Today, the decennial White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) is taking place in Washington, D.C. Only today. Just one day. A short, six-hour schedule which includes, in that time period, an hour or so off for lunch.
You would think, given the increasing number of elders in the U.S. and that the conference is held only every ten years, there might be more to it. In the past there was: in 2005, it lasted for three days at a large hotel venue where thousands of people attended.
Not this time. I am deeply disappointed with the White House about that and pessimistic about how useful to elders the meeting will be.
However, two friends of mine, both of whom work in the field of aging, are among the attendees today and I'll pass on to you any information of importance they come away with.
If you are inclined, you will find a livestream of the conference here beginning at 10AM eastern daylight time.
Unrelated to the WHCOA are the results from the fourth annual United States of Aging Survey released last Wednesday. It is conducted
”...by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), National Council on Aging (NCOA) and UnitedHealthcare... and polls U.S. adults 60 and older for their insights on how older Americans are preparing for their later years, and what communities can do to better support this growing population,” states of press release.
For the first time this year, professionals who work with elders were also surveyed - such people as primary care physicians, pharmacists and credit union managers.
So today, let's take a look at a few of the survey findings and as you're reading, see if you agree with the elders or the professionals or go your own way.
How prepared overall are elders for the process of aging? Although the professionals are more pessimistic, the two groups are close to agreement: 86% of elders feel prepared and 77% of professionals say they are.
”Older adults, however, are far more confident: only 10 percent of professionals surveys feel older Americans are 'very prepared' to age, compared with 42 percent of seniors.”
I can't be certain but it is my sense after reading hundreds of surveys about ageing for more than a decade of producing this blog that younger adults (who, by definition, are “the professionals” in this survey) regularly and in large numbers underestimate the capabilities of people older than they are.
Here is a chart of the top three concerns about ageing from people 60 plus and the professionals:
|Maintaining physical health - 40%||Protection from financial scams - 43%|
|Memory loss - 35%||Access to affordable housing - 38%|
|Maintaining mental health - 32%||Memory loss - 38%|
As you can see, elders and professionals differ dramatically on this one. All of the elders' top three choices are about health while the professionals worry about scams and housing.
Not that those two non-health issues are unimportant but what I think the professionals miss that the elders know from their experience of ageing is that tried-and-true saying we first encountered from our grandparents when we were children: “As long as you've got your health.”
Until you've walked some miles in an old person's shoes and know the constraints even minor health issues can sometimes place on your life, and that presage what else could happen in the future, I don't think you can appreciate the concern elders have about health.
Here is one statistic about which the two groups have a meeting of the minds: 60 percent of elders and 59 percent of professionals rank family as the most important support group for old people. Both rank friends and church or spiritual center much lower, in the 10 – 15 percent range.
Feel free to chime in below with your take on these issues.
The survey covers many more topics than these three. You will find links to all the results in several formats here.