'Let's Rethink Aging'-More Than Just the 2007 Conference Theme

Article excerpt

Preparations are well under way for the 2007 Joint Conference of the American Society on Aging (ASA) and the National Council on Aging, March 7-10 in Chicago. I am looking forward to welcoming you to the Windy City, my home turf, for this premier event in professional education and networking. With nearly 4,000 professionals, volunteers, exhibitors and sponsors expected to attend, this annual conclave is the largest gathering of professionals serving older adults in the United States.

In the coming weeks, ASA members will receive the conference announcement catalog with details about planned programs, travel arrangements and local site visits. You can also visit the website at www.agingconference.org for more information or to register. The next issue of Aging Today will highlight some of the special programs, critical issues in aging sessions and breakfast symposia.

AWORLD OF CHANGE

The theme "Let's Rethink Aging" challenges session presenters and local planners to engage conference attendees to reimagine today's possibilities and those in the years ahead. To me, "Let's Rethink Aging" is more than a conference theme: It reflects both the challenges and opportunities of an aging society. In spite of the tremendous potential at hand, especially with the aging of the enormous boomer generation, myriad contrasts continue to cloud the possibilities inherent in the emerging longevity revolution.

Those of us who serve older adults and their families work in an unusually rich environment of professionals ranging from entrepreneurs to public servants, from researchers to practitioners. Our charge is to reach out to an older population that encompasses those who are frail or critically ill, as well as those who are independent and creatively active. We hope for a time when products, programs and services benefiting older adults will expand our capacity to serve them and strengthen the infrastructure necessary to meet their changing needs.

During the past year, everyone has heard endlessly about the estimated 78 million boomers bom from 1946 through 1964. Professionals in the field know that programs and services for elders must change to meet the evolving requirements of this large influx of elders and those nearing their later years. ASA must also evolve to meet the changing needs of professionals devoted to serving the aging community.

AT OUR BEST

Professionals in aging can be both realists, fully aware of today's challenges, and idealists-people who entered this field with a deep sense of respect for elders and their dignity. At our best as professionals, we value individual worth, regardless of health status or ability. We believe in responsibility shared at personal, local, state, national and global levels. We know that by contributing to promising practices, we can help realize a society that delivers on the promise of communities enriched by age and experience. In this youth-obsessed culture, professionals aging can play a special role by dispelling the myths of what it means to grow old while fostering a greater understanding of the real benefits possible in a more mature society.

ASA members have learned that as individuals age, they have wants and needs beyond those presented by the medical model of aging. Individuals frequently seek spiritual advice, financial counseling, mental health assistance and social services, for example. Many older adults face disparities in access to assistance or quality of care because they come from diverse cultural backgrounds, have different sexual orientations or live with functional disabilities. Elders also have interests in lifelong learning and want to continue to be engaged in-and contribute to-their communities. Our goal at ASA is not only to bring professionals together, but also to create opportunities for them to work in concert to meet the needs of each elder as a whole person, not merely as a consumer of healthcare services. …