On Monday July 13, 2015 we will celebrate the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA). The Conference has happened every decade since the 1960s, and this year is particularly momentous, with other milestones also being observed. We mark the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security.
The initial purpose of the Conference was to advance actions that improve the quality of life for older Americans. This is still the case, but much has changed in 55 years, and so has the conversation around aging.
The WHCOA has developed a compelling way to engage in the conversation around aging through social media by asking people to finish the sentence “Getting older is getting better because…” and sharing it on Twitter. What people have to say so far is illuminating. Many reflect on the wisdom and confidence that comes with age, and others celebrate new opportunities. What’s encouraging is that they have an answer. They really do believe that getting older is getting better. See what members of the OASIS community have to say on the matter here.
Recognizing how dramatically the older adult population is growing is key. In 2009, 3.9 million adults were 65 and older. The Administration of Aging projects that this number will reach over 72 million by 2030. We have a lot to discuss.
As the adult population expands, so has the perception of aging. Today’s adults 50 and older simply expect more. We expect to live longer, to remain independent for as long as possible and to contribute in meaningful ways.
The Conference has developed four major policy briefs on topics that will impact us all: healthy aging, long-term services and supports, elder justice and retirement security. I encourage you to read these briefs to familiarize yourself with the issues.
Oasis and healthy aging
A pioneer in the field of aging since 1982, Oasis has helped thousands redefine what they want their later years to look and feel like. Promoting healthy aging is what we do best.
Oasis programs address the key components the Conference outlines as critical to healthy aging: promoting health and helping individuals self-manage their chronic diseases; optimizing their cognitive health; maximizing their potential for living independently and engagement with the community.
At the heart of what we do is an understanding that Americans as they age continue to have a strong desire to age in place and on their own terms. But we know that barriers to that independence arise. Health complications and loss of loved ones are just a few of the realities that can leave people isolated. Each of our programs aims to prevent or confront head-on those paths to isolation.
A broad array of lifelong learning classes at OASIS centers – including the arts, humanities, technology, safety, Medicare and more – bring people together to explore their talents, develop skills and connect with people who share their interests.
Learning to communicate through the Internet, email and social media is an especially powerful way to stay connected. Our Connections program provides personal technology training taught by patient instructors in supportive community settings. More than 90,000 older adults have enrolled in Connections classes in over 170 sites across the country.
Evidence-based programs that build self-management skills to improve health are the strongest way to help adults because they have demonstrated outcomes. When these programs are offered in the community, adults can support each other and build their confidence to make lifestyle changes that improve health and independence. Our evidence-based programs encourage adults to prevent and manage serious chronic health conditions, and to avoid falls, allowing them to stay independent and in their homes longer.
Identifying a sense of purpose and connection with the community is vital for overall well-being, especially as we age. Oasis engages people in volunteer roles that have lasting impact for adults and children. Thousands have shared their knowledge as class instructors and group leaders. Our Intergenerational Tutoring program has helped more than 400,000 children improve their reading skills and confidence. There are 5,000 Oasis tutors working in 27 cities across the country, providing valuable one-on-one time with children in need of additional support. Volunteers in our unique CATCH Healthy Habits program encourage healthy eating and physical activity for children. To date, 8,600 volunteers and 23,500 children have been impacted by the program.
To learn more about the impact of our programs, please see our 2014 Annual Report.
How to get Involved
We are energized and excited about keeping people healthy and engaged in our society for the good of all. This is why we are so excited about The White House Conference on Aging and encourage you to get involved. Here are some ways to do it:
- Watch the event online through the White House live stream on July 13 from 10 am to 5 pm Eastern time.
- Finish the sentence “Getting older is getting better because…” Write your thoughts about it on this sign, have your picture taken with your sign and post it on Twitter with #WHCOA and @oasisinstitute in your tweet. Or if you’re not on Twitter, we’ll be glad to share your photo – just email it to .
- Share your story about the aging experience through the Conference website.
- Participate in Q &A with experts by posting your questions on Twitter with the hashtag #WHCOA. This is an opportunity to have a voice on the issues that matter most. We’ll be tweeting here at the OASIS Institute during the conference (Twitter name @oasisinstitute) and look forward to hearing from you.
Getting older really is getting better!