Seniors face many different challenges as they age; one challenge is accessibility to resources and programs that would greatly benefit them. The American Society on Aging’s Conference, which was held from March 20-24, 2016, aimed to address this accessibility issue.
DC Long Term Care Coalition (LTC) director Judy Levy and volunteer/LTC advocate Jessica Shoemaker were attendees at the conference, which included several different speakers who presented and shared their expertise on their specialty. The conference is an annual meeting of the society on aging. By meeting, “it is their opportunity to speak to all of their members and provide continuing education on aging, as well as to talk about their policy goals,” says Ms. Shoemaker. Subjects covered included business, health care, and policy. Additionally, the conference also showcased different available products and services for older adults like new technologies or types of providers.
For Ms. Levy and Ms. Shoemaker, this conference was beneficial as it provided learning opportunities on specific policies for home health workers, and tips on how to provide for caregivers’ emotional needs. For instance, Ms. Shoemaker was able to attend presentations on health care providers. One session stressed shifting the framework for how we understand health care providers’ work — we should envision their work in a lattice structure, rather than a linear job path. In essence, the lattice structure asks that we recognize that home care providers can pursue many opportunities based on their interests and goals; there is not one single trajectory. In order for this lattice structure to be successful, however, additional education and certification opportunities are necessary. This new lattice approach is currently being evaluated to determine its effectiveness. Another session Ms. Shoemaker attended was on expanding home care in rural settings. As residents of DC, this topic may not seem like it relates to us, but it does. Just like in the District, individuals in rural areas have a hard time finding transportation to health care facilities. This presentation gave Ms. Shoemaker a different perspective on how things “play out in other areas and how similar they are to problems faced in the District,” she said.
Ms. Levy enjoyed sessions pertaining to policy and health care issues. One session in particular that stuck out to her was the “Person Directed Care: Practice, Policy, Implementation, and Research.” This presentation discussed health care and health policy becoming more person-centered. As someone who is heavily involved with the Elderly and Persons with Physical Disability (EPD) waiver program, Ms. Levy was reassured to learn that, going forward, policies aim to be centered on a person’s specific needs. Another panel discussion Ms. Levy attended was on Baby Boomers and the growing aging population. “People are growing older everyday, and if we don’t have services and programs in place, these Baby Boomers will lack the adequate services they need and deserve,” Ms. Levy said.
While the conference provided many valuable resources, it did also have some drawbacks. Both Ms. Levy and Ms. Shoemaker found that there were too many vendors and speakers at the conference, and they were often torn when deciding what session to attend. “Due to the fact there were so many vendors, there was no possible way one person could take advantage of even half the vendors they had there,” Ms. Levy said. Additionally, as the conference was all-day, for four days, there was a lot of information to digest and remember. According to Ms. Shoemaker, at times it was overwhelming.
Ultimately, for Ms. Levy, “the conference held a lot of valuable information.” It was a great linking point for seniors and caregivers to receive information on programs that will assist them, and it offered opportunities to go outside of one topic area and truly experience and acknowledge the breadth of information related to aging.