I had the honor of representing SSAI last week at the annual national convention of the American Society on Aging (ASA). The 19th annual Aging in America Conference (AiA19) overflowed with information on the latest challenges and innovations in the field and provided ample opportunity to make connections with business, government, foundation, community, and aging leaders across the country, all united by a desire to improve the quality of life for America’s aging citizens.
Here are some of my highlights from AiA19.
Great News for our Industry
The conference kicked off on Monday with big news… Karyne Jones, ASA Chair, announced that ASA is adding advocacy to its services. This is great news as we cannot have too many advocates for the plethora of aging issues such as the Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, elder justice, age discrimination in the workplace, affordable long-term care, the cost of prescription medications, social isolation, and food insecurity to name but a few.
Innovation & Creative Solutions
The conference was filled with innovative thinking and creative solutions to the challenges facing older Americans. Three of my favorite sessions were the AARP Foundation Innovation Summit, the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit, and the Diversity Summit. The AARP Foundation Innovation Summit unveiled three new products in development by their Innovations Lab staff to help vulnerable seniors. This includes their My Savings Jar™, a web and mobile app, to help older Americans save $400 and retain this savings for 6 months to a year.
The 16th Annual What’s Next Boomer Business Summit is a conference within a conference, produced by Mary Furlong and Associates. The Summit brings together investors and inventors in hopes of making matches that, ultimately, will help seniors. During this year’s Summit, I saw many pitches around the uses of Amazon Alexa-type products to ease social isolation and heard first-hand lessons and insights from business leaders and social media leaders about how they came up with their idea by trying to solve a problem. I was particularly inspired by the story of Carrie Shaw, CEO, and Founder of Embodied Labs. Carrie got frustrated with the in-home help who did not understand what her mom, who sufferance from Alzheimer’s, needed. So Carrie developed goggles that blocked the vision of the wearer on one side and allowed the home health workers to directly experience her mother’s challenges. I love seeing innovation that allows people to build empathy and improve service to our older Americans!
And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the 2019 Diversity Summit which was sponsored by SSAI. The Summit was opened by our own Chief Operating Officer, Donna Satterthwaite, and brought together thought leaders from across the aging field to explore the economic and social inequality affecting diverse older adults. Dr. Karen D. Lincoln provided fascinating research on the root causes of senior poverty and the need for early intervention through opportunity.
Older Workers & Employment
Lastly, AiA19 had some great discussions around employment and the older worker. Despite historically low unemployment and 7.1 million open jobs, there are 1.1 million older workers who are unemployed and need help reentering the workforce. I joined my colleagues from NAPCA to present the session, The Changing Workforce and Older Workers, where we discussed the Senior Community Employment Services Program (SCSEP). SCSEP is the only federally funded program targeting training and employment for older workers, and I was thrilled to see the interest and excitement among our audience for workforce solutions.
In closing, I am already looking forward to AiA20. I have been working in the aging services field for more than 20 years and the excitement, vitality, creativity, and energy at the annual AiA conference is always a highpoint.