The Phoenix White House Conference on Aging Regional Forum, held on March 31, 2015, was the second in a series of 2015 White House Conference on Aging forums. These regional forums were co-sponsored by AARP and are were planned in coordination with the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a coalition of more than 70 of the nation’s leading organizations serving older Americans.
Over 200 older adults, caregivers, advocates, community leaders, and experts in the field of aging attended the Phoenix Regional Forum. The forum featured remarks by U.S. Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ-7); Jeannine English, President, AARP; and Dept. of Health and Human Services Regional Director Melissa Stafford Jones. Participants also heard the personal stories of Jan Riggs and Rhonda Hollis, who shared their experiences as an Alzheimer caregiver and senior volunteer, respectively
Dr. Richard Hodes, Director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health, and Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, each delivered keynote addresses. Dr. Hodes’ speech highlighted NIA’s research initiatives, including studies on Alzheimer’s disease and caregiver support, as well as NIA’s Go4Life campaign, which is an exercise and physical activity campaign for older adults. CEO Spencer discussed the importance of older adult voluntarism, citing examples of how Senior Corps volunteers are transforming communities and the lives of individuals of all ages.
The forum included two moderated panels, and the first panel examined the themes of healthy aging and long-term services and supports. Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, served as moderator. Panelists included: Marc Freedman, Founder and CEO of Encore.org; Dr. Adriana Perez, Assistant Professor at Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation; Dr. Fernando Torres-Gil, Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy and Director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA; and Amy St. Peter, Human Services and Special Projects Manager for the Maricopa Association of Governments. The panelists stressed the critical role that the promotion of meaningful, purposeful activities plays in healthy aging and discussed opportunities for communities to work together to address long-term care needs.
The second panel explored the topics of elder justice and retirement security and was moderated by Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President, State and National Group, AARP. Panelists included: Dr. Laura Mosqueda, Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Geriatrics at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and Director of the National Center on Elder Abuse; Mary Lynn Kasunic, President, CEO, and Executive Director of the Area Agency on Aging Region One; Judith Mares, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefit Security Administration; and Dr. Gopi Shah Goda, Senior Research Scholar at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. The panelists noted the importance of expanding elder abuse awareness and education efforts and ensuring the enforcement of laws that prevent abuse and neglect. Panelists also spoke about the importance of retirement plan coverage and highlighted tools that can help Americans understand their options, such as the Employee Benefit Security Administration’s benefit advisors program.
Forum attendees then engaged in breakout sessions, where each of the four topic areas (healthy aging, long-term services and supports, elder justice, and retirement security) was further discussed. In these sessions, participants brainstormed and identified the priorities, challenges, and possible solutions related to these issue areas. Attendees then reconvened, sharing summaries about each breakout session and conveying their additional comments and concerns. Attendees articulated a broad range of issues and ideas that will enhance our future work.
Participants in the healthy aging breakout session championed the idea of creating holistic approaches to aging in a comprehensive manner such as prevention, transportation, and nutrition services. The long term services and supports breakout session focused on the need for a national dialogue on what a coordinated long-term care system looks like for this country, and better long-term care financing models. Additionally, participants focused on paid workforce development to ensure that older adults will have access to a broad range of care in home and community based settings.
The elder justice breakout session focused on the need for creating cohesive legal descriptions and definitions of elder abuse, elder justice and elder fraud. There was agreement for a need to improve collaboration between organizations at the Federal, state, local and tribal levels. There was also consensus that better training is needed of medical personnel, gerontologists and geriatric psychiatrists to identify signs of elder justice issues. Several individuals spoke about how victims of elder abuse do not report abuse because it often means 'outing' a caregiver or family member who often is their only lifeline of support.
The retirement security breakout session focused on a broader framework that included the needs of Americans of all ages. The group unanimously agreed on priority areas including: (1) strengthening Social Security, (2) expanding financial literacy through a comprehensive approach, (3) expanding takeup of workplace retirement savings vehicles by increasing incentives for individuals and small employers, (4) and improving employment opportunities through better pay and eliminating age-and sex-based discrimination.
The forum was also available by webcast, and communities were encouraged to host local viewing sessions, facilitate discussion, and submit feedback.
If you were not able to view the live webcast, a recording of the Phoenix forum is available here.
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