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Meet Our 2016 Influencers in Aging

Meet Next Avenue’s 2016 Influencers in Aging. These 50 advocates, researchers, thought leaders, innovators, writers and experts continue to push beyond traditional boundaries and change our understanding of what it means to grow older.

Learn more about this year’s list  |  View last year’s list

The List


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Influencer of the Year

Ashton Applewhite

Read Next Avenue’s interview with Applewhite and learn why the author’s crusade against ageism makes her our 2016 Influencer of the Year.

Read Next Avenue’s interview with Applewhite and learn why the author’s crusade against ageism makes her our 2016 Influencer of the Year.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Catalyze a social movement to raise awareness of ageism that would transform the experience of aging in America and make discrimination on the basis of age as unacceptable as racism and sexism. We would no longer see aging as a problem to be 'fixed' or a disease to be 'cured,' but for what it is: a powerful, natural, lifelong process that connects us all."

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Michael Adams
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Michael Adams: Fighting for LGBT Elders

CEO, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)

Adams has led SAGE, the country’s oldest and largest organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender older adults, for more than 10 years. Issues that all aging people face, including health challenges, are often particularly complicated for LGBT older adults. Adams, an attorney, has worked passionately on their behalf. He has reminded policymakers of the legacy of AIDS, for example, and pointed out that many older LGBT adults are living with HIV or are at risk of contracting it. He has spoken out on the lack of caregivers for LGBT adults.

Adams has also worked to forge alliances with other diverse elder groups, and he encourages younger LGBT individuals to honor the historic strides of their predecessors.  

Adams has led SAGE, the country’s oldest and largest organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender older adults, for more than 10 years. Issues that all aging people face, including health challenges, are often particularly complicated for LGBT older adults. Adams, an attorney, has worked passionately on their behalf. He has reminded policymakers of the legacy of AIDS, for example, and pointed out that many older LGBT adults are living with HIV or are at risk of contracting it. He has spoken out on the lack of caregivers for LGBT adults.

Adams has also worked to forge alliances with other diverse elder groups, and he encourages younger LGBT individuals to honor the historic strides of their predecessors.  

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"If I could change one thing about aging in America, it would be to re-shape the opportunities for older Americans so that they are equally available to the full diversity of our nation's older people. As of now, LGBT older people and elders of color are often at a disadvantage when it comes to the opportunities and supports that can help make aging an exciting life chapter."

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Iris Apfel
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Iris Apfel: Moving Fashion Forward

Model, Designer, Entrepreneur

At age 95, Apfel is an unstoppable fashion force who is reclaiming the world of style for older adults with her bold style and anti-ageist messages, including this gem: “I think being interesting is more important than being beautiful.” This businesswoman, designer and fashion icon was hired by nine presidents as the White House designer. In 1948, she married Carl Apfel and together they launched the textile firm Old World Weavers, which they ran until they retired in 1992. She is the subject of the 2014 documentary Iris by Albert Maysles. In 2016, Apfel has appeared in a commercial for a French car, been the face of Australian fashion brand Blue Illusion, launched a line of wearables and created a set of emojis.

At age 95, Apfel is an unstoppable fashion force who is reclaiming the world of style for older adults with her bold style and anti-ageist messages, including this gem: “I think being interesting is more important than being beautiful.” This businesswoman, designer and fashion icon was hired by nine presidents as the White House designer. In 1948, she married Carl Apfel and together they launched the textile firm Old World Weavers, which they ran until they retired in 1992. She is the subject of the 2014 documentary Iris by Albert Maysles. In 2016, Apfel has appeared in a commercial for a French car, been the face of Australian fashion brand Blue Illusion, launched a line of wearables and created a set of emojis.

WHAT WORDS OF WISDOM DO YOU HAVE ABOUT AGING?  

"If you don't learn constantly, you don't grow, and you will wither. Too many people wither on the vine. Sure, it gets a little harder as you get older, but new experiences and new challenges keep it fresh.”   (From Apfel's conversation with Tavi Gevinson in Newsweek , Aug. 23. 2013)    

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Anne Basting
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Anne Basting: Breaking Down Silos

Professor of Theater, Peck School of the Arts, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; founder and president of TimeSlips Creative Storytelling

Basting is a theater artist and educator who uses creative engagement to explore the possibilities, as well as address the challenges, of aging. She recently was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant for her innovative TimeSlips method, which uses improvisational storytelling and creative expression to promote well-being in older adults with cognitive impairment. The approach allows those with dementia to replace lost memories with new stories and poems by responding to cues. Basting also has created theater pieces in collaboration with older adults, include The Penelope Project in 2010. She is the author of Forget Memory: Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia and The Penelope Project: An Arts-Based Odyssey to Change Elder Care as well as numerous plays, public performances and articles.

Basting is a theater artist and educator who uses creative engagement to explore the possibilities, as well as address the challenges, of aging. She recently was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant for her innovative TimeSlips method, which uses improvisational storytelling and creative expression to promote well-being in older adults with cognitive impairment. The approach allows those with dementia to replace lost memories with new stories and poems by responding to cues. Basting also has created theater pieces in collaboration with older adults, include The Penelope Project in 2010. She is the author of Forget Memory: Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia and The Penelope Project: An Arts-Based Odyssey to Change Elder Care as well as numerous plays, public performances and articles.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Creativity/arts are the most powerful and joyful way to connect in late life. Creative engagement techniques should be taught as commonly as hand-washing in professional care settings. Cultural institutions (libraries/museums) and care communities should partner to provide life-long learning, for people living alone, with family or in care settings. We end loneliness and purposelessness by breaking down age and disability silos and infusing creative engagement into care. That is the Creative Care Revolution."

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Bob Blancato
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Bob Blancato: Bringing Together Thought Leaders of Aging

President, Matz Blancato and Associates

A public policy and strategic consultant (and guest contributor to Next Avenue), Blancato is one of the nation’s leading experts on aging issues. He’s currently board chair of the American Society on Aging; national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition, which helped pass the 2010 Elder Justice Act; executive director of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs; and AARP volunteer board member.

Previously, Blancato was appointed by President Bill Clinton to direct the 1995 White House Conference on Aging, and he served as president of the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and staff director of the House Select Committee on Aging’s Subcommittee on Human Services.

A public policy and strategic consultant (and guest contributor to Next Avenue), Blancato is one of the nation’s leading experts on aging issues. He’s currently board chair of the American Society on Aging; national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition, which helped pass the 2010 Elder Justice Act; executive director of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs; and AARP volunteer board member.

Previously, Blancato was appointed by President Bill Clinton to direct the 1995 White House Conference on Aging, and he served as president of the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and staff director of the House Select Committee on Aging’s Subcommittee on Human Services.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Too many older Americans face ageism and age discrimination. I would have the next U.S. president create a bipartisan public-private commission to determine if any federal programs and policies contribute to ageism. The White House should issue an ageism report with recommendations, including a new package of legislative and regulatory proposals. They should strongly enforce existing and new programs combating ageism and include an update in each State of the Union address of their presidency."

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Don Blandin
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Don Blandin: Safeguarding Investors Saving for Retirement

President and CEO of the Investor Protection Trust and Investor Protection Institute

Blandin’s nonprofits have the important job of educating and safeguarding American investors, particularly ones saving for retirement. He works frequently with state securities regulators devising ways to do that — sometimes, in an entertaining way: Blandin’s 2016 public television documentary, When I’m 65, was a rare example of an informative, useful and watchable show about retirement planning.

Three of his many accomplishments: The Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program, with the North American Securities Administrators Association and the National Adult Protective Services Association; the MoneyTrack public television series and the Campaign for Wise and Safe Investing with the AARP Foundation.

Blandin’s nonprofits have the important job of educating and safeguarding American investors, particularly ones saving for retirement. He works frequently with state securities regulators devising ways to do that — sometimes, in an entertaining way: Blandin’s 2016 public television documentary, When I’m 65, was a rare example of an informative, useful and watchable show about retirement planning.

Three of his many accomplishments: The Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program, with the North American Securities Administrators Association and the National Adult Protective Services Association; the MoneyTrack public television series and the Campaign for Wise and Safe Investing with the AARP Foundation.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I urge more individuals to take control of their future by saving and investing for retirement — regardless of age, just start, save what you can and make it a habit. Work as long as desired, plan for health care and other costs as you age. Be open to a phased retirement/encore career, learn new skills and enjoy time with loved ones."

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Phyllis Borzi: Making Retirement Advisers Put Clients First

Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security, U.S. Department of Labor

Officially, Borzi is in charge of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, overseeing 681,000 private-sector retirement plans and 2.3 million health plans. Unofficially, she has been the administration’s champion behind its hard-fought, new “fiduciary rule,” ensuring that financial advisers put their retirement-saving clients’ interests ahead of their own. This rule — six years in the making (Borzi’s grandmother called her “the tortoise” for her tenacity) — could save investors millions in unnecessary fees and help them avoid being put into unsuitable investments.

A former high school English teacher, Borzi has served as the pension and employee benefit counsel for a U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor subcommittee. She’s also a former member of the advisory board of the Pension Research Council of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Officially, Borzi is in charge of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, overseeing 681,000 private-sector retirement plans and 2.3 million health plans. Unofficially, she has been the administration’s champion behind its hard-fought, new “fiduciary rule,” ensuring that financial advisers put their retirement-saving clients’ interests ahead of their own. This rule — six years in the making (Borzi’s grandmother called her “the tortoise” for her tenacity) — could save investors millions in unnecessary fees and help them avoid being put into unsuitable investments.

A former high school English teacher, Borzi has served as the pension and employee benefit counsel for a U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor subcommittee. She’s also a former member of the advisory board of the Pension Research Council of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

On her agency's role in assuring the security of the retirement, health and other workplace benefits of America's workers and their families, Borzi has said:

"I am committed to ensuring every single dollar that Americans have worked hard for and are counting on to be there for them."

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Tim Carpenter
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Tim Carpenter: Reinventing Senior Housing

Founder and Executive Director of EngAGE

Carpenter is the founder of EngAGE, a nonprofit that “changes aging and the way people think about aging by transforming senior apartment communities into vibrant centers of learning, wellness and creativity.” It all started when Carpenter had an idea that retirement communities should be more like college — a beginning instead of an ending. His vision became a reality in the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, which broke ground in 2003 and offered high-quality arts courses, such as creative writing, instead of pass-the-time activities, such as bingo. Carpenter was named an Ashoka Fellow for being one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs in 2008. He is currently expanding his senior artists colony idea to other cities.

Carpenter is the founder of EngAGE, a nonprofit that “changes aging and the way people think about aging by transforming senior apartment communities into vibrant centers of learning, wellness and creativity.” It all started when Carpenter had an idea that retirement communities should be more like college — a beginning instead of an ending. His vision became a reality in the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, which broke ground in 2003 and offered high-quality arts courses, such as creative writing, instead of pass-the-time activities, such as bingo. Carpenter was named an Ashoka Fellow for being one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs in 2008. He is currently expanding his senior artists colony idea to other cities.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"If I could change one thing about aging in America, I would make it required in all senior housing that life-enhancing programs like ours are offered, ones that change people’s lives, improve their health and create a stronger sense of community and purpose. This would create increased independence, health and longevity, improved happiness and sense of self-efficacy to battle ageism and a connection to other generations through multigenerational programming and events in community."

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Bruce Chernof
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Bruce Chernof: Improving Broken Systems

President and CEO, The SCAN Foundation

Dr. Chernof advances a goal for the country that many Americans recognize as their own personal hope for their older years: that they can hold onto their independence and dignity, and that good-quality health care and other supports will be available to them in a way that respects their individual needs. That recognition of the individual is at the heart of person-centered care, a pillar of Chernof’s vision.

Through public policy efforts and millions of dollars in grants each year (full disclosure: Next Avenue is a grantee), the SCAN Foundation works to improve the systems that surround aging — medical care, long-term care, community-based services — in part by raising awareness of how those systems fall short for many Americans now.

Dr. Chernof advances a goal for the country that many Americans recognize as their own personal hope for their older years: that they can hold onto their independence and dignity, and that good-quality health care and other supports will be available to them in a way that respects their individual needs. That recognition of the individual is at the heart of person-centered care, a pillar of Chernof’s vision.

Through public policy efforts and millions of dollars in grants each year (full disclosure: Next Avenue is a grantee), the SCAN Foundation works to improve the systems that surround aging — medical care, long-term care, community-based services — in part by raising awareness of how those systems fall short for many Americans now.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would turn the current health care paradigm on its head by focusing on function and not just ICD-10 codes. Most of us will need some help as we age. And when we reach that point, all of us will continue to define ourselves by the abilities we retain and the things we want to accomplish, not our medical problem list. Delivering on the promise of value-based health care will require us to see the person beyond the patient."

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Carol Fishman Cohen
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Carol Fishman Cohen: Propelling Women to Re-enter the Workforce

CEO and Co-Founder, iRelaunch

With iRelaunch, Cohen has been a missionary for the cause of aiding female professionals to get back to work after a hiatus — she calls them “relaunchers.” Cohen is striking a chord. Her recent TED Talk, How to Get Back to Work After a Career Break, has attracted more than 1.3 million views online.

One way Cohen propels relaunchers is by finding new ways employers can recruit from their talent pool. The author of Back on the Career Track, she helped originate and lead the STEM Reentry Task Force with the Society of Women Engineers — seven companies piloting re-entry internship programs. It will repeat in 2017 with a new group of companies. iRelaunch has hosted 18 return-to-work conferences in the United States and the United Kingdom.

With iRelaunch, Cohen has been a missionary for the cause of aiding female professionals to get back to work after a hiatus — she calls them “relaunchers.” Cohen is striking a chord. Her recent TED Talk, How to Get Back to Work After a Career Break, has attracted more than 1.3 million views online.

One way Cohen propels relaunchers is by finding new ways employers can recruit from their talent pool. The author of Back on the Career Track, she helped originate and lead the STEM Reentry Task Force with the Society of Women Engineers — seven companies piloting re-entry internship programs. It will repeat in 2017 with a new group of companies. iRelaunch has hosted 18 return-to-work conferences in the United States and the United Kingdom.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"If I could change one thing about aging in America, it would be to change employer views of professionals over 50 who are returning to work after career breaks. Right now, they are viewed as riskier hires. Using internships to engage with this population helps remove some of the perceived risk, but I hope we get to the point where internships are no longer needed, and older Americans are hired directly into permanent roles."

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Helen Dennis
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Helen Dennis: Helping People Retire Successfully and Happily

Principal, Helen Dennis & Associates

Since co-authoring the bestselling book Project Renewment: The First Retirement Model for Career Women in 2008, Dennis has been one of the nation’s foremost experts on preparing for the non-financial aspects of retirement. And through her firm specializing in employment and retirement, Dennis has worked with more than 15,000 employees at corporations and universities to do just that. Over 1.3 million readers devour Dennis’ insights and advice in her weekly syndicated column, Successful Aging.

She developed the first national corporate management-training program to prevent age discrimination in the workplace, created innovative programs encouraging older Americans to enter the labor force and has conducted research on employment and retirement issues for AARP and the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Since co-authoring the bestselling book Project Renewment: The First Retirement Model for Career Women in 2008, Dennis has been one of the nation’s foremost experts on preparing for the non-financial aspects of retirement. And through her firm specializing in employment and retirement, Dennis has worked with more than 15,000 employees at corporations and universities to do just that. Over 1.3 million readers devour Dennis’ insights and advice in her weekly syndicated column, Successful Aging.

She developed the first national corporate management-training program to prevent age discrimination in the workplace, created innovative programs encouraging older Americans to enter the labor force and has conducted research on employment and retirement issues for AARP and the U.S. Administration on Aging.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would eliminate ageism, the only remaining socially acceptable 'ism.' Ageism is a barrier to employment and to sufficient funding for age-related diseases. It reinforces adults’ negative self-fulfilling prophesy. Without ageism, wisdom would be sought after; employment opportunities would be equal and older adults, our most underutilized resource, would have greater opportunities to fulfill their potential and live a life of purpose and dignity. We’ve come a long way, but not far enough or fast enough."

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Ken Dychtwald
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Ken Dychtwald: Riding the Age Wave

Founder, President and CEO, Age Wave

He’s been one of the nation’s preeminent and pioneering thinkers about boomers and aging for more than 35 years. So it’s hardly surprising that Dychtwald’s Age Wave client list includes over half the Fortune 500 and that he (along with his wife, Age Wave co-founder Maddy Dychtwald) just received the Esalen Prize for creating a significant impact in the world. Recently chosen to serve as chairman-elect of the American Society on Aging, Dychtwald is a psychologist, gerontologist and bestselling author.

Lately, he and Bank of America have produced groundbreaking, influential research on 21st century retirement. His Harvard Business Review article, “It’s Time to Retire Retirement,” won the prestigious McKinsey Award. Dychtwald served on the board of advisers for Next Avenue’s first Influencers in Aging awards in 2015.

He’s been one of the nation’s preeminent and pioneering thinkers about boomers and aging for more than 35 years. So it’s hardly surprising that Dychtwald’s Age Wave client list includes over half the Fortune 500 and that he (along with his wife, Age Wave co-founder Maddy Dychtwald) just received the Esalen Prize for creating a significant impact in the world. Recently chosen to serve as chairman-elect of the American Society on Aging, Dychtwald is a psychologist, gerontologist and bestselling author.

Lately, he and Bank of America have produced groundbreaking, influential research on 21st century retirement. His Harvard Business Review article, “It’s Time to Retire Retirement,” won the prestigious McKinsey Award. Dychtwald served on the board of advisers for Next Avenue’s first Influencers in Aging awards in 2015.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"1) Preparing our health care system for the chronic health challenges of millions of older adults and their caregiving families; 2) turbo-charging global science to beat Alzheimer’s before it beats us; 3) averting a new era of mass elder poverty; 4) liberating the consumer marketplace from its ageist, youth-obsessed and disrespectful orientation, and 5) helping to envision a new purpose for older adults — with a strong emphasis on fostering positive transgenerational interdependencies."

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Michael Eisner: Funding Remarkable Intergenerational Efforts

CEO, The Tornante Company; Founder of The Eisner Foundation

Since 2011, the former Disney Chairman and CEO and his Eisner Foundation have annually awarded The Eisner Prize for Intergenerational Excellence. The cash prize is designed to recognize excellence by an individual or a nonprofit in uniting multiple generations, especially seniors and youth, to bring about positive and lasting changes in their community.

The Eisner Foundation believes that intergenerational solutions provide a multiplier effect, where low-income children and older adults can benefit simultaneously. In 2015, The Eisner Foundation became the only U.S. funder investing exclusively in intergenerational solutions. This year, the foundation will award roughly $7 million in grants to support intergenerational programming in Los Angeles County. Last quarter, it awarded $1.4 million to seven area nonprofits, including $500,000 to Encore.org for its new social action campaign, Generation to Generation. 

Since 2011, the former Disney Chairman and CEO and his Eisner Foundation have annually awarded The Eisner Prize for Intergenerational Excellence. The cash prize is designed to recognize excellence by an individual or a nonprofit in uniting multiple generations, especially seniors and youth, to bring about positive and lasting changes in their community.

The Eisner Foundation believes that intergenerational solutions provide a multiplier effect, where low-income children and older adults can benefit simultaneously. In 2015, The Eisner Foundation became the only U.S. funder investing exclusively in intergenerational solutions. This year, the foundation will award roughly $7 million in grants to support intergenerational programming in Los Angeles County. Last quarter, it awarded $1.4 million to seven area nonprofits, including $500,000 to Encore.org for its new social action campaign, Generation to Generation. 

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"If I could change anything about aging, I would create more intergenerational programs in our country. We need to find ways to utilize our aging Americans as resources, not as burdens to our economy and our society. Seniors have much to give back, primarily to low-income children, and by doing so, they can also improve their own qualities of life and their longevity. Most seniors want to remain productive and we should celebrate that."

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Jim Emerman
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Jim Emerman: Taking the Encore Movement to the Next Level

Executive Vice President, Encore.org

At the influential nonprofit Encore.org, whose tagline is “Second Acts for the Greater Good,” Emerman spearheads the group’s noteworthy research initiatives and supervises both the groundbreaking Encore Fellowships program and EncoreU, its higher education initiative. He also played a significant role in developing and directing the Purpose Prize, an award created by Encore.org and now administered by AARP, designed to recognize and invest in social entrepreneurs working after age 60 to solve important problems in their communities and beyond.

Through his speaking and writing (for outlets from Next Avenue to Huffington Post), Emerman has become a significant thought leader in the encore movement. Previously, he was chief operating officer for the American Society on Aging.

At the influential nonprofit Encore.org, whose tagline is “Second Acts for the Greater Good,” Emerman spearheads the group’s noteworthy research initiatives and supervises both the groundbreaking Encore Fellowships program and EncoreU, its higher education initiative. He also played a significant role in developing and directing the Purpose Prize, an award created by Encore.org and now administered by AARP, designed to recognize and invest in social entrepreneurs working after age 60 to solve important problems in their communities and beyond.

Through his speaking and writing (for outlets from Next Avenue to Huffington Post), Emerman has become a significant thought leader in the encore movement. Previously, he was chief operating officer for the American Society on Aging.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks recently wrote about the paradox of Moses who died at 120, 'his eyes undimmed and his strength undiminished' (Deut. 34:7). For Sacks, Moses embodied generativity, investing in what survived him, and a keeper of meaning, passing the values of the past to the future. I imagine a future where every older adult can be a real-life Moses, a mentor for youth in need of stability, support and wisdom in their lives."

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Elissa Sarah Epel
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Elissa Sarah Epel: Uncovering the Link Between Stress and Health

Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco

In 2004, Epel and her team wrote a groundbreaking paper on how stress impacts aging at the cellular level: It causes a shortening of telomeres, the protective caps on chromosomes. That work has led to a great deal of additional research on personal and social factors in aging. Epel described some of her team’s work in a forthcoming book she co-authored with Elizabeth Blackburn, The Telomere Effect: The New Science of Living Younger, which is being made into a mini-documentary for PBS distribution in 2017.

Epel, who earned her Ph.D. in psychology, goes beyond explaining the problem: She proposes mindfulness training and other interventions to remain resilient and even thrive under stress. This month, she was named to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine.

In 2004, Epel and her team wrote a groundbreaking paper on how stress impacts aging at the cellular level: It causes a shortening of telomeres, the protective caps on chromosomes. That work has led to a great deal of additional research on personal and social factors in aging. Epel described some of her team’s work in a forthcoming book she co-authored with Elizabeth Blackburn, The Telomere Effect: The New Science of Living Younger, which is being made into a mini-documentary for PBS distribution in 2017.

Epel, who earned her Ph.D. in psychology, goes beyond explaining the problem: She proposes mindfulness training and other interventions to remain resilient and even thrive under stress. This month, she was named to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"We can increase our healthspan dramatically. We can reduce the drawn out disease-related decline that many endure in our elderly years, and transform this precious stage of life into one of thriving. Science now shows that we have all the ingredients to do this — by reducing toxic stress, improving nutrition and activity and investing in social connectivity and life purpose. This is what makes our cells happy, our minds and bodies resilient and healthy."

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John Feather: Changing the Conversation

CEO, Grantmakers in Aging

As head of Grantmakers In Aging, the national society of grantmaking foundations and other organizations that work to improve the lives of older people, Feather is working to change the fact that “Americans don’t want to think about aging.” How? By reframing the conversation to focus on understanding the gaps between what professionals who work in the field of aging know and the perceptions of the public and potential funders. His creative yet business-minded approach has been a hallmark of an estimable career that also has included chairing of the board of directors of the American Society on Aging; serving as treasurer of the National Hispanic Council on Aging; and directing of the AARP Andrus Foundation, the research and education charity of AARP.

As head of Grantmakers In Aging, the national society of grantmaking foundations and other organizations that work to improve the lives of older people, Feather is working to change the fact that “Americans don’t want to think about aging.” How? By reframing the conversation to focus on understanding the gaps between what professionals who work in the field of aging know and the perceptions of the public and potential funders. His creative yet business-minded approach has been a hallmark of an estimable career that also has included chairing of the board of directors of the American Society on Aging; serving as treasurer of the National Hispanic Council on Aging; and directing of the AARP Andrus Foundation, the research and education charity of AARP.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"If I could change one thing about aging in America, it would be to make ageism socially unacceptable in our society. The task seems daunting — even impossible — but we have made progress on equally daunting issues, such as climate change or smoking cessation. Older people are a tremendous resource to all of our society. This is a unique time to create communities in which everyone can grow up and grow old."  

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Ruth Finkelstein: Enlightening the Public on Work and Aging

Associate Director, Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center

An assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Finkelstein leads the school’s translation of interdisciplinary scientific knowledge on aging and its societal implications into policy-focused practice. The goal of her policy work is to maximize productivity, quality of life and health across the life course.

To journalists who cover the aging beat, Finkelstein is legendary for four reasons: She is a brilliant, driving force behind Columbia’s Age Boom Academy, an annual program that lets reporters and editors learn from the nation’s leading researchers on the subject. She directs the Age Smart Employer Awards program. She ran the Age-friendly New York City Initiative while working as the senior vice president for policy and planning at The New York Academy of Medicine. And she’s a hoot.

An assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Finkelstein leads the school’s translation of interdisciplinary scientific knowledge on aging and its societal implications into policy-focused practice. The goal of her policy work is to maximize productivity, quality of life and health across the life course.

To journalists who cover the aging beat, Finkelstein is legendary for four reasons: She is a brilliant, driving force behind Columbia’s Age Boom Academy, an annual program that lets reporters and editors learn from the nation’s leading researchers on the subject. She directs the Age Smart Employer Awards program. She ran the Age-friendly New York City Initiative while working as the senior vice president for policy and planning at The New York Academy of Medicine. And she’s a hoot.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Currently, retirement is like crossing the rubicon — from being a person to only being. I’d like to change that so that employers value the skills, experience and knowledge of older employees and make it possible for them to work on their own terms. And that there is a whole universe of opportunity on the other side of retirement — entailing learning and contributing and leading. And that we value people whatever they decide to do."

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Terry Fulmer
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Terry Fulmer: Embodying Leadership from Clinic to Boardroom

President of The John A. Hartford Foundation

Nurse. Professor. Dean. Researcher. Leader. Terry Fulmer, Ph.D., has held all of these roles throughout a stellar four-decade career, becoming recognized as a top expert in the health of older adults. She has also done important research on abuse and neglect of older adults.

Fulmer currently directs the philanthropic activity of the John A. Hartford Foundation, whose $565 million endowment works to improve older adults’ health. She previously served as dean and distinguished professor of the Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University and founding dean of the College of Nursing at New York University.

Nurse. Professor. Dean. Researcher. Leader. Terry Fulmer, Ph.D., has held all of these roles throughout a stellar four-decade career, becoming recognized as a top expert in the health of older adults. She has also done important research on abuse and neglect of older adults.

Fulmer currently directs the philanthropic activity of the John A. Hartford Foundation, whose $565 million endowment works to improve older adults’ health. She previously served as dean and distinguished professor of the Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University and founding dean of the College of Nursing at New York University.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"The one thing I would want to change is ageism. The greatest success story of the 20th century has been the increased longevity of our population and that is something to celebrate. By contrast, we see rampant ageism that affects every element of society from our feelings about our appearances to our expectations for health care. We need to embrace longevity and support the independence and dignity of older people."

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Mary Furlong
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Mary Furlong: Turning Boomers Into Business Opportunities

President and CEO, Mary Furlong & Associates

Often dubbed the person who knows anyone who’s anyone in the world of marketing to boomers, Furlong has two intertwined missions — elevating the needs of mature consumers to the business community and encouraging entrepreneurs to see longevity as a business opportunity. She combines them in the popular events she produces annually: the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit (at the American Society on Aging’s Aging in America conference) and the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit.

The author of Turning Silver Into Gold, a book about business and aging, Furlong is also the founder of SeniorNet (a nonprofit specializing in computer and Internet education for adults 55+) and ThirdAge Media (an information source for boomer women).

Often dubbed the person who knows anyone who’s anyone in the world of marketing to boomers, Furlong has two intertwined missions — elevating the needs of mature consumers to the business community and encouraging entrepreneurs to see longevity as a business opportunity. She combines them in the popular events she produces annually: the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit (at the American Society on Aging’s Aging in America conference) and the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit.

The author of Turning Silver Into Gold, a book about business and aging, Furlong is also the founder of SeniorNet (a nonprofit specializing in computer and Internet education for adults 55+) and ThirdAge Media (an information source for boomer women).

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"My career has focused on mitigating the loneliness of older adults — using technology to showcase their talents and reinstate their role as leaders in society. I would advocate for more corporate, venture, entrepreneurial, small business and media focus on this effort. It’s time to ignite a social movement for dramatically improved services by and for older adults. Rethink transportation, meal delivery, errands, mentoring, health and vitality as the global longevity marketplace meets the shared economy."

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Eric Garcetti
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Eric Garcetti: Making the World’s Most Age-Friendly City

Mayor, Los Angeles

The youngest mayor of Los Angeles in more than a century, Garcetti is leading the new campaign to make L.A. the “most age-friendly city in the world” through the Purposeful Aging Los Angeles initiative. The three-year plan, which will be done in conjunction with Los Angeles County, will incorporate civic participation and employment, community support and health services and transportation.

Garcetti signed an executive directive to create an age-friendly task force for L.A., whose population of people over 65 is expected to nearly double to 2.1 million in 2030. In 2014, he was the first mayor to sign the Milken Institute’s Best Cities for Successful Aging “Mayor’s Pledge” to make their communities work better for older adults.

The youngest mayor of Los Angeles in more than a century, Garcetti is leading the new campaign to make L.A. the “most age-friendly city in the world” through the Purposeful Aging Los Angeles initiative. The three-year plan, which will be done in conjunction with Los Angeles County, will incorporate civic participation and employment, community support and health services and transportation.

Garcetti signed an executive directive to create an age-friendly task force for L.A., whose population of people over 65 is expected to nearly double to 2.1 million in 2030. In 2014, he was the first mayor to sign the Milken Institute’s Best Cities for Successful Aging “Mayor’s Pledge” to make their communities work better for older adults.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Our institutions must do more to consider the needs of older adults. As our aging population grows, limited physical mobility and diminished sensory awareness should not be barriers to full participation in civic life. My Executive Directive on Purposeful Aging tasks city departments with considering those values in the making of policy and building of infrastructure — to create a future for Los Angeles that gives people of all ages every opportunity to thrive."

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Teresa Ghilarducci
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Teresa Ghilarducci: Campaigning to Replace 401(k)s

Director, Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis

This New School for Social Research labor economist, author and Hillary Clinton adviser is something of a provocateur. Ghilarducci talks plainly but boldly about why America’s 401(k) retirement-saving system is an utter failure and needs to be replaced. She’s actually received death threats for her views. Her proposal to help the nation avoid a retirement crisis: mandated, Guaranteed Retirement Accounts for all workers.

No ivory tower wonk, Ghilarducci has written two notable books geared toward a popular audience: How to Retire With Enough Money and How to Know What Enough Is and When I’m Sixty-Four: The Plot Against Pensions and the Plan to Save Them.

This New School for Social Research labor economist, author and Hillary Clinton adviser is something of a provocateur. Ghilarducci talks plainly but boldly about why America’s 401(k) retirement-saving system is an utter failure and needs to be replaced. She’s actually received death threats for her views. Her proposal to help the nation avoid a retirement crisis: mandated, Guaranteed Retirement Accounts for all workers.

No ivory tower wonk, Ghilarducci has written two notable books geared toward a popular audience: How to Retire With Enough Money and How to Know What Enough Is and When I’m Sixty-Four: The Plot Against Pensions and the Plan to Save Them.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"If I could change one thing about aging, I would bring dignity back into old age by solving the retirement savings crisis through Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs). GRAs would help resolve retirement wealth inadequacy and the consequential effect on ill health and labor market distortions by creating individual accounts in addition to Social Security with mandated contributions from both employers and employees. The GRAs will be invested in pooled accounts with a guaranteed return, and provide lifelong annuity payments."

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Howard Gleckman
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Howard Gleckman: Deciphering Long-Term Care Policy

Senior Fellow, The Urban Institute

Gleckman has become a top authority on issues of long-term care, caregiving and tax policy in his many years as a journalist. Some of that work was informed by his experience caring for his father and father-in-law, which helped spur him to write Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking New Solutions to America’s Most Urgent Health Care Crisis. He currently writes a regular Caring for Our Parents blog on Forbes.

Gleckman previously spent two decades as senior correspondent in the Washington bureau of Business Week, covering health, elder care and tax issues.

Gleckman has become a top authority on issues of long-term care, caregiving and tax policy in his many years as a journalist. Some of that work was informed by his experience caring for his father and father-in-law, which helped spur him to write Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking New Solutions to America’s Most Urgent Health Care Crisis. He currently writes a regular Caring for Our Parents blog on Forbes.

Gleckman previously spent two decades as senior correspondent in the Washington bureau of Business Week, covering health, elder care and tax issues.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would break down the artificial and dangerous barriers between medical treatment and the personal and social care that most of us need as we age. Nearly all older adults live with chronic illness that often can be best managed with social, non-medical supports. Thus, we need to refocus our health system to better integrate personal care with medical treatment, and develop a sustainable way to finance those supports and services."

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Michelle Lujan Grisham
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Michelle Lujan Grisham: Legislating for Better Aging

Congresswoman

Lujan Grisham was focusing on older adults’ concerns long before she was elected to Congress as a Democrat from New Mexico. She directed the New Mexico state Agency on Aging from 1991 to 2002, and then served as the state’s Secretary of Aging and Long-term Services, where she addressed poor quality of care in nursing homes.

As a Congresswoman, she has brought important national attention to caregiving and is considered one of the few in the Capitol who has deep knowledge of, and commitment to, aging issues. She sponsored the National Care Corps Act, which would establish a corps of qualified volunteers to provide assistance and companionship to older adults. She cares for her own mother in her Albuquerque home.

Lujan Grisham was focusing on older adults’ concerns long before she was elected to Congress as a Democrat from New Mexico. She directed the New Mexico state Agency on Aging from 1991 to 2002, and then served as the state’s Secretary of Aging and Long-term Services, where she addressed poor quality of care in nursing homes.

As a Congresswoman, she has brought important national attention to caregiving and is considered one of the few in the Capitol who has deep knowledge of, and commitment to, aging issues. She sponsored the National Care Corps Act, which would establish a corps of qualified volunteers to provide assistance and companionship to older adults. She cares for her own mother in her Albuquerque home.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I have been protecting and advocating for seniors my entire career. We need to make it easier for older Americans to remain independent in their homes and active in their communities, instead of living in an institution. Seniors should be informed and prepared to afford health care and long-term care costs. Their families should have support with caregiving needs so everyone could live healthy, productive lives as long as possible."

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Sarita Gupta
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Sarita Gupta: Building Stronger Support for Caregivers

Caring Across Generations Co-Director and Jobs With Justice Executive Director

Gupta co-founded Caring Across Generations in 2011 with Ai-jen Poo (a 2015 Influencer in Aging), guided by a long-term vision of high-quality, accessible care for older adults. Her superior ability to lead by forging relationships and building collaboration has helped bring a number of diverse groups together toward common solutions. For example, Gupta played a key role last year in spurring support for the U.S. Department of Labor’s home care rule decision, which gave home care workers the rights to overtime and a minimum wage.

Gupta also speaks publicly about the reality of being a caregiver; she cares for her father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Gupta co-founded Caring Across Generations in 2011 with Ai-jen Poo (a 2015 Influencer in Aging), guided by a long-term vision of high-quality, accessible care for older adults. Her superior ability to lead by forging relationships and building collaboration has helped bring a number of diverse groups together toward common solutions. For example, Gupta played a key role last year in spurring support for the U.S. Department of Labor’s home care rule decision, which gave home care workers the rights to overtime and a minimum wage.

Gupta also speaks publicly about the reality of being a caregiver; she cares for her father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"As a sandwich generation caregiver to my father with Alzheimer’s, I’d like caregiving to be easier and more sustainable for families like mine. And as a professional care advocate, I speak for policies that support family and professional care workers, like paid family leave and fair wages for paid caregivers. It is time to bring caregiving into the 21st century, where care and those who provide it are fundamentally valued, once and for all."

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Gail Gibson Hunt
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Gail Gibson Hunt: Making Caregivers Visible

President & CEO, National Alliance for Caregiving

For more than 30 years, Gibson Hunt has made the needs of family caregivers visible and built a case for programs that support them.

Her alliance coauthors influential caregiver studies used by policymakers. One, on caregivers of post–9/11 veterans, led to a new Veterans Administration program for those families. Other studies shed light on caregivers dealing with cancer or mental illness.

Beyond research, Gibson Hunt drives advocacy for caregivers, from the alliance’s coalition of local and state advocacy groups to her own service on projects such as the 2005 White House Conference on Aging.

For more than 30 years, Gibson Hunt has made the needs of family caregivers visible and built a case for programs that support them.

Her alliance coauthors influential caregiver studies used by policymakers. One, on caregivers of post–9/11 veterans, led to a new Veterans Administration program for those families. Other studies shed light on caregivers dealing with cancer or mental illness.

Read More >

Beyond research, Gibson Hunt drives advocacy for caregivers, from the alliance’s coalition of local and state advocacy groups to her own service on projects such as the 2005 White House Conference on Aging.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"If I could change one thing about aging in America, I would have an effective campaign to reduce the stigma of ageism."

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Paul Irving
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Paul Irving: Spreading the Purposeful Aging Message

Chairman, Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, USC Davis School of Gerontology

While president of the Milken Institute, Irving — author of The Upside of Aging — was zealous on the topic of aging with purpose. So it was only natural that, in 2015, he was chosen as the founding chairman of Milken’s Center for the Future of Aging. Irving, vice chair of Encore.org and a director of the American Society on Aging, was also appointed distinguished scholar in residence at the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology at the time.

One of Irving’s most notable achievements: launching the Milken Institute’s Best Cities for Successful Aging initiative, a highly respected evaluation and ranking of U.S. metro areas for older adults. Another: Irving, former chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles-based law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, was a driving force behind Purposeful Aging Los Angeles.

While president of the Milken Institute, Irving — author of The Upside of Aging — was zealous on the topic of aging with purpose. So it was only natural that, in 2015, he was chosen as the founding chairman of Milken’s Center for the Future of Aging. Irving, vice chair of Encore.org and a director of the American Society on Aging, was also appointed distinguished scholar in residence at the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology at the time.

One of Irving’s most notable achievements: launching the Milken Institute’s Best Cities for Successful Aging initiative, a highly respected evaluation and ranking of U.S. metro areas for older adults. Another: Irving, former chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles-based law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, was a driving force behind Purposeful Aging Los Angeles.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

“Changing our own perceptions of our aging selves will shift the larger narrative about the value and roles of older adults. We’re a human resource offering experience and perspectives that enhance intergenerational understanding. We drive economic growth as consumers and entrepreneurs and contribute to society through encore careers and volunteerism. We’re generally healthier than our forebears. We have a lot to offer. If we believe it and act on it, others will as well.”

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Karyne Jones
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Karyne Jones: Making Diversity a Priority

President and CEO, National Caucus & Center on Black Aging

Jones is head of the 43-year-old NCBA (National Caucus & Center on Black Aging), the largest and oldest minority aging organization in the U.S. — and the only one with a singular mission to make aging services for diverse populations a national priority. Jones leads the organization in providing advocacy, affordable housing, health care programs and employment services for aging low-income African Americans and other minorities. She received a Washington Brava Award from SmartCEO magazine for being a top female CEO, an acknowledgement of her ability to develop business opportunities that support the mission. In 2016, Jones was named chair-elect of the American Society on Aging’s board of directors because of her prominence in the field of diversity and aging services.

Jones is head of the 43-year-old NCBA (National Caucus & Center on Black Aging), the largest and oldest minority aging organization in the U.S. — and the only one with a singular mission to make aging services for diverse populations a national priority. Jones leads the organization in providing advocacy, affordable housing, health care programs and employment services for aging low-income African Americans and other minorities. She received a Washington Brava Award from SmartCEO magazine for being a top female CEO, an acknowledgement of her ability to develop business opportunities that support the mission. In 2016, Jones was named chair-elect of the American Society on Aging’s board of directors because of her prominence in the field of diversity and aging services.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers, said 'the best age is the age you are.' At any age, we contribute to humankind from the joy of hearing a newborn cry to listening to the life experiences of a centenarian. If I could change one thing about aging in America, I would change the perception of old age, eliminating 'senior moment' jargon, black balloons at 50, derogatory grandma and grandpa jokes, eliminate senior centers and celebrate every decade of a person’s life as opportunities to do something great."

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Kathleen Kelly
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Kathleen Kelly: Guiding Policy on Caregiving

Executive Director, Family Caregiver Alliance

Through Kelly’s more than 25 years of leadership at the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), the organization has provided vital education, services and advocacy for family caregivers, including an online listing with information on services and benefits in their particular state. The FCA also manages an innovative program in Alzheimer’s caregiving through an ongoing grant from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation. It runs an annual competition among nonprofits for the best programs in creative expression, diverse/multicultural communities and policy and advocacy.

Kelly also heads the organization’s research arm, the National Center on Caregiving. And she has actively promoted the use of technology in care settings to help make the lives of caregivers easier.

Through Kelly’s more than 25 years of leadership at the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), the organization has provided vital education, services and advocacy for family caregivers, including an online listing with information on services and benefits in their particular state. The FCA also manages an innovative program in Alzheimer’s caregiving through an ongoing grant from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation. It runs an annual competition among nonprofits for the best programs in creative expression, diverse/multicultural communities and policy and advocacy.

Kelly also heads the organization’s research arm, the National Center on Caregiving. And she has actively promoted the use of technology in care settings to help make the lives of caregivers easier.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"As a society, we need to value caregivers and recognize that caregiving will affect everyone at some point in their life. But we also have to acknowledge that caregiving is much more complex than in the past and as such, we need to enact policies across our health and social service systems that both include and support families to maintain their physical, emotional and financial health."

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Paul Kleyman
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Paul Kleyman: Leading the Aging Beat for Journalists

Director, Ethnic Elders Newsbeat, New America Media

Kleyman has been covering aging longer than nearly any other journalist. He spent 20 years as editor of Aging Today, the newspaper of the American Society on Aging. His book, Senior Power: Growing Old Rebelliously, was among the first trade press titles on the subject. These days, Kleyman is the go-to person for reporters new to the aging beat.

He is national coordinator of the Journalists Network on Generations and director of the Ethnic Elders Newsbeat at New America Media. His Generations Beat Online e-newsletter informs journalists of the latest, best articles on aging; key fellowships and programs and other journalism developments on this vital topic. Kleyman was a fellow at Columbia University’s Age Boom Academy and the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

Kleyman has been covering aging longer than nearly any other journalist. He spent 20 years as editor of Aging Today, the newspaper of the American Society on Aging. His book, Senior Power: Growing Old Rebelliously, was among the first trade press titles on the subject. These days, Kleyman is the go-to person for reporters new to the aging beat.

He is national coordinator of the Journalists Network on Generations and director of the Ethnic Elders Newsbeat at New America Media. His Generations Beat Online e-newsletter informs journalists of the latest, best articles on aging; key fellowships and programs and other journalism developments on this vital topic. Kleyman was a fellow at Columbia University’s Age Boom Academy and the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"The miracle of mass longevity is not merely about growing old. Mounting research demonstrates that aging does not begin at 65. Longevity must be understood as a lifelong possibility realized across generations. The essential question for today, certainly for journalists, turns on worldwide findings that the major factors determining life expectancy are income — and education. Will we have the wisdom to invest in our lifespans, healthspans and mindspans to ensure a thriving future for us all?"

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Mark S. Lachs
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Mark S. Lachs: Combating Abuse and Neglect

Co-Chief, Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care and Chief, Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian

Dr. Lachs is a renowned geriatrician and gerontologist who has devoted his career to the care of the disenfranchised, including victims of physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. At Weill Cornell Medical College, his recent research includes a study of the prevalence of resident-to-resident mistreatment in nursing homes and the development of a unique protocol for photographing injuries of victims who come to the emergency department.

And Lachs confronted “medical ageism” in his 2010 book, Treat Me, Not My Age, which examined how older patients’ concerns are often dismissed — or overtreated — based on their age.

Dr. Lachs is a renowned geriatrician and gerontologist who has devoted his career to the care of the disenfranchised, including victims of physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. At Weill Cornell Medical College, his recent research includes a study of the prevalence of resident-to-resident mistreatment in nursing homes and the development of a unique protocol for photographing injuries of victims who come to the emergency department.

And Lachs confronted “medical ageism” in his 2010 book, Treat Me, Not My Age, which examined how older patients’ concerns are often dismissed — or overtreated — based on their age.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would create an intergenerational 'Friends are Medicine' program, based on the compelling science that social forces vastly trump medical forces in ensuring quality of life. Doctors should be paid to include community programs in their treatment, like they are paid for medical procedures. Older adults should be encouraged to work in meaningful roles beyond 65. I would pay young people to befriend older adults in evidence-based ways. The savings would be incalculable and the relief of suffering immeasurable."

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Norman Lear
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Norman Lear: Rabble-rousing for Change

Television Writer and Producer

Lear is the well-known, revered television writer and producer who created such 1970s sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times and Maude. As a political activist, he founded the advocacy organization People for the American Way in 1981 and has supported First Amendment rights and progressive causes. Now 94, Lear has become an outspoken critic of ageism, taking on the subject in TED talks, on his popular Facebook page and in interviews with the media. One of his current complaints: the roadblocks he has run into trying to get television networks interested in his idea for a comedy series about a retirement home. He is the author of the memoir Even This I Get to Experience, published in 2014, and the subject of a PBS documentary, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You.

Lear is the well-known, revered television writer and producer who created such 1970s sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times and Maude. As a political activist, he founded the advocacy organization People for the American Way in 1981 and has supported First Amendment rights and progressive causes. Now 94, Lear has become an outspoken critic of ageism, taking on the subject in TED talks, on his popular Facebook page and in interviews with the media. One of his current complaints: the roadblocks he has run into trying to get television networks interested in his idea for a comedy series about a retirement home. He is the author of the memoir Even This I Get to Experience, published in 2014, and the subject of a PBS documentary, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You.

On his thoughts about aging and continuing to work, Norman Lear has written:

"So, here I am in my nineties. I don’t walk as sturdily as I did, I have aches and pains I choose not to dwell on, and I am well aware of my mortality. Despite these physical realities, and however old I may look, I do not feel like an old man. I feel more your peer. Whether you are 15, 35 or 70, I am your peer." (From Lear's essay in Medium, "On Longevity and Laughter,"  July 5, 2016.)

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Carol Levine
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Carol Levine: Advancing Solutions for Caregivers

Director, Families and Health Care Project, United Hospital Fund

Through the Families and Health Care Project, Levine focuses on developing partnerships between health professionals and family caregivers to make the transitions between health care settings less stressful. For example, she collaborated with Susan Reinhard of AARP on a successful effort to legislate better communication between hospitals and caregivers.

Levine has written and spoken widely on government policies needed to help caregivers. Her expertise on the subject comes in part from the 17 years she spent as caregiver for her husband after a catastrophic auto accident. She has edited several books, including Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving. In 2014, she wrote Planning For Long-Term Care For Dummies.

Through the Families and Health Care Project, Levine focuses on developing partnerships between health professionals and family caregivers to make the transitions between health care settings less stressful. For example, she collaborated with Susan Reinhard of AARP on a successful effort to legislate better communication between hospitals and caregivers.

Levine has written and spoken widely on government policies needed to help caregivers. Her expertise on the subject comes in part from the 17 years she spent as caregiver for her husband after a catastrophic auto accident. She has edited several books, including Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving. In 2014, she wrote Planning For Long-Term Care For Dummies.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

“Meeting the caregiving needs of older adults should be seen not only as a family duty but as a responsibility shared with health care professionals, community leaders, employers and public officials. Family caregivers need many sources of help to achieve the best possible health, well-being and quality of life for both the people they care for and themselves.”

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Becca Levy
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Becca Levy: Discovering How Attitudes Affect Aging

Professor of Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health and Professor of Psychology, Yale University

Can thoughts influence reality? Becca Levy, Ph.D., has studied that question in depth, finding that the perceptions of aging we glean from our culture can influence health as we get older. In an important series of studies, the Yale psychologist has examined how age stereotypes influence memory, physical ability and cardiovascular response to stress. The New York Times called Levy “the researcher who has done more than anyone else to advance our understanding of this.”

This year, Levy published research showing that individuals with negative age stereotypes exhibited, decades later, “significantly steeper” brain loss and a greater accumulation of the plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting “a new pathway to identifying … potential interventions” for Alzheimer’s.

Can thoughts influence reality? Becca Levy, Ph.D., has studied that question in depth, finding that the perceptions of aging we glean from our culture can influence health as we get older. In an important series of studies, the Yale psychologist has examined how age stereotypes influence memory, physical ability and cardiovascular response to stress. The New York Times called Levy “the researcher who has done more than anyone else to advance our understanding of this.”

This year, Levy published research showing that individuals with negative age stereotypes exhibited, decades later, “significantly steeper” brain loss and a greater accumulation of the plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting “a new pathway to identifying … potential interventions” for Alzheimer’s.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"We would strengthen the human rights of older individuals and create a culture in which individuals across the lifespan would celebrate getting older."

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David Lindeman
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David Lindeman: Driving Innovation

Director of the Center for Technology and Aging (CTA), Co-Director of the Center for Innovation and Technology in Public Health (CITPH) and Co-Director of Health Care for Center for Information Technology Research in the Interests of Society (CITRIS) at the University of California

With 30 years working in aging and long-term care as a health services researcher and administrator, Lindeman has become an advocate for using technology to support the independence of older adults. The director of CTA (the Center for Technology and Aging) and co-director of CITPH (Center for Innovation and Technology in Public Health) and CITRIS (Center for Information Technology Research in the Interests of Society) is sought-after for his expertise on the loss of independence that comes from the inability to continue to drive. As such, Lindeman’s work supports technological innovations like autonomous cars that will allow people to maintain medical appointments, recreational activities and social engagements without the help of a caregiver or service. “For everyone with mobility limitations, it will be a game changer,” he told Next Avenue last year.

With 30 years working in aging and long-term care as a health services researcher and administrator, Lindeman has become an advocate for using technology to support the independence of older adults. The director of CTA (the Center for Technology and Aging) and co-director of CITPH (Center for Innovation and Technology in Public Health) and CITRIS (Center for Information Technology Research in the Interests of Society) is sought-after for his expertise on the loss of independence that comes from the inability to continue to drive. As such, Lindeman’s work supports technological innovations like autonomous cars that will allow people to maintain medical appointments, recreational activities and social engagements without the help of a caregiver or service. “For everyone with mobility limitations, it will be a game changer,” he told Next Avenue last year.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"As society becomes ever more dependent on technology, we must ensure that older adults in the U.S. are not left behind by providing access to technology through universal access to the Internet, digital training and affordable technology solutions."

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Richard W. (Dick) Lindsay
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Richard W. (Dick) Lindsay: Devising New Ideas in Caregiving

Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine and Family Medicine at the UVA Health Sciences Center, Founder of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at UVA

As a practicing geriatrician for four decades, Dr. Lindsay has personally witnessed the effects of caregiving on his patients’ family members and has experienced it himself through caring for his mother. Lindsay founded the Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving in 2013 to “preserve and improve the wellness of family caregivers, with a special focus on the Alzheimer’s caregiver.” He works as a project consultant for the institute.

Since retiring from the University of Virginia, where he founded and directed the Division of Geriatric Medicine, Lindsay continues to teach medical students. Throughout his career, Lindsay has been a thought leader, demonstrating an enthusiasm for adopting and promoting innovation and fresh ideas.

As a practicing geriatrician for four decades, Dr. Lindsay has personally witnessed the effects of caregiving on his patients’ family members and has experienced it himself through caring for his mother. Lindsay founded the Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving in 2013 to “preserve and improve the wellness of family caregivers, with a special focus on the Alzheimer’s caregiver.” He works as a project consultant for the institute.

Since retiring from the University of Virginia, where he founded and directed the Division of Geriatric Medicine, Lindsay continues to teach medical students. Throughout his career, Lindsay has been a thought leader, demonstrating an enthusiasm for adopting and promoting innovation and fresh ideas.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

“I’d work to change the country’s perception of the role that family caregivers play in our health care system — emphasizing that they are a critical part of patient care — which makes maintaining their own health of vital importance. Significantly increasing caregiver wellness will require innovative learning techniques to train current and future physicians, health professionals and multi-disciplinary students at all levels — creating thought leaders and leveraging the latest technology to expand caregiver support.”

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Jean Makesh
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Jean Makesh: Rethinking Alzheimer's Care Through Technology and Design

CEO of The Lantern memory care and assisted living facilities

The word “Svayus” means “life full of vigor.” That’s the kind of life Makesh is trying to create for the people with Alzheimer’s who come to his facilities for care. As the CEO of The Lantern, with three locations in Ohio, Makesh is using an inventive combination of therapies, design thinking and technology to create what he calls a Svayus approach to memory care: “a time capsule designed to cue and retrieve memories to enable our clients to live a life that is cheerful, brimming with happiness and vigor.” His approach includes designing facilities that remind residents of their childhood to put them at ease and reduce the agitation and anxiety that often plagues those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The word “Svayus” means “life full of vigor.” That’s the kind of life Makesh is trying to create for the people with Alzheimer’s who come to his facilities for care. As the CEO of The Lantern, with three locations in Ohio, Makesh is using an inventive combination of therapies, design thinking and technology to create what he calls a Svayus approach to memory care: “a time capsule designed to cue and retrieve memories to enable our clients to live a life that is cheerful, brimming with happiness and vigor.” His approach includes designing facilities that remind residents of their childhood to put them at ease and reduce the agitation and anxiety that often plagues those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Aging begins the day we are born and ends the day we depart. Aging is an evolutionary process that nourishes and expands our prosperity through knowledge and lifelong experiences. Embracing, cherishing, celebrating and respecting aging should be our culture and our way of life. Aging should be revered!"

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Siddhartha Mukherjee
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Siddhartha Mukherjee: Unraveling the Mysteries of Disease

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Columbia University

The Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (from which a six-hour PBS documentary was produced), has turned his attention most recently to the intersection of genes and the environment — and how they influence disease. But The Gene: An Intimate History, is no dry study of biology. In a  Washington Post review of the book, Andrew Solomon wrote that Dr. Mukherjee “swaddles his medical rigor with rhapsodic tenderness, surprising vulnerability and occasional flashes of pure poetry.” Ken Burns just recently purchased the rights to adapt The Gene for PBS.

Mukherjee says the goal of his Columbia University laboratory research is to develop novel strategies against blood diseases like myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

The Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (from which a six-hour PBS documentary was produced), has turned his attention most recently to the intersection of genes and the environment — and how they influence disease. But The Gene: An Intimate History, is no dry study of biology. In a  Washington Post review of the book, Andrew Solomon wrote that Dr. Mukherjee “swaddles his medical rigor with rhapsodic tenderness, surprising vulnerability and occasional flashes of pure poetry.” Ken Burns just recently purchased the rights to adapt The Gene for PBS.

Mukherjee says the goal of his Columbia University laboratory research is to develop novel strategies against blood diseases like myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would ensure that aging is recognized as a natural process — a culmination of living — and imbued with joy, well-being and companionship. Too many people in America die in hospitals when they should really be at home, surrounded by loved ones."

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S. Jay Olshansky
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S. Jay Olshansky: Exploring the Limits of Longevity

Professor, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago; and Chief Scientist at Lapetus Solutions

How long can humans live? Olshansky has argued that merely adding more years to life should not be our primary goal. The University of Chicago sociologist has devoted his career to studying how to extend the healthy years and “compress” sickness and disease to the very end.

Olshansky coined the term “the longevity dividend” — the social, economic and health benefits we would see through efforts to slow biological aging. He predicts that slowing aging will be the next big public health advance in this century. One recent effort he’s involved in: a study of the ability of metformin, a diabetes drug, to slow the aging process.

How long can humans live? Olshansky has argued that merely adding more years to life should not be our primary goal. The University of Chicago sociologist has devoted his career to studying how to extend the healthy years and “compress” sickness and disease to the very end.

Olshansky coined the term “the longevity dividend” — the social, economic and health benefits we would see through efforts to slow biological aging. He predicts that slowing aging will be the next big public health advance in this century. One recent effort he’s involved in: a study of the ability of metformin, a diabetes drug, to slow the aging process.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Our collective vision of what it means to be old. It’s common in the U.S. to devalue people because of their age. If we could learn to appreciate the subtle and not so subtle advantages that come with a long life, and convey these messages accurately through the media, we could bridge the gap between old and young and open up new opportunities for older people to live far more active and productive lives."

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Susan C. Reinhard
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Susan C. Reinhard: Turning Policy into Action

Senior Vice President and Director, AARP Public Policy Institute

In addition to heading up AARP’s Public Policy Institute, which examines issues ranging from health care to financial security, Reinhard is recognized nationally as a top expert in long-term care and health policy, serving as lead planner for AARP’s research and analysis in those areas. Central to Reinhard’s work is the next step—that is, translating the findings into action and often-groundbreaking policy.

An example: Reinhard, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology, collaborated with Carol Levine of United Hospital Fund to produce reports that paved the way for legislation, now passed in 30 states, addressing the emerging area of caregiving. The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act requires that hospitals note the name of a caregiver on a patient’s file, communicate with that caregiver when the patient is going to be discharged and give instructions on home care the patient may need.

In addition to heading up AARP’s Public Policy Institute, which examines issues ranging from health care to financial security, Reinhard is recognized nationally as a top expert in long-term care and health policy, serving as lead planner for AARP’s research and analysis in those areas. Central to Reinhard’s work is the next step—that is, translating the findings into action and often-groundbreaking policy.

An example: Reinhard, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology, collaborated with Carol Levine of United Hospital Fund to produce reports that paved the way for legislation, now passed in 30 states, addressing the emerging area of caregiving. The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act requires that hospitals note the name of a caregiver on a patient’s file, communicate with that caregiver when the patient is going to be discharged and give instructions on home care the patient may need.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

“Aging in America is a new frontier. Never before in the history of human life have we lived so long, with such little preparation for this longevity. I would change many things to help Americans pioneer healthier, financially secure retirements. But if I could only change one thing, I would ensure that all families are better prepared and supported to care for one another as we age. We must make family caregiving a national priority.”

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Max Richtman
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Max Richtman: Creating a National Forum for Older Voters

Chair, Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO)

For years, Richtman has been a powerhouse in Washington, D.C., representing and championing senior groups, most notably as the current president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare — the nation’s second-largest grassroots organization devoted to the retirement future of Americans. This year, to help older voters learn where the presidential contenders stood on key issues affecting them, Richtman and the 72-member LCAO (Leadership Council of Aging Organizations) held Seniors Decide 2016 in February at George Mason University and streamed nationwide. It was offered in conjunction with Compassion and Choices, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, AARP and Next Avenue. All the Republican and Democratic candidates were invited to attend; Sen. Bernie Sanders did a live video interview and a proxy for Gov. John Kasich answered questions in person.

Richtman was formerly staff director of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. There, he developed legislation to establish a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly, to produce a more accurate cost of living adjustment for Social Security beneficiaries.

For years, Richtman has been a powerhouse in Washington, D.C., representing and championing senior groups, most notably as the current president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare — the nation’s second-largest grassroots organization devoted to the retirement future of Americans. This year, to help older voters learn where the presidential contenders stood on key issues affecting them, Richtman and the 72-member LCAO (Leadership Council of Aging Organizations) held Seniors Decide 2016 in February at George Mason University and streamed nationwide. It was offered in conjunction with Compassion and Choices, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, AARP and Next Avenue. All the Republican and Democratic candidates were invited to attend; Sen. Bernie Sanders did a live video interview and a proxy for Gov. John Kasich answered questions in person.

Richtman was formerly staff director of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. There, he developed legislation to establish a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly, to produce a more accurate cost of living adjustment for Social Security beneficiaries.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Ageism continues to exist. We see it in the workplace, in public debate, between generations and in social policy. If I could change one thing about aging in the U.S. it would be how our government leaders address ageism through public law. They must ensure that all seniors and their families have ample and easy access to health, income and job security, community supports and a robust aging network that offers choice, independence and dignity."

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Charlie Sabatino
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Charlie Sabatino: Advocating for Legal Rights

Director, American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging

Sabatino has devoted more than three decades to his work at the American Bar Association, specializing in research and project development in health law, long-term care planning and access to legal services for older adults. He has also written and spoken widely on advance care planning. In addition, Sabatino has shared his expertise with students at Georgetown University Law Center as an adjunct professor in elder law since 1987.

Sabatino served as president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and has been active in the organization’s public policy efforts. His work on elder law issues began at the ground level, when he joined Legal Services of Northern Virginia as senior citizens project counsel.

Sabatino has devoted more than three decades to his work at the American Bar Association, specializing in research and project development in health law, long-term care planning and access to legal services for older adults. He has also written and spoken widely on advance care planning. In addition, Sabatino has shared his expertise with students at Georgetown University Law Center as an adjunct professor in elder law since 1987.

Sabatino served as president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and has been active in the organization’s public policy efforts. His work on elder law issues began at the ground level, when he joined Legal Services of Northern Virginia as senior citizens project counsel.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"My one change has a thousand facets — I would want to strengthen and secure the legal rights, dignity, autonomy, quality of life and quality of care of persons as they age, particularly low-income and vulnerable elders."

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Andy Sieg
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Andy Sieg: Getting Advisers Focused on Longevity

Head of Global Wealth & Retirement Solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

He has worked with Age Wave’s Ken Dychtwald (another 2016 Influencer in Aging) to spearhead a series of groundbreaking retirement studies over the past two years. A panelist at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, Sieg is a leading voice in the U.S. business community on redefining aging. In March, he led a fireside chat at New York City’s Museum of American Finance on “The Longevity Bonus: The Economic Impact of the Retirement Megatrend,” discussing how corporations, NGOs and the government can better prepare Americans for longer lives and retirements.

Under his leadership, Bank of America Merrill Lynch offers a training program developed with the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology for human resources and benefit plan professionals to bring greater awareness of the changing needs of America’s aging population. On Jan. 1, 2017, Sieg will become head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

He has worked with Age Wave’s Ken Dychtwald (another 2016 Influencer in Aging) to spearhead a series of groundbreaking retirement studies over the past two years. A panelist at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, Sieg is a leading voice in the U.S. business community on redefining aging. In March, he led a fireside chat at New York City’s Museum of American Finance on “The Longevity Bonus: The Economic Impact of the Retirement Megatrend,” discussing how corporations, NGOs and the government can better prepare Americans for longer lives and retirements.

Under his leadership, Bank of America Merrill Lynch offers a training program developed with the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology for human resources and benefit plan professionals to bring greater awareness of the changing needs of America’s aging population. On Jan. 1, 2017, Sieg will become head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"It is vital that businesses and society as a whole recognize that, far from being an economic calamity, our aging society could generate the most significant economic opportunity of our lifetimes. The 'Silver Economy' is becoming an increasingly powerful force, with the spending power of 60+ consumers expected to reach $15 trillion by 2020. Meanwhile, businesses that embrace age-friendly workplaces will gain a competitive advantage from the immense pool of talent and knowledge offered by older employees."

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June Simmons
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June Simmons: Challenging Old Models of Care

President and CEO, Partners in Care Foundation

Simmons has led Partners in Care Foundation in developing, funding and operating innovative new models of health care delivery for older adults, because the existing models too often fail. A visionary in the field, she and her group work to better coordinate care, devise ways to help older adults manage chronic conditions and equip them for the challenges of aging.

Simmons founded the organization after working for 20 years as a social worker and administrator for a Pasadena, Calif., hospital. She has been blunt about her frustration with the health care system’s failures: “We won’t spend money helping you avoid a stroke or a fall or complications from diabetes. We’ll wait until you’re almost dead, then we’ll pay for care.”

Simmons has led Partners in Care Foundation in developing, funding and operating innovative new models of health care delivery for older adults, because the existing models too often fail. A visionary in the field, she and her group work to better coordinate care, devise ways to help older adults manage chronic conditions and equip them for the challenges of aging.

Simmons founded the organization after working for 20 years as a social worker and administrator for a Pasadena, Calif., hospital. She has been blunt about her frustration with the health care system’s failures: “We won’t spend money helping you avoid a stroke or a fall or complications from diabetes. We’ll wait until you’re almost dead, then we’ll pay for care.”

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Now is the time to respect, support and celebrate our extended lifespans. We have unprecedented opportunities to redefine the aging experience — through more coordinated, person-centered care that respects the uniqueness of aging, and through personal empowerment to take greater responsibility for our own health. If care delivery systems, community organizations and individuals work together, we can reshape the journey of aging so it better serves us all."

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Betty Reid Soskin
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Betty Reid Soskin: Proving You’re Never Too Old to Work

Oldest Full-time Ranger, U.S. National Park Service

At 95, Soskin exemplifies the ability to continue working and pursuing your passion late in life. At the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif., which she helped plan, Soskin conducts park tours and serves as an interpreter. A descendent of slaves, she was called by the Oakland Tribune “a tireless voice for making sure the African-American wartime experience — both the positive steps toward integration and the presence of discrimination — has a prominent place in the park’s history.”

In June, Soskin was attacked and robbed in her home, an experience she says taught her “I could take care of myself.” In September, she presented the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with a photo of the convent of the nation’s first all-black religious order, built by her grandfather.

At 95, Soskin exemplifies the ability to continue working and pursuing your passion late in life. At the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif., which she helped plan, Soskin conducts park tours and serves as an interpreter. A descendent of slaves, she was called by the Oakland Tribune “a tireless voice for making sure the African-American wartime experience — both the positive steps toward integration and the presence of discrimination — has a prominent place in the park’s history.”

In June, Soskin was attacked and robbed in her home, an experience she says taught her “I could take care of myself.” In September, she presented the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with a photo of the convent of the nation’s first all-black religious order, built by her grandfather.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would probably want to see elders folded into society as they once were — inclusively — and not ghettoized into 'markets' and 'all-senior communities' where the contagion of elder-related behaviors, attitudes and limitations dictate one's quality of life. Keeping ourselves mainstreamed in all ways, I do firmly believe, extends life. This encourages a continuation of first-time experiences and keeps us contemporary."

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Wendy Spencer
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Wendy Spencer: Fostering Volunteer Efforts for Older Americans

CEO, Corporation for National and Community Service

Spencer’s federal agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service, administers programs including Senior Corps, Senior Companions, Foster Grandparents and RSVP, one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for people 55 and over. More than 270,000 volunteers age 55+ are currently serving through Senior Corps’ three programs. Some may be boosting their odds of getting hired. Spencer says volunteering doesn’t just make you feel good, “it also helps your career — it’s a tough job market and people are looking for advantages.”

Previously CEO of the Florida Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism, Spencer recently announced an Elder Justice AmeriCorps partnership with the Department of Justice awarding $2 million for legal assistance and support to victims of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, most of whom are women.

Spencer’s federal agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service, administers programs including Senior Corps, Senior Companions, Foster Grandparents and RSVP, one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for people 55 and over. More than 270,000 volunteers age 55+ are currently serving through Senior Corps’ three programs. Some may be boosting their odds of getting hired. Spencer says volunteering doesn’t just make you feel good, “it also helps your career — it’s a tough job market and people are looking for advantages.”

Previously CEO of the Florida Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism, Spencer recently announced an Elder Justice AmeriCorps partnership with the Department of Justice awarding $2 million for legal assistance and support to victims of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, most of whom are women.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

“Older Americans are a great treasure. With their time and talent, we can transform society. Service is central to the conversation around aging. It benefits everyone – volunteers, communities and the country. A growing body of research points to mental and physical health benefits associated with volunteering. With nearly 20 percent of Americans projected to be 60+ by 2030, an opportunity exists to engage older Americans in service while contributing to their longer, healthier lives.”

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Lesley Stahl
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Lesley Stahl: Redefining the Role of Grandparent

'60 Minutes' Correspondent

Since joining CBS in 1972, Stahl has covered the White House, interviewed heads of state, won 12 Emmys and spent 25 years as a correspondent for 60 Minutes. But ask this respected television journalist — a trailblazer for women in the field — what the most transformative experience of her life has been and she’ll say it was becoming a grandparent. Known for her political scoops as well as compelling stories that shed light on how we live, Stahl has broadcast many reports on 60 Minutes about growing older. In 2016, she decided to take a journalistic approach to the subject of grandparenting, releasing the book Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting.

Since joining CBS in 1972, Stahl has covered the White House, interviewed heads of state, won 12 Emmys and spent 25 years as a correspondent for 60 Minutes. But ask this respected television journalist — a trailblazer for women in the field — what the most transformative experience of her life has been and she’ll say it was becoming a grandparent. Known for her political scoops as well as compelling stories that shed light on how we live, Stahl has broadcast many reports on 60 Minutes about growing older. In 2016, she decided to take a journalistic approach to the subject of grandparenting, releasing the book Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting.

On being a grandparent and continuing to work, Leslie Stahl has written:

"More than half of all American grandmothers are not yet senior citizens. They’re still working age. But as they cross that line, more and more, like me, they’re kicking retirement down the road. You could say working grandparents are a brood of spring chickens, afraid if they retire they’ll be bored or feel they were benched. Working keeps them feeling young, the boomer Holy Grail." (From Stahl's book, Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting, 2016.)  

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E. Percil Stanford
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E. Percil Stanford: Laying Foundations in Gerontology

President, Folding Voice and Professor Emeritus, San Diego State University

Stanford’s work in aging has been integral to the development of the field. He helped create the first university programs, including at San Diego State, where he taught for three decades after earning a Ph.D. in sociology/gerontology. He founded and directed the National Institute on Minority Aging, an annual conference that was held for many years. And he has been involved in the establishment and nurture of other key groups, such as the American Society on Aging and the Gerontological Society of America.

After serving as senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at AARP, Stanford co-founded Folding Voice, which consults with businesses on aging and diversity issues. His new book, Diversity: New Approaches to Ethnic Minority Aging, is due out in January.

Stanford’s work in aging has been integral to the development of the field. He helped create the first university programs, including at San Diego State, where he taught for three decades after earning a Ph.D. in sociology/gerontology. He founded and directed the National Institute on Minority Aging, an annual conference that was held for many years. And he has been involved in the establishment and nurture of other key groups, such as the American Society on Aging and the Gerontological Society of America.

After serving as senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at AARP, Stanford co-founded Folding Voice, which consults with businesses on aging and diversity issues. His new book, Diversity: New Approaches to Ethnic Minority Aging, is due out in January.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Immediately delete the aged from the inventory of disposables and invisibles. Restore their dignity and respect. Too often, older people are treated as throwaways. Hence, branding older people as 'Senior Citizens' is not humanizing. Other age groups are not designated as types of citizens. To be an older person is special. Their lifelong contributions are invaluable. Remove the 'Senior Citizen' cocoon and honor 'Older People' as premier architects and protectors of our great society."

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Sarah Szanton
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Sarah Szanton: Finding Better Ways to Age in Place

Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing

In her position at Johns Hopkins’ nursing school, Szanton explores how older adults’ environment and stress can affect their health and well-being. The direction of her work was forged from insights she gained early in her career while making house calls to low-income Baltimore elders as a nurse practitioner. She has since developed CAPABLE, an innovative program providing handyman and nursing services to older adults aging in place that has increased mobility, lowered rates of depression and reduced disability by half. 

Importantly, Szanton, who earned her Ph.D. in nursing, is actively sharing her model, and her work has sparked keen interest in state and national policy circles.

In her position at Johns Hopkins’ nursing school, Szanton explores how older adults’ environment and stress can affect their health and well-being. The direction of her work was forged from insights she gained early in her career while making house calls to low-income Baltimore elders as a nurse practitioner. She has since developed CAPABLE, an innovative program providing handyman and nursing services to older adults aging in place that has increased mobility, lowered rates of depression and reduced disability by half. 

Importantly, Szanton, who earned her Ph.D. in nursing, is actively sharing her model, and her work has sparked keen interest in state and national policy circles.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Rather than focus on what older adults can’t do, health services would build on older adults’ strengths, maintaining their dignity and independence. All would have access to screening for declines in physical function like the ability to climb stairs or safely use a bathtub. Then, an inexpensive combination of home modification, occupational therapy and nursing would address or remove concerns, keeping older adults in their homes longer and saving on health care costs."

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Louis Tenenbaum
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Louis Tenenbaum: Helping Americans Age in Place

Founder, Homes Renewed

Tenenbaum’s Homes Renewed group coalesces groups with an interest in upgrading the nation’s housing to better enable aging in place — work that recently led him to win the HIVE 100 Housing Innovators Award. He has forged a coalition to lobby for tax incentives  that would help older Americans upgrade their homes so they may age in place more easily and successfully. And this idea is now a bipartisan bill in Congress: The Senior Accessible Housing Act, which would provide a tax credit of up to $30,000 for aging-in-place home modifications.

Tenenbaum was also part of the original National Endowment for the Arts meeting that proposed what became the Certified Aging in Place Specialist program, a partnership between the National Association of Home Builders and AARP.

Tenenbaum’s Homes Renewed group coalesces groups with an interest in upgrading the nation’s housing to better enable aging in place — work that recently led him to win the HIVE 100 Housing Innovators Award. He has forged a coalition to lobby for tax incentives  that would help older Americans upgrade their homes so they may age in place more easily and successfully. And this idea is now a bipartisan bill in Congress: The Senior Accessible Housing Act, which would provide a tax credit of up to $30,000 for aging-in-place home modifications.

Tenenbaum was also part of the original National Endowment for the Arts meeting that proposed what became the Certified Aging in Place Specialist program, a partnership between the National Association of Home Builders and AARP.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Policy is a recognized tool for big goals. We need policies supporting middle class Americans to age in the home of their choice, economically, in good health, with dignity. Successful policies — like renewable energy — leverage private dollars. If incentives make age-friendly remodeling less expensive, the number of safe homes will increase. The conversations change. The homes change. A place for service delivery innovations results. Robust communities emerge with benefits for all."

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Debra Whitman: Developing Public Policy for People 50+

Chief Public Policy Officer and Executive Vice President, AARP

Leading the public policy development, analysis and research effort on behalf of AARP’s nearly 38 million members isn’t easy. But it’s critically important for Americans age 50 and older and their families. Whitman oversees the AARP division that houses an array of the enterprise’s areas of expertise—research, policy analysis and development, and AARP’s international efforts. From that broad-view position, she is able to guide some of AARP’s most important work, including helping inform policy priorities and legislation. Further, Whitman’s influence and reach extend to the private sector. She worked with the financial industry to lead the creation AARP’s BankSafe Initiative, a national effort to fight the financial exploitation of older Americans.

Adding to Whitman’s clout and credibility are her previous jobs as staff director for the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, specialist in the economics of aging for the Congressional Research Service and researcher on savings and retirement for the Social Security Administration.

Leading the public policy development, analysis and research effort on behalf of AARP’s nearly 38 million members isn’t easy. But it’s critically important for Americans age 50 and older and their families. Whitman oversees the AARP division that houses an array of the enterprise’s areas of expertise—research, policy analysis and development, and AARP’s international efforts. From that broad-view position, she is able to guide some of AARP’s most important work, including helping inform policy priorities and legislation. Further, Whitman’s influence and reach extend to the private sector. She worked with the financial industry to lead the creation AARP’s BankSafe Initiative, a national effort to fight the financial exploitation of older Americans.

Adding to Whitman’s clout and credibility are her previous jobs as staff director for the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, specialist in the economics of aging for the Congressional Research Service and researcher on savings and retirement for the Social Security Administration.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Rather than ignoring or fearing the issues of an aging society, the United States could be a global leader where individuals, families and our entire society are actively harnessing the opportunities of longevity."