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.

Do You Want People With Alzheimer's Living Near You?

Posted by: Eric Schubert Updated: December 10, 2012 - 3:33 PM

It’s happened now in at least two Twin Cities suburbs (Minnetonka and Woodbury), residents complaining about having or potentially having people with Alzheimer’s living by them.

Would you be OK having people with Alzheimer’s living in your neighborhood?  Why or why not?

Absent a cure, Alzheimer’s will continue impacting thousands of Minnesotans emotionally and financially.  It’s a disease that raises many questions that have to be solved in Minnesota:

Where do we house people with Alzheimer’s so they live with dignity – not in a warehouse?

How do we ensure they have adequate care, especially when they have no spouse or family? (Many people are living as singles these days or their family has moved elsewhere)

How do businesses deal with workers who are balancing work and caregiving?

How do Minnesotans pay for all of this?  (Right now unless you spend into poverty and qualify for a nursing home Medicaid stay, you pay for your Alzheimer’s care out of your own pocket, which can be hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.)

According to the Prepare Minnesota for 2020 Report:

- Between 2010 and 2050, the number of Minnesotans with Alzheimer’s disease will soar from 90,000 to 200,000.

- As Minnesota experiences an historic increase in its older population over the next 40 years, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is expected to double for people ages 75-84 and triple for those over age 85.

- The total cost of care for these individuals could reach an estimated $20 billion per year in Minnesota by 2050, most of that spent in the Medicaid budget for assisted living and nursing home care when families have exhausted their personal and financial resources.


Alzheimer's disease does not discriminate against who it affects, should we?  We can do better than simply kicking or keeping people with Alzheimer’s out of our neighborhoods.  With nearly 100,000 Minnesotans living with Alzheimer’s today, we have to.


Please Share Your Veteran Tribute

Posted by: Eric Schubert Updated: November 12, 2012 - 11:57 AM

Ecumen has opened this "honor site" and invites you to share a tribute to a Veteran today.  While there, you can read former Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist's tribute to a soldier and farm boy from Hanska entitled:  "The Day Corporal Denny Wellmann came Home." 

Thank you Corporal Wellmann and all of our veterans for your service!

Could We Become the State Where People Forget to Die?

Posted by: Eric Schubert Updated: November 8, 2012 - 3:02 PM


What would it take to make 100+ the new life expectancy of Minnesotans?  With our state’s reputation for healthy living, could we become known as the global spot that helps you live the longest?  And not only the longest, but the longest with good years at the end.

Twin Citian Dan Buettner recently wrote a popular article for The New York Times Magazine entitled: “The Island Where People Forget to Die.”  It examined the lifestyle on Ikaria, the “enchanted Greek island of centenarians.”  Ikaria sounds like a beautiful place, especially during a Minnesota winter, but could Minnesota become the state where people forget to die?

According to Kaiser Family Foundation, we have the second longest life expectancy rate, just behind Hawaii.  I don’t know how many centenarians we have, but the U.S. has about 72,000 in total.

The following factors seem to be working together to contribute to Ikarian longevity:

-          Sufficient rest

-          Easily accessible, healthy, tasty food (the healthy food there is also the cheapest) Minimal processed foods

-          Exercise (lots of hills, lots of walkers in Ikaria)

-          Social place (feeling of belonging)

-          Low crime rates (because people watch out for others)

-          Religious Faith

Buettner emphasizes the ecosystem on Ikaria supports longevity.  Ikaria has a strong sense of community and community behaviors that influence individual behaviors.  Many places in Minnesota  have a strong sense of community – it’s why we don’t leave.  Could we parlay that into record longevity?  I’m struck by the results of the Albert Lea “Blue Zones” project that mobilized community members in making simple lifestyle changes, leading to the following results:

-          Life expectancy increased an average of 3.1 years

-          Participants lost a collective 12,000 pounds

-          An average 21% drop in absenteeism by key employers

-          City employees showed a 40% decrease in health care costs

Pieces are in place to make Minnesota a place where people forget to die. Could the Land of 10,000 Lakes also become the global Land of Longevity?

"Own Your Future." But How?

Posted by: Eric Schubert under Society Updated: October 19, 2012 - 5:10 PM

If you’re between 40 and 65, you recently received a letter from Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon encouraging you to "Own Your Future."  Own Your Future is a public information effort sponsored by the State of Minnesota and the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The effort encourages individuals to plan for long-term care needs now instead of waiting until a crisis occurs. Many people mistakenly believe Medicare will pay for long-term care costs. It does not. And, unfortunately, in today’s new old age marked by record longevity, many people learn this too late.
Kudos to Governor Dayton, Lt. Governor Prettner Solon and DHS Commissioner Jesson for raising this issue and bringing visibility to it. It opens an opportunity for a Phase II to provide better options for those many Minnesotans who don’t see personal savings or paying for long-term care insurance as a viable part of their fiscal plan. 
Phase II of Own Your Future is Imperative
Long-term care insurance might be the answer to preserving a safety net. But thus far only about 10% of Americans have long-term care insurance policies. Many people find the insurance complex. They have concerns if their company will come through with benefit payments years from now. And if you’re paying for a car, rent, mortgage and other expenses of daily living, long-term care insurance is going to fall pretty far down the priority list of household expenses.
Another disincentive to planning is Medicaid, called Medical Assistance in Minnesota. If you go into poverty because of Alzheimer’s, congestive heart failure or other long-term care need, you’ll qualify for Minnesota’s defacto long-term care insurance policy. It pays for about 40% of Minnesotans’ long-term care needs. But unless we all agree to massive tax hikes – or put our thinking and doing hats on to create new approaches - Medicaid as the fallback is unsustainable. 
Own Your Future highlights that paying for long-term care is an issue we have to address. Innovation in this area is essential to an individual’s and statewide community’s life quality and fiscal health.
And that’s why a Phase II of Own Your Future – a phase that provides accessible, realistic answers for varying financial capacities on “how” to own your future - is so critically important.
Putting Minnesotans’ Heads and Will Together
Following are briefs of some of the ideas that came forth from the non-partisan Citizens League on this issue. You can read the full report here. They illustrate that if we put our heads together, we can develop payment ways that are helpful and beneficial to people, not barriers.
Make Medicaid Co-Insurance: The current structure of Medicaid contains disincentives for personal responsibility. Consequently, its function as a safety-net for long-term care for the elderly poor has been distorted. Medicaid has been dubbed “a public insurance with an extremely high deductible” (i.e., virtually all of one’s assets). The Citizens League recommends that the state seek a Federal Waiver to make Medicaid a co-insurance, with eligibility for co-insurance contingent on: 1) privately purchased long-term care insurance and/or savings for long-term care; and 2) income. Co-insurance could be structured in a variety of ways. One possibility is to provide a co-pay on long-term care expenditures financed by private savings and/or private insurance. Another is to match the dollar amount of private insurance once private insurance benefits have been exhausted. This also means that we need private products that are appealing to people, which ties to the next idea:
Provide Online Marketplace: The state could transition the “Own Your Future” web site to an online website of state-endorsed insurance products/savings products for differing financial needs. This “Good Housekeeping” “Consumer Reports-Like” seal of approval – could aid Minnesotans in cutting through complexities and myths that prevent people from purchasing long-term care insurance products. If really great products exist that no one knows about – this would be an easily accessible one-stop shop for them. It also could have an review area where Minnesotans can provide their experiences on the products, why they fit in their life, etc. in real-life terms, not marketing-speak.
Tap Your Home Equity . . . Safely: The largest asset of most Minnesotans is their home. This is true notwithstanding the recent fall in home prices. People of all incomes have savings in their homes. Medicaid often exempts people's homes from the requirement that one must have no assets in order to qualify for Medicaid. Yet, it has been estimated that replacing Medicaid's home exemption with “reverse mortgages” could save Medicaid from $5 to $20 billion a year in the United States. 
A highly cost-effective potential approach for the state of Minnesota would be to develop and/or support a product that allows seniors to tap their home equity for limited purposes (e.g., health and long-term care costs, and costs that allow them to remain in their homes) under terms far more favorable than existing reverse mortgage terms. According to the League report, a simple way to reduce the risk and administrative costs would be to reduce the amount of equity that can be withdrawn, so that the ultimate home value (due to market forces or a lack of home maintenance) is of less risk.
Own Your Future is doing a valuable service in raising the issue of long-term care planning and financing. Now, the leadership and innovation opportunity before Minnesota is to provide effective ways for people to act on this new information. No state has figured this out. Minnesota can. 

Would You Hang Out at a Senior Center?

Posted by: Eric Schubert Updated: July 2, 2012 - 11:03 AM

The U.S. has about 15,000 senior centers, most of these grew out of the 1960s and the Older Americans Act with subsidies based on hot meals the centers provide.

Think about your aging for a minute: 

Do you see yourself hanging out at a senior center? Do we really need to build more senior centers?

The senior center needs to be reimagined.   “Community centers” in many municipalities are great opportunities to integrate aging into broader programming – not segregate it.

It seems a “community center” should be able to be the “senior center,” providing ageless programming, fitness classes, interesting speakers and other educational opportunities, and delivering in those instances when people want age-specific pursuits.


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