Caregiving Is Critical Issue as "Incredible Demographic Transformation" Continues, Aging Report Stresses

The United States continues to experience “incredible demographic transformation,” according to the Final Report of the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA), a year-long, nationwide endeavor throughout 2015. In Connecticut, with the nation’s 7th oldest population, input was provided by legislative and executive branch agencies, which held hearings and offered expert testimony from organizations including AARP, the state Department on Aging, Legislative Committee on Aging and Commission on Aging. “No topic attracted more attention in the lead-up and follow-up to the 2015 WHCOA than caregiving. It echoed across all four of the conference issue areas,” the report indicated, referencing the four common themes that emerged as particularly important to older Americans: Retirement Security, Healthy Aging, Long-Term Services and Supports, and Elder Justice.cover  The final report noted the participation, at the Boston Regional Forum, of Connecticut’s Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, Jewel Mullen.

Among the findings in the report, issued by the White House, that will demand the attention of policy makers in the next decade:

  • Over 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, and the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. is women over age 85. The proportion of older adults representing racial and ethnic minorities is also increasing rapidly.
  • There is a need to break down the silos between housing, transportation, health care, and long-term services and supports in order to support healthy aging. The United States must also take advantage of an “increasing array of web-based technologies, robotics, and mobile devices” that “help older adults access the services they need, stay connected to family and friends, and remain active and independent.”
  • The majority of assistance for older Americans is generally provided at home by informal caregivers, especially family and friends, and are often the “primary lifeline, safety net, and support system for older adults.” Although rewarding, caregiving can be demanding, and “informal caregivers need to be supported and sustained with appropriate resources.”
  • With family structures changing as Americans are having fewer children and increasingly moving away from families of origin, the availability of family members to provide care is diminishing. “Direct care is a demanding profession with low wages, long hours, and limited benefits. It is critical for there to be efforts to recruit and retain a sufficient number of direct-care workers to keep pace with the growing need.”chart

The White House has held a Conference on Aging every decade, beginning in 1961, to identify and advance actions to improve the quality of life of older Americans. In 2015, the United States marked the 50th anniversaries of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The White House Conference on Aging provided "an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key programs as well as to look ahead to the next decade."

At a public hearing in May at Connecticut's Legislative Office Building, state officials noted that Connecticut is undergoing a “permanent and historic transformation” in its demographics.  Statistics released as part of the WHCOA report echoed that observation.

65-600x249On July 13, 2015, President Obama hosted the sixth White House Conference on Aging, joining older Americans and their families, caregivers, and advocates at the White House and virtually through hundreds of watch parties across the country.

The July event built on a year-long dialogue; the White House Conference on Aging launched a website to share regular updates on its work and solicit public input; engaged with stakeholders in Washington, D.C. and listening sessions throughout the country; developed policy briefs on the emerging themes for the conference and invited public comment and input on them; and hosted regional forums with community leaders and older Americans in Tampa, Florida; Phoenix, Arizona; Seattle, Washington; Cleveland, Ohio; and Boston, Massachusetts.  Additional hearings, including those in Connecticut, were shared with conference officials.  Individuals and groups participated via live webcast in watch parties held in every State and were able to ask questions of panelists and others via Twitter and Facebook.

The Final Report, completed in late December and publicized by the White House this week, now goes to policy makers at the federal and state level to review findings and consider policy actions to respond the critical issues cited as requiring attention.



White House Conference on Aging Has Connecticut Connections

It is a once-a-decade event that will feature the President of the United States and other senior administration officials. The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA), first held a half-century ago and a key driver of federal policy towards the nation’s seniors, will be a conference reliant on digital technology befitting 2015.WHCOA box Rather than having delegates from throughout the nation stream into Washington, D.C., Americans are asked to watch events unfold via live stream – either at home, or by getting together with co-workers or people from their local communities.  Officials note that more than 600 public and private Watch Parties—in every state—have been organized and registered with WHCOA.

According to the WHCOA website, there are four “watch party” sites in Connecticut, where people can gather to watch the live video feed together. The sites are in Hamden at the Whitney Center, in Norwalk at Home Care 100, in Waterbury at the Western CT Area Agency on Aging, and in West Hartford at Hebrew Healthcare.  The WHCOA has produced a Watch Party Discussion Guide to encourage dialogue during the event, in addition to listening to speeches emanating from the White House.65

Earlier this year, regional forums leading up to the WHCOA were held in Tampa, Phoenix, Seattle, Cleveland and Boston.  Lisa Ryerson, President, AARP Foundation President, moderated the panel in Boston, which explored the topics of healthy aging and long-term services and supports. Panelists included Jewel Mullen, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Public Health and President, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.  The Boston  Regional Forum, held on May 28, 2015, was the fifth and last in the series of regional forums, coordinated with the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a coalition of more than 70 of the nation’s leading organizations serving older

In addition, Connecticut’s Department on Aging, Legislative Committee on Aging and Commission on Aging held a public hearing in May at the Legislative Office Building highlighting issues impacting the state’s seniors, with the testimony from that day being shared with WHCOA officials. Connecticut officials noted that Connecticut is undergoing a “permanent and historic transformation” in its demographics, and currently has the nation’s 7th oldest population.  Between 2010 and 2014, Connecticut’s population of people age 65 and older is projected to grow by 57 percent, while at the same time the population of individuals between age 20 and 64 will grow by less than 2 percent.

Monday's WHCOA  begins with a welcome from Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, being introduced by Bernard Nash, Caregiving in America Panel.  An early morning panel is to be moderated by actor David Hyde Pierce and will include Secretary Robert A. McDonald, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Ai-jen Poo, Caring Across Generations; Harry Leider, The Walgreen Company; Frank Fernandez, BluePlus, BCBS Minnesota Foundation; and Britnee Fergins, Caregiver.Obama

Remarks by President Barack Obama, will be followed by a panel on “Planning for Financial Security at Every Age” moderated by Secretary Tom PeRobin Diamonterez, U.S. Department of Labor.  The panel will include Jean Chatzky, AARP Financial Ambassador; Vickie Elisa, Mothers’ Voices Georgia; Robin Diamonte, United Technologies Corporation; and Andy Sieg, Merrill Lynch Bank of America.

Diamonte, UTC’s Chief Investment Officer, was voted CIO of the Year in April by her peers in the Investor Intelligence Network (IIN), an online forum of senior financial decision-makers. IIN is part of Institutional Investor PLC, a leading international business-to-business publisher best known for its Institutional Investor magazine.  Diamonte is responsible for overseeing UTC’s $52 billion in global retirement assets, including $24 billion in domestic pension plans, $7 billion in foreign pension plans and $21 billion in the defined contribution plan.

Following the panel that includes Diamonte, viewers will hear remarks from Nora Super, Executive Director of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging and Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Also delivering rwhite hosueemarks or participating in panels are Secretary Tom Perez, U.S. Department of Labor; DJ Patil, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture; professional athlete Diana Nyad; Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General; Director Richard Cordray, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and Stephanie Santoso, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

In addition, Kevin Washington, President and CEO of the YMCA, will be a member of a panel on The Power of Intergenerational Connections and Healthy Aging.  Washington, who formerly led the YMCA in Hartford, was honored last month by The Amistad Center for Art & Culture in Hartford for his leadership, noting that he is the first African American to lead the nation’s YMCA organization.Kevin Washington

Throughout the day, individuals are asked to “Tweet us your questions using #WHCOA and we will pass them along to our experts participating on panels at the conference.” People are also asked how they would finish the sentence: “Getting older is getting better because …”? A PDF form can be downloaded and then sent along to WHCOA officials.  Interviews with older adults can be uploaded to be archived in the Library of Congress, and people are encouraged to share their interviews on social media using the #WHCOA hashtag.

White House Conference on Aging Will Be July 13

At the White House Conference on Aging regional forum in Boston Thursday, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that the 2015 national Conference will be held on July 13 at the White House. That’s of particular interest for Connecticut, the state with the nation’s 7th oldest population.   logo-WHCOA2015 The July event is part of a year-long effort to listen, learn, and share with older adults, their families, their caregivers, community leaders, and experts in the aging field on how to best address the changing landscape of aging in the coming decade, officials said. Since the 1960’s the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA), held about once a decade, has helped to drive national policy.

According to Nora Super, Executive Director of the WHCOA, “The 2015 Conference seeks to embrace the transformative demographic shift occurring in the United States to recognize the possibilities, rather than the limitations of aging.”  65

At a Connecticut State Capitol hearing, dubbed a "listening session" for the WHCOA, earlier this month, (CT-N video) among the statistics highlighted were:

  • Connecticut is undergoing a “permanent and historic transformation” in its demographics
  • Between 2010 and 2040, Connecticut’s population of people age 65 and older is projected to grow by 57%, with less than 2% growth for people age 20 to 64 during the same period
  • Residents born in Connecticut today can expect to live to be 80.8 years old—the third highest life expectancy in the nation.
  • In Connecticut’s 65 to 69 year-old age group, 39% are in the labor force, as are 21% of Connecticut residents aged 70–74, and 7% of those 75 years and over. These rates are among the highest in the country

Testimony at the State Capitol hearing, co-sponsored by the state Department of Aging and the Legislative Committee on Aging, will be shared with officials planning the White House Conference.

Common themes that have emerged as the five regional hearings proceeded, according to officials, include: how to ensure we prepare for financial needs in retireph-kissing-couple-320ment; how to remain healthy as we age; what types of services and supports can help older Americans remain independent in the community as we age; and how to support this care and the caregivers who provided it; and how to protect older Americans from financial exploitation, abuse and neglect.

Federal officials are urging Americans of all ages to get involved in the July 13 White House Conference on Aging, by:

  • Watching the event, which will be live streamed
  • Hosting watch party (PDF)
  • Participating in Q&A using Twitter (Tweet questions using #WHCOA , and they will be shared with panels at the conference.)
  • Interviewing someone of a different generation using the StoryCorps appquestion
  • Completing the sentence: “Getting older is getting better because....” and sending us your answer via Twitter using #WHCOA (People are asked to download a form, fill in their answer, take a photo, and send it back via Twitter using #WHCOA.)

Policy briefs on Retirement Security, Healthy Aging, Elder Justice, and Long-Term Services and Supports, have been released for public review and comment. Americans are living longer than ever before. In 2012, officials noted, life expectancy at birth in the United States reached a record high of 78.8 years. A 65 year-old man can expect to live another 17 years and a 65 year-old woman another 20 years.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security.  Leading up to the July 13 conference, regional sessions were held in Tampa, Phoenix, Seattle, Cleveland and Boston.