REndering of man on top of 2024 sign with telescope
(Credit: erhui1979 / Getty Images)
REndering of man on top of 2024 sign with telescope
(Credit: erhui1979 / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC—On the second day of LeadingAge’s Leadership Summit 2024 here, Board Chair Roberto Muñiz, president and CEO of New Jersey-based Parker Health Group, urged members to share their stories on the critical aging services issues affecting the long-term care industry. 

Muñiz also unveiled the organization’s strategic plan for 2024-2026, which promotes “an America that values older adults and those who serve them.”

“With this vision, LeadingAge says we value older adults and the gift of a long life, and we celebrate providers — like all of you, for the incredible work that you do every day,” he said. “Our purpose is noble; it is time for policymakers, the media and the public to recognize aging as a stage of life and to understand through their actions that those who serve them deserve to be supported.”

The strategic plan includes four pillars: strengthen the aging services workforce, support members across the continuum, amplify advocacy and public voice, and strengthen organizational capacity.

Supporting the workforce

The nation’s population is undergoing a dramatic shift, with the number of older adults expected to increase to almost  83 million in 2050, according to LeadingAge. But there aren’t enough caregivers to meet the care needs of this growing population.

Muñiz made a point of saying that the staffing challenges are not just a nursing home issue. He emphasized that the workforce focus in the strategic plan covers the entire continuum of care and aging services, including creating career pathways for direct care professionals, attracting and supporting leaders of color, streamlining and expanding immigration pipelines, and expanding access to education, training and testing models.

“We know that at the end of the day, our future is secure when we grow leaders within our sector,” Muñiz said.

Workforce-centric legislation backed by LeadingAge includes:

  • The Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, HR 1325, and Assisting Seekers in Pursuit of Integration and Rapid Employment (ASPIRE) Act, HR 4309 / S 2175. They would provide employment authorization for eligible asylum applicants and shorten the waiting period for employment authorization.
  • The Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act, HR 6585, which would expand student eligibility for Pell Grants to short-term programs for in-demand industry sectors and occupations, including long-term care.
  • The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, S 3211 / HR 6205, which would designate 40,000 visas for foreign-born healthcare workers from pre-existing unused visas. 
  • The Immigrants in Nursing and Allied Health Act, HR 3731, which would provide grants to states and local government and private organizations to cover costs related to education, training or licensure for legal immigrants to participate in the National Health Services Corps.
  • The National Apprenticeship Act of 2023, HR 2851 / S 2122, which would support the creation and expansion of registered apprenticeships for in-demand sectors, like healthcare and aging services. 
  • The Safeguarding Elderly Needs for Infrastructure and Occupational Resources (SENIOR) Act, HR 7605, which would create and expand workforce development programs to strengthen the long-term care workforce pipeline. The bill also would allow states to reduce costs to low-income seniors to help them access assisted living facilities.
  • The Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act, S 1298, which would authorize $1 billion in funding to increase direct care workforce positions and to recruit, train and retain direct care workforce staff.

New models of care

As LeadingAge committed to learning from and working with members to develop new service models, new partnerships and new ways of thinking about an aging society, Muñiz called on boards and leaders to be willing to “take risks and make bold decisions.”

“Shaping the future suggests change at the organizational level,” Muñiz said, adding that LeadingAge will strengthen partnerships with state affiliates. “We will continue to build our resources related to governance and look for new ways to reach teams of CEOs and board chairs.

The LeadingAge strategic plan includes a focus on maintaining and expanding Medicaid home- and community-based, which allows millions of people to access long-term services and supports through assisted living and home care. The association also will support service integration for dually eligible residents.

Loud and proud

Because public policy drives what the industry does, Muñiz called on the industry “to be loud, to be proud, and to be convincing.” He encouraged providers to tell their story and create public awareness related to the importance of the industry to older adults and their families and caregivers.

“Our approach has to be both offensive and defensive,” he said. “Defensive to prevent bad ideas from seeing the light of day, and offensive to advance good ideas.”

Supporting policy change

Among the key aging services-related legislation LeadingAge is putting its support behind are several that fall under the affordable senior housing umbrella, including:

  • The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement, HR 3238 / S 1557), which would increase state low-income housing credit allocations by 50%, and enable the housing credit to better serve households with extremely low incomes. 
  • The Expanding Service Coordinators Act, HR 5177, which would authorize an additional $225 million per year for five years for new HUD multifamily service coordinator grants, $37 million for a new program to provide service coordinator grants to low-income housing tax credit properties, establish a training set-aside to improve capacity and retention of service coordinators, and include service coordinators in qualifying for public service loan forgiveness program.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, which would support the expansion of resources for new affordable senior housing, preserve existing affordable housing and add new service coordinators. 

Other bills backed by LeadingAge: