May 2012- Aging in America
Where does 10 years go? It is incredible to me that I have just passed my ten year mark at PSRC. And yet, when I reflect, I can see so many things that have changed. I thought I would share some of my observations with you. I would love to hear yours!I have just returned from the Aging In America conference in Washington DC. This gathering of about 4000 professionals in the field of aging is both inspiring and daunting. Just selecting what to attend out of four days of back-to-back workshops on every aspect of aging is a challenge!
Attending the conference is the best way for me to learn about key issues and new innovative ideas that are being developed so I can bring them back to Princeton. This year we also presented a workshop on our “aging in place” collaborative model, recently renamed the United Aging & Disability Partnership.
The face of aging is changing and the population is booming. One keynote session was titled “How the Boomers Will Transform Aging and How Aging Will Transform the Boomers.” There are 77 million Boomers. 19,000 people will turn 65 every day for the next 18 years. The Boomer generation approaches aging differently, including expecting to live another 30+ years, staying active and working longer. Retirement planning has been shifted onto the employee. Over 60% have saved less than $25,000, and fewer than 30% have a traditional pension. Few employers provide retirement coaching. The “retirement at 65” concept is fading, replaced by “encore careers”, entrepreneurship and a desire for workplace flexibility. I returned with several ideas for ways to enhance our Next Step program to address these challenges. Keynote speaker Kathie Greenlee, Assistant Secretary of Aging, raised concern about the political future and funding of the Older Americans Act and Medicare. The Older Americans Act funding is considered discretionary and must be reauthorized to continue supporting programs that many people count on, including transportation, meals, and caregiver support. Members of Congress are proposing a significant re-design of Medicare which would shift participants to private insurance, including all future cost increases. Political advocacy was encouraged. She also raised concern about the growing incidence of elder abuse (financial, physical, sexual and emotional). Another keynote program focused on malnutrition among older adults and hunger in America. Nine million Americans 50 and older have experienced food insecurity, struggling to afford enough healthy food to meet basic needs. Choosing between food and medication often exacerbates chronic health conditions. There was considerable discussion about how we will support a growing aging population that is living with multiple chronic health conditions. We need to focus on preventive care across the lifespan. Social services and healthcare need to work collaboratively to support wellness and aging in place. There was much interest in the pilot Transitions of Care programs that are trying to reduce re-hospitalizations among frail chronically ill people. “Person-centered care” and “home and community based services” were consistent themes, as it is clear that people are choosing to stay at home and families are the primary caregivers (52 million family caregivers in America). A highlight for me was an inspiring training on inclusive services for LGBT older adults. To further build my cultural competency I also attended a workshop on treating depression in Chinese elders. A good program on bullying reinforced my understanding and gave me some additional points for a presentation I am giving soon. I am proud of the tone of welcome and respect that the staff has established here at PSRC and their professionalism in addressing concerns that arise. I attended two workshops presented by innovative senior centers in Palo Alto, CA and Oceana County, MI, returning with a list of great ideas to try. Anyone up for kayaking? Dinner clubs? The presenters addressed many of the issues we discuss at PSRC, including how to reach new participants while continuing to provide the activities favored by long-time members, addressing all 7 dimensions of wellness, fees and membership, marketing to a diverse audience through print and social media, while staying within your resources and having fun! I came away from this conference proud of what we have accomplished at PSRC and full of new ideas for how to continue to be welcoming, creative and innovative.
Susan W Hoskins
LCSW Executive Director