Tuned In To Seniors

BY CINDY SANDERS

Tuned In To Seniors

Jim Dooley (left) and Russell Caughron received the 2004 Communicator of the Year award from the Tennessee Health Care Association.
Russell Caughron is really tuned into seniors … and seniors are tuned into him.

As co-host of the popular Jim Dooley Show on 105 Solid Gospel FM, Caughron and Dooley welcome a variety of guests to talk about topics of interest to older Middle Tennesseans every Saturday morning from 8-8:30 a.m.

"Our main purpose is to give seniors good, reliable, trustworthy information," says Caughron, whose day job is serving as executive director of Peachtree Center Nursing and Rehabilitation in Smyrna (see sidebar).

Begun in the fall of 2003, the popular radio program won the 2004 Communicator of the Year award from the Tennessee Health Care Association beating out other health programming from print, radio and television.

"We were very tickled to win the award because we had a lot of stiff competition," Caughron notes.

The program takes a "big picture" view of health and wellbeing by featuring expert guests in four main categories … health, wealth, social and spiritual. Topics range from financial information such as reverse mortgages and the stock market to updates on events and festivals that appeal to seniors.

"We've had humorists on … humor is always good medicine," adds Caughron with a laugh.

The program has also welcomed guests to talk about the maze of options, entitlements, forms and bureaucracy that accompany federal programs including Medicare and Medicaid and the serious issue of outliving your resources.

"You have three categories of seniors … young seniors are 65-75, middle seniors are 76-89 and senior seniors are 90 and over," explains Caughron. "People today in their 70s are still out there playing golf."

This new longevity, however, has created a different financial dynamic for which neither individuals nor the government were really prepared.

"Sixty-five was set as the retirement age because of the mortality rate," says Caughron, "but 65 is no longer the magic number that it used to be."

As a matter of fact, Caughron notes that of all the people over age 65 in the country, only 5 to 6 percent are in a nursing home at any given time. The average age in a nursing home is now 83 years, a figure Caughron says has trended upwards over the last few decades.

Therefore, the vast majority of seniors are living independently or with some assistance while trying to manage finances and daily life in an increasingly technological society.

As seniors try to negotiate this new dynamic and plan for their future, Caughron and Dooley work to bring guests to the table that have special skill sets. One example is a recent guest who handles a senior's paperwork making sure that bills are paid, filed and documented for income tax.

Caughron notes that seniors can become confused after a hospital or doctor's visit between the insurance explanation and an actual provider bill.

"You get all those 'this is not a bill' (mailings) but sometimes people don't realize it and pay anyway," he says, adding that the paperwork service makes sure that seniors submit a single payment to the correct party so they aren't overcharged.

"There are all kinds of services people don't even realize exist," Caughron says of available resources in Middle Tennessee.

The program's popularity has led to a variety of "spin-offs" tied to the show such as remotes from events and health fairs where Caughron and Dooley have the opportunity to meet their audience in a community setting.

"We try through this show to bring information to seniors that pertain to them," Caughron says of the bottom line. "The main thing we want is for people to be able to access this information at no charge."