Aging Issues, Volunteerism Top Talks in Phoenix

2015 White House Conference on Aging

“We have to start thinking about healthy aging starting at an early age,” Amy St. Peter, human services manager for the Maricopa Association of Governments, told attendees in Phoenix at the second of a series of five forums leading up to the White House Conference on Aging this summer.

Experts on aging issues along with advocates and everyday older Americans gathered for the invitation-only confab to offer opinions and help set the agenda for the White House conference in Washington.

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Besides the conference’s four pillar issues — healthy aging, elder justice, retirement security and long-term services and supports — speakers also addressed topics ranging from caregiving and Alzheimer’s research to volunteerism among older adults.

“Seniors bring decades of experience and wise counsel,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. She urged nonprofits, business and government to draw on the immense skills of older adults, especially the great untapped resource of boomers, for volunteer service.

During two panel discussions, experts raised issues pertinent to the health, welfare and security of older adults. “We need to create better pathways to purpose,” said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Encore.org, a nonprofit that focuses on expanding the contributions of older Americans. About 10,000 Americans a day turn 65 years old, he said, a testament to the growing and increasingly diverse pool of older Americans.

Laura Mosqueda, M.D., director of the National Center on Elder Abuse, voiced her exasperation with stories she often hears about older victims of fraud, abuse and neglect. “We need ways to eliminate the tremendous suffering occurring each day,” she said.

When it comes to retirement security, more employers are shifting from defined-benefit plans to putting the onus of saving on their employees, who often shun the responsibility because of lack of knowledge or fear. Gopi Shah Goda, senior research scholar at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, said employees need help with the task. The question is, “How can we make retirement security less of a scary thing?”

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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 Seattle (April 2), Cleveland (April 27) and Boston (May 28).

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