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Aging Well

Gerontological Society of America Tackles White House Policies on Aging

In anticipation of the forthcoming 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA), The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) has produced a special issue of The Gerontologist that outlines a vision for older adults’ economic and retirement security, health, caregiving, and social well-being for the next decade and beyond. And because this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security, articles within the issue explore ways to safeguard the continuing success of these programs.

A release from the society explains that the WHCoA has been held once every decade since the 1960s and offers a unique opportunity to shape the national landscape for policies affecting older Americans. For 2015, four main topic areas have been chosen: ensuring retirement security; promoting healthy aging; providing long-term services and supports; and protecting older Americans from exploitation, abuse, and neglect.

Writing in the opening editorial of the new special issue, GSA Director of Public Policy and Professional Affairs Greg O’Neill, PhD, and The Gerontologist editor Rachel Pruchno, PhD, state the 2015 WHCoA is the catalyst for developing an aging policy designed to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the aging of the U.S. population in the decade to come.

“The papers presented in this special issue highlight these challenges and opportunities, while also showing us several innovative solutions through their thoughtful recommendations,” O’Neill and Pruchno write. “We view them as visionary — laying the foundation for effective policies supporting an aging society in the years ahead.”

Policy prescriptions for all four topic areas of the WHCoA are included within the articles. They include, but are not limited to, recommendations for a universal private pension system and strengthening Social Security and Medicare through revenue increases rather than benefit cuts; demonstrations of how age-friendly community initiatives can make social and/or physical environments more conducive to older adults’ health, well-being, and ability to age in place and in the community; a template for the delivery, supply, and funding of caregiver respite care services; and calls for a coordinated approach to reduce elder mistreatment.

The latest issue of The Gerontologist is part of larger effort GSA is undertaking to help ensure the 2015 WHCoA is a success. The organization convened a listening session at its most recent Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington, DC, welcoming WHCoA Executive Director Nora Super. GSA also is a founding member of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, which together with AARP is holding a series of five WHCoA regional forums designed to gain input on the key issues from older Americans, their families, caregivers, and gerontological thought leaders. In June, another GSA journal, Public Policy & Aging Report, will dedicate an issue to creating positive policy changes related to the four themed topics of the WHCoA.