Nearly 300 people participated in a September Altarum Roundtable, “Advanced Old Age in America: What Can We Count On?” For now, it seems, very little – beyond the urgent need to improve the current fragmented and costly system, which fails to meet the diverse needs of older adults, their families, and their communities. Panelists, who included congressional representatives, journalists, thought leaders, and community organizers, addressed the intertwined issues of medical services, long-term care and social supports, providing a deeper perspective on the current sorry state of affairs, and exploring new strategies to make our collective future a better place for aging people.
Susan Dentzer, a senior health policy advisor at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, moderated the three panels. The first, kicked-off by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Elizabeth Falcone from the office of U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), included an in-depth look at The Care Planning Act of 2013. That bill would reimburse interdisciplinary teams to help Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries map out options for living with advanced illness, and document a care plan geared to their own values and preferences and guide the course of their treatment. Other panelists included Shannon Brownlee, a writer who shared her family’s story of the fragmented care her mother received, and how such experiences have become the norm for many aging Americans. Jennie Chin Hansen, CEO of the American Geriatrics Society, described how we might affect the forces that influence the current system. She suggested that we must address “the space in between,” the years in late life that are often characterized by increasing dependency, disability, and frailty.
A second panel discussed economic trends, as well as national strategies that could help to create a framework for improving care in advanced old age. This session highlighted ideas by health economist Joseph Antos, from the American Enterprise Institute and John Rother of the National Coalition on Health Care. A third panel examined trends at the community level, with remarks from Mimi Toomey of the Administration for Community Living; Suzanne Burke of the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio; John Feather, CEO of Grantmakers in Aging; and Joanne Lynn, Director of the Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness at Altarum Institute.
Roundtable cosponsors included Grantmakers In Aging, Grantmakers In Health, LeadingAge, National Alliance for Caregiving, National Coalition on Health Care, National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, and OWL – The Voice of Midlife and Older Women.
key words: Altarum Institute, public policy, aging, elder care, Joanne Lynn