We welcome Guest Blogger, Maria Ramos to The Purple Jacket!
The Conference on Aging Wrap-Up
The White House hosted the much-anticipated Conference on Aging on July 13th. This long-running event, held once per decade since 1961, explores the issues facing the elderly, their caregivers and families, while promoting new advances in technology and government programs. In addition to the attendance of some 200 delegates, the conference was broadcast over the web, allowing access to viewers across the country. With the White House as organizer, and President Obama giving a keynote speech, this prestigious conference shined a spotlight on challenges facing the elderly that might otherwise have gone unreported.
In his address, the president highlighted the importance of Medicare and Medicaid in providing funding for elder care, and explained how the Affordable Care Act aids in reducing the number of Americans who lack health insurance, and by making prescription drugs less expensive. Besides health care, he also mentioned the significance of social security, private pensions and 401k plans in making sure that retirees have enough money to comfortably live on. President Obama wants to make it easier for workers to enroll in retirement plans and receive tax benefits for doing so. As he praised the efforts made by previous generations, he also stressed the fact that more work needs to be done to foster the welfare of senior citizens.
As viewers tuned in at hundreds of watch parties around the country, and participated through Twitter, discussions took place about the level of care required by the nation’s oldest citizens. Because life expectancy in the United States has reached nearly 80 years, up from about 70 years half a century ago, there are many more elders today who need assistance particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease or other debilitating conditions. Some caregivers are trying to take care of their own parents while at the same time raising children. By allowing flexible working hours and paid leave, society can make it easier for people to care for their loved ones without putting themselves at financial risk. Also touching upon the topic of financial loss, discussions were held about the need for financial caregivers to carefully steward elders’ financial health just as traditional caregivers promote their physical health.
As it has transformed so many aspects of society, so too is modern technology changing the lives of the elderly for the better. This topic was explored in a panel called “Technology and the Future of Aging.” Participants spoke about the fact that a growing number of seniors are learning how to properly use electronic devices despite the popular conception that old people have no interest in modern technology. By using sensors and remotely accessible video cameras to track the daily habits of elders, their loved ones can easily keep tabs on their health from afar. At the same time, fully featured home automation equipment enables the elderly to remotely control their utilities, home security systems, door locks and other components of their homes automatically. These advances will make it possible for large numbers of seniors to remain in familiar surroundings, or “age in place” rather than having to move to assisted living facilities.
Although changing demographic trends mean that there are fewer younger people around today to care for a larger population of seniors, there are many ways in which society can step in and lend a hand. From new policies for workplaces and retirement plans, to broadening health insurance options, we’re moving in the direction of seriously working towards the happiness and well-being of those above the age of 65. Just as technological developments are largely responsible for many people living to their retirement years in the first place, so will they make those years richer, more convenient and more secure.
Maria Ramos is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.
Thank You Maria for your great post!