Advocates for Older Americans Discuss Aging Issues in Seattle

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“This is not your father’s or mother’s retirement. This is a new world order,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez told attendees at a White House Conference on Aging regional forum in Seattle on April 2.

Perez was the keynote speaker at the third in a series of five forums leading up to the White House Conference on Aging this summer. He touched on topics that affect older Americans, ranging from the impending shortage of home health care aides (“These are people doing God’s work”) to the importance of financial advisers’ putting their clients’ best interests before their own personal gain.

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“There are seniors across the country spending their golden years just scraping by,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told the gathering. She pointed out the daunting financial challenges faced by older Americans, particularly for women, who generally earn less than men. “That pay gap leads to a retirement gap,” she said.

The invitation-only regional forums are designed to engage older Americans, their families, caregivers, advocates, community leaders and experts on key issues affecting seniors. Their ideas and opinions will help set the agenda for the White House conference in Washington.

The 2015 conference will focus on four areas: ensuring retirement security, promoting healthy aging, providing long-term services and supports, and protecting older Americans from financial exploitation, abuse and neglect. Experts in those areas addressed the forum during panel discussions.

“It outrages me every time I interview a victim of fraud,” said Doug Shadel, financial fraud expert and state director of AARP Washington. He said isolation raises the risk of people becoming vulnerable to scams.

Charissa Raynor, executive director of the SEIU Healthcare NW Training Program and Health Benefits Trust, echoed Perez’s concern about the shortage of home health care aides. She said these workers are in what many categorize as America’s “top job” because of the rapid growth in the industry and the need for them now and in the future. “We need to redefine home care as a good job,” she added.

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The regional forums are being cosponsored with AARP and planned with the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), a coalition of more than 70 of the nation’s leading organizations serving older Americans.

AARP will live-stream the remaining forums, set for Cleveland (April 27) and Boston (May 28).

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