Eric Schubert

Eric Schubert is a vice president at Ecumen, an innovative nonprofit senior housing and services company based in Shoreview. He oversees communications, branding, public affairs and the Ecumen "Changing Aging" blog ( He writes about aging and change resulting from it in innovation, how we live, wellness, public policy and beyond.

Elderly St. Peter Woman’s Felony Case Raises Questions for All of Us

Posted by: Eric Schubert Updated: March 8, 2013 - 1:27 PM

I’m sure Margaret Schneider, an 86-year-old woman from St. Peter, didn’t wake up yesterday thinking she’d make national headlines for voter fraud.  It all sounds like an extremely innocent case, but it raises real questions for Minnesota on how we want to age and live.

I don’t know Margaret’s living situation.  But I’m thinking many Minnesotans could relate to her story of “forgetfulness” and desire and pride to live independently.  Perhaps you’ve lived one of these or one like it:

-    Maybe Mom drove through the intersection because she forgot there was a stop sign . . .
-    Maybe Dad forgot to take his medicine and it resulted in a trip to the emergency room, which turned into a very expensive hospital stay . . .
-    Maybe your spouse or partner forgot to turn off the water in the bathroom and it’s flooding into the basement, and you have to miss work to get the situation under control . . .
-    Maybe you visited a longtime neighbor who is like a family member and you saw in her refrigerator that all the food is spoiled, and she’s clearly been eating it . . .

Dementia is a huge and growing public health issue in Minnesota that impacts every area of society.  According to the Prepare Minnesota for Alzheimer's Report to the State Legislature more than 100,000 Minnesotans have the most common form of dementia – Alzheimer’s.  One in two Minnesotans over age 85 has Alzheimers or another dementia. And by 2050, it’s estimated 200,000 Minnesotans will have Alzheimer’s. 

So who will pay for and provide the supportive services for this unprecedented change in Minnesota society?  Services that help people maintain their independence as safely and healthfully as possible.

-    Churches?  Doubtful.  Many don’t have the people or financial resources.
-    Non-profit senior service organizations?  They already provide a great deal of subsidized service.  More would mean these organizastions don't have the funds to exist.
-    State Government?  Not with its current Medicaid/Medicare set up.  State Government doesn’t have the funds.
-    Private Insurance?  Only about 9% of Minnesota adults have long-term care insurance.
-    Family?  For some.  But when adult children live far away or are working, it’s either not realistic or financially possible.

Living at home sounds really great in theory.  But it takes support.  And Minnesota has more people in need of support than ever before.  How will we as Minnesota answer the call that's only getting louder?

Could Aging Bring New Life to Saint Paul?

Posted by: Eric Schubert Updated: February 22, 2013 - 2:43 PM

I LOVE Saint Paul.  I’m far from alone.

And I look forward to it becoming even more loveable so more people live, work and play there.  We don’t have a healthy Twin Cities without a healthy downtown Saint Paul and a healthy downtown Minneapolis.

Could aging be a ticket to downtown vitality in Saint Paul?

The Saint Paul Foundation is reaching out to crank up the idea machine via the MN Idea Open website and Forever Saint Paul Challenge to dig up ideas to seed Saint Paul's future prosperity.


 This video (the English subtitles kick in at 5 seconds)  featuring IBM and the City of Bolzano, Italy (hat tip to Minneapolitan A. Richard (Dick) Olson, who helped IBM grow and develop new markets in Asia and South Pacific before retiring to new adventures) makes me wonder if the “hometown” qualities of Saint Paul could be linked with technology , the city's large health care centers, senior services organizations, YMCA, others to do what is being done in Bolzano – keeping people healthier at a lower cost and fully participating in their hometown.

If Saint Paul is good for one’s aging parents, could it be good for their adult kids and grandchildren, too, as a place to live or frequently visit and play ?  Could Saint Paul become the place where those kids want to grow old? If so, it could keep the cycle of living, aging in community, going to baseball and hockey games, spending at local businesses, riding light rail, and making Saint Paul better not just for the Twin Cities, but the region, country and world.

A truly intergenerational community that thrives for the long-term needs to view and address aging in a whole new way.  That’s not just the Forever Saint Paul Challenge – that’s the “Every City in America” Challenge.  And it’s one incredible opportunity for some extraordinary collaboration in Saint Paul to potentially show the way to do it.



When Do you Plan to Retire? Will You Retire?

Posted by: Eric Schubert Updated: February 18, 2013 - 9:26 AM

I know I won’t work as long as Pope Benedict or Sid Hartman or Lynne Lunna, the long-time River Room hostess in Saint Paul.  Lunna passed away in 2008, after a 75-year career.  (Despite our 50-something year age difference, I’m pretty sure Sid can lap me right now.)

Where do you see yourself?  Will you work forever, retire at 65 or earlier, or will you be in a new combo of work in your older years?   Why?  If you're retired now, are you working?  Do you enjoy it? 

“Working in retirement” is a relatively new phenomenon. Do you think it's the new normal?

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute's Retirement Confidence Survey in 1991, just 11 percent of workers expected to retire after age 65. Twenty-one years later, in 2012, 37 percent of workers report they expect to wait until after age 65 to retire. At the same time, the percentage of workers expecting to retire before age 65 has decreased from 50 percent in 1991 to 24 percent.

Do you represent these research results?



Citizens League's Capitol Solutions Breakfast Series: Long-term care Financing Event



Wednesday, Feb. 20
Doors 7:30 a.m. | Program 8-9:30 a.m.
Minnesota History Center
345 Kellogg Blvd West, St. Paul
Cost $5 for members, $15 for nonmembers
Coffee and pastries provided


Register now

At age 65, a person has a 70 percent chance of needing some type of long-term care in their future years - at an average cost of $48,000.

The default financing source has become Medicaid, which provides publicly funded health care for those in poverty. But the growing number of people turning to Medicaid is creating a crisis in public funding. In short, we face an unprecedented set of enormous costs that we have not prepared for, either individually or publicly. Medicaid as the fallback is unsustainable.

This is a multi-generational issue, a quality of life issue, and a fiscal security issue.

Join the Citizens League to learn about the problem; the steps Minnesotan businesses, government, and citizens need to take to solve it; and what can be done this legislative session.

Check out the full Capitol Solutions legislative event series lineup, and learn how you can help.

Thanks to Comcast_S_COLOR_BLK.jpg for sponsoring this event series.

The ‘Granny Pod’ and Lennar NEXTGEN Homes – Are They for You?

Posted by: Eric Schubert Updated: January 4, 2013 - 10:07 AM

America’s Age Wave is leading to new backyard cottages dubbed ‘Granny Pods’ and “homes within a home” via Lennar’s NextGen Housing, which is offered locally in Maple Grove.

What do you think of them?  Could you see them fitting your lifestyle?  Would you rather live in one of these options than in a nursing home or assisted living apartment complex?  

Both options are a “Back to the Future” approach to U.S. housing, where older and younger generations live together.  That was the norm here in the past, and remains the norm in a number of countries.

The Granny Pod




I can’t stand the name, but the phrase “granny pod” gets your attention. One company’s version is called a MedCottage.   It’s designed to provide an affordable, non nursing-home alternative to families at the end of life.  It’s temporary, modular housing that you can put in your backyard (assuming local zoning accepts it) ranging from 288 sq. feet to 605 sq. feet.  Other features include:

-          - Electricity and water connected directly to homeowner's utilities.

-          - A kitchen with a small refrigerator, microwave, and medication dispenser.

-          - Bedroom and additional accommodation for a caregiver's visit.

-          - The bathroom is easily accessible.

-         -  Includes cushioned floors and sensor and web-cam technology.

Lennar NEXTGEN Model



According to Pew Research Center, last year almost 17 percent of Americans lived in multigenerational households, including households with parents and adult children, as well as skipped generations with grandparents and grandchildren. That's up from 12 percent in 1980.

Recognizing this reality, Lennar created NEXTGEN homes.  Under one roof, Lennar provides living space that can be used as a separate, private space but also offers direct access from the main house, depending upon the family’s needs.  Each NEXTGEN suite includes a separate entrance, living room, kitchenette, one-car garage, laundry and private outdoor living space.   Both options above would require people to bring in outside caregiving services if the person has chronic care needs.


The iPhone and Eliminating Disjointed, Horribly Expensive Health Care

Posted by: Eric Schubert Updated: December 20, 2012 - 6:29 PM


Our country spends trillions on disjointed, poorly coordinated care, especially for older Americans.  The unneccesary bouncebacks that occur between the emergency room and a person's home take much out of a human being and their loved ones.  And now those bouncebacks will cost hospitals large financial penalties due to the Affordable Care Act.  Could their be a better way?  Yes.

Imagine if physicians and consumers and caregivers could talk with each other and easily share information, instead of wasting time, putting people through unpleasant hospital stays, weakening them further and spending tons of money that could be used in a much better way for the health of Americans. 

This short video by LeadingAge Center for Aging Service Technologies depicts what such a future could look like.  Available technology;  coordination between health care providers, consumers and senior service organizations; and insurance that supports a more seamless communications and care netowrk, could improve many lives in Minnesota and beyond.


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