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Saturday, August 08 2015 09:24

On Monday, July 13th, the White House Conference on Aging took place. It started at 10 o’clock and finished at 4:30.  At 11:25 President Obama delivered some remarks.

If you knew nothing about this event, you were in good company.  Newspapers, radio, television and other information sources apparently published little or nothing  about it. Apparently, most elders were not to be seen nor heard.

However, my computer screen received 29 emails sent by the Conference workers.  Not all the mailings cheered me up.  What would you think of the following prose?

 “The 2015 conference seeks to embrace the transformative demographic shift occurring in the United States to recognize the possibilities, rather than the limitations of aging.”

One of the suggestions for action ran as follows: “Join us by completing the sentence: ‘Getting older is getting better because  .   .   .’”

Not yet have I managed an answer.

Some of the issues came from a few gatherings around the U.S., including Boston, I found them moderately worthwhile. This includes such warnings as “protection from the sun (I recently needed dermatological surgery), be kind to yourself, and get enough sleep.”

Also, the emphasis on celebrating diversity among older Americans seemed significant to me. It focused on older adults from communities of color and the LGBT communities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.)

People taking part in the Conference surely noted vital national anniversaries. This month of July marks the 50th year of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act.

Nor should any delegate have forgotten the eightieth year of Social Security. I would like to think the delegates to the Conference insisted on the protection of all four of these programs.

In fact, this was an opportunity to go further and push for more money for some of them. Given the large number of older Americans who depend absolutely on Social Security, the need for that program cries out for increases.

That’s what Eric Kingson, a scholar whom I admire, said in the Huffingon Post west coast newspaper. This advocate, widely published about Social Security, wrote about what he called the “benign neglect of the economic problems of today’s and tomorrow’s seniors.”

He used the term “benign neglect” to describe how the preparation for the conference was planned. It simply lacked the most important financial needs of many of our older citizens.

         As he saw it, the event  seems destined to be little more than an exercise in benign neglect of the growing economic problems of today’s and tomorrow’s seniors.”

         I also talked with Al Norman, the prime advocate for needy elders in Massachusetts.  He considered embarrassing the way the Boston meeting prepared for the final conference. In his press release, Norman asked: “Is the White House Conference On Aging Neglecting the Social Security Program on It’s Eightieth Birthday?”

         He agreed with Kingson calling on the 200 or so Conference delegates to sound the alarm “on the retirement income crisis facing working Americans,” and to push for “benefit increases in Social Security.”

(Noting the 25 year history of the Americans with Disabilities Act of July 26, 1990, and signed by the elder George Bush, deserves mention. Incidentally, let me note how my own disabilities have become more difficult to cope with in old age than they were earlier.)

         On the day after, the New York Times ran a single paragraph about the conference.  It focused entirely on what President Obama said. 

         To his credit, this current White House resident, emphasized the need for investment advisors to emphasize their client’s benefits before their own. Obama also mentioned the few states that require some employers to open retirement plans when workers are hired.

         But, desirable as such measures are, they do not reach the elders who remain deeply poor.  Would that this disappointing council missed them remains regrettable.