Wednesday, May 13, 2020

25 Years Since 1995 White House Conference on Aging

The amazing Bob Blancato who chaired the 1995 WHCOA wrote a thought piece recently about the conference.  In 25 Years After the 1995 White House Aging Conference, Where We Are Now,  Blancato writes that "[t]he top resolution approved by the delegates, who were chosen from the grassroots and involved in aging programs: 'Keeping Social Security Sound for Now and for the Future.'  Two others: 'Preserving the Nature of Medicaid” and “Ensuring the Future of the Medicare Program.'”

Wait, wait, wait. I was a delegate to the 1995 WHCOA; it was quite an honor.  But looking at these top resolutions, aren't they still issues today? Have we not made any progress?

Blancato interviews a few folks who were integral to the WHCOA and then looks at other issues of import during that time:

This conference also introduced new issues in aging policy.

One of them: grandparents raising grandchildren. Another: a recognition of the growing constituency of LGBTQ older adults.

The first sign of post-conference progress was the 2000 passage of the National Family Caregivers Program within The Older Americans Act. The second was the steady increase in funding for Alzheimer’s research, a strong priority of the conference. A third was the 2000 law to eliminate the limit on Social Security’s benefits for people 65 and older due to earning outside income.

Some of the Affordable Care Act’s improvements in Medicare, especially for expanded preventive benefits, were outgrowths of the 1995 conference. And improvements to The Older Americans Act in the four reauthorizations after 1995 can also be traced to the conference.

He also discusses other goals, yet unmet, and then opines on whether older adults are better off now than 25 years ago. 

Answering that partly requires a focus on how the pandemic might radically alter parts of national aging policy in the future. The ageism and generational disputes that have erupted during the coronavirus crisis are disturbing. The devaluing of an older person’s life — shown by the tragedies occurring every day in our nursing homes and the increased reality of isolation among older adults — are troubling.

But on the brighter side, there are groups speaking out and offering alternatives to pitting generations against each other.

We’re also seeing Congress and the Trump administration starting to address some of the shortcomings in nursing homes. And we have a new appreciation for the value of certain key community-based aging programs like The Older Americans Act, which has received a large infusion of emergency funding because of what it does to help older adults maintain a good quality of life and reduce social isolation.

That said, if today’s national motto is “we are all in this together,” we must adopt those words to shape national aging policy and policies for all ages.

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