2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. It also marks the year of the next White House Conference on Aging. These conferences provide an opportunity to recognize these these key programs and to look ahead at the issues and solutions to help create a healthy landscape for older Americans for the next decade.
In the past, conference processes were determined by statute with the form and structure directed by Congress through legislation authorizing the Older Americans Act. While Congress has not yet reauthorized the Older Americans Act, the White House is still committed to hosting a White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) in 2015 (date for the in person part of the conference in D.C. has not yet been set). WHCoA is also hosting several regional forums (such as the one held in Seattle on April 2) and intends to seek broad public engagement and use web tools and social media to encourage as many older Americans as possible to participate. (See the Get Involved section of the WHCoA website to sign up for their email updates and share your story, concerns and ideas.)
The 2015 White House Conference on Aging has picked 4 top areas of concern and innovation for our country’s older adults. These areas are: healthy aging, long-term services and supports, elder justice, and retirement security. Below is a short excerpt from the WHCoA website on a policy brief on each topic with a link to the full report.
Older Americans are calling for a shift in the way we think and talk about aging. Rather than focusing on the limitations of aging, older adults across the nation want to focus instead on the opportunities of aging. Older adults are seeking ways to maximize their physical, mental, and social well-being to remain independent and active as they age.
Despite efforts to stay healthy and prevent disease, many older adults will eventually develop some degree of limitations and need additional paid or unpaid help with basic daily living activities.
Long-term services and supports help older adults and people with disabilities accomplish everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, preparing a meal, or managing money. These services include health and social services that may be needed to maximize the independence and well-being of an individual. Individuals of all ages may have functional limitations, but these limitations are most prevalent among adults age 65 and older.
As Americans live longer and technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, older Americans face new challenges and opportunities. While technology is helping individuals to live longer and healthier lives, older Americans may be susceptible to financial exploitation and other forms of elder abuse.
Elder abuse is a serious public health problem affecting millions of older Americans each year, with some studies suggesting that as few as one in 23 cases is reported to authorities. Elder abuse is defined as intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to an older person (whether or not harm is intended). Elder abuse encompasses physical abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, as well as emotional and psychological abuse.
Americans are living longer than ever before. In 2012, life expectancy at birth in the United States reached a record high of 78.8 years. A 65 year-old man can expect to live another 17 years and a 65 year-old woman another 20 years. As a result, older Americans have more time to help grow the economy, enrich their communities, and enjoy their families. But longer lives can also challenge older Americans’ financial security, increasing the risk of outliving their assets.