Update: The agenda for the White House Conference on Aging has been posted here.
The 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) on Monday July 13 will feature many firsts: The first time the conference will be live-streamed; the first time the public has joined the discussion via social media; the first time there have been no delegates and the first time the president has addressed the conference since 1995. (The conference is held once a decade, with the first in 1961.)
While some are unhappy that this year’s conference is an invitation-only event for 200 or so — with passes harder to snag than a seat at a White House State Dinner — the digitalization of the gathering means the public will be able to see and participate in what used to be a closed-door event for insiders in the aging field. Next Avenue will cover and write about the conference on Monday.
Creating a Public Agenda
“This is an experiment,” says Larry Minnix, President and CEO of LeadingAge (an association of nonprofit providers of aging services) which is sending two people to the conference. “They are going to get … a lot more consumer input into the whole process,” he says adding that he hopes White House Conference on Aging staff will do a good job collecting the input to create “a public agenda” for issues affecting older Americans.
It will be really inspiring. This White House has been very attentive to caregiving issues and issues of integration and innovation.
— Larry Minnix, President/CEO, LeadingAge
Squeezing what used to take several days into seven hours (10 am to 5 pm ET), the event will cover four broad subject areas: retirement security, long-term services and supports, elder justice and healthy aging.
Experts on aging from all quarters will lead the panel discussions and members of the Obama Administration, including four cabinet secretaries, will deliver remarks.
A Wishlist for Experts and Advocates
Next Avenue checked in with a few experts in aging to see what they hope will come of the conference:
Greg O’Neill, Director of the Public Policy Institute of The Gerontological Society of America, says he hopes that opening the conference up to the public will kick-start conversations around critical issues in aging and let people know they are not alone in their struggles, especially caregivers and those dealing with Alzheimer’s. “Caregiving issues are in a crisis situation in this country,” he says. And many caregivers think they are alone.”
O’Neill is also excited to see technology getting its own panel for the first time. In the past, there was an exhibit hall but technology in aging did not have a direct role in the program, he says.
Cindy Hounsell, founder and President of Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) wrote to say, “I am hoping that the conference will provide momentum for the passage of the Older Americans Act. It was introduced in January with bipartisan support. It has lingered for three years and is the cornerstone for aging services.” For Hounsell, Monday will mark her third WHCOA conference. She hopes the president will affirm in his remarks the “importance of the role of Social Security to everyone, sacrifices families are making to provide caregiving and the need for long-term care supports.”
For Michael Adams, Executive Director of Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE), this White House aging conference is his first. In 2005, he says, there was only one person out of 3,000 delegates attending as a representative of the LGBT community. This year, SAGE is bringing four. “I feel very pleased that we have a ticket and a big stake in the proceedings Monday,” Adams says, adding that he hopes to see “some kind of announcement with proactive steps to confront discrimination against LGBT seniors in federally-subsidized housing.”
Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Encore.org, a nonprofit to help people 50+ find meaningful second acts, wrote: “I hope to hear creative ideas for how we can best leverage the idealism, skills, and talent of the tens of millions moving into the second half of life, and to witness leadership from within and outside of government determined to realize this potential experience dividend. “
Minnix hopes the conference will advance efforts to make long-term care insurance more widely available and address the growing burden of Alzheimer’s. Beyond the policy, he adds, “It will be really inspiring. This White House has been very attentive to caregiving issues and issues of integration and innovation . I’m sure it will be good.”
How to Participate in the White House Conference on Aging
The White House shared a schedule with the media this week. The full program of speakers is posted here. Those not able to attend may watch the events live at whitehouse.gov/live or attend one of numerous public watch parties around the country. To join the discussion online, use the hashtag #WHCOA.
(All times ET)
10:00 a.m. Morning Session Welcome
10:05 a.m. Panel 1: Caregiving in America
11:25 a.m. Remarks by President Obama
11:35 a.m. Panel 2: Planning for Financial Security at Every Age
1:20 p.m. Afternoon Session Welcome
2:05 p.m. Panel 3: The Power of Intergenerational Connections and Healthy Aging
2:50 p.m. Panel 4: Empowering All Generations: Elder Justice in the 21st century
3:50 p.m. Panel 5: Technology and the Future of Aging
4:30 p.m. Closing Remarks
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