Although the 1961 White House Conference on Aging was the
first to be designated "White House," several
national conferences held in the 1950s laid the foundation
for this important event. In 1950, President Harry Truman
directed the Federal Security Administration to hold a
national conference on aging. American demographics were
shifting in the mid-20th century, and the number of elderly
was increasing rapidly. The purpose of the 1950 conference
was to assess the challenges posed by the changing population.
The 816 delegates to this conference took no action as
a body, but the event served as an initial exploratory
forum for addressing the issues related to persons.
House Conference on Aging
John Fogarty introduced H.R. 9822 in 1958, calling for
a White House Conference on Aging. Later that year, Congress
enacted the White House Conference on Aging Act (Public
Law 85-908), which was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The law called for a nationwide
citizens' forum to focus public attention on the problems
and potentials of older Americans, and to consolidate all
the opinions and recommendations emanating from the various
A National Advisory Committee
for the White House Conference on Aging was formed in 1958.
Its first meeting was called in 1959 by Arthur Flemming,
Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education,
Two years of pre-Conference study and analysis at the State
and community levels preceded the 1961 national Conference
in Washington, D.C. The first White House Conference on
Aging was held in Washington, D.C., on January 9-12, 1961,
during the Eisenhower Administration. A major focus of
the 1961 Conference was health care.
More than 3,000 people attended the
1961 Conference, including 2,500 voting delegates. Fifty-three
States and Territories, as well as 300 national voluntary
organizations, were represented.
The 1961 Conference witnessed the coalescence
of numerous interest groups advocating for older persons,
including the National Council of Senior Citizens and the
Several outcomes of the 1961 conference included
The 1961 Social Security amendments
were passed, providing additional support to beneficiaries.
The Housing Act of 1961 and the Community Health Facilities
Act of 1961 were both amended to make
special provisions for the aged. Medicare and Medicaid
were enacted in 1965 as Titles XVIII and XIX of the Social
The Older Americans Act was also enacted in 1965, establishing
the Federal Administration on Aging. Commissions on aging
were also established in most States.
In 1968, Congress passed Public Law 90-526, the White House
Conference on Aging Act. The Act instructed the President
to call a White House Conference on Aging in 1971. A three-stage
plan was developed to ensure systematic coordination among
community forums, State and regional conferences on aging,
and the national Conference. In addition, greater attention
was given to consulting and involving older people in the
Conference and its activities and to developing a system
for following up on Conference recommendations.
White House Conference on Aging
1971 White House Conference on Aging was held in Washington,
D.C., November 28 - December 2, under the Nixon Administration.
A major focus of the 1971 Conference was income maintenance.
The 1971 WHCoA was attended by more than 4,000 people
from across the United States and the Territories.
The 1971 WHCoA stimulated interest groups
to participate in the legislative process and influenced
the creation of such groups as the National Caucus on Black
Aged and the Asociacion Nacional Pro Personas Mayores (National
Association for Hispanic Elderly).
According to a 1976 report of the House
Select Committee on Aging, approximately 75 percent of
the 193 recommendations that were developed at the 1971
WHCoA had been partially or fully implemented by the U.S.
Government's legislative and executive branches. Several
outcomes included: A national nutrition program for
the older persons, and the creation of the House
Select Committee on Aging and the Federal
1981 White House
Conference on Aging
1977, Senator Frank Church and Representative Claude Pepper
introduced resolutions in the House and Senate calling
for a 1981 White House Conference on Aging. President Jimmy
Carter then signed legislation authorizing the 1981 Conference.
The Conference was held in Washington, D.C., on November
29 - December 3, 1981. The 1981 WHCoA was planned and implemented
under two administrations, those of President Jimmy Carter
and President Ronald Reagan. A major focus of the 1981
Conference was Social Security.
Planning processes for the 1981 White House Conference
on Aging were similar to those of the 1971 Conference,
including the establishment of a National Advisory Committee,
the provision of administrative support by the Department
of Health, Education, and Welfare, and a variety of meetings
and conferences at the State and local levels.
An elaborate formula was developed for the 1981 Conference
to ensure that significant segments of the population--such
as women, minorities, and the disabled--were included as
Special interest groups were allowed to hold their own "mini-conferences" in
conjunction with the national Conference.
The 1981 Conference was attended by 2,000 delegates and
1,150 observers. A three-volume report was issued by the
Conference, which included 668 official recommendations
for legislative and administrative action.
1995 White House
Conference on Aging
Bill Clinton called for the 1995 White House Conference
on Aging on February 17, 1994. The Conference had been
authorized by Congress in the 1992 amendments to the
Older Americans Act.
The 1995 White House Conference on Aging was attended by
more than 3,000 people, including 2,217 delegates from
all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the Territories.
More than 80 percent of the delegates were selected by
State Governors, Members of Congress, and constituent organizations
(including national aging organizations and veterans groups).
The specific recommendations of this Conference are the
product of a grassroots process that has taken nearly two
years to complete. More than 125,000 people participated
in over 1,000 events around the country before and after
the three-day national Conference in Washington, D.C. The
1995 White House Conference on Aging was also attended
by 280 observers--including 38 international observers--more
than 400 volunteers, and over 250 credentialed members
of the press.
The 1995 WHCoA was conducted in an environment different
from its three predecessors. The result was a more pragmatic
conference that concentrated on reaffirming support for
existing programs, especially those constituting the social
safety net for older Americans. While the Conference proposed
few new initiatives, it called for a new look at many existing
programs to ensure their continuation for present and future
generations. The essential value of Medicare, Medicaid,
and the Older Americans Act was reflected in adopted resolutions
but so, too, were calls for reform to strengthen each program.
The 1995 WHCoA made a commitment to a future national policy
focused on aging, not just the aged.
Source: Excerpts from History of White
House Conferences, Executive Summary, Mid Florida Area
Agency on Aging.