2006-01-20 / Columnists

Chatting with Chapey

Dr. Geraldine ChapeyDr. Geraldine Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader

Who Is Watching Out For Our Seniors?

The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) was held in December in Washington, D.C. I was very privileged to be a delegate to this conference – one of the most historic national aging events in our nation’s history. This important assembly occurs once a decade. The authorizing legislation comes from an amendment to the Older Americans Act. Its purpose is to “make fundamental policy recommendations to the President and Congress regarding programs that are important to older individuals and to the families and communities of such individuals.” It was “conducted under the direction of the United States Secretary for Aging and coordinated with the Assistant Secretary of Aging, the National Institute on Aging, the Administrator of the Health Care Administration, the Social Security Administration and the heads of other Federal agencies serving older individuals.” The purpose of the conference was to “determine the manner in which national policies are related to economic security” for older Americans.

This Conference on Aging was particularly important because it is the first one of the 21st Century. It was also required to focus on the seniors of today and tomorrow. Over the next several weeks I will write columns focusing on the different issues that were addressed at the conference. The challenge facing the world today is one of global aging. Richard Jackson of the CSIS Global Aging Initiative pointed out that the aging of the global population will transform the world in the 21st Century. He stressed that the whole world is aging and today’s developed countries are leading the way. Following this global phenomenon there is a precipitous worldwide decline in fertility. This will dramatically change our world. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal addressed the challenge of aging in Russia, India and China. (I will discuss this in a subsequent article)

The WHCOA conference looked at the meaning of work. Work expands our social connections while giving purpose and meaning to our lives and providing us with economic security. With increased longevity will come the need to remain in the workforce for a longer length of time. This will require that employers work with employees to adjust their schedules. An individual may not wish to continue to work five days a week for forty hours. Employers will need flexible schedules to accommodate our aging population. One example of an individual who continued to work was Senator John Glenn. At age 77 he returned to space. Many people challenged him. He responded – “What makes you think that at age 77 I don’t have dreams?” Age discrimination is a serious issue, which was on the minds of the delegates.

The chairperson of the WHCOA was the Honorable Dorcas Hardy. She was the former Commissioner of Social Security and a California and federal official in the human services field. She hosted prime time weekly TV programs entitled “Financing Your Future” and “The Senior American.” She is the author of “Social Insecurity: The Crisis in America’s Social Security System and How to Plan Now for Your Own Financial Security,” which was published by Random House. She is currently the President of D. R. Hardy and Associates, a government relations and public policy firm in the area of health service, disability insurance and financial industries.

Michael McLendon was the Chairperson of the Advisory Committee of the WHCOA. He was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Policy in the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2003. Currently he is the founder of McLendon and Associates, a management consulting and public policy firm providing services on health issues, disability, social service delivery and technology areas. Prior to this he retired from the Department of Defense from a career in the U. S. Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Michael McLendon was also a Professor at the Defense Systems Management College. (The biographies of Dorcas Hardy and Michael McLendon were obtained from the WHCOA program). The exhibit area of the WHCOA was one of the most interesting and informative parts of the conference. Viewing the different exhibits gave everyone a look into the future.

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