BLOOMINGTON — More Americans want to age at home rather than living in a nursing home, and those numbers will skyrocket as baby boomers reach retirement age.
But communities don't have enough services to allow the growing number of older adults to "age in place," said Mike O'Donnell, executive director of the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging.
How American society should deal with the growing number of seniors is among topics to be discussed from Sunday through Wednesday at the 2005 White House Conference on Aging in Washington, D.C.
O'Donnell and Meg Johnson, a financial services director at State Farm Insurance Cos., are among 1,200 delegates chosen for the conference. The two Bloomington delegates are among six delegates from east-central Illinois.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to be of service and to help set the agenda for aging policies over the next decade," O'Donnell said.
Johnson said, "State Farm is honored to be at the table with other leaders in the industry."
Delegates will examine 73 resolutions developed at forums throughout the country this year and will select 50 of them. In addition, delegates will identify strategies to put the resolutions into effect.
The 50 resolutions and accompanying strategies will help the president and Congress develop national aging policies for the next 10 years.
Resolutions deal with a variety of issues, including the workplace of the future, civic and community initiatives to help the burgeoning number of older people, long-term planning, health care, long-term living arrangements and community involvement opportunities for seniors.
Delegates are mandated to focus on baby boomers and current seniors, O'Donnell said. By 2030, the number of people age 65 and older will more than double to 71 million people, or 20 percent of the population, he said.
Most adults want to live out their years at home, and people born between 1946 and 1964 will be no different, O'Donnell said. But communities need to make changes to make it easier for seniors to stay at home, including focusing on city neighborhoods where many older adults live and considering the condition of sidewalks and easy access to shopping areas.
"We're looking beyond transportation and home-delivered meals," O'Donnell said, referring to existing programs for older adults.
Previous White House Conferences on Aging happened in 1961, 1971, 1981 and 1995, affecting such programs as Medicare and Medicaid's and resulting in the area agency on aging network and the national nutrition program for older adults.
O'Donnell, a member of the governing board of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, was a delegate in 1995 and hosted three forums earlier this year to prepare for this year's conference. He was chosen a delegate by the White House Conference Policy Committee.
Johnson was selected to represent State Farm. State Farm is involved as a provider of insurance products and financial services and as a member of the American Savings Education Council, which educates people on the need to save money for retirement, Johnson said.
On the Net: More information on the 2005 White House Conference on Aging is at www.whcoa.gov.