When the confirmation email arrived in my inbox late Friday afternoon, I had all but given up on obtaining press credentials to cover the once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging on Monday, just three days away.
But there it was: “You have been confirmed …”
After dashing off a few quick emails to Pia and Len, searching for an affordable, decent hotel (not as easy as it sounds) and making Amtrak reservations, it hit me – “holy cow, I’m going to the White House on Monday!
Yes, it is a big deal. Although there has been much grumbling about the preparation, the lack of opportunity for much substantive dialog and more reliance on listening sessions and town hall meetings, the WHCOA is happening and will help set the national agenda for aging policy for the next 10 years.
For a long time aging experts and stakeholders weren’t even sure, given the toxic climate in D.C., whether a conference would even take place. It’s been trimmed to one day, from prior multi-day sessions and what opportunities, if any, the press will have to actually speak with any of the experts, let alone the President, is unclear.
The official memo warns the media that we must be escorted by a White House staffer while moving about the building or grounds, and that we must stay in the designated media section during the sessions. Since there are many people there with badges and weapons, I fully intend to comply.
The four main themes – Retirement Security, Healthy Aging, Long Term Services and Supports and Elder Justice – were chosen as issues of most common importance and urgency for America’s seniors. You can read more about these issues in Eileen Beal’s excellent preview.
Look for my reports in the coming days on this decade-in-the-making event – and, for me, what is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I promise that if I get a selfie with the president, I’ll post it here.
Note: You can follow the conference on Twitter with #WHCOA.