The 2015 White House Conference on Aging released its final report Tuesday without mentioning rampant age discrimination in employment or the financial plight of older Americans caused by the collapse of Wall Street.
Celia Munoz, director of the Obama administration’s Domestic Policy Council, congratulated the Obama administration for accomplishing a “great deal” while recognizing there is still much more work to do. Munoz assures us that a “better informed vision for aging in America” emerged from the Conference.
To some, the conference was a disappointing public relations event. The Obama administration partnered with the AARP, which actually organized regional events. The AARP is the nation’s leading purveyor of Medi-gap health insurance to older adults. Not surprisingly, a major theme of the Conference was healthy aging.
Conference organizers completely ignored repeated pleas to examine the link between elder poverty, the on-going epidemic of age discrimination in hiring and the disappearance of defined benefit pensions.
Some of the Conference’s highly-touted initiatives come far too late to help older adults today. For example, Obama proposed a portable retirement account that workers can take from job to job and a law requiring financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interests.
An alarming percentage of America’s older adults today literally have no money, having lost jobs, homes and savings in the financial meltdown.
The Social Security Administration estimates the average Social Security benefit is $13,000 a year, from which Medicare payments are then deducted. For 36 percent of recipients, Social Security provides 90 percent or more of their income. For 24 percent of recipients, it is the sole source of retirement income.
The White House has held a Conference on Aging every decade since 1961. The 2015 Conference was a shell of its predecessors because, according to the administration, Congress failed to allocate sufficient funds for the event. In the past, delegates from around the country converged in Washington, D.C., to discuss ways to improve the quality of life of older Americans.
It seems more likely that the plight of older adults is simply not a priority for either Congress or the Obama administration.
There’s always 2025?