A Look at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging and Regional Forums from ALCA Public Policy Committee Chair
by Frank E. Baskin, LICSW, C-ASWCM – Aging Life Care Association™ Member and Public Policy Committee Chair
About every ten years (beginning in 1961) the White House organizes a conference on aging (#WHCOA). People from around the United States gather in Washington, D.C. to discuss various age-related issues from which programs and services are often generated to ensure more successful aging. Some ideas that have turned into programs include Medicare, Medicaid, and the Administration on Aging (AOA), including the Area Agencies on Aging. The WHCOA has been funded thru the AOA.
In recent years Congress has not re-authorized the AOA. The AOA is now part of the Administration on Community Living. The AOA has been leveled funded for those years. There was no funding for this year’s WHCOA, leaving the White House with a predicament – how to organize the WHCOA without adequate funding. AARP provided financial and other resources and the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations also collaborated to make this year’s WHCOA possible.
HOW IT WAS ORGANIZED
A decision was made to have five, one-day regional conferences and one, one-day event in DC (today, July 13). The regional forums were held in :
- Tampa Bay
These “listening” sessions were limited to invited participants and were to be opportunities for dialogue among attendees. A small office staff in DC generated four policy statements: Retirement Security, Healthy Aging, Elder Justince, and Long-Term Services and Supports. These briefs are posted at www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov and are open for comments.
All are important, but this structure served to focus and also to limit the variety of issues in the discussions. For example, there were no evident places to address elder behavioral health or caregiving. Participants had to find places to advocate for their particular issues.
I was invited and attended the regional conference in Boston. It was held at the Senator Edward Kennedy Institute for the Senate. We spent much of the day seated in the replica of the US Senate chamber. Other participants came from all of the New England States plus New York and New Jersey. The room was filled with many experts in the field.
A significant part of the morning was spent with introductions, welcoming remarks, and presentations by political leaders. We listened. It was followed by panels, each addressing the four policy briefs. We listened some more.
During these sessions, cards were handed out so that we could ask questions. The cards were handed in, but there was time for only a few to be read by the moderators. The panel members were generally experts, but they reported little that was new, innovative, or exciting as this was a very knowledgeable audience. As a result there was little opportunity in the morning for dialogue.
The afternoon was spent in workshops each addressing one of the policy briefs. There were about 50-70 people attending each session. I attended the session on long-term services and supports.
At the beginning of the session I attended, we were asked to write down our individual priorities. We were then divided into 10 to 12 small groups of about six people each. We read our priorities and each group selected two priorities . The overall group had the task of selecting just a few of the priorities to represent that workshop.
The outcome of the process was to distill the priorities into a small list where each priority tended to be broadly stated. My opinion is that since the priorities were now not very specific and could not very easily serve as the basis for programs or services, they did not have much punch.
After the workshop sessions, we came together one last time and the priorities of each group were read. There was also an opportunity for any of us to speak for a few minutes about any issue that we felt was important to identify.
I was honored to have been invited, but I wish the day could have been used more productively. I felt the forum was an opportunity for aging experts to bring together their combined skills and knowledge and generate generate new, innovative programs. However, what we did see was more broad and non-controversial. I did use the day to connect with others about Aging Life Care™ and elder care projects, and for me, that was useful.
HOW to PARTICIPATE in TODAY’s WHCOA (from the White House Press Secretary)
Today, President Obama will deliver remarks at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. The White House has held a Conference on Aging each decade since the 1960s to identify and advance actions to improve the quality of life of older Americans.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The conference is an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key programs while bringing together older Americans, caregivers, government officials, members of the public, business leaders, and community leaders to discuss the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans in the next decade and explore policy solutions to address them.
The remarks by the President and conference programming will be open to pre-credentialed press and live-streamed at https://www.whitehouse.gov/live
WHAT: 2015 White House Conference on Aging
WHERE: East Room and South Court Auditorium
WHEN: Monday, July 13, 10:00AM ET – 4:30PM ET
10:00AM Welcome to the Morning Session
10:05AM Panel 1: Caregiving in America
11:25AM Remarks by the President
11:35AM Panel 2: Planning for Financial Security at Every Age
South Court Auditorium, Eisenhower Executive Building
1:20PM Welcome to the Afternoon Session
2:05PM Panel 3: The Power of Intergenerational Connections and Healthy Aging
2:50PM Panel 4: Empowering All Generations: Elder Justice in the 21st century
3:50PM Panel 5: Technology and the Future of Aging
4:30PM Closing Remarks
In addition to these remarks and panel discussions, the conference agenda will feature a series of short discussions and remarks by community members, leaders in the private sector, local government officials and senior Administration officials.
Additional Administration participants, in order of appearance:
- Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor
- Robert McDonald, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Sylvia Mathews Burwell, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Thomas Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor
- Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council
- DJ Patil, Chief Data Scientist, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
- U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy
- Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Jeffrey Zients, Director of the White House National Economic Council
- Susannah Fox, Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
For more information on how to participate in today’s event, read Friday’s blog post .