Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: NCOA Advocates for Older Adults

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As the Older Americans Act turns 50, NCOA participates in White House Conference on Aging

Fifty years ago, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) played a critical role in the enactment of the Older Americans Act (OAA), helping to establish a national network to support seniors’ desire to live with health and security in their own communities.

Yesterday, NCOA continued that advocacy—for today’s seniors and future generations—by actively participating in the 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA).

Six members of the NCOA board and one past member were at the White House as President Barack Obama and his Administration announced several new initiatives to improve the lives of older Americans. NCOA participants included: NCOA Board Chair Carol Zernial and NCOA President & CEO James Firman; Board Members Ai-jen Poo, Josefina Carbonell, Robert Blancato, and Richard Browdie; and Past Board Chair Msgr. Charles Fahey, one of only two people to attended every WHCOA.

“The White House Conference on Aging has always provided a solid foundation for the development of ideas to cultivate across the aging network,” said Zernial, executive director of the WellMed Charitable Foundation. “Baby boomers and older adults want to learn and stay vital as part of their communities. Many of these programs will support their desires and will provide protections for those who may become more vulnerable as they age.”

Among the initiatives that the Administration announced, NCOA supports:

  • Programs for veterans and their caregivers that empower them to remain healthy, happy, and safe as they age. NCOA worked with the Veterans Administration to develop Building Better CaregiversTM (BBC), a 6-week online workshop that provides training in how to provide better care, and helps caregivers learn how to manage their own emotions, stress and physical health.
  • A proposed rule that would allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to be used for services that deliver food to homes. NCOA leads a successful national initiative to enroll eligible older adults in SNAP and with the changes, many homebound or disabled older adults could more easily utilize this important support mechanism.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new online training course on STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries) to help health care providers integrate falls screening, assessment, and intervention into their daily practice. As the National Falls Prevention Resource Center, NCOA is a national leader on falls prevention programing and policy. NCOA co-hosted a Falls Prevention Summit, a WHCOA event, and in the coming weeks will release an updated Falls Free® National Action Plan, which includes support for the use of CDC’s STEADI as a routine part of care.
  • Protecting older Americans from financial exploitation and elder abuse by developing promising practices and tools to help financial institutions prevent, recognize and report elder exploitation. NCOA is a leader in older adult economic security and has developed the Savvy Saving Seniors® education program to empower older adults to better understand financial issues and scams.
  • Helping beneficiaries better use Medicare’s preventive benefits. Through partnerships with local aging agencies and community organizations, and through NCOA’s Medicare education program My Medicare Matters®, the NCOA National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment is already working to spread the word about these benefits and the important role they play in aging well.

“The White House Conference on Aging highlights the opportunities and challenges of an aging society,” said Firman. “The 50 speakers presented many excellent ideas and reasons for both optimism and pessimism. NCOA calls for greater collaboration between the public and private sectors to help baby boomers and older adults navigate and weather—in the words of aging giant Arthur Flemming—‘the hazards and vicissitudes of life.’”

Among the imperatives that still need to be addressed are:

  • Identifying a bipartisan solution to our nation’s long-term services and support (LTSS) crisis. An estimated 70% of those reaching age 65 will require LTSS and the number of those in need will surge from 12 to 27 million by 2050. Many mistakenly believe that employer-based insurance or Medicare provides coverage. In fact, most of the costs are paid by Medicaid, which requires individuals to impoverish themselves, has an institutional bias, and will place an unsustainable burden on states. The status quo is not sustainable and it is urgent that we better understand and address the growing problems facing the millions of families struggling daily with these concerns.
  • Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, as well as making overdue investments and removing the threat of sequestration, to ensure that the relied upon provisions of the law provide the critical services that keep older adults healthy and independent. NCOA urges Congress to seize this historic occasion to update and renew its commitment to OAA programs and those they serve.
  • Enhancing access to chronic disease self-management education (CDSME) and providing support for paying for the programs. Major published studies have found that the Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) results in significant, measurable improvements in the health of people with chronic conditions and their health care, as well as cost savings. By improving access to these programs and exploring Medicare and Medicaid payment options, older adults with chronic conditions will see significant, measurable improvements in their health and the health care system could see billions of dollars in savings.

In addition to these issues, NCOA is committed to increasing the numbers of older adults eligible for benefits who actually receive them, and helping them budget and use financial tools to live securely. The NCOA online tools, BenefitsCheckUp.org and EconomicCheckUp.org, provide essential free tools to connect older adults to benefits and services that help them live more economically secure lives.

For more information about NCOA’s work to improve the lives of millions of older adults, go to ncoa.org.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.