Katie Smith Sloan
LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan talks
Sunday at the opening general session of the 2019 LeadingAge
Annual Meeting + Expo.

SAN DIEGO — It’s no secret that Twitter is the form of social media most used by President Trump and, therefore, others in politics. LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan didn’t name him Sunday here during the opening general session of the organization’s annual meeting, but she said, “If Twitter is the platform of choice these days, we need to be there.”

LeadingAge now is using the #DearCandidate hashtag on Twitter to bring attention to issues important to members, she said.

“We have created opportunities to tweet and retweet about workforce, quality, ageism, affordable housing and so much more. It’s a way to connect the issues we care about to the youth, to families as well as to candidates for local, state and national offices, regardless of political party,” Sloan said, asking those in attendance to “lend your 280-character voice to what must become a national conversation.”

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But being politically active is about more than social media, of course.

When the annual meeting is over and members return home, Sloan said, “We must speak truth to power to counteract negative press, to argue for sensible regulations, to replace outdated practices with those that are supported by evidence, to imagine new models of service delivery, and to advocate for the right policies for the right reasons.”

Members have the opportunity to make a difference in the upcoming election season, she said. 

“We are well beyond tiptoeing into the political fray leading up to next year’s elections. We are knee deep,” Sloan said. “The issues being debated are critical for our work, for the people we serve, for our employees, for our communities and for our youth. There are fundamental decisions that we will make based on election day, at the local state and national level.”

Board leadership to change

Stephen Fleming reflected on his past two years as LeadingAge board chairman as he prepares to leave the position.

“As I stated two years ago with a football metaphor, our association needed to go on offense. And we did, with growth in the home- and community-based sector culminating with a planned affiliation with [Visiting Nurse Associations of America and its parent organization, Elevating HOME],” he said, adding that the agreement is being finalized.

“We also held two affordable housing rallies on Capitol Hill and made our voices heard louder than ever before. And most recently, we renewed our efforts to address our collective labor problems through important dialog on immigration reform,” said Fleming, president and CEO of the WellSpring Group in Greensboro, NC.

Members have an opportunity to shape the future and an obligation to “add to the quality of life for an ever-increasing population of older adults and vulnerable citizens,” he continued.

“Whether your organization is struggling to survive in rural America or whether you are a strong multisite, we have an obligation, be it big or small,” Fleming said. “How we fulfill that obligation is up to us individually, but collectively is how we will be judged.”

Award of Honor

Presbyterian Homes & Services President and CEO Dan Lindh, left,
is congratulated by LeadingAge Board Chair Stephen Fleming.

Also during the opening general session, Dan Lindh, president and CEO of Presbyterian Homes & Services, received the Award of Honor, the highest award that LeadingAge bestows.

“It is presented to an individual who has made exceptional contributions to the field of aging and who has significantly impacted other individuals and organizations to advance the common good,” Fleming said.

In senior living and care, Lindh told those attending the general session, “the challenges are about to become a whole lot greater — a lot greater than I think any of us can even imagine. …A large part of the answer and our solutions to these challenges, I believe, belong to the not-for-profit community, to the leaders and organizations in this room.

“Collectively, we have an opportunity to make a difference in individual lives and society as a whole,” he continued. “Very few people in our world can say that. Very few have an opportunity to invest their lives in a challenging and yet purpose-rich environment like we do.”

Approximately 6,500 people registered for this year’s annual meeting, according to LeadingAge. One hundred eighty-seven educational sessions will be offered through Wednesday, and hundreds of vendors will be displaying their wares over the course of almost 10 hours of exhibition hall time on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News publications will be available in booth 2911.