Ina Jaffe

Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America in all its variety. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. She also has an ongoing spot on Weekend Edition with Scott Simon called "1 in 5" where she discusses issues relevant to the 1/5 of the U.S. population that will be 65 years old or more by 2030.

Ina also reports on politics, contributing to NPR's coverage of national elections in 2008, 2010, and 2012.

From her base at NPR's production center in Culver City, California, Ina has covered most of the region's major news events from the beating of Rodney King to the election of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. She's also developed award-winning enterprise pieces. Her 2012 investigation into how the West Los Angeles VA made millions from renting vacant property while ignoring plans to house homeless veterans won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists as well as a Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media. A few months after the story aired, the West Los Angeles VA broke ground on supportive housing for homeless vets.

Her year-long coverage on the rising violence in California's public psychiatric hospitals won the 2011 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award as well as a Gracie Award. Her 2010 series on California's tough three strikes law was honored by the American Bar Association with the Silver Gavel Award, as well as by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Before moving to Los Angeles, Jaffe was the first editor of Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon which made its debut in 1985.

Born in Chicago, Jaffe attended the University of Wisconsin and DePaul University receiving Bachelor's and Master's degrees in philosophy, respectively.

Hospice care is for the dying. It helps patients manage pain so they can focus on spending their remaining time with loved ones. But in recent years, nearly 1 in 5 patients has been discharged from hospice before he or she dies, according to government reports.

The Senate vote on the health care bill has been pushed back, but it still has a lot of people in the nursing home industry worried. About two-thirds of nursing home residents are paid for by Medicaid. And the Congressional Budget Office found that the Senate health care bill would cut Medicaid by more than $770 billion over the next decade.

Leon Watts III stands out among his fellow gerontology students at the University of Southern California's Davis School of Gerontology. They all look to be under 25. Watts is 66. What led up to his return to school was decades spent rehabbing homes in Los Angeles. Over that time, his clients have aged and he's seen their needs change. Watts decided he'd be able to do a lot more for them with a master's degree in gerontology.

People complain about nursing homes a lot: the food's no good or there's not enough staff, and so on. It's a long list. But the top complaint, according to the federal government, is eviction from a nursing home.

Technically, it's known as involuntary discharge, and in 2015 it brought in more than 9,000 complaints. Now, a couple of states are looking for ways to hold nursing homes accountable for unnecessary evictions.

Not everyone who reaches so-called retirement age is ready to retire. But they may be ready for a change. That's one of the reasons that the tech giant Intel pays longtime employees a stipend while they try out new careers at nonprofit organizations.

Creating some form of art is commonly believed to help older people stay mentally and physically healthy. Scientific research hasn't quite caught up with that belief.

But that hasn't deterred the dozen or so older adults in Janet Hoult's poetry workshop. She refers to them all as "my poets." They meet weekly at the Culver City Senior Center in Culver City, Calif. Hoult is 80. Her eldest pupil, Ruth Berman, is 91.

Republican lawmakers meeting in Philadelphia this week say they want their replacement of Obamacare to be done by spring. There is no consensus on a plan yet, but several Republicans in Congress have already circulated proposals that could reduce or eliminate features of the federal health law that have benefited older Americans.

Here are some examples:

Prescription drugs

Some encouraging news in the battle against Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia: The rate at which older Americans are getting these conditions is declining. That's according to a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers say one reason for the improved outlook is an increase in education.

Loneliness can be a problem for older people, especially when they're in the hospital. Their children may have moved away. Spouses and friends may themselves be too frail to visit. So a California hospital is providing volunteer companions in the geriatric unit.

One of the volunteers at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica is 24-year-old Julia Torrano. She hopes to go to medical school. Meanwhile, her twice-weekly volunteer shifts give her a lot of practice working with patients.

Early mornings are routine for 69-year-old Hiroyuko Yamamoto. He's typically at a busy intersection in the city of Matsudo, near Tokyo, where he volunteers as a school crossing guard. But one rainy morning a little over a year ago, an old woman caught his attention.

She was pushing a bicycle. She was kind of disheveled. Despite the rain, she didn't have an umbrella. When Yamamoto spoke to the woman, she said she was trying to get to the city of Kamisuwa. That's about four hours away by train.

In Japanese cities, space is at a premium. So convenience stores that cram everything from Kleenex to rice balls into a few square yards are everywhere. You can't walk five minutes in most cities without running into one or two or even half a dozen.

But they're not just a place for Slurpees and snacks. Nearly 27 percent of Japan's population is now 65 or older, and convenience stores are changing to serve this growing market.

The dictionary defines ageism as the "tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment." But research indicates that ageism may not just be ill-informed or hurtful. It may also be a matter of life and death.

Not that it's literally killing people. Researcher Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health, says it depends on how much a given individual takes those negative ideas to heart.

One of the keys to providing good care in nursing homes is simply having enough staff. The federal government says about a quarter of all nursing home complaints can be traced back to low staffing levels. And studies have connected low staff levels to lousy treatment. The state of New Mexico connects it to fraud.

What if you had to go to the hospital, and when it came time to return home, your landlord said you couldn't move back in? Across the country, thousands of nursing home residents face that situation every year. In most cases, it's a violation of federal regulations. But those rules are rarely enforced by the states. So, in California, some nursing home residents are suing the state, hoping to force it to take action.

If you pictured a dancer, you probably wouldn't imagine someone with Parkinson's disease. Worldwide, there are 10 million people with the progressive movement disorder, and they struggle with stiff limbs, tremors and poor balance.

Hearing loss can have a negative impact on work. It can lead to social isolation. It can even contribute to dementia. And one-third of Americans 65 and older have some level of hearing impairment. Typically they wait years to get tested.

But there's a scientifically validated hearing test that you can take over the telephone in the privacy of your home for just 5 bucks.

As Dean Cole's dementia worsened, he began wandering at night. He'd even forgotten how to drink water. His wife, Virginia, could no longer manage him at home. So after much agonizing, his family checked him into a Minnesota nursing home.

Want to eat food that's fresh, local and cooked from scratch? Consider a retirement home. Once known for bland, institutional fare, hundreds of retirement communities around the nation now tout their restaurant-like dining experiences.

One of those is Bethlehem Woods in La Grange Park, Ill. Resident Marge Healy counts on having dinner with the same group of friends every evening.

"We're almost like a family," she says, as her friends nod in agreement.

When a friend or loved one gets sick — really, seriously sick — it's hard to know what to say. So some of us say nothing. Which seems better than saying the wrong thing, though people do that too.

Los Angeles graphic designer Emily McDowell's solution to this dilemma are what she calls Empathy Cards. When someone is seriously ill, she says, the usual "Get Well Soon" won't do. Because you might not, she says. At least not soon.

A healthy diet is good for everyone. But as people get older, cooking nutritious food can become difficult and sometimes physically impossible. A pot of soup can be too heavy to lift. And there's all that time standing on your feet. It's one of the reasons that people move into assisted living facilities.

But a company called Chefs for Seniors has an alternative: They send professional cooks into seniors' homes. In a couple of hours they can whip up meals for the week.

Sexual relationships in long-term care facilities are not uncommon. But the long-term care industry is still grappling with the issue.

Lena Katakura's father is 81. He was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer and doctors don't expect him to survive the illness. Katakura says a nurse at their Honolulu hospital gave them a form to fill out to indicate what kind of treatment he'd want at the end of life.

When we think of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, we think of the loss of memory or the inability to recognize familiar faces, places, and things. But for caregivers, the bigger challenge often is coping with the other behaviors common in dementia: wandering, sleeplessness and anxiety or aggression.

Older adults with Alzheimer's Disease or other forms of dementia are at risk of being prescribed dangerous antipsychotic medication whether they live in nursing homes or not. That's according to a study from the Government Accountability Office published Monday.

It's a sunny autumn afternoon and a good time to make apple crisp at Pathstone Living, a memory care facility and nursing home in Mankato, Minn. Activities staffer Jessica Abbott gathers half a dozen older women at a counter in the dining area, where the soundtrack is mostly music they could have fox-trotted to back in the day.

Antipsychotic drugs have helped many people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. But for older people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, they can be deadly. The Food and Drug Administration has given these drugs a black box warning, saying they can increase the risk of heart failure, infections and death. Yet almost 300,000 nursing home residents still get them.

It's one of the worst fears we have for our parents or for ourselves: that we, or they, will end up in a nursing home, drugged into a stupor. And that fear is not entirely unreasonable. Almost 300,000 nursing home residents are currently receiving antipsychotic drugs, usually to suppress the anxiety or aggression that can go with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia.

The lives of older men have changed in a significant way since 1998, or at least their sex lives have changed. That's the year Viagra was introduced. Cialis and Levitra followed a few years later.

The once taboo subject of erectile dysfunction is now inescapable for anyone who watches TV. Late-night comedians continually mine the topic. By 2002, Jay Leno had told 944 Viagra jokes, according to the Wall Street Journal. We couldn't independently verify that number. Actually, we didn't try.

A federal lawsuit against two Watsonville, Calif., nursing homes may offer a new approach to dealing with the persistent problem of such facilities overmedicating their residents.

The lawsuit details multiple cases when the government says these drugs were inappropriately administered to patients.

When it comes to reining in medical costs, delivering more health care and bringing it right to the patient's home can, for a select group of patients, save money.

These particular patients are elders struggling with multiple chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, stroke, diabetes or dementia. They make up just 5 percent of the people on Medicare, but they account for about half of all Medicare spending.

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