President Obama Delivers Opening Remarks at WHCOA

By Maggie Cunningham

The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) is held only once every ten years. This year, it happens to fall during the 50th anniversary year of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security.  The conference provides an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key programs, in addition to providing foresight into new and evolving issues that will shape the landscape for the growing population of older American’s over the next ten years.  

After the first morning panel, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell kicked off the conference with a few uplifting announcements. Sec. Burwell, who turned 50 years old this year and received her first letter from AARP, said that aging takes on a whole different perspective as you yourself age.

Rachel Pruchno ‏@RachelPruchno   "#WHCOA White House to commit $35.7 million for geriatric workforce training! Excellent." 

Lois Bowers ‏@Lois_Bowers   "At #WHCOA, @SecBurwell proposes new measures affecting 15K #longtermcare communities across country." 

In a candid and personal speech, President Barack Obama followed with opening remarks. “One of the best measures of a country is how it treats its older citizens. And by that measure, the United States has a lot to be proud of,” Obama began.

White House Live ‏@WHLive   "'Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security—some of our greatest triumphs as a nation.' —@POTUS: http://go.wh.gov/WHCOA #WHCOA "

President Obama used the beginning of his remarks to praise the progress made for older Americans in the past. “Together we declared that every citizen of this country deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.”

BrightFocus ‏@_BrightFocus   " @POTUS 'We have to work to do more to ensure every older American has what they need to thrive.' #WHCOA#n4a2015 "

He continued with anecdotes from his own familial experiences with aging. “My grandmother was a fiercely independent woman,” explained Obama. “After my grandfather passed away, she chose to continue to live independently.” He said that it was thanks to Medicare and Social Security that she was able to live that independent life.

“That was a promise this country made to her, and to all of its citizens. As a grateful grandson, who happens to be President,” he said humorously, “that is a promise that I am going to keep for future generations.”

Citing the baby boom after World War II, he explained that the challenges of protecting our seniors and tackling the growing aging population are becoming more urgent. “More than 250,000 Americans turn 65 every month. They’re living longer, and they’re living healthier,” said Obama.

He then made several recommendations, beginning with ensuring that we have enough home-care workers to look out for loved ones so that we can maximize the contributions that older Americans can make to our country.  

Age-friendly NYC ‏@AgefriendlyNYC   " @BarackObama: #ACA is moving #medicare towards model that rates quality of care, not quantity of care in measuring success. #WHCOA @POTUS "

Obama continued his recommendations by expressing plans for expanding community and home options provided by Medicare. “[This] means that more older Americans are able to make the same choice that my grandmother did, and live independently.”

Susan Jaffe ‏@susanjaffe   " Obama at #WHCOA: Medicare's goal should be 'more of the services you need and less of the services you don't...'"  

Moving forward with his remarks , he noted the many ideas that many supporters and guests have given over the last decade. These ideas included a range from making it easier for home-bound patients to receive nutritional assistance, to training prosecutors on how to combat elder abuse.

He is also working with congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act and complete a safety and quality overhaul or nursing home standards and requirements for the first time in almost twenty five years.

Ben Harder ‏@benharder   " Obama, in speech at #WHCOA, says administration will update safety regs for nursing homes for first time in years." 

In addition to these movements, he discussed helping federal workers and supervisors understand workplace flexibility policies for people who are working in addition to being caregivers to their aging parents.

The White House ‏@WhiteHouse   "'I’m going to keep fighting to make family leave and workplace flexibility available to every American' @POTUS#WHCOA#LeadOnLeave "

Caregiving & Respite ‏@NYSCRC   "'You get more loyal, productive employees, with less turnover' @POTUS on the benefit of employers who support working caregivers #WHCOA "

Rounding out his earlier remarks about the positive changes made in the past, Obama finished with a challenge.  “We need to re-commit ourselves to finish the work of earlier generations.

American Geriatrics ‏@AmerGeriatrics   "'Change is hard, but hope triumphs. We choose to do big things in US, need to finish work of past' @POTUS#WHCOA " 

Valerie Jarrett ‏@vj44   " We need to view our changing demographics as an opportunity, rather than a burden #WHCOA "

President Obama closed his remarks with a simple message. “We need to make sure this remains a country where you are treated with dignity and your contributions are valued.

To learn more about the White House Conference for Aging and keep up to date on the care of older American’s follow @KindredHealth through our blog, Twitter, and Facebook