WASHINGTON, DC, July 14, 2015 – Caring Across Generations co-founder Ai-jen Poo joined President Barack Obama, leading aging and caregiving experts, and advocates at the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) gathered yesterday to take stock of the challenges and opportunities facing our nation’s aging population. Speaking on the opening panel on caregiving, Ms. Poo highlighted how strengthening our nation’s “Careforce” — the 50 million paid and family caregivers who assist seniors to live independently and on their own terms — will be a critical part of the solution to addressing the nation’s ballooning long-term care needs.
“We are a nation of caregivers,” said Ms. Poo. “As more of us live longer, we need a whole new system to support our families and lives across generations – and one that must revalue care.”
Citing how professional caregivers make on average only $13,000 a year, Ms. Poo voiced support for a living wage for home care workers. This is one of several policy principles Caring Across Generations issued in conjunction with the conference, along with the Make It Work campaign and a coalition of aging and advocacy groups. Other principles include:
A full list can be found on Caring Across Generation’s website here: http://www.caringacross.org/stories/caring-across-make-it-work-policy-principles/.
Reflecting on the day, Caring Across co-director Sarita Gupta, who attended the conference and spoke earlier this year at a WHCOA regional forum in Ohio, added: “It was great to see the administration highlight some concrete solutions, such as increasing investment in geriatric training and public-private sector collaboration so that more Americans can save for retirement. But with the scale of the coming Elder Boom, we need greater public and private investments to strengthen, support, and expand our Careforce.”
“Making it easier to save money for retirement is important, but making sure care workers earn enough to have something to save, and middle-class families don’t spend down their hard-earned savings in an outdated long-term care system, is where the rubber will meet the road,” Gupta continued. “Government will need to play a role in ensuring long-term care resources are used effectively, which will mean investing in care that’s rooted in our homes and communities. This is the challenge of our generation, and solving it can be an achievement on par with the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, two programs that the White House Conference on Aging helped jumpstart in 1961.”
As Secretary of Labor Perez Called for More Advocacy, Caring Across Generations Advocates Gathered in DC and Across the Country
While the White House Conference on Aging was wrapping up, Caring Across joined the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to urge members of Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA), which marks its 50th anniversary today. Caring Across delivered thousands of petition signatures yesterday urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Act up for a vote.
The OAA provides vital supports for seniors and caregivers — like funding Meals on Wheels and senior centers, as well as caregiver trainings and respite services. But it expired four years ago, and since then funding has been cut. A bipartisan bill reauthorizing the OAA has been sitting in the Senate for months with no action, despite bipartisan support from 21 cosponsors.
Meanwhile hundreds of local Caring Across advocates across seven states joined the conference via livestream watch parties from Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Vermont.
“I thought some good points were raised, but was hoping for bigger, bolder solutions,” said Jean Davis, a 75 year old grandparent caregiver for her adopted granddaughter who tuned in from a Caring Across watch party in Atlanta, GA. David leads a local group called Grandparents on the Move, and is a local advocate with Jobs with Justice and Caring Across supporter. “Too many people still cannot afford long-term care as it is now, and the simple truth is, the status quo is unsustainable. Something’s got to change, and it’s got to change fast, because a system where families are going broke and care workers cannot support their own doesn’t help anyone.”