Beginning in 1961 and once every decade since, the White House has held a conference on aging to assist lawmakers in gathering information for the revision of existing aging policies and programs as well as the development of new ones. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security.   Plans are currently in progress to host a conference in 2015, and all Americans are invited to participate.

The government has already begun to hold “listening sessions” with seniors, caregivers, families, researchers, and professionals in the field of aging.  These sessions will continue to be held in various locations across the country in the coming months. Four general themes have emerged from the discussions thus far:  retirement security, healthy aging, long-term services and supports, and elder justice.  Sources of financial security for retirement are less predictable now than in the past, as individuals currently have multiple employers and sometimes have multiple careers.  Employers either do not offer retirement plans or have significantly changed their existing pension plans, and many folks have seen their savings and investments adversely affected by the recent economic recession. The focus on healthy aging revolves around education about making healthy choices during one’s lifetime and the availability of and access to preventive care.  Long-term services and supports are the public and private systems that exist to promote quality of life for those who have functional or cognitive limitations.  Elder justice encompasses the issues surrounding the physical, emotional, and financial abuse, neglect, and exploitation of seniors.

You can be involved in this important conference without having to leave your living room!  The website www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov will be posting information from the listening sessions and offering opportunities to participate in regional forums and webinars related to the conference.  Current research, existing aging programs, and best practices in the field of aging will also be highlighted.  The website contains a contact form if you wish to register to receive updates about the conference, submit ideas about potential discussion topics, or share your personal experiences with aging.  Questions about the conference can be emailed to info@whaging.gov.  For those who aren’t comfortable with computers, you can call the Department of Health and Human Services at (202)619-3636 to share your thoughts, or write to:

White House Conference on Aging
200 Independence Ave. SW
Suite 637D
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
Washington D.C.  20201

Aging is an issue that affects every individual and family, as well as society as a whole.  Last week I wrote about the concept of “aging well.”  This conference offers an opportunity to be proactive in addressing some of the issues directly related to this concept.  If lawmakers haven’t personally experienced certain situations, they won’t understand what works and what doesn’t.  So instead of just complaining about “the system,” make your voice heard by those who have the power to institute change!  Let’s remove the stigma from aging and make “Aging in America” a more positive and rewarding experience.

 Karen Kaslow, RN, BSN
Elder Care Coordinator