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Reacting to rebellion

October 8, 2008
by the employees of Wesley Enhanced Living
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Thoughts from the floor of the second Aging Revolution.

Editor’s Note: If revolutions are carried out by organized groups of frustrated citizens, then the Wesley Enhanced Living (WEL) Aging Revolution Summit provides an example of intelligent execution. September 25 marked the second incarnation of this forward-thinking gathering of healthcare professionals, economists, and politicians—all of whom spoke during panel sessions and speeches to 300 long-term care providers worried about the future of their industry. The following story details the experiences of three WEL employees who witnessed this revolution with notepads in hand.

September 25

Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue


8:00-10:00 am

Opening Session: National Leadership in Transition: Our Opportunity for Transformational Change?

Reactions by Dawn George, Vice President of Development and Government Affairs at Wesley Enhanced Living

8:30 am: It’s early Thursday morning, and I am listening to the opening forum of The Aging Revolution Summit titled “National Leadership in Transition: Our Opportunity for Transformational Change." While it’s not surprising to any of us that our nation is facing an economic and a healthcare crisis, to me, what’s most startling is the strain that caring for our aging population will place on our country’s resources in the near future. It’s a sobering thought to consider how our federal, state, and local policy makers will handle this tidal wave and how entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare will survive under this pressure.

9:12 am: One of the panelists, Lynn Yeakel, just made a great point when she said, “Longevity is one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century.” We’ve developed advances in health and medicine that are allowing people to live much longer, clearly a testament to the breadth of human ingenuity, yet there is a dire downside as well. Our current Medicare and Social Security systems were not engineered to accommodate a life expectancy that extends much beyond age 65. Now an antiquated, and dare I say, even useless, notion considering that 50% of men and women turning 65 this year will live to age 81 and 84 respectively. What’s more, one in 10 men who reach 65 can expect to live until 91, while one in 10 women can expect to live to 95. So, as the panelists have pointed out, it is incumbent that we modify these overburdened systems to address current and future economic and social realities—and we need to step up to the plate NOW.

9:47 am: Despite the serious concerns that were raised throughout this session, it ended on a positive note. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and our country isn’t necessarily doomed to go bankrupt in the near future. Without a doubt, all panelists concurred that there is an urgent need for strong leadership at every level. I believe many of my colleagues would share my conviction that we need a national leader who is willing to categorically and unapologetically begin the critical planning that will produce sustainable systems to ensure that seniors—both today and tomorrow—do not face the future with fear, but with confidence that access to affordable, quality healthcare and housing awaits them.