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News briefs: December 2013

Spread holiday cheer by becoming Santa to a senior

Holiday shoppers in the greater Portland area can give cheer to area seniors by participating in the Be a Santa to a Senior program.

The program — run by the local Home Instead Senior Care® offices in partnership with several local nonprofit agencies, area retailers, volunteers and members of the community — helps ensure isolated seniors receive gifts and companionship during the holidays.

An estimated 27 percent of people 65 and older (10.8 million people) are widowed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Further, the Administration on Aging reports about 28 percent (11.8 million) non-institutionalized people 65 and older live alone.

Retailers participating in Be a Santa to a Senior are displaying Christmas wreaths and trees through mid-December that feature ornaments with seniors’ first names and their gift requests. Holiday shoppers can pick an ornament from these trees, buy the items listed and return them unwrapped to the store, with the ornament attached.

The local Home Instead Senior Care offices will enlist volunteers from its staff, senior-care business associates, non-profit workers and others to collect, wrap and distribute the gifts to local seniors who might otherwise spend the holiday alone.

For more information about the program and Be a Santa to a Senior tree locations, visit www.BeaSantatoaSenior.com.

Seniors’ home equity increases for fifth straight quarter

Americans 62 and older now have more equity in their homes than at any time since mid-2008, according to data released today by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.

The new information comes from the NRMLA/RiskSpan Reverse Mortgage Market Index, which analyzes trends in the home values, home equity, and mortgage debt of homeowners 62 and older.

In the second quarter of 2013, the index reached its highest level (160.06) since the third quarter of 2008. It has now risen for five straight quarters. After falling to start 2012, the index increased slightly in the second quarter before showing significant growth in the third and fourth quarters. That trend continued in the first quarter of 2013, and the 3.1 percent growth between the first and second quarter is the index’s biggest quarterly jump since the end of 2008.

Over the past two years, the aggregate home equity held by Americans 62 and older grew 12.5 percent to a total of $3.34 trillion.

The $101 billion increase in senior home equity from the first to the second quarter of 2013 was driven by an estimated $98 billion increase in the aggregate value of housing owned by Americans 62 and older, while their collective mortgage debt declined by $3.4 billion.

The mortgage debt for Americans 62 and older stands at $1.07 trillion — its lowest level since the third quarter of 2007. Senior mortgage debt peaked at $1.14 trillion in the third quarter of 2010.

The tooth of the matter: We’re bad at oral hygiene

Maybe it’s a rebellion against childhood nagging from their mothers to brush their teeth, but many older Americans have become lax about oral hygiene, a recent study found.

A report released by Oral Health America found that 23 percent of older Americans haven’t seen a dental provider in five years, the same percentage have severe gum disease, and 50 percent have untreated cavities.

Why? The report identifies several barriers to dental care that seniors run into: limited income and coverage (70 percent don’t have dental insurance), a lack of understanding the need for routine care, the inability to pay for a major dental procedure and living in areas where dentists are scarce.

It also lists the major benefits of oral hygiene and routine dental care, including the prevention of oral disease, a decrease in the risk of health complications and the ability to eat a balanced diet.

Oral Health America is a national nonprofit organization based in Chicago. Learn more at oralhealthamerica.org or toothwisdom.org.