The final general session of the 2012 Aging in America conference, sponsored by United Healthcare, featured five panelists, each with unique views on how boomers will impact aging in the coming decades. Ken Dychtwald, President and CEO of Age Wave; Fernando Torres-Gil, Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Director, UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging, UCLA School of Public Affairs; renowned author and columnist Gail Sheehy; the Chief Medical Officer of United Healthcare Medicare and Retirement, Dr. Rhonda L. Randall; and Arianna Huffington, the President and Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post Media Group, offered wide-ranging, provocative analysis based on a blend of research, their individual expertise, and their personal experiences.
Their varying perspectives created a lively, an informative discussion. Ken Dychtwald highlighted the massive yet entirely predictable demographic shift as 77 million Baby Boomers move from birth to older (and increasingly advanced) age. Also commenting upon the changing demographics of the country, Fernando Torres-Gil emphasized the significance of the fact the American population is becoming increasinly diverse at the same time that it is aging and pointed to the importance of immigration as a source of sustaining the social contract. Gail Sheehy voiced the power of boomer women and, drawing upon her powerful personal experiences, examined the role of family caregivers as agents of change in an aging society. Dr. Rhonda Randall explored how private sector innovation can lead to expanded public services, particularly in community- and home-based programs; and, finally, Arianna Huffington discussed the changes that boomers themselves must face as they get older.
The session closed the conference with a challenge to reimagine aging in light of the age wave because becoming older may be the biggest challenge faced by the boomer generation, and the boomers are certainly one of the biggest challenges faced by this country. Their impact on aging will be a positive one if we are prepared, but could also lead to social, political and economic challenges of marked severity if policy, politics and society cannot evolve in time to accommodate the imminent demographic realities.
The American Society on Aging also salutes Louis Colbert, MSW, Executive Director, Delaware County Office of Services for the Aging in Eddystone, Penn. With the close of the 2012 Aging in America Conference Mr. Colbert begins his two-year term as Chair of the ASA Board of Directors. Mr. Colbert is an alumni of ASA’s New Ventures in Leadership Program, has served for ten years on ASA’s Board and has been Chair of the Personnel Committee and a member of the Executive Committee. As Board Chair, Mr. Colbert draws upon unwavering dedication to the field of aging and to ASA. The Society will be strengthened by his leadership and vision.
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