Aging Report is “Rhode Map” for Change

Published on June 27, 2016 in Pawtucket Times

Next year look for the policy debate in the Rhode Island General Assembly to heat with Governor Dan McKee’s Aging in Community Subcommittee of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council (LTCCC) release of a sixty page report in June documenting the sky rocketing growth of the state’s older population and identifying strategies to allow these individuals to age in place and stay in their communities.

The Aging in Community Subcommittee was mandated by the enactment of the Aging in Community Act of 2014, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Mary Ellen Goodwin and Representatives Christopher Blazejewski and Eileen Naughton. The Subcommittee, chaired by Maureen Maigret, Vice Chair of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council, and former Director of the Division of Elderly Affairs, staff from Rhode Island College, Brown University and the University of Rhode Island, representatives from state agencies, members of the senior community, and senior service providers.

According to Maigret, it has taken almost 18 months to gather data, host focus groups and to write the “Aging in Community” report. The report provides demographic data snapshot on the state’s older population and also inventories current services and resources. It also identifies challenges faced by older Rhode Islanders and recommends strategies to promote successful aging in community in these nine issue areas.

Maigret believes that this report may take the most comprehensive look at what aging programs and services are available to assist older Rhode Islanders age in place in their communities and it identifies what programs and services are lacking. “The State Plan on Aging does have some data and actions planned but does not comprehensively cover all the domains covered in the “Aging in Community” report,” she says.

A Demographic Snap Shot

In 2010, the report notes that over 152,000 Rhode Islanders were age 65, predicting that this number will sky rocket to 247,000 in 2030. By 2025, Rhode Island will be considered to be a “Super Aging” state where 20 percent of its population will be over age 65. The report noted that two years ago the population of New Shoreham, Little Compton, North Smithfield, North Providence and Tiverton had already reached “Super Aging” status.

The report added that 42 percent of over age 65 household incomes amounted to less than $30,000. Only 49 percent of the retirees have non Social Security retirement income. Fifty two percent of the older renters and 39 percent of the home owners were financially burdened with covering housing costs. Poverty levels for older Rhode Islander vary, from 7 percent in Bristol County to 18 percent in Providence County.

The LTCCC report notes that even with lower incomes older Rhode Islanders have a major impact on the state’s economy. They bring in over $2.9 billion dollars from Social Security pensions and $281 million in taxes into the state’s economy. Older workers account for 33,750 jobs throughout all job sectors.

Rhode Island’s retirees provide an estimated $ 149 million by volunteering and an estimated $ 2 billion in providing caregiving services to family and friends.

A Spotlight on Priority Recommendations

The Subcommittee’s findings were the result of interviews held with aging service providers, an examination of age-friendly best practices in other states and ten focus groups conducted with older Rhode Islander from across the state.

The focus groups attendees gave the Subcommittee valuable information. They stressed that Senior Centers were “highly valued.” Many expressed financial concerns for their current situation and into the future. Attendees were very concerned about the lack of transportation and lack of affordable housing. State customer service employees were viewed by many as “unfriendly.”

Dozens of strategies were listed in the LTCCC report for state policy makers to consider to better assist older Rhode Islanders to successfully age in their community in these nine issue areas: Information and Communication, Community Engagement, Transportation, Economic Security, Food Security and Nutrition, Housing, Supports at Home, Healthcare Access and Open Spaces/Public Buildings

The LTCCC report identifies priority strategies including the restoring of senior center funding based on a population-based formula and continuing RIPTA’s no-fare bus pass program for low income seniors and persons with disabilities. It also calls for increase payments for homecare and for restoring state funding for Elder Respite.

Maigret says that creating a coalition of aging groups to “build an age-friendly Rhode Island” is the next step to take. Businesses can also become “age friendly” and better understand the economic value of older Rhode Islanders bring to the state and its educational institutions, she says.

Political Will Required to Implement LTCCC Report Strategies

There must be a political will to implement the strategies of the LTCCC report, says Maigret, starting with the state’s top elected official. “Governor Raimondo’s proposed budget had added $600,000 in funding for senior centers but the Rhode Island General Assembly removed it,” she said, noting that the decrease in funding got caught up in the negativity surrounding Community Service grants. “We were fortunate the 2017 budget will still have $400,000 in funding for senior centers,” she says.

“Rhode Island’s older adult population contributes a great deal socially, economically, and intellectually to our communities. Ensuring that those Rhode Islanders who desire to age-in-place are able to do so only enriches our society,” said Governor Raimondo. “I’m pleased that Director Fogarty, and members of his senior staff, serve and work with the Long Term Care Coordinating Council and the Subcommittee on Aging in Community. The insight they gain from service with these committees helps to shape State policy and programs related to services for seniors.

“I applaud the members of the Subcommittee for their dedication to creating a clear, comprehensive report on aging that can be a catalyst for change in our state. Their work recognizes that Rhode Island’s older population is growing dramatically and that we must direct public policy to help them remain active and in their homes,” said Lt. Governor McKee. I look forward to supporting the strategies detailed in the Subcommittee’s report to help build stronger, healthier communities for all Rhode Islanders.”

Finally, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, also says that the Subcommittee report’s recommendations will also be studied closely next legislative session. “I will be reviewing the findings of the report in greater detail and I will confer with Representatives Chris Blazejewski and Eileen Naughton, who sponsored and advocated for the Aging in Community Act of 2014. Our older population in Rhode Island is a growing one and it is important that we continue to listen to their needs and be responsive. I commend the work of the subcommittee, as well as all those who participated in the focus groups. I would anticipate that any policy and financial recommendations will be fully analyzed by the members of the General Assembly in the 2017 session.”

The LTCCC’s “Aging in Community” report gives our policy makers a road map in reconfiguring the state’s fragmented aging programs and services. With the Governor, House Speaker and Senate President on board, we might just see legislative changes in the next years that might just be what we need to keep people at home and active in their community. Lawmakers must not act penny-wise and pound foolish when considering legislative fixes.

Both the executive summary and the full Subcommittee “Aging in Community” report are available on the Lieutenant Governor’s website at: http://www.ltgov.ri.gov and the general assembly website at: http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Pages/Reports.aspx.

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Earth: The Gray(ing) Planet

Published in Woonsocket Call on April 17, 2016

Last month, a National Institute of Health funded U.S. Census Bureau report was released announcing that the world’s older population is growing dramatically at an unprecedented rate. According to the newly released federal report, “An Aging World: 2015,” 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over. This percentage is projected to jump to nearly 17 percent of the world’s population by 2050 (1.6 billion).

The new 165 page report, released on March 28, 2016, was commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and produced by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Older people are a rapidly growing proportion of the world’s population,” said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. “People are living longer, but that does not necessarily mean that they are living healthier. The increase in our aging population presents many opportunities and also several public health challenges that we need to prepare for. NIA has partnered with Census to provide the best possible data so that we can better understand the course and implications of population aging.”

“An Aging World: 2015” is chock full of information about life expectancy, gender balance, health, mortality, disability, health care systems, labor force participation and retirement, pensions and poverty among older people around the world.

“We are seeing population aging in every country in every part of the world,” said John Haaga, Ph.D., acting director of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research. “Many countries in Europe and Asia are further along in the process, or moving more rapidly, than we are in the United States. Since population aging affects so many aspects of public life—acute and long-term health care needs; pensions, work and retirement; transportation; housing—there is a lot of potential for learning from each other’s experience.”

A Look at Some of the Details

The report noted that America’s 65-and-over population is projected to nearly double over the next three decades, from 48 million to 88 million by 2050. By 2050, global life expectancy at birth is projected to increase by almost eight years, climbing from 68.6 years in 2015 to 76.2 years in 2050.

In addition, the global population of the “oldest old”—people aged 80 and older—is expected to more than triple between 2015 and 2050, growing from 126.5 million to 446.6 million. The oldest old population in some Asian and Latin American countries is predicted to quadruple by 2050.

The researchers say that the graying of the globe is not uniform, “a feature of global population aging is its uneven speed across world regions and development levels.” The older population in developed countries have been aging for decades, some for over a century. “In 2015, 1 in 6 people in the world live in a more developed country, but more than a third of the world population aged 65 and older and over half of the world population aged 85 and older live in these countries. The older population in more developed countries,” says the report.

Meanwhile, the researchers report that in the less developed world, “Asia stands out as the population giant, given both the size of its older population (617.1 million in 2015) and its current share of the world older population (more than half).” By 2050, almost two-thirds of the world’s older people will live in this continent, primarily located in the eastern and northern hemispheres. “Even countries experiencing slower aging will see a large increase in their older populations. Africa, for instance, is projected to still have a young population in 2050 (with those at older ages projected to be less than 7 percent of the total regional population), yet the projected 150.5 million older Africans would be almost quadruple the 40.6 million in 2015, notes the report. .

The Graying of the Ocean State, Too

AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell says that statistics gleamed from a new interactive online tool, the AARP Data Explorer, detailed by blogger Wendy Fox-Grage, a senior strategic policy advisor for AARP Policy Institute, suggests that Rhode Island for some time, has had the highest per capita 85 plus population of any state. But “Data Explorer also shows that Rhode Island was surpassed in 85 plus per capita in 2015 – second now to Florida by 1/10,000th of a percentage point. Interesting, by 1260, we are projected to rank 14th.

“Nationally, from 2010 to 2060, the 85-plus population will more than triple (260 percent), the fastest growth of any age group over that time period,” she says.

Connell says, “AARP Data Explorer clearly shows that the age 65-plus population will grow much faster than younger age groups. All three older age groups (65-74, 75-84 and 85-plus) will more than double between 2010 and 2060, while the younger age groups (0-17, 18-49, 50-64) will increase only slightly.”

“The growth of the age 85-plus population will significantly outpace all other age groups, once Boomers begin turning 85 in the 2030s,” adds Connell, noting that “This phenomenon will have significant impact on every aspect of society, ranging from our health care system to the economy.”

“People age 85-plus are the group most likely to need long-term services and supports (LTSS) to help them with everyday tasks. They not only have higher rates of disability than younger people, but they are also more likely to be living alone, without a spouse or other family member to provide them with assistance,” observes Connell.

Over the years, the Rhode Island General Assembly has enacted legislative changes in the way it delivers and funds aging services and supports for older Rhode Islanders and their family caregivers, says Connell.

According to Connell, early last year, AARP Rhode Island released, “Raising Expectations 2014: A Report Card for Rhode Island Long Term Services and Supports System Performance.” The report assessed the LTSS Scorecard and recommended policy goals.

Connell says that the results revealed that Rhode Island showed strengths. With the subsequent passage of key legislative proposals that included caregiver paid family leave and the CARE Act, the state has moved in the right direction, she says, stressing that “the policy report pointed to areas for improvement that state leaders should not ignore.”

“With the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act through 2019, and continued backing from Governor Raimondo, Rhode Island seniors and caregivers are benefitting from a host of home- and community-based programs,” says Director Charles Fogarty, of Rhode Island’s Division of Elderly Affairs. “A top priority for the agency is strengthening of those services so everyone can make it in Rhode Island. We are proud to partner with hardworking older Rhode Islanders and advocates; we are constantly listening to their suggestions which are helpful in providing direction on development of effective programming and policies,” he says.

Fogarty noted that during Governor Gina Raimondo’s first two budget cycles (FY 2016 enacted and FY 2017 proposed budgets), more than $1 million in additional general revenue funding has been allocated for programs such as Meals on Wheels, senior centers and other home and community care services. Seniors can remain in their homes with a high quality of life for as long as possible through the provision of affordable and accessible home and community-based services and living options preventing or delaying institutionalization.

Connell says a the nation’s population ages, Rhode Island now has an opportunity of showing other states, with growing age 85 plus populations what it takes to care for an aging population.

Rhode Island, too, can also teach the world community a thing or two about providing programs and services to their older citizens.

AARP Exec Seeks to Change America’s Perception of Growing Old

Published in Pawtucket Times on March 7, 2016

With the youngest of the aging baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, reaching their fifties, AARP launches a new ad campaign geared at connecting people’s hopes and dreams. According to a statement, this initiative was built on the foundation laid by the 2014 launch of Real Possibilities and “You Don’t Know ‘AARP,’” last month, the nonprofit unveiled its latest ad campaign that shines a spotlight on individuals tackling everything from brain health to new careers, introducing a new meme, “We Hear You.”

As part of AARP’s renewed focus on listening and responding to Americans over age 50, “We Hear You” highlights the many ways the organization celebrates life in extended middle age and helps people turn their dreams into realities. Also new in 2016, the ads feature AARP’s CEO Jo Ann Jenkins delivering the iconic “We Hear You” line to underscore the organization’s genuine commitment to helping baby boomers take control of their lives and their futures.

“We’ve seen Real Possibilities and “You Don’t Know ‘AARP’” really take hold over the last two years,” said AARP Senior Vice President of Brand Integration Barbara Shipley. “Now, we have a chance to add more momentum by putting a human face on the brand. The campaign shows very real people expressing wants and needs in terms of careers, travel, caregiving, brain health and fraud protection. It also introduces Jo Ann and her “We Hear You” message to prove we are in tune with what people are looking for at this time of their life.”

According to AARP, since Jenkins became AARP’s CEO in 2014, she tirelessly advocated for changing outdated beliefs and sparking new solutions so that everyone can live and age as they choose. The advertising campaign echoes many themes from her forthcoming book Disrupt Aging, most notably “own your age.” The book is now available for preorder on Amazon for $15.87 (hardcover). Copies will be available on April 5.

The first of the ads features AARP’s Life Reimagined program and will air during NBC’s primetime all-star tribute to Jim Burrows on Sunday, February 21. The second ad featuring the award-winning AARP the Magazine will air during the 88th Academy Awards on Sunday, February 28. The remaining spots will be rolled out throughout the year.

Redefining How We Grow Old

Next month, AARP/CEO Jo Ann Jenkins releases her new 272 page book, Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age. AARP’s top official suggests it’s time to redefine what it means to grow old in America. Throughout its pages the Northern Virginia resident encourages readers to re-think the negative stories they consistently tell themselves and others, urging them to come together to change both the conversation about aging and its reality. While sharing these ideas with others, and meeting fearless people working to change what it means to age in America, Jo Ann was inspired to write her book.

Jenkins’s life experience and affiliation with AARP, the nation’s largest aging organization representing over 38 million members, brings her the needed life experiences to pen this tome. She is the chief executive officer of AARP. Previously, she served as its COO and, before that, president of AARP Foundation, AARP’s affiliated charity. Before joining AARP, she was the COO of the Library of Congress. She has received the Library of Congress Distinguished Service Award and in 2015 was named Influencer of the Year by the Nonprofit Times.
“60 Is Not the New 40.”

Jenkins notes that everyone has watched ads on TV or seen and in magazines—”50 is the new 30″ or “60 is the new 40.” AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins disagrees. 50 is 50, and she, for one, likes the look of it. In her highly focused but down-to-earth personal style, Jenkins says Disrupt Aging is not about defying aging or denying aging. It’s about “owning” your age.

In Disrupt Aging, Jenkins focuses on three core areas—health, wealth, and self—to show people how to embrace opportunities and change the way society looks at getting older. Here, she chronicles her own journey and that of others who are making their mark as disruptors to show readers how we can be active, healthy, and happy as we get older. Through engaging narrative, she touches on all the important issues facing people over age 50 today, from caregiving and mindful living to building age-friendly communities and making our money last.

Disrupt Aging provides readers practical, hands-on, highly useful information for a broad range of key issues, including: Taking Control of Your Health; Choosing Where You Live – or Want to Live; Financing Your Future; and Putting Your Experience to Work.

In Praise of…

Jenkins’s philosophy on aging has touched a chord with a number of aging experts and prominent persons who give their thumbs up to the project.

Arianna Huffington, cofounder, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, says “Jo Ann Jenkins doesn’t just challenge the stereotypes of aging, she reduces them to rubble, showing that our later years can be just as productive, meaningful, and purposeful as our primary working years. Disrupt Aging is for anyone who insists on living a life of connection, engagement, expansion, and possibility—at any age.”

“Jo Ann Jenkins’s Disrupt Aging is spot-on: every single year is a gift. By confronting the most common stereotypes about aging, this book will help us all live each year to the fullest,” adds Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.Org.

Even Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion throws in his two cents about Disrupt Aging. . “Jo Ann Jenkins believes that age and experience can expand life’s possibilities for all of us. In this personal and thought-provoking book, she inspires us to seize the opportunities that longer lives give us and to embrace aging as something to look forward to, not something to fear.” Adds, Dan Marino, former NFL Quarterback, “In Disrupt Aging, Jo Ann Jenkins lays out a game plan for living your best life regardless of your age.”

Jenkins says that her book is for anyone who wants to continue exploring new possibilities in their later years, to celebrate new discoveries over declines, and to seek out new opportunities to live the best life there is. To order Disrupt Aging, go to http://www.amazon.com.

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Everyone Loves a Countdown

In his own words, this writer’s top 5 commentaries of 2015

Published in the Woonsocket Call on December 27, 2015

As a columnist on “the aging beat” it has been a very eventful year in covering aging, health care and medical issues. During 2015, over 47 weekly commentaries appeared in the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call. By reading my weekly commentaries readers were kept abreast on a dazzling array of aging issues including Congressional attempts to whittle away the Social Security and Medicare programs. They learned first-hand about the Rhode Island General Assembly’s move to not tax Social Security and to provide new benefits to Ocean State caregivers. Commentaries even touched on the passing away of Wayne Dwyer and Capitol TV’s Dave Barber, how to put the fire back in your relationship, and even travel tips.

Below are five article, providing you with the breadth and depth of my commentaries. Al other articles can be found on my blog, herbweiss.wordpress.com.

1. “Cicilline Spearheading Key Comeback: Rep. Wants to Reestablish House Select Committee on Aging, published in the Dec. 20 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the Dec. 21 issue of the Pawtucket Times.

After Congress eliminated the House Select Committee on Aging in 1993 to rein in costs, this commentary takes a close look at Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) and 63 House colleagues efforts to urge the newly elected GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan in correspondence to bring back the Aging panel to the House Chamber. It was extremely obvious to Cicilline and his cosigners of the House Aging panel’s importance to today’s Congress, especially with efforts to put Social Security and Medicare on the budgetary chopping block. In the late 1980s as a journalist covering Capitol Hill I saw first-hand how the former Aging panel’s bipartisan approach ultimately created sound aging. Working together for the common good of older Americans is sorely needed now with a House divided. Cicilline’s legislative efforts to bring this select committee back to life, can send a powerful message that the House is ready to confront concerns of the nation’s seniors. Go to: http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/cicilline-spearingheading-key-comeback/.

2, Pausch’s The Last Lecture Is a Must Read,” published in the Jan. 30 issue of the Pawtucket Times. The 206 page book, “The Last Lecture” coauthored by Randy Pausch and Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Zaslow, published by Hyperion in 2008, is a great read for those wanting to get their life’s priorities in order. The tome is jam-packed with Pausch’s wisdom that will certainly come in handy to the reader when confront by the “brick walls” or challenges in personal and/or professional careers

This commentary details the thoughts of terminally ill Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Professor Randy Pausch, a 47-year-old father of three who had from three to six more months to live at the time he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2007. One month before his death he gave his last lecture, part of an ongoing CMU lecture series where top academics give their “final talk,” revealing what really matters to them and the insights gleaned over their life if it was their last opportunity. Sadly, Pausch literally got his last chance to give his talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Go to: http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/pauschs-the-last-lecture-is-a-must-read.

3. “You are Never Too Old for Romance,” published in the February 13 issue of the Pawtucket Times. Rekindling your relationship may be as simple as packing your bags and taking a romantic trip. In this commentary AARP’s Love and Relationships Ambassador Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist and sexologist teaching at the University of Washington in Seattle Washington, says the findings reveal a need for couples to plan romantic getaways as a way to spend quality time with their partner and bolster their relationship.

In this commentary Dr. Schwartz, co-author of the newly released book Places for Passion, says “I wish we could be as romantic at home as we can on a trip but there is something about getting away that lets us forget about our daily stuff and instead, fully concentrate on each other. When we stay at home, it’s hard not to answer the phone or try to answer one more email but in fact, we seem to need to get away to have a new stage setting’ for romance to bring out the best in us.” Couples with children can take a short trip without them to boost the romance in their relationship, she says. Readers will find the commentary chock-full of tips for heightening the romance on the trip. Go to: http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/baby-boomers-can-spice-up-valentines-day.

4. “Sensible Advice from Seasoned Folk to the Class of 2015,” published in the May 17 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the May 18 Pawtucket Times. Every year very notable and professionally successful commencement speakers gather at the nation’s Colleges and Universities to give the graduating seniors their practical tips and advice as how to have a rewarding personal and professional life. This commentary calls for the end of the practice of bringing celebrities, politicians and corporate heads to give commence speakers. Regular people will do. Thirteen Rhode Islanders, many not recognized on the street but well-known in their communities were asked to give their “pearls of wisdom” to graduating seniors if they had the opportunity. They most certainly did. Go to:  http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/sensible-advice-from-seasoned-folk-to-the-class-of-2015.

5. “Aggressive Scams Popping up All around the Ocean State,” published in the November 25 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the November 26 issue of the Pawtucket Times. Throughout the year there were several commentaries to increase the reader’s awareness of protecting themselves from financial scams. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission list of top consumer fraud complaints last year, more than 6,200 Rhode Island residents were victims of imposter scams. The commentary details one scam where the caller “Sergeant Bradley” threatens a person with a felony for not appearing in court unless they immediate make a payment on a debit card.

The commentary details AARP’s Fraud Watch Network. By registering for the free service a person can receive alerts via smart phone or your computer when a new scam surfaces. This program also allows you to report a scam going around your neighborhood that is shared across the network. For those not connected to the Internet, you can receive alerts and tips via a quarterly newsletter mailed to homes. Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin calls for “constant vigilance” and gives tips also gives tips on protecting yourself against scams.

 

Conference on Aging Planned for Summer 2015

Published in Pawtucket Times, December 5, 2015

It seems that aging advocates will have many celebrations to attend throughout 2015. This year is the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. Last July, the White House announced the scheduling this summer of the White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA). This once-in-a-decade is an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key federal programs as well as to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the quality of life for older Americans for the next decade.

With Nora Super named as the Conference’s new Executive Director in July combined with its website up and running in October, planning for the event is gearing up.

A Look Back

The first White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) was held in 1961, with following conferences in 1971, 1981, 1995, and 2005. Over the past 40 years, professionals in the aging network have viewed these decennial conferences to be catalysts for development of aging policy. The conferences generated ideas and ultimately political momentum to establish or make significant improvements to many of the nation’s domestic programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans Acts and even to Social Security.

The four-day 2005 WHCoA was geared to provide the nation’s73 million baby boomers plan for their decades in retirement. That year, Pre-WHOCoA Forums (listening, solutions and mini conferences) were held around the country, to develop proposed solutions to the challenges of aging and the Main Conference itself, ultimately resulted in 73 resolutions with 50 of them being presented to the president and Congress.

Ten years ago, Governors of all 50 States, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the Territories, Members of the 109th Congress, the National Congress of American Indians and the Policy Committee, selected 1,200 bipartisan delegates. At press time, delegate selection details have not been announced. But, like previous Conferences, I expect that incoming Governor, Gina Raimondo, to have some slots to appoint. Stay tuned.

In the past, processes for the five conferences were created by federal statute with the form and structure directed by Congressional lawmakers through legislation authorizing the Older Americans Act. To date, a deeply divided Congress has not reauthorized this program, and the pending bill does not include a statutory requirement or framework for the 2015 conference.

WHCoA organizers say that without a Congressionally defined framework, the White House begins to plans, still strongly committed to hosting a White House Conference on Aging in 2015. The American public will be engaged and involved in developing the conference, they say, by utilizing technology, by using web tools and social media, can encourage the nation’s Baby Boomers and seniors to participate.
Super Takes the Reins

Nora Super, the executive director of the upcoming WHCoA, says on the event’s website, “the coming months will be a time for us to engage in a dialogue and build a shared vision on how to continue to maximize the contributions of Americans as we age, and how to advance priorities such as healthy aging, a secure retirement, accessing the services and supports older Americans need to remain in their communities, and protecting older Americans from financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect.”

Super, who has over 20 years working in the federal government, and a lobbyist for AARP and represented Kaiser Permanente’s eight regional Permanente Medical Groups, believes, “The White House Conference on Aging represents an important step in working to ensure that Americans throughout the lifespan have the opportunity to learn and develop skills, engage in productive work, make choices about their daily lives, and participate fully in community life.”

According to Super, “the Conference is designed to assist the public and private sectors to be responsive to the needs of a diverse aging population and to promote the dignity and independence of and expand opportunities for current and future generations of older persons and their families.”
Listening session, beginning last July that will continue up to and during the Conference, have produced some common themes, including: retirement security; healthy aging; long-term services and supports to help older adults remain in their communities; and preventing financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect of older adults.

A Call for Participation

Sign up to receive regular updates and emails to stay informed. You will learn more about the planned WHCoA listening sessions, regional forums, webinars and opportunities for public engagement. Provide your thoughts as to what’s most important to you and your ideas for actions that can help to improve the lives of older Americans.

Don’t sit on the sidelines. Bring your comments to the table, especially share personal stories and life experiences about your aging, either from the frame of reference as an older adult or caregiver. Give your thoughts about the different federal programs that have enhanced the quality of your life or those family members, friends, and neighbors around you.

Last October, the WHCoA website, http://www.WhiteHouseConferenceOnAging.gov, was launched as a way to engage the public about aging issues. It provides regular updates on Conference activities, more important it serves as a way to easily provide your comments and input.

This columnist, writing for McKnight’s LTC News, one of the oldest trade publications covering the long-term care sector, covered the 1995 WHCoA for the prestigious publication. As a journalist it was an exciting assignment, to report on a national Conference that brought together aging advocates, long-term care providers, academicians, and researchers. This synergy ultimately would create formal resolutions to be shared with President William Clinton and Congress as to how to direct the nation’s resources and federal programs to better serve older Americans.

Summer 2015 kicks off the WHCoA. Hopefully, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, the state’s Division of Elderly Affairs and RI AARP will be in the forefront to gather comments from Rhode Island’s Aging Baby Boomers and Seniors about aging issues and problems that impact them. Rhode Islanders must be at the table and have a voice at the nation’s most important aging conference.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

 

Here’s My Advice to the Graduating Class of 2013

Published in Pawtucket Times, May 31, 2013

Last week, commencement speakers at Colleges and Universities around the country imparted their wisdom to tens of thousands of graduating College seniors and their families. With the advent of social media, and web sites, millions more will get advice from these Commencement Speeches given by well-known lawmakers, judges, television personalities and CEOs, detailing simple tips and observations that if taken, just might offer the young graduates a more rewarding personal and professional life.

Quotes in Top 2013 Commencement Speeches Often times, local newspapers report on Commencement Speeches delivered at each graduation season. According to Graduation Wisdom, a website that compiles the best Commencement Speeches and memorable quotes, some speeches are just better than others. Some of most memorable quotes taken from the top 2013 Commencement Speeches detailed on this website included:

John Green, educator and writer of adult fiction, who won the 2006 Printz Award for his first novel, Looking for Alaska, told Butler University’s 2013 graduating class that “There are many more jobs out there than you have ever heard of. Your dream job might not yet exist. If you had told College Me that I would become a professional YouTuber, I would’ve been like, “That is not a word, and it never should be.”

Eric Idle, British Comedian and Actor who was a member of the British surreal comedy group, Monty Python, stated in his Commencement Speech at
Whitman College, “Life has a very simple plot: First you’re here and then you’re not.

Yes, more sage advice was given to graduating seniors this year by Dick Costolo, Twitter CEO, who stated in his Commencement Speech at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor: “Believe that if you make courageous choices and bet on yourself and put yourself out there, that you will have an impact, as a result of what you do. And you don’t need to know now what that would be or how will it happen because no one ever does.”

Typical Advice in Commencement Speeches If you look closely, you can find life lessons noted in Commencement Speeches given at Colleges and Universities over the years, that just might lead to a happy and successful life, says Cristina Negrut, who penned “15 Rules for a Happy and Successful Life,” that can be found on Graduation Wisdom’s website.

Negrut notes that Commencement Speakers, usually at the top in their professional game, tell the graduating seniors a number of rules to prepare them for leaving the campus, assisting them to make their mark as adults. Specific advice includes: Don’t worry, your life’s passion will find you. Always trust yourself and learn to take bold action. Never let anyone define who you are. Chase your big dreams. Don’t sit on the sideline, take the initiative and quickly get into the game. Be persistent and tenacious, and never give up. Don’t fear failures in life, learn from them. Nobody is perfect, including you. Make use of your creativity and imagination. Remain in the present moment, not the past or future. Don’t play it safe, always take risks. Learn to embrace change. Work hard. Live selflessly and give back to others.

The Class of 2013 will begin their new life journey with many challenges to face. Gas prices are now around $ 3.50 per gallon. Mortgage rates declined to the lowest level in decades, but many of the graduating seniors, burdened by huge student loan debt, leave college without a job, without adequate credit rating or a down payment to purchase a home.

Although the economy is slowing improving in the Ocean State, graduating seniors, like graduating classes before them, may be forced to relocate to other state’s to land their first professional jobs. The Ocean State continues to be one of the last states to see its economy revive.

My Tips for 2013 Graduates
At press time, I sit with a Commencement Speech written, but with no invitation from a University or College to give it. But if I were asked to speak before a graduating class of 2013, I would give them tips on how to age gracefully throughout their accumulating years. .

Aging can be viewed as a life-long, unpredictable journey. But some people feverishly attempt to not embrace it, choosing to hold onto their gradual, fading youth, fearing the onset of wrinkles, sagging stomachs and even gray hair. As you move into your middle-years and beyond, look at your life as a meaningful journey, keeping focused on the present moment, not strapped to past experience, nor future events.

When you confront life’s health, financial, and professional challenges, keep a positive attitude rather than being overwhelmed by negativity. Each day you will make daily choices as to how you will tackle and react to your problems and life’s difficulties. In every situation, you can see the proverbial glass as either being “half-full” or “half-empty”. A positive attitude allows you to see a “half-full” glass, this allowing you to successfully age.

Savor Your Failures
As we grow older, sometimes we put too much energy reflecting on our personal and professional defeats, focusing on the “bad hand” we were dealt in life. Each and every day, savor your victories, but it is important for you to forgive yourself for your shortcomings and failures. Learning from your shortcomings will build a strong bridge to future successes.

Also, forgive others who have hurt you personally and professionally. You cannot live or reconcile your life peacefully if you are still holding on the grudges, anger and bitterness, all tied to past relationships and negative employment experiences

In your adult years, time flies by rapidly, like a blink of an eye. Amma, a Hindu spiritual teacher, tells her followers to view their life as a ‘cancelled check’. Let go of those past regrets, forgive yourself for those mistakes especially made in childhood and teenage years, more important those you made as you move into your middle or later years. Don’t regret passing up personal or professional opportunities, for others will follow. Use your time on earth wisely; don’t waste it carrying the burdens of past guilt or personal grudges.
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As you grow older and accumulate more of life’s experiences, share your story with others, especially those younger than you. You will have a huge reservoir of untapped wisdom gained through life’s trials and tribulations. When taking on the role of a parent or later on, a grand parent, continue to share your insights and lessons you have learned throughout the cyclical ups and downs of your life. The generations following you will lose out if you choose to remain silent and keep your knowledge and history from them.

Keep Physically Healthy Your health is the most important possession, cherish it. URI Gerontologist Phil Clark once told me, “Use it or lose it. Stay as physically active as you can.” More over, “If you rest, you rust,” he says, noting that physical exercise elevates our mood and benefits your cardiovascular system, too.

The aging researcher also tells us that you “must also exercise your brain”. Simply put, make time in your busy day to read your newspapers, magazines and books, or play a challenging crossword puzzle, even chess.

Some graduating seniors will see their success tied to obtaining professional recognition, seeking to make far-reaching changes in the careers. Sometimes it is not the big things that you do that count, rather the simple daily acts of loving kindness you give to all those around you.

Research also tells us that volunteer work can be a protective buffer from the curve balls that life may throw at us as we age

Keep up and nurture your social contacts and personal connections with others. When you require help, don’t be afraid to ask your family, friends, or even professional colleagues for support and assistance. People will always go up the ladder of their careers, sometimes down, too. Take the opportunity to be there for not only people you know, but also strangers when they need a hand to jumpstart their faltering careers.

Simplicity is Key to a Good Life
Learn to slow down and enjoy the simple moments of your life. Nationally-acclaimed Author, Connie Goldman, states that the simple act of watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset or even puttering around your garden can be as stimulating as a jam-packed calendar of activities.

There are no sure bets in one’s life except death, taxes, and yes, growing old. So, Class 2013, make the most of your life that is just beginning to unfold before you. Embrace and appreciate your later years and go for the gusto. Enjoy your new journey.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer covering aging and health care issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.