CHAPTER 2

A Comprehensive Approach

Written by Audrey Cheng, Jennifer Chien, Lina Lin, and Pheel Wang

The Tzu Chi Medical Foundation organizes a variety of medical lectures to promote healthy communities. Photos/Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation

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Financial planning is especially important because, according to a Fidelity retiree healthcare cost estimate, a single person aged 65 in 2023 may need approximately $157,500 saved (after tax) to cover their healthcare expenses while in retirement. What’s more, an average retired couple aged 65 as of 2023 may need roughly $315,000 saved to cover their healthcare needs. These retirement figures are deeply entwined with access to medical treatment, as well as a person’s physical and mental health, and quality of life. However, that number is far too high for a great many Americans. According to a December 2022 report from the Congressional Research Service titled “Poverty Among the Population Aged 65 and Older,” data reveals that: “People aged 80 and older have a higher poverty rate than other aged people. Approximately 12.9% of people aged 80 and older lived in poverty, compared with poverty rates of 9.5% among individuals aged 75-79, 9.7% among those aged 70-74, and 9.6% among those aged 65-69. Women aged 80 and older had the highest poverty rate among older persons in all age groups at 14.7% for women aged 80 and older.” 

Dr. William Keh believes in a comprehensive approach to health care. When he was CEO of the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, he initiated Healthy Community Program lectures with Dr. Peter C. Chen and Director of Volunteers Mary Keh, intending to assist patients and their families in their recovery process. “In the Body and Soul lecture series, in addition to treating people who are sick, providing health care for them, and teaching families how to take care of sick loved ones, there is also a psychiatrist who explains mental health, and financial experts who give guidance on how to keep a close eye on one’s purse,” shared Dr. Keh. “The purpose of Tzu Chi’s medical seminars is to create a ‘medical home’ for the community, in which everyone can care for each other’s health and enjoy carefree golden years together after retirement,” he said.

Tzu Chi Medical Foundation's Healthy Community Program is available on its Youtube Channel. Photo/Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation

With the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, in-person medical seminars were no longer appropriate, especially as these events would allow diseases to spread to a particularly vulnerable part of the community. With safety in mind, the lectures were replaced by webinars, which have been conducted since March 2020. The goal of Tzu Chi’s Healthy Community Program is to provide consistently useful health education, including seminars that are tailored to seasonal illnesses, chronic illnesses, or current events. When group indoor activities are limited, the Healthy Community Program quickly sets up a virtual alternative option and invites the participation of local TIMA branches to continue contributing to the creation of a “Healthy Community.”

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