As a founding member of the Diverse Elders Coalition, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) was honored this year to be invited to be part of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. The White House Conference on Aging takes place every ten years and is held to examine the status of older adults in the U.S. and whether they are able to access the services they need to live well through their golden years. It is a critically important event for the nation’s elders because it sets the precedent for policy in the aging field for the next decade.
This year, the White House Conference on Aging is particularly important for a number of reasons. The first is that for the first time in our nation’s history, the U.S. population is aging as baby boomers retire. This is a major demographic shift that will have implications for every aspect of our nation, particularly how we care for our aging population. The second reason is that within this rapid growth of the aging population is an explosion of diverse aging populations. Among these, the Hispanic older adult population is the fastest growing. Currently, Hispanic older adults make up 8% of the U.S. aging population, but by 2050, they will make up almost 20%. Finally, the 2015 White Conference on Aging is important because 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older American’s Act, as well as the 80th Anniversary of Social Security. These anniversaries present an opportunity for these influential programs to be both celebrated and evaluated, presenting opportunities to strengthen and ensure that they serve diverse aging populations.
The 2015 White House Conference on Aging is focusing on four key themes this year. These are: 1.) Retirement Security; 2.) Long-Term Services and Supports; 3.) Health Aging and 4.) Financial Exploitation, Abuse and Neglect. NHCOA is participating in the process through implementing a series of research projects focusing on these four critical themes and how Hispanic older adults fare in terms of them. These research projects included a literature review, a series of community forums to hear community members’ experiences and recommendations in terms of these themes, and a survey study carried out with 729 Hispanics in four states nationwide. The findings of these studies have been compiled into a report to be submitted to the White House Conference on Aging and disseminated publicly. Through this research effort, NHCOA hopes to not only represent the nation’s largest diverse aging population, but to present findings that are shared by other U.S. diverse aging populations.
The U.S. population is also experiencing a dramatic shift toward greater diversity. Today, 44% of millennials identify as other than single-race white. Our national approach to policy at all levels must shift to keep up with our increasing diversity. NHCOA is excited to be part of this process, especially on behalf of our nation’s elders.
It will take all of us working together to ensure that our increasingly diverse senior population will age in dignity and security. Our seniors have spent their lifetimes providing for their families and contributing to their communities. They deserve to spend their golden years in contentment. NHCOA looks forward to participating in a key event in the process to making that happen – the historical discussion that will take place on July 13th at the White House Conference on Aging pinnacle event.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.