By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
In a Blog I posted two weeks ago, my focus was on a question of mine that was addressed during a panel discussion at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.
The question was “will technology and in-home services reduce or increase social isolation among seniors?”
Today, I want to share my observations about the Conference based on my years of experience in working in senior housing and health care.
I was pleased that much of the focus of the conference was on how we can live fuller, healthier and more vibrant lives right up until we die and not on the perception that aging inevitability equates to becoming increasingly frail and ineffectual.
As Valerie Jarrett pointed out in her remarks as she opened the Conference, “we want to be defined by our abilities; not our disabilities.” She stressed the importance of dignity and stability in retirement.
Speakers talked about how older adults can enrich our society and expressed hope that we can look at the opportunities that come from aging.
I learned, for instance, during the conference that older entrepreneurs are more successful than younger ones.
I also learned during the conference that . . .
1. By 2017, according to Robert McDonald, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, that there will be 10 million veterans in the United States over the age of 65. He noted that the VA offers services that are designed specifically to support individuals in their roles as caregivers, including webinars, workshops, training programs and a peer support mentoring program. More information can be obtained by visiting the VA Caregiver Support website at
The VA also operates a national caregiver support line that provides the opportunity to talk with a licensed social worker. The toll-free telephone number is 1-855-260-3274.
2. The 60 and above age group represents the fastest growing membership segment in the YMCA, said Kevin Washington of the Y. Going to the Y can help reduce isolation and can provide opportunities for older adults to engage in physical activity.
3. Three out of four people in the United States start tapping into their Social Security benefits at the age of 62. Their monthly benefits are much lower than they would be if they waited until they reached the age when they would become eligible for their full Social Security benefits.
Suggestions from the Conference included the following:
To create better health among seniors, we need to build a culture of prevention instead of treatment, finding ways to make healthy nutrition affordable and accessible, recognize how important emotional well-being is to good health, and build physical activity back into our culture. Physical activity reduces the risk and helps in the management of chronic disease.
To help those over the age of 65 who often have a hard time finding affordable housing that meets their needs, changing building and zoning requirements especially in regards to density and parking to make senior housing, and I would add assisted living, more accessible.
To help us better prepare financially for our retirement years, looking at ways to encourage us to save early and to save more for our retirement years.
In his remarks during the Conference, President Obama stated that “one of the best measures of a country is how it treats its oldest citizens.” Before Medicaid, he said, there was no help for those in need to pay for nursing home costs.
With that in mind, my biggest disappointment in the White Office Conference on Aging was its lack of attention on assisted living, which can serve as a wonderful and much more cost-effective alternative to nursing home care.