The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) – the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging – is applauding President Barack Obama’s State of the Union call for a “new era of medicine” as well as federal incentives that allow more Americans to afford higher education, health care, and retirement.
“With older adults being the fastest growing segment of the country’s population, it becomes increasingly important that our health care workforce receive the education and training it needs to deliver state-of-the-art care, which should be affordable to all,” said GSA Executive Director and CEO James Appleby, RPh, MPH. “GSA advocates a continued national dialog that will steer us toward a healthy, financially secure future for all Americans.”
One of the proposals introduced in the president’s speech was the Precision Medicine Initiative, which he said is designed “to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes – and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.” Precision medicine involves the use of optimal therapies based on a genomic or other similar analysis of the patient.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 20 percent of the country’s population will be 65 or older by 2040. Currently, more than 25 percent of people in this age group suffer from diabetes, while more than 60 percent of cancers in the U.S. occur in the 65+ population, according to the American Diabetes Association and American Society of Clinical Oncology, respectively.
Several programs that have contributed to the well-being of older adults celebrate milestone anniversaries in 2015 – 50 years for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, and 80 years for Social Security – and the Obama Administration is planning a White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) later in the year. Four major themes will be addressed at the conference, including retirement security, healthy aging, long-term services and supports, and elder justice.
GSA is taking an active role to help ensure the 2015 WHCoA is a success. The organization convened a listening session at its recent Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington, DC, welcoming WHCoA Executive Director Nora Super. From February to May, there will be a series of five regional forums designed to gain input on the key issues from older Americans, their families, caregivers, and gerontological thought leaders. These forums are being co-sponsored with AARP and co-planned with the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a coalition of which GSA is a founding member. In the coming months, GSA also will release issues of two of its journals – The Gerontologist and Public Policy & Aging Report – that will explore the themes of the WHCoA and outline courses of action that will improve the lives of Americans as they age.
“GSA stands ready to inform this country’s elected leaders as they shape policies impacting older Americans,” Appleby said. “We call on the Obama administration and Congress to maintain a commitment to addressing the challenges and opportunities of an aging society.”