Aging + Place, a Joint Center Symposium

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing sponsored a symposium Friday on cutting-edge design and new research related to the future of aging in America, here.  I will just summarize four points made by one of the many inspiring speakers.

Ruth Finkelstein, of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, said (1) every sort of community design should work for all ages. For example, in New York City, you can ask any bus to kneel for whatever reason you need to avoid steps. Such accommodations benefit people from across a community.

(2) Since the data show that the people who live longer are generally the people who have been better educated, we need to improve longevity by strengthening the whole spectrum of education from the beginning. (3)  Community planning should involve older adults. On the basis of her own experience in communities, she calls them the “geniuses of planning.” Planners would never have figured out that bike paths might might help revitalize a troubled neighborhood: the elderly did. And they took up biking, too. (4) Older adults are an asset and not a drain on a local economy. Who in your struggling postindustrial or rural community has a guaranteed income? What do they do with it? Spend it in your community.

Planners really need to start thinking differently. What are the positives to be leveraged?

Finkelstein is also on the advisory committee of WHO’s Age-Friendly Communities and the associate director of the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center.



Fed Chair Checks Job Situation in a Working City

Fed Chair Janet Yellen has long been a student of the role that jobs play in family financial stability and the larger economy. To get some firsthand stories during her Massachusetts visit yesterday, she visited an employment agency in Chelsea, a city that was one of the winners of the Boston Fed’s Working Cities Challenge competition.

From Binyamin Appelbaum at the NY Times today: “Janet L. Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman, went into the field Thursday to do some informal research about the health of the labor market. Ms. Yellen visited a two-year-old nonprofit program that is helping people to find work in this formerly industrial city just north of Boston and heard from organizers and job seekers that it is getting a little easier to earn a living.

“She also heard, however, that without the intensive support of the Connect program, many of its beneficiaries think they might still be looking for work — showing how difficult it can be for the many people who have lost jobs to find new ones.

“ ‘Two years ago, at the beginning, to have anyone get hired was a huge deal,’ Anne Auerbach, a counselor for the Connect program, said after meeting Ms. Yellen. ‘Now some people are getting hired. It has gotten somewhat better.’ Ms. Yellen will speak Friday morning at a conference on economic inequality hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which organized Thursday’s field trip.”

Ylan Mui at the Washington Post interviewed other Federal Reserve officials on the importance of employment and community development, including our own bank preseident.

“ ‘When you think about maximum employment, monetary policy can deal with the cyclical,’ Boston Fed President Eric S. Rosengren said in an interview Thursday. ‘If we were able to change the mindset in some of these cities, the employment picture in these cities would clearly be better.’

“In Chelsea, Yellen will tour a program called Connect, which focuses on financial security. The program includes support groups for those with credit problems to veterans returning to the workforce, individual financial counseling and job skills training. About a third of participants do not have a high school diploma.

“The three-year-old program seems to be gaining traction where monetary policy cannot. Ann Houston, executive director of the Neighborhood Developers, one of the organizations involved in the project, said those in the program see a $400 median increase in monthly net income. The median increase in credit score is 35 points.

“ ‘Increasingly, there’s this recognition that monetary policy is sort of a blunt instrument,’ said David Erickson, director of the Center for Community Development at the San Francisco Fed, which has compiled extensive research on programs and places that have successfully reduced poverty. ‘In that case, you need a little bit more of a surgical tool, and that’s where community development comes in.’ ”

More at the Washington Post, here, and the NY Times, here.

Janet Yellen (left) and Leah Maurer at the Boston Fed on October 16, 2014.


Janet Yellen Visits Us Today

We are excited to have Janet Yellen at the Boston Fed today, an outstanding economist and the first woman to serve as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

“Dr. Yellen is Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley where she was the Eugene E. and Catherine M. Trefethen Professor of Business and Professor of Economics and has been a faculty member since 1980. …

“Dr. Yellen is a member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served as President of the Western Economic Association, Vice President of the American Economic Association and a Fellow of the Yale Corporation.

“Dr. Yellen graduated summa cum laude from Brown University with a degree in economics in 1967, and received her Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University in 1971. She received the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale in 1997, an honorary doctor of laws degree from Brown in 1998, and an honorary doctor of humane letters from Bard College in 2000.”

More at the Board of Governors site, here.


Signs of Growth in Rhode Island

Alex Kuffner has an interview in the Providence Journal with former Communities & Banking author Leonard Lardaro about the economic outlook for struggling Rhode Island.

Writes Kuffner, “The Rhode Island economy showed signs of sustained growth in August, according to the latest Current Conditions Index compiled by University of Rhode Island economist Leonard Lardaro. The index for August was 75, matching the score for July, which was the highest for the calendar year so far. More important, said Lardaro, the score for August was higher than it was for August 2013. It was the first year-on-year increase in 12 months. …

“In an interview, Lardaro said that several areas of the state’s economy performed solidly. Manufacturing, a sector that has suffered for decades, was surprisingly strong. So was residential construction. Retail sales continued on the uptick, increasing by 3.7 percent compared with a year earlier.

“The unemployment rate in Rhode Island remained steady at 7.7 percent in August, according to figures from the state Department of Labor and Training. While the state gained jobs, the labor force declined, the department said. …

” ‘We have a long way to go,’ [Lardaro] said. “But there are more positives than negatives.”

More from the Providence Journal here. Read Professor Lardaro’s Communities & Banking article here.

Photo: Point Judith, RI, fleet


Executive Flips Burgers at 78

The Gray Tsunami I heard so much about in a recent conference failed notably to consider older Americans like this former executive, who wants to keep working.

Carol Hymowitz writes at Bloomberg, ” ‘Inactivity drives me crazy,’ said Tom Palome, a 78-year-old former marketing executive who works as a short-order cook and bartender to make ends meet.

“A year ago, Bloomberg News profiled Palome’s odyssey through the working world of older Americans who haven’t saved enough to retire comfortably. …

” ‘It was overwhelming at first,’ said Palome. ‘Suddenly I was the poster child for what a lot of folks my age are going through.’

“As baby boomers age, the ranks of employed Americans who were 65 and older jumped 67 percent last year to about 7.2 million from a decade ago, many of whom lack sufficient retirement savings. For couples nearing retirement, median 401(k) and IRA balances fell to $111,000 in 2013 from $120,000 in 2010, according to the just released Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances. …

“Palome has no intention of becoming dependent on his children. Nor is retirement on the horizon. Not one to be fooled, he quickly determined that most of the jobs proposed to him last year were ‘pyramid marketing schemes’ where he’d need money to buy inventory he’d then have to sell. So he stuck to his routine at the golf club grill, a job he said he loves because he’s around people all day long.  …

“He tells the seniors who call or e-mail him, seeking advice because they lack pensions and sufficient savings, to use the experience and skills they already have and be positive, even if the job pays less than what they once earned.

“Outgoing and quick to laugh, Palome never tires of friendly banter and thrives serving in a dual role as career counselor and therapist.

“ ‘It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you enjoy doing it. Otherwise you’ll perform poorly,’ he said. ‘I plan to work until I can’t walk. I’m still the burger man.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Boston Fed


Blogs on Lower-Income Issues

As part of the Boston Fed’s Regional & Community Outreach department, I use this blog to share information that might be useful or interesting to others concerned about lower-income issues.

With that in mind, I’m going to post a list of blogs that readers might like. If you dig into this list, you will find that there is a wide variety in terms of frequency, style (some blogs are mainly pushing out positions papers), and interactivity. Some bloggers check the comments every day to approve and respond. Others really shouldn’t offer a comments feature since they don’t use them.

See which ones mesh with your own organization’s needs, and trying commenting there.

(As usual, everything posted here is strictly informational and not to be construed as an endorsement by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston or the Federal Reserve System.)


Conference on Women’s Pay Nov. 7, Boston

This arrived the other day from the New Hampshire Women’s Initiative.

“It’s been 50 years since President Kennedy signed the federal Equal Pay Act, and longer than that since he instituted the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. But half a century later, gender equality is not the norm. Issues that families continue to struggle with include pay equity for women and access to high-quality child-care; these are issues affecting everyone’s financial security. While individual New England states are making inroads in policy change, we need a regional strategy to bring us together. The Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum are hosting the first biennial New England Women’s Policy Conference in Boston on Friday, November 7, to plot a course for future policy.

” ‘The Unfinished Agenda: Ensuring Economic Security for All Women and Their Families’ is the theme of this nonpartisan conference, which will feature leaders (legislative, municipal and state, executives, labor, policy makers, nonprofits) from all six New England states.

“What can we learn about the issues that continue to challenge women and their families? How can you contribute to the discussion? See the complete program.

Photo: Alfred T. Palmer
This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs divisi