Looking ahead to reporting on aging in the new year

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo by Boris Bartels via Flickr

Photo by Boris Bartels via Flickr

There are plenty of aging-related stories on the horizon for 2015. Here are just some issues and ideas to get you started:

The once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging is scheduled for sometime in mid-2015 – a date is yet to be finalized. It’s the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The conference will focus on four key areas:

  • Retirement security
  • Healthy aging
  • Long-term services and supports
  • Elder justice

Look for plenty of updates on the conference by spring.

Retirement

Issues include financial security, affordable housing, aging-in-place and community-based support services. According to Leading Age Magazine, boomers are poorly prepared when it comes to savings. How are the 50- and 60-somethings in your community preparing for retirement? Or are they?

The senior housing market continues to improve, according to a survey of industry executives by the National Investment Center for Senior Housing & Care and National Real Estate Investor. Senior housing is big business and can offer some great business and health angles.

Palliative Care

There is better understanding about incorporating palliative and end-of-life care into overall care coordination. There’s a need for more specialists, more services, professional training, family and caregiver education. Medicare is still waffling on reimbursement for care planning – will providers take the time to counsel patients?

Chronic Disease

The burden of multiple chronic conditions continues to rise. Experts predict more telemedicine use thanks to better Medicare reimbursement for managing and coordinating complex care. What’s the prognosis for frail and homebound elderly – especially those in rural and underserved areas? Licensing physicians and nurse practitioners across state and is just one of the many challenges still ahead.

Federal Funding

Just before recessing for 2014, Congress passed a $1 trillion, FY15 funding package. The National Council on Aging refers to the legislation as a “cromnibus,” a combination of an omnibus package of 11 of the 12 appropriations bills funding most government operations through the remainder of FY15.

Most aging services programs and benefits hold steady at current funding levels but there’s threat of further reductions at the end of 2015, according to an NCOA analysis.

Included in the bill was funding for:

  • The Older-Americans Act, which is still awaiting reauthorization
  • Aging and Disability Resource Centers, which continues to operate at a $10 million shortfall
  • Chronic Disease Self-Management Education and for Falls Prevention
  • The Senior Corps Programs

New or increased funding includes:

  • A $4 million investment for a new Elder Justice Initiative,
  • The Housing Counseling Fund, which among other things funds reverse mortgage counseling, and Section 202 Housing for the Elderly was boosted by $35 million to $420 million.
  • Alzheimer’s Research at the NIH
  • The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) which provides nutritious food packages to food insecure older adults. Of the nearly $9 million increase, $2.8 million will support initial steps to allow the program to expand to seven new or returning states with approved plans: Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Hunger among America’s older adults is a real issue that seems to be growing worse.

One funding reduction to note is a 1 percent decrease for the low-income home energy assistance program. It may not seem like a big deal, unless you’re a senior forced to choose between paying the heating bill and food or medication.

A full budget breakdown and FY comparisons are here.

Minority Aging

Demographic shifts require changes in the types of services and programs offered based on cultural and language needs. What is your community doing to adapt? Check out the aging resources section for links to reports, data, and organizations that can help you put minority aging in your community into perspective.

Elder Abuse

The issue is coming out of the shadows. Abuse takes many forms – emotional/psychological, financial, physical. Look for our February webinar with Robert Blancato of the Elder Justice Coalition who will discuss the recently passed elder justice initiative. Also check out Barbara Peters Smith’s great reporting on the dilemma of elder guardianship. Sobering statistics and data about elder abuse are available here.

Prescription Medications

Issues include affordability, over prescribing, medication management, compliance, dosing errors and big phama’s role in costs.

Family Caregivers

Will anything happen in 2015 to improve support for the millions of paid and unpaid caregivers of older adults? The federal budget includes some line items for home and community based services – how does that translate into “real world” programs in your community? Do readers/viewers/listeners know they exist? Can these local organizations keep up with demand? How will tight state budgets affect their efforts? Be sure to review of our caregiving tipsheet and resources for additional background.

Here’s to a productive and healthy 2015!

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