White House: ‘Age Wave’ Can Make Country Stronger

The White House is pushing for more public and private sector collaboration to address the coming “age wave” that’s set to hit the senior living industry. That’s one idea recently released in the final report from the sixth Conference on Aging that was hosted by the White House in July.

The aging conference has been conducted every decade since 1961 and brings together older Americans and their families, caregivers and advocates. 2015 was the 50th anniversaries for some of the most important federal programs for seniors: Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act. Not to mention, Social Security also turned 80 this year.

2015 was also the first year the conference was virtually broadcast in a live webcast in which individuals and groups could ask panelists questions via social media. On the day of the conference, more that 700 watch parties relayed their input, and stakeholder groups in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. organized groups to watch the livestream, discuss ideas and submit feedback.

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The conference was prefaced by a year-long conversation that brought out four common themes for discussion: retirement security, healthy aging, long-term services and supports and elder justice. The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) released four policy briefs on each of these areas.

Public and Private Initiatives

During the conference, the administration announced a number of new public actions and initiatives to help ensure older adults can maintain health and dignity in retirement. One of the key announcements included a proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to thoroughly update the quality and safety requirements for more than 15,000 nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities. The update would be the first in the last 25 years.

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The updates are aimed to improve quality of life, enhance person-centered care and services for nursing homes, improve resident safety and bring regulatory requirements closer to current professional standards, according to the White House’s report on the conference.

At the same time, many private organizations announced similar commitments, including the Dementia Friendly America Initiative led by Collective Action Lab in partnership with USAgainstAlzheimer’s the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. The initiative plans to support dementia-friendly communities across the country and to expand 10 to 15 additional pilot sites, according to the report.

Looking to the Future of Senior Housing

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Technology was a top priority at the conference as well. Advances made over the last decade have helped people live longer and enabled seniors to better prepare for their future. As technology has grown, so have senior living options. The perception of senior living however, has yet to catch up.

“Regardless of where WHCOA traveled this past year, and irrespective of the group it visited, one idea continually arose,” the report reads. “Everyone agreed that it is time to shift the conversation from one that assumes that the coming age wave will overwhelm us to one that recognizes it can help lift everyone’s boat by tapping the power of experience to improve our families, our communities and our society… Changing the perception of aging is our ultimate challenge and charge as we go forward into the next decade.”

However, shifting the perception of aging might not be enough for senior housing, as affordability is still a major issue for many older adults. The report urged that combined efforts of federal, state and local governments will have to work together to address issues with the private sector as well to meet the needs to this growing population. One way to help seniors, the report states, could be the President’s initiative to put more retirement planning options in place for 30 million Americans to save for later in life.

Written by Amy Baxter

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