On Monday, July 13th, the White House will be hosting its once-a-decade Conference on Aging, an event that brings together policymakers, health experts, older Americans, caregivers, families, and activists to discuss what we need to do to support our country’s seniors.
The WHCOA is an important opportunity to focus the attention of our elected officials on protecting and revitalizing programs that allow seniors to age with dignity and independence and provide the help families need to care for their aging loved ones.
There’s no better time than now: The Elder Boom and our increase in average life expectancy mean that more Americans are living longer, and our caregiving needs are growing as a result.
Nearly 100 million Americans, seniors and caregivers alike, already either need some form of long-term care or are struggling to provide support to their loved ones. With the aging of the Baby Boomers, more and more of us will find ourselves in the same boat in the coming decades.
More than ever, families can no longer afford to bear the burden of elder care alone. Tens of millions of adults nationwide are caregivers to an aging family member, spending an average of 19 hours per week caring for their loved ones, often while working part- or full-time. Meanwhile, professional in-home care workers are severely underpaid, with little opportunity for overtime, benefits, or even minimum wage. We are in a situation where family caregivers are already spread too thin, at the same time that the workforce we depend on is overburdened and underpaid.
But solutions do exist, and the White House must take the opportunity that the WHCOA represents to call for more support to caregiving families.
At Monday’s event in Washington, DC, we’ll be raising a host of solutions, from providing Social Security caregiver credits to Americans who provide care to family members, to rebalancing Medicaid so that a greater percentage of funding goes toward a home and community-based services, to extending minimum wage protections and ending overtime exclusions for home care workers.
This conference comes ahead of the 50th anniversaries of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older American’s Act, all critical programs which emerged out of the first WHCOA. They represent the bold action we took in the 20th century to address the needs of our aging population and their families. Today, we need new solutions to meet the changing realities of 21st-century families, and there is no issue more pressing than our caregiving needs.