Healthy aging is the topic of the first policy brief released by the White House Conference on Aging. Additional briefs, on the other key topics being examined by the conference—long-term services and supports, elder justice and retirement security—are expected in the future.
The brief on healthy aging addresses promoting wellness, preventing disease and injury, optimizing cognitive and behavioral health, maximizing independence in homes and communities, and promoting community and civic engagement—and government efforts toward those ends. “Older adults can do a number of things to promote good health and prevent disease and injury,” notes the brief. “Healthy behaviors such as exercising regularly, good nutrition and getting recommended health screenings can contribute to longer, healthier lives. Even if someone has a chronic condition or a disability, these activities can improve health and quality of life.”
Regarding cognitive health, the brief notes:
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) could expand Alzheimer’s research activities by $51 million with funds from President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget, if passed, thereby increasing spending related to the disease to $638 million. This amount would represent a 55 percent funding increase since 2008.
- The Administration for Community Living’s (ACL’s) Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative provides long-term services and supports for people with dementia and their caregivers.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information through Alzheimers.gov.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is collaborating with the Alzheimer’s Association, the NIH and the ACL to continue its Healthy Brain Initiative, which promotes cognitive functioning, addresses cognitive impairment for those living in the community and helps meet the needs of care partners.
- The NIH supports “ongoing research on aging, including treating and preventing cognitive decline and dementia, and has identified instruments for clinicians and researchers to use in identifying cognitive decline.”
- In December, the Health Research and Services Administration announced funding for dementia education within its Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program.
Aging in place
In a section in maximizing older adults’ independence, the brief notes that the president’s 2016 budget includes $455 million for the Supportive Housing for the Elderly program (known as “Section 202”) within the Department of Housing and Urban Development to support affordable housing with services such as cleaning, cooking and transportation, for very low-income or frail older adults. “The budget also proposes adding $10 million to study how service coordinators, who are responsible to link residents in Section 202 housing to supportive services, support stable housing for older adults,” the authors note.
See the entire brief here. Members of the public are invited to submit their thoughts on healthy aging on the website.