For half a century, the White House Conference on Aging has been held each decade to examine the issues of older adults in the United States, and to set goals to promote the well-being of our seniors. One of the key areas of this year’s conference is an increased focus on healthy aging.
The Conference has listed four particular ways our nation’s senior support systems are supporting older adults, both in maintaining good health, and in managing health conditions and disabilities:
Increasing physical activity is one of the best ways Americans can prevent disease and injury. It reduces the risk of many negative health outcomes in older adults, including early death, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, several forms of cancer, depression, cognitive decline, and falls. Physical activity reduces pain and improves function for those with arthritis and other chronic conditions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Physical Activity Guidelines For Americans includes recommendations for how older Americans can remain physically active. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiated the Go4Life Campaign to help older Americans fit exercise and physical activity into their daily lives. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) supports evidence-based physical activity and fitness programs.
Studies show that a healthy diet in later years reduces the risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart diseases and certain cancers. NIH provides practical advice on nutrition for older adults in a resource called “What’s On Your Plate? Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging.” Recognizing the importance of nutrition and socialization to older adults, the President’s 2016 budget includes nearly $904 million for HHS’ Administration for Community Living to support meals for older Americans, targeting at-risk populations. In addition, the budget includes a proposal that would make it easier for low-income older Americans to access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
Preventive health services
Screening and early treatment for diseases and behavioral health conditions are crucial to optimizing physical health and achieving healthy aging. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Aging Program assists health professionals in early detection and prevention of diseases in older adults. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) recognizes the value of prevention and increases Medicare coverage of preventive services for older adults. In addition to an annual wellness visit to help beneficiaries maintain a personalized prevention plan to stay healthy and prevent disease and disability, Medicare now covers many preventive services and screenings with no copayments.
Managing chronic conditions
The Administration recognizes the need for a culture change in how we address chronic conditions (like arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and heart disease) in the United States and the need for a focus on supporting health. To this end, HHS has released “Multiple Chronic Conditions: A Strategic Framework” for the health care system to use in helping to improve the health status of individuals with multiple chronic conditions—which includes more than two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries. In addition, HHS is investing in research to advance our understanding of effective chronic disease self-management, and sponsors evidence-based chronic disease self-management programs. Grants to state governments are providing tools and education to older adults so they can better manage chronic conditions, resulting in better health.
Falls are the leading cause of injuries, including hip fractures and head trauma, among older adults. Each year, one in three Americans over age 65 falls, and the fear of falling may lead older adults to limit their activities, which actually worsens mobility, increases their risk of falling, and detracts from quality of life. HHS supports grants to states and tribes to increase participation in evidence-based community programs to reduce falls and fall risk among older adults and adults with disabilities. The President’s 2016 Budget includes $5 million to support the National Falls Prevention Resource Center and to support new community-based grants to grow and sustain evidence-based falls prevention interventions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a multi-pronged approach to increase the level of engagement of, and partnership with, the medical community to integrate falls screening, assessments, and interventions into the clinical setting.
This is just a small sample of the issues covered by this year’s conference; the website of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging will offer ongoing updates.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on information from the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. Learn more about White House Conference on Aging 2015 here. [link tohttp://www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov]. And read the recent 2015 White House Conference of Aging policy brief on healthy aging [add link to:http://www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov/blog/policy/post/healthy-aging-policy-brief].