From Washington, D.C. to Connecticut: Take Away Messages from the American Society on Aging Annual Conference

Publication date: 
April, 2012
Connecticut Council for Philanthropy

It’s impossible to sum up a conference with 3,000 attendees and 700 sessions. Engagement Consultant Debbie Stein summarizes a couple of ideas, models and reminders that she took home from the April 2012 conference:

  • After the Boomers and the Cultural Generation Gap: The rapidly expanding aging population has gotten lots of attention, but it’s crucial to look at the slow growth among younger age cohorts. In addition, most growth occurring in the population of children is among non-whites – especially Hispanic and Asian groups. As boomers age, they will depend on an increasingly diverse labor force to keep Social Security and Medicare afloat and to provide the services they need. Levels of education, health and productivity of future ‘minority majority’ generations will impact everyone.
  • The Medical and Social Sectors Converge: Improving care transitions and reducing avoidable hospitalizations were the focus of many conference sessions. Around the country, partnerships are growing between the two sectors such as collaborations between Area Agencies on Aging and hospital systems. According to Doug Pace of the Long-Term Quality Alliance, Accountable Care Organizations and other health care reforms can’t succeed without the involvement of the aging network’s long-term services and supports. Two challenges: Developing measurable quality standards for community long-term services and supports, and not ‘medicalizing’ the social model.
  • Aging in Place in Vermont -- Supports And Services at Home (SASH): An affordable housing community in Vermont developed a model that is now expanding statewide as part of the Blueprint for Health. Residents helped design the project which is built around an onsite SASH coordinator, a wellness nurse and a team of community partners who coordinate services. Agreements among agencies allow for sharing of information such as a hospital discharge protocol that informs housing staff when a resident is being discharged. Outcomes have shown reductions in nutritional risk, falls, hospitalization rates and adverse drug reactions as well as increases in physical activity.
  • Kathy Greenlee, United States Assistant Secretary for Aging committed to providing federal leadership to address the rising rates of elder abuse. According to Greenlee, 14.1% of non-institutionalized older adults experience abuse or exploitation. She encouraged all attending the conference to re-examine this issue in their own communities – what are we doing locally to build awareness and to offer a timely, effective, compassionate response?
  • Malnutrition and hunger among older adults are also on the rise. A mini-nutritional assessment easily used by seniors and families may help detect some of the 38% of community seniors estimated to be malnourished. Among the aging population, those 60-64 are most at risk for hunger often due to job or other financial losses. SNAP (Food Stamps) is only reaching one third of eligible participants and waiting lists for meals on wheels are common around the country.
  • Gail Sheehy has detected a new life stage. Boomers were pleased to discover that those between midlife and old age (60 to 75 or 80) could now call themselves Pathfinders. Sheehy, caregiver of her husband for many years, noted that caregivers often don’t identify as caregivers. She called for a reinvention of home care and for alleviating the isolation of family caregiving.
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