The 2005 White House Conference on Aging, held Dec. 11 to 14 in Washington, may lead to a foundation for better quality lives for a new generation of seniors.
The conference occurred at a time when we are witnessing fundamental changes in the way we think about and deliver health care, including long term care.
White House Conferences on Aging have convened decennially since 1961, providing the framework for the creation of major social policy programs for older Americans, including Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act.
Because of its unique nature as the initial conference of the 21st century, the 2005 conference was the first to deal with the aging of 78 million baby boomers who began to turn 60 on Jan. 1, 2006.
The 1,200 delegates to the conference worked together to adopt 50 resolutions and, for the first time ever, develop implementation strategies to help guide policy-makers and citizens toward a secure and healthy aging future.
Long term care and services emerged as a recurring theme throughout the conference. Seven of the top 10 resolutions adopted spoke to some aspect of long term care–more specifically, the elimination of the bias for institutional care and the opportunity to have more control over how and where we live as we age.
The delegates affirmed that Americans want to have a full array of choices for LTC services and support, from skilled nursing facilities to assisted living to home- and community-based care. They also want to provide choices of support for family caregivers across the life span of their loved ones. All these choices can be supported through long term care insurance options that are affordable, creative and integrated.
Many delegates believed this broad theme was a key goal of the conference–to send a strong signal to policy-makers that Americans want an integrated long term care support and services strategy. They wanted this strategy translated to actions that blend the public and private sectors as well as individual recognition and responsibility for our own futures.
Many discussions on long term care during the conference were focused on LTC insurance, a relatively new product and one that does present some challenges.
In the 1990s, when I was assisting John Hancock in its launch of an LTC insurance product, much of the industry’s attention was focused on institutional care. Now, with our vocal desire for choice and options, the industry has responded with creative home-based and community-based options. Still, challenges remain.