I have just returned from the Global Ageing Network Conference held in Montreux, Switzerland. More than 1,000 attendees from across the world attended this biennial event. LeadingAge is a primary sponsor of the Global Ageing Conference, and I attended, along with a few of my fellow board members.
As in recent years, the Global Ageing Conference piggybacked on the host country’s annual meeting/conference – or as the Europeans call it, “Congress” (if only the actual U.S. Congress was so civil).
Like many of you, I have been watching television with concern, disbelief and sorrow as Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana. The flooding rains of Harvey were historic and remind us of the power of nature and our innate vulnerability as humans.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve had the pleasure of officiating college football games. With my professional life outside of football becoming more demanding, I “retired” last year. But officiating taught me a number of life lessons that can be applied in other ways.
For example, on the occasions I had the great fortune of officiating conference championship games, I observed the difference between champions and runners-up. It’s been said that “defense wins championships,” but in my observations a balance of a strong offense and defense actually wins championships.
I’d argue that this can apply not only on the football field but also to the field I work in, services for older adults. And the time has come for the business of aging services – and the public, as well – to tackle the need for universal long-term care for older Americans.
It’s time to play offense.
I have a colleague whose mother and father are in their early and mid-80s, respectively. He knows that despite whichever one dies first, the other is going to be left with his or her own set of challenges – responsibilities that once were traditionally divvied up. For example, if his mom remains, she will struggle to do things that her husband normally handled, such as manage their finances, maintain the cars and such. Conversely, the father would be left attempting to keep the house and prepare his own meals.
But statistics demonstrate that more often than not, it’s the woman who is left to find her way.
Remember when you were finishing up high school or college and an older adult in your life said, “It flies by – enjoy it while you can!” Well, life does fly by, I suppose. But I really believe that you can “enjoy it” far longer than that pearl of wisdom might suggest.
Take, for example, the Third Age.
I wanted to make you an aware of a political event taking place today in our nation’s capital, and one in which I am participating.
Today, hundreds of LeadingAge members, older adults, and partners will participate in the “Save HUD 202 Rally” on Capitol Hill. At the rally, we will hear from members of the Senate and Congress, residents, and providers as we raise our voices together to protect and expand affordable housing for older adults.
I’m really into football. For the past 15 years, I officiated college football. So I don’t agree with some folks who believe that the best part of the Super Bowl is watching the ads.
But sometimes the ads have something to teach us.
Sometimes I am asked about the aspects of my job that keep me up at night. These days, it’s a challenge that I’m confident leaves many of my colleagues awake, too: Maintaining and growing a talented workforce.
That’s not easy, for a myriad of unique and interconnected factors. Recruitment, in general, is facing a broad challenge – the overall healthcare field is wanting, not just aging services. Whether we’re looking for someone on our dining staff or a skilled-care nurse, this is both a macro and micro hurdle for our industry.
Let’s face it, we’re getting older. Not just as individuals, but the country as a whole. Because both men and women are living longer due to healthier lifestyles and advancements in medicine and technology, America’s population of older adults is experiencing unprecedented growth, and the need for affordable housing for older adults is nearing epic proportions.
Regardless of our race, culture, or gender, aging is something we all share. Yet despite our commonality, prejudices toward older adults are rampant. Ageism, or the discrimination against people because of their age, is nothing new. In fact, as far back as the 1st century A.D., Roman philosopher Seneca observed “Senectus morbidus est,” or “Old age is a disease.”