What the White House Conference on Aging Won’t Be

Who among us has ribbed another about celebrating the “Big 5-0” or marveled when someone turned 80?  Both landmark birthdays deserve fanfare.  Growing old gracefully is an affectionate term for weathering the storm of the earlier decades to arrive at these milestones.

How do we not celebrate an 80 year old born as our country crawled out of the Great Depression giving older workers the promise of retirement savings.  This 1930’s beauty single-handedly changed the lives of every single American.  In fact, most of us will live our final years at or above the poverty line because of this celebrity.  Our octogenarian shares this birthday with an equally profound 50 year old.  I suspect some of our legislators truly believe this 50 year old is over the hill.  In fact some Senators and Representatives offer bills to rub this guy out every session.  "Too expensive, broken, bringing our country to its knees" are just some of the justifications they present.  Most Americans know this 50 year old as the saving grace for access to healthcare when the aches and pains become more than just a nuisance.  This 50 year old has built our country the largest and most technologically advanced health system in the world.

The White House Conference on Aging won’t be the grand celebration of the 80th anniversary of Social Security or the 50th anniversary of Medicare that it should be.  Our Federal government failed to allocate funds for this party or the planning and reviewing of aging programs.  The Conference won’t be a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act because it has not been reauthorized since 2006.  The Older American Act has been losing ground in the last 20 years which means funding for caregiver support, community based services, transportation, in-home services, legal support, nutrition programs and dietary services and elder abuse prevention will continue to decline.

The White House Conference on Aging Won’t Be a celebration.  It will be a polite nod to our rapidly aging population too afraid to honestly look at the dismal golden years ahead.