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2005 White House Conference on Aging

The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation was intimately involved with the White House Conference on Aging, held every decade by congressional mandate. The GMHF held an officially sanctioned "mini White House Conference on Aging" in March 2005 as a consumer town hall to prepare recommendations to the Conference specific to late-life mental illness. Clayton Fong, a member of the White House Conference on Aging Policy Committee, participated in that meeting. Three of the GMHF's Board of Directors were delegates to the actual conference and were vocal proponents of mental health provisions in the final Conference Report. It is largely due to their vigilance and persistence that the final report was so inclusive of mental health as a priority for our aging nation.

Delegates to the 2005 White House Conference on Aging focused on mental health, making it a priority for the first time in the Conference's history. Delegates from around the country representing diverse perspectives and issues agreed on 50 recommendations to send to the president and Congress on the pressing aging issues of today and the future. Recognizing the current health and mental health needs of older Americans and the challenges awaiting as the Baby Boom generation ages, delegates voted to place at the forefront mental health and geriatric health professional training issues by voting them among the top 10 resolutions:

  1. Reauthorize the Older Americans Act within the first six months following the 2005 White House Conference on Aging
  2. Develop a coordinated, comprehensive long-term care strategy by supporting public and private sector initiatives that address financing, choice, quality, service delivery, and the paid and unpaid workforce
  3. Ensure that older Americans have transportation options to retain their mobility and independence
  4. Strengthen and improve the Medicaid program for seniors
  5. Strengthen and improve the Medicare program
  6. Support geriatric education and training for all healthcare professionals, paraprofessionals, health profession students, and direct care workers
  7. Promote innovative models of non-institutional long-term care
  8. Improve recognition, assessment, and treatment of mental illness and depression among older Americans
  9. Attain adequate numbers of healthcare personnel in all professions who are skilled, culturally competent, and specialized in geriatrics
  10. Improve state and local based integrated delivery systems to meet 21st century needs of seniors

"Older adults and their advocates are much more aware of the disabling and tragic consequences of mental illness in late life, especially depression, anxiety and the agitation that is associated with dementia. They also recognize that we can do something about it," explained Dan Blazer, MD, MPH, PhD, a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging, then GMHF board member, and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine. At the time of the Conference, Blazer was also president of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry.