2015 White House Conference on Aging

2015 White House Conference on Aging logo


Nora Super and others at Listening Sessions 2014

13. April 2015 17:41
by Nora Super

The White House Conference on Aging in Phoenix and Seattle

13. April 2015 17:41 by Nora Super | 4 Comments

Recently, we traveled to Phoenix, Arizona and Seattle, Washington, for the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) regional forums. At both events, we heard directly from older Americans, their families, caregivers, advocates, community leaders, and experts on how to best address the current aging landscape.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, and WHCOA Executive Director Nora Super discuss aging issues at WHCOA Seattle Regional Forum 
Photo Courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Labor

Our Phoenix participants were welcomed by U.S. Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ-7) and AARP President Jeannine English, and the forum featured keynotes by 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. Dr. Hodes’ comments highlighted the exciting research underway at NIH, 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. Wendy Spencer discussed the importance of older adult volunteerism, citing examples and telling moving stories of how Senior Corps volunteers are transforming communities and the lives of individuals of all ages.

Dr. Richard Hodes, Director of the National Institute on Aging, at WHCOA Phoenix Regional Forum
Photo Courtesy of U.S. Dept. of HHS

In Phoenix, participants heard the personal stories of Jan Riggs and Rhonda Hollis, who shared their experiences as an Alzheimer caregiver and senior volunteer, respectively. The Phoenix regional forum was further enhanced by a special exhibit provided by the Arizona Commission of the Arts, and its Director of Arts Learning, Alexandra Nelson. “In the Round,” an exhibit featuring artwork from older artists, was a wonderful—and tangible—symbol of the contributions that older adults can make to our society.

In Seattle, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez delivered the keynote address highlighting the Administration’s efforts to ensure that Americans experience a retirement that is in keeping with our values as a nation. In particular, Secretary Perez noted the Administration’s MyRA program https://myra.treasury.gov/ which is helping Americans access options to save for retirement, as well as the Department of Labor’s proposed rule to require financial advisers to put the best interests of their clients above their own financial interests. Secretary Perez also emphasized his ongoing commitment to supporting the healthcare workforce, including the home and community based services workforce. He highlighted the importance of the Olmstead decision in ensuring care and treatment in the most integrated setting and the Department of Labor’s final rule to bring minimum wage and overtime protections to direct care workers. 

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez speaks at Seattle Regional Forum             
Photo Courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Labor

The Seattle forum began with U.S. Senator Patty Murray kicking off the day with a warm welcome to the at-capacity crowd and thoughtful remarks about the opportunities and promise older Americans offer our country. We were also joined by U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott (WA-7); U.S. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-1); King County Executive Dow Constantine;  Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy at the U.S. Social Security Administration, Virginia Reno; and AARP CEO,  Jo Ann Jenkins.

Healthy Aging and LTSS panel at WHCOA Seattle Regional Forum
(left to right) Nora Super, WHCOA Executive Director; Charissa Raynor, Executive Director of the SEIU Healthcare Northwest Training Partnership and the Health Care Trust; Bill Moss,  Assistant Secretary at the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, within the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services; Diane Naraski, Executive Director of Asian Counseling and Referral Services; Laura Carstensen, Professor of Psychology and the Farleigh S. Dickinson Jr.  Professor in Public Policy at Stanford University
Photo Courtesy of U.S. Dept. of HHS

Following discussions with national, regional and local expert panels, each forum included a number of dynamic breakout sessions where attendees provided input and ideas on the most important issues facing older Americans and possible solutions. In Phoenix, many participants stressed the importance of changing the conversation about aging in America from one that focuses on the limitations of getting older to one that recognizes how the time, talent, and experience of older adults can enrich our communities and enhance older Americans’ health and well-being. In Seattle, participants stressed the importance of Social Security to retirement security. Participants also discussed the growing diversity of older populations and how programs and services should better reflect cultural and language differences.

The forums, co-sponsored by AARP, and co-planned with the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, were webcast live and we urge everyone who watched to share your comments, thoughts, and ideas on what you heard in the Get Involved section of this website and to tune into our upcoming forums in Cleveland and Boston. Your input will be used to continue to inform the work of this year’s conference. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your interest in commenting on this blog. At this time, we are no longer accepting comments. If you are still interested in sharing your thoughts, please e-mail them to info@whaging.gov

Comments (4) -

Will you ever discuss foot and related problems in older individuals?

There is certainty that traveling around the country to key cities contributes to mountains of information for seniors needing help. That is what the WHCoA  leadership is doing with its key leadership. Hopefully when all that information is gathered and filtered, it will pass to the agencies to distribute to its health care workers. This is good because monies can be distributed to states and counties in a more even way. All this goes to formulas to be worked out by the statisticians before distribution is considered.
But another problem comes to mind. When these forums are done and everyone goes home, what is to say, these funds are done on an even basis. We accept conclusions without ever looking closer to see if it reaches to the local level and the older adults.
Take for instance, every time we have been sequestered from the national level, it dwindles to the state, who in turn try to disperse as fairly as possible. The state in turn realizes they are running short on funds and takes their turn cutting funding.
Last year, in our state, we took a major cut in funding for “aging in place” and these particular people do not receive extra funds simply because most of them “fall short” and cannot qualify for Medicaid because they go over the cap by about $100.00 or less. These individuals are asked to do with what they have or do without.
The population growth in older adults are far exceeding the funding for those individuals. Soon if things do not get recognized for what they are, we will become the anchor that stops this program in place.
The more cutting of funds we endure, the more older adults we will lose. Malnutrition becomes a major problem, medicines become a problem, bathing and cleanliness is a problem, bad choices of the recipients will make situations worse for their personal dignity because they do not have a choice.
They say death is a transitioning from this world to the next. Imagine your mother or father, frail from age, exiting this world because we do not consider them or whomever, important enough to fill their stomachs at least once a day.
There is no value when the older adult is stripped of their dignity.
I spend most of my time advocating for senior issues at the local, regional, state and national levels. It is heartbreaking to see how little consideration Congress and state are displaying in their actions when it comes to rewarding our seniors instead of forcing them to live in such a manner that even the least of these deserve better.
Even at my age, the games people play with other people’s lives become dangerous. When this program was begun fifty years ago, it was done for a reason. Hunger became the driving force of the economy and today it still does. Congress needs to re-align their priorities and become the prime example for making our lives better.
Please, WHCoA, you are welcomed to come to Charlotte, NC and let us help!

I serve as Executive Director for a senior service agency located approximately 35 miles west of Pittsburgh in Northern West Virginia. I am one of more than 2,000 senior centers nationwide. Our service to our community is often overlooked, all while we serve the fastest growing demographic in history. Often are programs are funded via reimbursement rates provided through the Older Americans Act, state medicaid programs and state units on aging. Reimbursement rates are woefully low. One federal rate under Title 3 E of the OAA is $8 per hour. Another is $14. State rates are between $13 and $16 per hour. Our highest reimbursement rate is $24.55 from the Veteran's Administration. Many of us are forced to cut services, staff and, ultimately, are not meeting the needs of our seniors.Our clients represent everyone from the "greatest generation" to hippies and Vietnam vets. Please, I urge our federal legislators to examine how to raise these rates in order for us to provide services at an acceptable level.

Good Work! Thanks for your efforts.  Please keep me posted. In Peace!

Comments are closed