Ina Jaffe

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A study published Monday by Human Rights Watch finds that about 179,000 nursing home residents are being given antipsychotic drugs, even though they don't have schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses that those drugs are designed to treat.

Debra Thompson is throwing a block party. She has good weather for it — never a sure thing in Chicago — a warm and sunny autumn afternoon. Music is playing, hot dogs are grilling.

But this party isn't just for fun. Thompson is the volunteer chairwoman of Englewood Village, an organization that connects low-income older adults on the city's South Side with services from nutrition to job assistance to home repair. And this is how she is reaching out to potential new members.

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Many older adults want to stay in their own homes as long as they can, and often they need some help to make that possible. Not everyone has family to count on. So for tens of thousands of older Americans, the solution has been something called the village.

A California judge could decide Tuesday if Gloria Single will be reunited with her husband, Bill. She's 83 years old. He's 93. The two have been married for 30 years. They lived in the same nursing home until last March, when Gloria Single was evicted without warning.

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More than one-quarter of serious cases of nursing home abuse are not reported to the police, according to an alert released Monday morning by the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services.

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.

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