The following interview took place during the recent “Aging in America Conference” by ASA in Chicago, March 24, 2017. We talked before her presentation. It was recorded by phone and transcribed.
Nora Super, the former Executive Director of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging attended the Conference, made presentations and trained new leaders to serve Older Adults in America.
–[Andrew Mikolajczyk] What were the biggest/most important objectives of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging?
–[NORA SUPER- NS] The 2015 White House Conference on Aging really recognized the growing population of Older Americans and how as a country we really need to be prepared for both that so many Americans are growing older but this is really an opportunity to embrace this change so when people are growing older, they are looking for new ways as we have now the longevity dividend for living 30 years beyond living 65.
They are looking for opportunities to work, to volunteer, to be active and engaged. They also need to know how to take care of themselves by exercising, by keeping their brains healthy, by being engaged in the community, by being civically active. We see this more and more.
This is really an exciting time to do that. In some ways it is also distressing because we see lack of commitment to provide the funding for many of the programs that we have been involved over the years.
We see also a new engagement of citizens young and old on many of these issues. That’s also very exciting.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you. Everyone is very good.
— [AM] Thank you. You have inspired me and many other professionals for better and more engaged service. The White House Conferences on Aging are organized every 10 years. It is very significant for the United States.
What was the best or the most important lesson that you learned by yourself?
–[NS] I will hope that we will have it more often that every ten years, especially when we have more people who are getting older so we would be able to use the technology as we do it over here, when I am able to talk to your phone and you are able to use technology to reach millions of people.
We were able to reach millions of people around the country. We are able to connect people through technology around the world. This is another thing that as we age we can use technology that can make us more mobile and more connected to people so that we can conquer issues such as social isolation, depression, mobility, such issues that challenge us, like functional limitations. Opportunities are endless as we look how we can embrace the change as a way to live more fully as we age.
–[AM] The other lesson that I learned during the 2015 White House Conference on Aging is that you used an interdisciplinary approach to Aging issues, not only the US Health Department, the Justice Department and the United States Housing and Urban Department to work on different issues. It was impressive.
–[NS] That’s absolutely true. That’s the power of being at the White House. It was also new to me. My background is in mainly in the health care services. I had worked with the Department of Health and Human Services throughout my career.
When I was at the White House we were able to work with the Department of Treasury, the Department of Labor, Housing and Urban Development and many other departments that I had not been engaged before. They all have aging programs too. They all recognize that it is an important part of our country and what we are doing.
We were able to engage the power of all those organizations, Department of Transportation. As we know transportation is critically important to us as we age. This is what is so important.
Even when I left the White House we were able to bring together the public and private resources. It is also very important as all of us collaborate together.
–[AM] I have been working in Affordable Housing, coordinating social services for Older Adults. You have a large perspective on issues related to housing and social programs. What do you think as the national leader on Aging issues about these two areas?
–[NS] Housing is a critical component. As people age they need an affordable, accessible housing. We often do not think about that.
Where we live that really matters, how healthy we are. There are countless examples that I can tell you.
As we look into innovations as we age – many other countries are doing better job in thinking about it as people move away from their parents, do not stay where they are – we do not have the same support as we had when we had a multi-generations.
People want to live in multi-generational communities. When we look into other nations and also in some parts of the USA, we see opportunities to have multi-generational housing where we can depend on each other.
As I age I want to be around younger people. My kids may not be necessarily near me or my grandchildren. They can help me to get a ride to a doctor or I can help them babysitting with their kids.
All of these things really contribute to your health. We know that social isolation contributes to whether you are depressed or not. We have countless examples that people can get to their medical appointments if they have someone who can give them a ride to their doctor.
The type of housing that you have will help you to get exercise or not.
If your house has suitable heating, if the air quality is good – you know all of it. But if health care industry is more aware about the social determinants of health and how it contributes to whether you are healthy. We are bringing it more to health care system.
We are trying to balance how much money we are spending on the acute care side. We are looking more at the living environment that people have.
–[AM] What is the significance of the “Aging in America” Conference in Chicago that we are attending?
–[NS] This Conference brings people from different disciplines all over the aging sector. We have clinicians, geriatricians, gerontologists, social workers, policy makers, people from Washington who are advocates who are advocating for different programs, lobbyists, people from community based organizations, people who are trying to make communities more loveable, more dementia friendly.
This is the largest attendance during the conferences that they had. It shows the concerns that people have about the programs that are at risk right now. People have an interest in aging. This is really a critical time that we are working on these issues. We need as many people as possible.
–[AM] Thank you and I wish you all the best in your new area of work.
–[NS] Thank you.
Nora Super , Andrew Mikolajczyk and Kathy Greenlee
It was a great honor to meet Nora Super and Kathy Greenlee, the former Administrator of the Administration of the Community Living (ACL) and the former Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,during ASA Conference in Chicago, March 20-24, 2017. They have incredible knowledge, skills and experience to share with new generation of professionals serving Older Adults in the United States of America.
2015 White House Conference on Aging (2015WHCA) – Final Report
Please check frequent updates on ASA website: http://www.asaging.org
@ Andrew (Andrzej) Mikolajczyk