Smiling senior woman holding hands of healthcare worker at nursing home
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A centralized, coordinated “whole-of-government” effort is necessary to address critical challenges and opportunities facing a growing population of older Americans, say leaders of nonprofit provider association LeadingAge.

In a letter this week to President Biden, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan called for the formation of an Office on Aging Policy. It would fall under the Domestic Policy Office and provide centralized leadership and cross-government coordination to address the needs of older adults and their families.

Sloan pointed to Singapore, Japan, Israel and Germany as good examples of such an approach. All have taken a whole-of-government approach to aging policy and services to help ensure that programs and support are in place.

Sloan said the US is not prepared for a rapidly growing wave of older adults. Approximately 10,000 Americans are turning 65 daily, and by 2030, people aged 65 or more years will represent 21% of the total US population. She added that she believes that the federal government’s bottom-up approach to aging policy without designated leadership is not working.

Responsibilities for aging-related policies, Sloan said, currently are spread across more than 25 federal agencies, creating policy redundancies, gaps and an inconsistent distribution of resources. 

“The result of this scattered approach is severely inadequate support for older adults in our country, which impacts quality of life and taxed extraordinary tolls on communities and families — particularly those of color,” Sloan said, adding that a variety of agencies must share responsibility for building an aging infrastructure. 

A strong federal presence, she added, must bring together health, long-term care, housing, economics and environmental interests. Also included, Sloan added, should be labor, education, budget, technology, agriculture, international/global issues, homeland security, veterans affairs and other areas.

In a brief accompanying her letter, Sloan outlined the challenges facing older adults, their families and their caregivers. Major hurdles, she said, include poverty, income, housing and services access, food insecurity, transportation barriers, the need for coordinated care, abuse, environmental threats, ageism and data gaps.

“An Office on Aging Policy at the highest level of government will demonstrate a commitment to equity and allow this administration, and those that come after it, to coordinate diverse facets of policy that affect older people,” the brief reads. 

LeadingAge’s proposal says the new agency should begin with a comprehensive national aging plan, similar to California’s Master Plan for Aging