2012 “Aging in America” Conference

by Kevin K. Johnson, CSA

I’m just back from having attended my third “Aging in America” conference. This is an annual conference of thought leaders in the areas of aging, caregiving, and innovative practices and solutions. This year’s conference was held in Washington, D.C. and attended by approximately 3000 professionals and thought leaders in the field of aging.

U.S. Congress

When in Washington, I always try to schedule meetings in advance with the Ohio (my home state) congressional representatives. This trip, the congressional representatives were in meetings on the hill so I met with their senior aides or fellows. Included was Senator Sherrod Brown’s Legislative Fellow, Karon Phillips, Ph.D. (master’s degree in Public Health). I also spoke with an aide to Congresswoman Marsha Fudge. Neither Senator Portman or his aides were available to speak with any of the conference participates from Ohio during the time we had available. Two senior care and senior services discussion topics were:

  • The Older Americans Act (OAA) Reauthorization, and
  • The Community Living Assistance Supports and Services (CLASS) Act

From Wikipedia, The stated purpose of the OAA is to ensure equal opportunity to the fair and free enjoyment of: adequate income in retirement; the best possible physical and mental health services without regard to economic status; suitable housing; restorative and long-term care; opportunity for employment; retirement in health, honor, and dignity; civic, cultural, educational and recreational participation and contribution; efficient community services; immediate benefit from proven research knowledge; freedom, independence, and the exercise of self-determination; and protection against abuse neglect and exploitation.

The CLASS Act would have created a voluntary and public long-term insurance option for employees. In my work, I see this as a major problem that every employee is learning about as they access the care options of their elder loved ones. They then begin to understand that they to, need some sort of long-term insurance coverage for their well-being in their later years. Long-term care insurance is more often that not, left out of discussions with Certified Financial Planners, or tremendously undervalued by employees. However, this lack of planning is extremely back-end loaded for our economy. The costs to all taxpayers due to public services having to provide far costlier non-medical care for retirees is quite a burden that every tax payer shares.

A great many seniors in our country will be severely impacted if OAA is cut much further, or worse yet, totally eliminated. Often referred to as our “Greatest Generation” of Americans, this cohort deserves better as they progress through their later years. Additionally, costs will actually increase if some of these services are stopped. The health of seniors will result in a significant increase in hospital visits and nursing home stays. For example OAA includes nutrition programs including congregate and home delivered “Meals on Wheels”; a stable for many of our seniors.

I was fortunate enough to participate in a policy session and listen to comments on these issues from Senator Sanders (VT), Senator Whitehouse (RI), Senator Kohl (WI), and Senator Blumenthal (CT).

The conference content is always rich. This year included an entire track on my central area of focus; the significant lost revenue that businesses experience resulting from lost productivity due to their employers needing to tend to parental caregiving. (Reference my prior blog postings for quantification).

Education and networking with renown professionals in the field of aging, and the opportunity to speak with and hear from our Congressional representatives once again proved to be an extremely valuable use of my time. I’ll be including some of the content in future posts and giving the companies I work with more information on how valuable and profitable it is for them to support their employees that are caregivers.

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