Ina Jaffe

Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America in all its variety. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. She also has an ongoing spot on Weekend Edition with Scott Simon called "1 in 5" where she discusses issues relevant to the 1/5 of the U.S. population that will be 65 years old or more by 2030.

Ina also reports on politics, contributing to NPR's coverage of national elections in 2008, 2010, and 2012.

From her base at NPR's production center in Culver City, California, Ina has covered most of the region's major news events from the beating of Rodney King to the election of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. She's also developed award-winning enterprise pieces. Her 2012 investigation into how the West Los Angeles VA made millions from renting vacant property while ignoring plans to house homeless veterans won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists as well as a Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media. A few months after the story aired, the West Los Angeles VA broke ground on supportive housing for homeless vets.

Her year-long coverage on the rising violence in California's public psychiatric hospitals won the 2011 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award as well as a Gracie Award. Her 2010 series on California's tough three strikes law was honored by the American Bar Association with the Silver Gavel Award, as well as by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Before moving to Los Angeles, Jaffe was the first editor of Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon which made its debut in 1985.

Born in Chicago, Jaffe attended the University of Wisconsin and DePaul University receiving Bachelor's and Master's degrees in philosophy, respectively.

Here in Japan, the buckwheat noodles known as soba are a staple. Nowhere more so than in the mountains of the southern island of Shikoku. The soil there is poor.

In Japan, you sometimes hear the term "village on the edge." What it means is "village on the edge of extinction."

Japan's population is declining. And the signs of that are easiest to see in rural areas, like the mountainous interior of the southern island of Shikoku. For example, the village of Nagoro used to have around 300 residents. Now it has 30.

Hiromi Yamamiro is doing something that's relatively rare in Japan. At age 67, he's still working in the corporate world, where traditionally, the mandatory retirement age has been 60.

But Yamamiro keeps going, because he loves his job — which he's been doing for 18 years — selling environmentally friendly products at Tokyo-based Sato Holdings.

"We're developing new products every single day," he says. "Plus the purpose is to create an environmentally friendly world. And it's just so much fun!"

Early mornings are routine for 69-year-old Hiroyuko Yamamoto. He's typically at a busy intersection in the city of Matsudo, near Tokyo, where he volunteers as a school crossing guard. But one rainy morning a little over a year ago, an old woman caught his attention.

She was pushing a bicycle. She was kind of disheveled. Despite the rain, she didn't have an umbrella. When Yamamoto spoke to the woman, she said she was trying to get to the city of Kamisuwa. That's about four hours away by train.

In Japanese cities, space is at a premium. So convenience stores that cram everything from Kleenex to rice balls into a few square yards are everywhere. You can't walk five minutes in most cities without running into one or two or even half a dozen.

But they're not just a place for Slurpees and snacks. Nearly 27 percent of Japan's population is now 65 or older, and convenience stores are changing to serve this growing market.

The dictionary defines ageism as the "tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment." But research indicates that ageism may not just be ill-informed or hurtful. It may also be a matter of life and death.

Not that it's literally killing people. Researcher Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health, says it depends on how much a given individual takes those negative ideas to heart.

Older voters might wonder this campaign season whether presidential candidates are taking them for granted. People 65 and older make up more than a fifth of the electorate, but the issues that concern them are rarely mentioned on the campaign trail.

Rudy Pavini, 81, and Tommie Ward, 84, recently spent lunchtime dancing at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center north of Los Angeles. It takes their minds off their worries about Social Security.

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One of the keys to providing good care in nursing homes is simply having enough staff. The federal government says about a quarter of all nursing home complaints can be traced back to low staffing levels. And studies have connected low staff levels to lousy treatment. The state of New Mexico connects it to fraud.

What if you had to go to the hospital, and when it came time to return home, your landlord said you couldn't move back in? Across the country, thousands of nursing home residents face that situation every year. In most cases, it's a violation of federal regulations. But those rules are rarely enforced by the states. So, in California, some nursing home residents are suing the state, hoping to force it to take action.

If you pictured a dancer, you probably wouldn't imagine someone with Parkinson's disease. Worldwide, there are 10 million people with the progressive movement disorder, and they struggle with stiff limbs, tremors and poor balance.

Hearing loss can have a negative impact on work. It can lead to social isolation. It can even contribute to dementia. And one-third of Americans 65 and older have some level of hearing impairment. Typically they wait years to get tested.

But there's a scientifically validated hearing test that you can take over the telephone in the privacy of your home for just 5 bucks.

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Poverty does not treat men and women equally, especially in old age. Women 65 years old and older who are living in poverty outnumber men in those circumstances by more than 2 to 1. And these women are likely to face the greatest deprivation as they become older and more frail.

This pretty much describes the situation of 87-year-old Lydia Smith.

As Dean Cole's dementia worsened, he began wandering at night. He'd even forgotten how to drink water. His wife, Virginia, could no longer manage him at home. So after much agonizing, his family checked him into a Minnesota nursing home.

America's retirement statistics are grim: About 40 percent of baby boomers have nothing saved for retirement, about a third of Americans who are currently retired rely on Social Security for almost all of their income, and the outlook for current workers isn't much better. About half of private sector employees have no retirement plan on the job.

California is often considered the nation's trendsetter. But Republicans running for president better hope that's not true.

Their talk about immigration echoes what Californians heard in the 1990s. That's when Proposition 187, a ballot measure viewed as strongly anti-immigrant, was a key to the re-election of California's Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.

Donald Trump has used his wealth, his celebrity and his blunt manner of speaking to blast his way to the top of the polls in the GOP presidential race. It's a phenomenon that's had pundits — and some voters — scratching their heads. Except in California, where larger-than-life celebrity candidates are, like, so 12 years ago.

That's when Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he was running for governor of California. And he did it in his own inimitable way, on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

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Want to eat food that's fresh, local and cooked from scratch? Consider a retirement home. Once known for bland, institutional fare, hundreds of retirement communities around the nation now tout their restaurant-like dining experiences.

One of those is Bethlehem Woods in La Grange Park, Ill. Resident Marge Healy counts on having dinner with the same group of friends every evening.

"We're almost like a family," she says, as her friends nod in agreement.

When a friend or loved one gets sick — really, seriously sick — it's hard to know what to say. So some of us say nothing. Which seems better than saying the wrong thing, though people do that too.

Los Angeles graphic designer Emily McDowell's solution to this dilemma are what she calls Empathy Cards. When someone is seriously ill, she says, the usual "Get Well Soon" won't do. Because you might not, she says. At least not soon.

A healthy diet is good for everyone. But as people get older, cooking nutritious food can become difficult and sometimes physically impossible. A pot of soup can be too heavy to lift. And there's all that time standing on your feet. It's one of the reasons that people move into assisted living facilities.

But a company called Chefs for Seniors has an alternative: They send professional cooks into seniors' homes. In a couple of hours they can whip up meals for the week.

#NPRreads is a new feature we're testing out on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom will share pieces that have kept them reading. They'll share tidbits on Twitter using the #NPRreads hashtag, and on occasion we'll share a longer take here on the blog.

This week, we bring you four reads:

From Ina Jaffe, a correspondent on NPR's National Desk:

Sexual relationships in long-term care facilities are not uncommon. But the long-term care industry is still grappling with the issue.

Lena Katakura's father is 81. He was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer and doctors don't expect him to survive the illness. Katakura says a nurse at their Honolulu hospital gave them a form to fill out to indicate what kind of treatment he'd want at the end of life.

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There's a new documentary out with a very simple message - people want to find that someone special no matter their age. It's called "The Age Of Love," and it takes us to a speed dating event for seniors. NPR's Ina Jaffe has more.

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It's Christmas day and it is opening day for the movie The Interview."


SETH ROGEN: Thank you so much for coming. And we thought this might not happen at all.

This is the season for generosity — and for con artists who take advantage of it.

Older adults are particularly vulnerable to scams; more than a quarter of the victims of financial fraud are over 60, according to the FTC. But now there are products on the market designed to protect seniors' nest eggs.

It's a sunny autumn afternoon and a good time to make apple crisp at Pathstone Living, a memory care facility and nursing home in Mankato, Minn. Activities staffer Jessica Abbott gathers half a dozen older women at a counter in the dining area, where the soundtrack is mostly music they could have fox-trotted to back in the day.

Antipsychotic drugs have helped many people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. But for older people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, they can be deadly. The Food and Drug Administration has given these drugs a black box warning, saying they can increase the risk of heart failure, infections and death. Yet almost 300,000 nursing home residents still get them.