PPO or HMO structure.  These plans are obtained through Medicare-approved private companies and the offers from these plans probably make-up the majority of what is coming to you in the mail right now.

You have to be 90 years old or older to be a member of the Greatest Generation. If you’re somewhere between 89 and 72, you’re in the Silent Generation. Then comes the Baby Boomers aged 53 to 71, Generation X aged 37 to 52, the Millennials aged 19-36, and Generation Z aged 18 and younger.

Life expectancy at birth hovered around 20 years for most of ancient history as we know it. By the year 1200 we were up to 30 years and didn’t approach 40 years until near the 1800s. By the 1900s, life expectancy started to shoot up. In the last hundred years we’ve added 3 more decades to the average life. Amazing.

Transportation experts estimate that 107 million Americans took the annual trek over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. They opted out of the sleigh and jammed the nation’s airports and interstate highway system to join the national quest to retrieve the past.

How did we get so scattered across this land? After all, the institutions of home and family and community are strong and compelling. They are a source of security and identity. They define us as individuals, set out early in life our responsibilities to others and our expectations from them, not just laws and rules, but a familiar culture that shapes us and our neighbors -- for better or worse.

Happy New Year!

You’ve now had one week to think about whether your new year’s resolutions are practical, attainable, a bit lofty, or just ridiculous. Or maybe you decided not to make any, in which case you can’t let yourself down.

I’ve heard it said that it takes three weeks of a new routine in order to make it a habit. So, for those of you still working on it, hang in there. Two weeks to go!

A friend of mine said recently that we should stop making resolutions; they just set us up for failure. Maybe we decide to just make one small change. For example, no eating after 7 p.m.; or, electronics off at 9 p.m., only reading allowed after that; or, simply, fancy takeout coffee only on Wednesdays…

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