Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supreme Court Upholds the Affordable Care Act

Today the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 decision. This important legislation was passed to ensure that all Americans have access to some form of health care coverage. Many of the ACA’s provisions provide critical health care coverage or protections to our nation’s oldest and youngest generations.

Generations United strongly supports the ACA and its goal of providing access to health care for all generations. While some important provisions have already come into effect, more remains to be done to meet the goal of affordable health insurance for all Americans, especially our most vulnerable populations, by 2014. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled on the ACA, Generations United calls on Congress and the President to work together to provide funding, and ensure that these critical reforms are supported and implemented for the wellbeing of all generations.

Learn more about the Affordable Care Act’s health care benefits for children and older adults.

For more information on the specific rulings related to the individual mandate and Medicaid aid, check out Politico.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Social Security Stories: Marilyn Watkins

image Marilyn Watkins enjoyed a happy life in Seattle with her family. Married to an instructor at the University of Washington, she was raising two boys, Carl, 11 and Erik, 9, while working a part-time job. Their lives changed drastically, however, when her husband died suddenly of a heart attack.

“On the night my husband died, Erik had some friends over to the house. I overheard him say to them, ‘My daddy made all the money. How are we going to live?’ Even at his age, he knew it was a concern.”

Because he provided the family’s primary source of income, the death of Marilyn’s husband could have devastated the family financially. Marilyn feared that she might need to leave the family home with her young sons and that another disruption would only bring more anxiety to her boys. Thankfully, Social Security survivor benefits helped to see them through this traumatic period in their lives.


“Social Security made a huge difference,” Marilyn said. “It allowed us to stay in our house and offered security for my boys, who had gone through so much. I think it prevented them from having issues later in life, and I attribute that to Social Security.”

The monthly support meant Marilyn worried about less about her finances as she guided her sons from elementary through high school.

“Being a single mom raising two boys was pretty challenging in itself,” she said. “It was good knowing I could afford to buy them new sneakers or a new coat when they needed it.”

“I think Social Security is really important for middle class families, too,” she continued. “Even if you are earning well above the poverty line, there are always extra expenses coming up – something with the car or the house.”

Both of Marilyn’s sons attended Carlton College and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Erik majored in computer science while Carl studied Geology.

“Social Security gave me the ability to raise my sons without the fear of falling backwards into poverty,” Marilyn said. “Knowing that we would receive an amount in our checking account each month made a huge difference. The stability it allowed me to provide for them was invaluable.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Intergenerational Activities

A few months ago my husband, two-year-old son and I had the privilege of having my mom come stay with us for a couple months to help out while I was having some health problems. Her support was immeasurable. However, in the midst of it I found that, despite serving as a deputy executive director of an organization that promotes intergenerational connections, I was lousy at coming up with activities that worked well for us all to do together. Eventually we found a rhythm and it became clear that sometimes the best activities are the old standards with a little forethought and preparation.  As today marks the official beginning of summer, here are a few simple, low-cost, reliable ideas for spending summer days together with Grandma, Grandpa and your toddler(s).

Park , Picnic & Play: Pack a picnic and head to the park. But don’t let sandwiches, apples and some juice boxes suffice. That picnic should include some simple items to help all ages get engaged in play together.  Bring some bubble liquid and wands or invite everyone to make their own!   Not a bubbly bunch? Pack a ball or kite or bring a few basic creative materials to have everyone join together to make things that fly.


Water Wonders:  A toddler water table, swimming pool, or slip-and-slide are always a hit, but you don’t have to have fancy equipment to enjoy water play together. Grab a plastic water pitcher, some mixing bowls, a few mixing spoons, measuring cups and a bucket of ice cubes. Together you will prepare a refreshing multigenerational feast of “ice soup.”  Grandpa is the ice dispenser, Grandma helps measure the ingredients, the little ones pour and mix to perfection  and it’s ready for the whole family to enjoy. 

Intergenerational Ice Cream:  Few treats are sure to bring more smiles to the faces of young and old than ice cream.  Try making it together and you will add learning and team work to those smiles. If you have an ice cream maker, you may have a long tradition of this family fun. But you don’t have to have an expensive machine to make ingenious ice cream treats.  See these easy instructions for making ice cream in a bag.


For more ideas for summer and year round intergenerational activities visit these great resources:


- Written by Jaia Peterson Lent

Friday, June 15, 2012

Happy Father’s Day from Generations United

Generations United wanted to take a moment to say thanks to all of the wonderful dads, husbands, and father figures in our lives. Here are some memories from our staff with their fathers on Father’s Day.


Disney World 2 I can’t remember whether we gave my dad his first pair of deerskin slippers for Father’s Day or his birthday, but I do know he loved those slippers. They were incredibly soft, at least for the first few years he wore them. Eventually, they became stiff and discolored. To our chagrin, he wore them everywhere—even on a trip to Disneyworld in 1972 with my younger brothers and sister. (See photo.)

I also remember the last pair we gave him. We’d bought them early for Christmas, but he died in late November, just four weeks before we could give them to him. He did get to wear them though: we buried him in his favorite suit and brand new slippers.

We still love you, Dad.

-Colleen Appleby-Carroll


My dad has always been more of a gift giver than receiver. While this is beneficial for me as a strapped for cash college student, finding a gift for him on Father’s Day can be quite a challenge. One year, instead of buying him a coffee mug or tie, my family simply took a walk through our neighborhood together. He later said this time had made that Father’s Day the most memorable because he was able to spend time in the place he loved the most with the people he loved the best. Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads like mine who cherish and care for both their family and community!

-Annie Cleary


Growing up in the small paper town of Green Bay, WI, Father’s Day has always been more or less another excuse for the guys to get together and talk about football. Traditionally June is the time the Green Bay Packers begin their training, and what better way to celebrate Father’s Day then to watch our beloved team in the early stages of their season. As a child I remember going with my father and grandfather to the field to watch the men in pads practice, ever hopeful that “this will be our season.” It’s always been an incredible moment of bonding for me, my father and grandfather (and his father and grandfather some time ago before that), a tradition I hope to carry on to my children someday.

-Adam Hlava


EK14 Although our family does not hold any sacred Father’s Day traditions, I am reminded of my favorite things about my Dad as the holiday approaches. This includes his discerning taste for potatoes informed by 30+ years farming, his fancy and not-at-all-dated dance moves, and his tight grip on my arm as he walked me down the aisle six months ago. It won’t be easy to find the right gift for such an amazing Dad.

-Erica Jorde



228585_2058913119395_2379990_n For many, golf is not a relaxing sport; but for my father it’s one of his favorite past times. Since I was little, he and I would go out on the golf course and practice our swings, collect lost balls from the out of bounds (often coming out covered in poison oak), have chipping contests, and finish the round in good spirits (mostly).  As I got older, I’d buy my dad some golf paraphernalia for Father’s Day and use it as an excuse to go out on the golf course with him to test it out. I’ve followed suite once again this year and look forward to the next time I’m in Iowa and can play a round with Dad. Happy Father’s Day!

-Melissa Ness

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Understanding “Sequestration”

Last year, Congress and the President worked together to pass the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) to address immediate and long-term fiscal concerns for our nation. (Read Generations United’s full statement on the BCA.) Because Congress couldn’t agree on how to cut the federal budget, automatic across the board cuts – known as sequestration - will kick in in January 2013.

These automatic cuts will be applied in a 50-50 split between defense and non-defense spending. This represents $54.7 billion in domestic spending which will be cut from a wide range of programs, including programs that are vital to children, youth and older adults.

Sequestration will affect both mandatory and discretionary domestic funding sources. Mandatory cuts will include:

  • Cuts in Medicare payments to providers and insurance plans; those cuts are limited to 2 percent of such payments in any year, or $11 billion in 2013.  This means that Medicare providers will continue to bill Medicare in the normal way but will be reimbursed at a rate of 98 cents on the dollar.
  • About $5.2 billion in cuts in the other mandatory programs, the biggest of which supports farm prices; other affected programs include student loans, vocational rehabilitation, mineral leasing payments, the Social Services Block Grant, and dozens of smaller programs.

Other domestic programs, which are funded through discretionary spending, would face even more drastic cuts of $35.5 billion – or 8.4%. The bulk of the cuts to domestic spending would be to important programs for children, youth and older adults. These include Head Start and K-12 education funding, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), employment and nutrition programs for older adults, and funding to implement the Affordable Care Act.

(For a listing of projected cuts, see the Coalition on Human Needs’ report Self-Inflicted Wounds: Protecting Families and Our Economy from Bad Budget Choices.)

Congress is currently discussing ways to avoid sequestration, but some proposals would protect defense spending at the expense of even deeper cuts to domestic programs, or even those exempted from cuts under the BCA (such as, Medicare, SNAP, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)).

Generations United urges Congress and the President to protect our nation’s most vulnerable and invest in our country’s future by supporting proposals which would provide adequate revenue to address the needs of our citizens.

Want to stay up-to-date on the federal budget debate? Subscribe to Generations United’s Policy Alerts.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Social Security Stories: Jan Schakowsky

image As an advocate for families, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) has been a steadfast defender of Social Security.  She knows survivor benefits epitomize the role that Social Security plays as an insurance program for all generations.

In 2005, Schakowsky’s son Ian lost his wife Fiona after a yearlong struggle with cancer. Their children, Eve and William, were very young at the time. "People just loved Fiona," Schakowsky said. "She was just fun to be with and thoughtful . . . a fabulous mother and a friend to many.”

“Social Security is a program not often seen as a family support, but I can tell you that the benefits my grandchildren get are very helpful to my family,” she said.

In 2010, Schakowsky was appointed to serve on President Obama’s 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. There, she joined other commission members in searching for solutions to the deficit and long-term solvency of Social Security. In her role on the committee, Schakowsky repeatedly championed the push to strengthen Social Security.


“Social Security is not in crisis,” she said.  “It’s Trust Fund has a reserve of $2.5 trillion, which will grow to $4.3 trillion by the end of 2023.  I believe that we need to make changes to Social Security to ensure it can pay full benefits and remain solvent over the next 75 years,” she said. “With relatively small changes, we can ensure that Social Security will be able to pay full benefits through the rest of this century.”

Congresswoman Schakowsky is dedicated to improving the program and ensuring that Social Security stays strong for today’s recipients and future generations.  “Social Security is an insurance program funded and owned by American workers. Reducing benefits could plunge millions of middle class retirees into debt and put orphaned children at risk. I am committed to protecting Social Security because I wouldn’t want to imagine what it would be like without it.”


-Profile from Generations United’s Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A Good Man

image A little over a year ago, Generations United devoted a blog post to Sargent Shriver, a great service advocate and leader, who passed away in January 2011. Yesterday, Shriver’s fourth son Mark Shriver released a book dedicated to his father entitled A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver. The title could not be more befitting for a man who sought goodness in all aspects of his life.

Sargent Shriver made an impressive impact in both his community and his country. In addition to creating the Peace Corps with his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy, he began programs like Head Start, Job Corps, and Foster Grandparents. However, Mark Shriver writes that “most importantly, was his role as a father and grandfather.”

A Good Man acts as more than a remembrance of the great public works of Sargent Shriver, but rather a love letter to a father. The book’s introduction recounts Mark and his dad on an early morning hunting trip. While the younger Shriver agonized over the fact they were running late, his father noticed only how beautiful the sunrise was. Sargent Shriver regarded all life this way.


Sargent Shriver’s Alzheimer’s advanced in his later years, but he maintained devotion to his family. On the Today Show, Mark Shriver described one of his daughter’s lacrosse practices that he attended with his aging father. At one point, Mark yelled at his daughter. His father, whom Mark thought no longer recognized him, turned and said, “Did I yell at you like that?” This led Mark to discover that “I needed to give my daughter the unconditional love and support my dad gave me.” 

As father’s day approaches, it is important that we appreciate our role models who have acted as father figures in our lives, whether they are a dad, grandpa, uncle, or neighbor. As Mark’s father was and continues to be his inspiration, so are these men an example to us. Sargent Shriver’s legacy of serving all generations should act as a guide to work to improve the lives of all people.

Photos courtesy

-Written by Annie Cleary

Monday, June 04, 2012

All in This Together

ida christianToday, multigenerational homes are more common in the United States than in recent years. One of every six Americans currently lives in a multigenerational household. At Generations United, we recognize that sharing a multigenerational home can be beneficial for family members of all ages.  

A recent New York Times article titled “You Can Go Home Again” made a big splash. The article addressed adult children moving back in with their parents, and the surprising benefits for both generations.

As a college student, I found the article especially reassuring. The stigma against “moving back home” has fortunately ended. When I transition from school to work next year, I will undoubtedly spend some time under my parents’ roof. While my parents provide my room and board, I can return the favor by making dinner, mowing the lawn, and relieving Mom of dishwashing duty!

And my generation is not the only one moving home. Older adults are moving in with their adult children to save resources in an economic downturn. NPR interviewed families that included grandparents in their household for its program “Family Matters.”

Nicholas McDonald, a young man interviewed for the series, credits living with his mother and grandfather as his reason to stay off the streets. Aging parents also profit from moving in with younger family members by receiving care and a larger social network.

snootzieResearchers credit the resurgence of multigenerational households to the financial hardships of the Recession. However, as the economy bounces back, these families are staying together due to more than fiscal reasons. They remain united due to their willingness to help and care for the people they love the most.

For Generations United’s take on the matter, visit our 2011 Signature Report Multigenerational Households in a Volatile Economy and our fact sheet on multigenerational families.  

Images courtesy of NPR.

-Written by Annie Cleary. Cleary is a National Academy of Social Insurance intern for Generations United this summer and a student at Miami University of Ohio.