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Issues Affecting Women as They Age

"Working to address financial and health care concerns facing older women and women as they age."

 

History

In 1999, the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois ("WBAI") and The Chicago Bar Association ("CBA") established the Joint Task Force on Older Women’s Issues to address financial and health care concerns facing older women and women as they age. The multidisciplinary Task Force was created through the collaborative efforts of Sharon Eiseman, 1999 President of the WBAI, and Kerry Peck, 1999 President of the CBA. The successor presidents and board of both bar associations have continued to wholeheartedly embrace and promote the Task Force and its mission. The CBA has generously contributed substantial resources to the ongoing operations of the Task Force.

 

Issues

The Task Force has taken on such issues as pension inequities impacting women; defined benefit versus defined contribution plans for retirement; a study of the social security system and how privatization may affect women; changes in laws that will improve financial security for divorced women; educational initiatives in health care; employment issues; financial exploitation of the elderly and elder abuse.

 

Task Force Members

Participants on the multi-disciplinary Task Force include attorneys who specialize in elder law, family law, and pension and marital asset assessment; financial consultants; actuaries; health benefit consultants; representatives, directors and staff from various governmental agencies and offices; professors and students from local law schools; representatives of state and local government; and representatives, directors and staff of various nonprofit organizations. The Task Force is still growing in strength and membership.

 

Educational Programs

The Task Force hosted its first education symposium for the public and the legal community in October of 2002 at Loyola University Chicago. "Social Security and Securing Your Financial Future," provided an overview of the social security system followed by discussion on the status of women and why they fare differently under Social Security than men. The program was sponsored by the Actuarial Foundation, The Retirement Research Foundation, AARP, OWL (Older Women’s League), and Loyola University Chicago’s Elder Law Initiative.

 

The Task Force’s second education symposium took place in October 2003. "Women and the Workforce" educated women, employers and the general public about the state of employment opportunities and work conditions for women as they age and included discussions on how to improve future employment opportunities and benefits for older working women. The program was sponsored by The Retirement Research Foundation, AARP, CVS Pharmacy and Loyola University Chicago.

 

In 2005, the Task Force is hosting an educational series to examine hot button issues concerning health care for the American woman. This series of programs has been designated as 2005 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) events which will allow the Task Force to officially submit input to the President and the United States Congress as they develop policy relating to aging issues at the decennial WHCOA. The series will provide attendees with up-to-date information about the topics addressed, and with a forum through which attendees may voice concerns about current systems and suggest possible changes. Topics to be addressed include: long term care; Medicare and Medicaid; access to affordable, quality health care; health care literacy and more.

 

Cable TV Project

One of the first major projects the Task Force, completed in 2001, was the taping of a series of cable programs that focus specifically on physical and mental health care matters and crimes against the elderly. Concerns in these areas affect women disproportionately because women tend to outlive their male spouses or partners, and are poorer as well. Women are also more commonly the ones who serve as caregivers, both to their children and to their aging and ailing parents. All of these vulnerable women can become empowered through information about their rights and available support services, and those who provide services to them will also benefit from additional information on these subjects.

 

The programs in this Cable Project were telecast on The Chicago Bar Association’s Cable TV program called "You and the Law." All of the programs feature professionals in the field of elder care engaging in a discussion about problems encountered by older women--and men--and their caregivers, and options available for solving the problems. Each program uses realistic hypotheticals as teaching tools. Through a generous grant from the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor, the programs tapes were provided free of charge to approximately 40 senior centers, libraries and social service agencies throughout Chicago for educational use by and for the public, and for clients and staff of facilities as appropriate.