By Rena Malai, News staff
NASW Social Work Pioneer® Bernie Nash is a nonagenarian who has a long history with the White House Conference on Aging. He was a delegate to the very first conference — held in 1961 — and delivered the opening remarks at the most recent WHCoA in July.
“The first (conference) was very exciting; President Eisenhower opened it,” Nash said. “At that time, I was the director of a state agency on aging in Minnesota, located within the Department of Health. The big issue talked about was the availability of a national health insurance to the aging population. After the first conference, Medicare and Medicaid were available in 1965.”
NASW CEO Angelo McClain participated in the main event at this year’s WHCoA, held at the White House on July 13. Multiple NASW members also participated in the main conference event and/or the preliminary forums leading up to it.
The 2015 WHCoA focused on four themes: elder justice; healthy aging; retirement security; and long-term services and supports. The White House released four policy briefs prior to the July event that addressed the four themes. NASW provided comments and recommendations in the briefs.
About 10,000 Americans turn 65 years of age every day. Given this fact, McClain emphasizes that now is the time for the nation to redouble efforts to ensure that every older American has the resources and support needed to thrive and to age with dignity.
“NASW supports President Obama’s work to strengthen Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and his efforts to improve quality of life for older Americans,”
McClain said. “NASW has been at the vanguard of aging services for decades, helping to integrate gerontological expertise into everyday social work practice across the continuum of needs to assure that older adults have the tools they need to be healthy, respected and independent.”
The White House hosted five invitation-only regional forums in preparation for the 2015 WHCoA. The forums were held in Boston, Cleveland, Phoenix, Seattle, and Tampa. NASW nominated social workers to participate as stakeholders in the forums, and each forum addressed the four themes of the conference.
NASW member and 2014 National Lifetime Achievement awardee Phyllis Mitzen, who participated in the Cleveland forum in April, said one issue the forum focused on is the importance of reauthorizing the Older Americans Act (OAA). The act was created in 1965 and funds critical services for older adults, such as community service employment, nutrition programs, and family caregiver support services.
From the September 2015 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story here.