The seniors are coming. That’s what the White House is preparing for after it held its Conference on Aging, where the private and public sector discussed how to address the coming “age wave” of seniors who wish to remain in their homes during retirement.
The White House recently released in the final report from the sixth Conference on Aging that was hosted in July, outlining a push for more caregiver support to homebound seniors and technology solutions that enable independence.
The aging conference has been conducted every decade since 1961 and brings together older Americans and their families, caregivers and advocates. 2015 was the 50th anniversaries for some of the most important federal programs fro seniors: Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans act. Not to mention, Social Security also turned 80 this year.
2015 was also the first year the conference was virtually broadcast in a live webcast in which individuals and groups could ask panelists questions via social media. On the day of the conference, more than 700 watch parties relayed their input, and stakeholder groups in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. organized groups to watch the livestream, discuss ideas and submit feedback.
The conference was prefaced by a year-long conversation that brought out four common themes for discussion: retirement security, healthy aging, long-term services and supports and elder justice. The White House Conference on Aging (HCOA) released four policy briefs on each of these areas in its final report.
Public and Private Initiatives
During the conference, the administration announced a number of new public actions and initiatives to help ensure older adults can maintain health and dignity in retirement, including maximizing their independence and ability to age in place. One of the key announcements was a proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would increase accessibility to nutrition for homebound seniors by allowing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to be used for food delivery services to these households.
To boost retirement security, the administration also put forth proposals to increase retirement savings plan options for millions of Americans who may not find these options through their workplace. Another important initiative is the Department of Labor’s proposed fiduciary rule that would require retirement advisors to put their clients’ best interest first, before their own profits.
Many private organizations announced similar commitments to homebound adults during the conference, including Home Depot’s “how to” video release that highlights simple home modification steps to help seniors age in place and remain in their homes lover throughout retirement.
United Technologies Corporation also took steps to improve retirement security by setting a $1 billion goal in lifetime income assets to help provide employees a steady income throughout retirement and protect against one of the biggest challenges of retirement – outliving savings.
The Future of Aging in Place
The topic that attracted the most attention was caregiving, according to the WHCOA report. For most older Americans who live at home, family caregivers are doing most of the legwork for a variety of tasks. As more adults age in place, it is more likely this reliance on family members will shift to paid caregivers. As such, the conference dug into policy recommendations that would ensure the home health industry is able to attract and retain “a sufficient number of paid caregivers in the profession.”
One of the biggest victories in this areas was the Department of Labor’s final rule to extend Federal minimum wage and overtime protections to many home care workers, the report stated. The shift could help improve retention and recruiting for home health and home care companies as the demand for in-home care rises.
Additionally, the conference addressed the need for greater collaboration across sectors, including housing, transportation, health care and long-term services and supports. Breaking down these “silos” would better support seniors who want to remain independent in their own homes during retirement.
Within the private sector, technology was a clear focus of the conference, as companies such as Uber announced new community-based services to serve older adults living at home. The report also noted that evolving technology on smart phones and engaging games are helping make strides in memory care and better cognitive function later in life that can help seniors remain independent.