Recognizing and caring for our grandparents (National Grandparents Day) with a view towards the 2015 White House Conference on Aging

Sunday, September 7, 2014 is National Grandparents Day. What a great opportunity to recognize those that have given so much love and support! Grandparents Day was established as a national holiday in 1978 as a way to recognize and value the contributions of our nation’s seniors. Our elders have often done much to support our families in economic, emotional and spiritual ways and yet these contributions are often overlooked and unappreciated.

In the years since the establishment of National Grandparents Day, there has been a grandparents boom with the numbers rising from 40 million in 1980 to 65 million in 2011 and an estimated 80 million in 2020. This “Elder Boom” is not a crisis but a blessing. We’re living longer and have the opportunity to spend more time together. The question is how do we live as we age?

Our friends at Caring Across Generations have run a summer long campaign “ThrowbackSummer” to celebrate the culture, memories and relationships that unite us across generations. Their goal is to build a national movement to transform the way we care in this country. And that includes caring for our elders.

Right now, our country has no comprehensive plan to care for our aging parents and grandparents. More broadly, seven in ten of us will need home care at some point in our lives, due to disability or the simple natural process of getting older. And the vast majority of us – 90% – would prefer to stay at home instead of being placed in a facility. But for too many of us, home care is not an option.

Grandparents Day is the perfect time to discuss issues such as long-term care. The process of aging, or losing mobility due to disability, can also be scary and challenging for many people – and therefore something that most people want to avoid thinking about. Our grandparents have done so much for us. SEARAC’s Bao Lor learned about love and courage and hard work from her grandpa, a refugee from Laos. However some grandparents can face a wide range of challenges when performing primary childcare for their grandchildren. Now it is time to consider what we can and should do for them so that they can age with dignity and independence.

Preparations have begun for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA). Occurring every ten years, the WHCOA is an opportunity to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans (our grandparents) for the next decade. In late July, Cecilia Munoz, an Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, outlined possible themes for next year’s WHCOA:

  • Retirement security – Financial security in retirement provides essential peace of mind for older Americans
  • Long-term services and supports – Older Americans prefer to remain independent in the community as they age but need supports such as a caregiving network and well-supported workforce
  • Healthy aging – As medical advances progress, the opportunities for older Americans to maintain their health and vitality should progress as well
  • Protection – Seniors, particularly the oldest, can be vulnerable to financial exploitation, abuse and neglect. Protect seniors from those seeking to take advantage of them

In honor of National Grandparents Day, the Diverse Elders Coalition recognizes and appreciates the many and varied contributions of our nation’s seniors. In the year ahead, we plan to ensure the voices and needs of our diverse communities are fully represented in the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.

Thank You Grandparents!

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy NHCOA

Photo: courtesy NHCOA

Patrick Aitcheson is the Interim National Coordinator for the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.