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The 2005 White House Conference on Aging is the first White House Conference on Aging of the 21st Century.

 

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History

The WHCoA Conferences

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.

1961 White House Conference on Aging

1961 White House Conference on Aging Congressman 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 State conferences.

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, and Welfare.

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 AARP.
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 Security Act. 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.

1971 White House Conference on Aging

1971 White House Conference on Aging The 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 Council on Aging.

1981 White House Conference on Aging

1981 White House Conference on Aging In 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 delegates.

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

1995 White House Conference on Aging President 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.

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