Here in the United States, we’re living longer than ever before. According to the US Census, in 2013 there were 44.7 million Americans aged over 64 and six million aged over 84. That’s nearly 15 percent of the population.
Over the next 50 years, the number of people aged 65 and older is expected to more than double to 92 million. And the number of people aged 85 and older? That’s expected to triple to 18 million.
As the number of older Americans continues to grow, so too do the needs for comprehensive retirement options—addressing both health care and financial needs—and readily available information and resources for senior adults.
Big Year for Aging Policy
The White House Conference on Aging occurs once a decade and is focused on making policy recommendations to the president and Congress regarding the aged. The conference could not have come at a better time, as 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the eightieth anniversary of Social Security. This year the conference focused on “embracing the transformative demographic shift occurring in the United States and recognizing the possibilities of healthy aging.” Conference attendees, including representatives from Medicare, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), met on July 13 in Washington D.C. to discuss how the government can provide older Americans with additional support. They discussed topics such as:
- making social security benefits easily accessible, to help workers plan for retirement
- fighting Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia
- keeping older Americans moving
- helping senior adults stay healthy
- protecting older Americans from financial exploitation and elder abuse
Particularly interesting was the announcement that www.aging.gov—a website providing older Americans, their families, friends, and other caregivers, access to government-wide information and advice on living independently and staying well—launched on the day of the conference. The site offers advice related to Social Security benefits, enrolling for Medicare, accessing long-term care, finding primary care physicians, and planning for retirement.
Conference attendees identified the importance of using data to benefit older Americans, and it was announced that by September 2015, data sets relevant to aging and to elderly Americans will be available on www.data.gov as part of President Obama’s commitment to making federal government data open and more usable. These data sets will provide comprehensive information about hospitals, nursing homes and health plans so that consumers can make informed health decisions. Additionally, the data will be accessible to consumers, entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers, and others who can use it to generate new products and services, build businesses and create jobs.
Related to the development of new products, conference attendees also discussed the merits of using technology to support senior citizens. Remarkable technological developments have taken place in recent years to assist people with disabilities and senior adults, and at ICS we’re aware of the positive impact new devices and equipment can have. As such, we regularly take steps to implement new technologies that can support our members, such as participating in the Care Connections pilot program. The program, in partnership with the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, aims to increase the medical knowledge of home health aides so they can help address health issues before they lead to hospitalizations and re-hospitalizations. The program is in its infancy, but feedback so far has been promising. ICS is also proud to provide members with state-of-the-art wheelchairs and other assistive devices that improve their quality of life and increase their independence.
Despite the fact that the White House Conference on Aging occurs just once every ten years, each conference leaves a lasting impression on policy makers and consumers alike. This most recent conference was an opportunity to discuss improvements to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which play a powerful role when individuals are planning for retirement. We look forward to seeing positive outcomes from the conference implemented in future policies and encourage you to visit www.aging.gov and www.data.gov to find information that is helpful to older Americans.