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NCOA/ASA Annual Conference #1

by Louis on March 22, 2010

I had a good time seeing many friends and colleagues in my three days at the annual National Council on Aging (NCOA)/American Society on Aging (ASA) conference: Aging in America in Chicago. For some reason I was acutely aware this time that I attended my first ASA conference in 1993 in San Francisco. I can hardly believe I have been mixing in this sphere that long.

What trends did I observe in conversation and sessions?
1) A cautious optimism that healthcare reform will pass and be a good start to significant improvement in the quality and availability of health care in America and the accompanying improvement in health, wellness and quality of life for older Americans.
2) A slightly ‘mature’ attention to the big picture. This is no more than a ‘feeling’ that people seem a little more ready to think that positive change in attitude and priorities are coming. This is in spite of the grave concern for the financial picture at the personal, community, state and long term national level.

I was very excited to be on hand to congratulate them as two leading lights in Aging in Place, Home Modifications and Universal Design received significant and richly deserved awards. I am lucky to count both of these dear men as friends.

Bill Wasch, an excited and exiting advocate and ‘doer’ wrote a book called Home Planning for Your Later Years, renovated an award winning home using UD principles, has served in leadership positions at all levels, renovated his own home to Age in Place comfortably and many more accomplishments including extensive word travel, raising a wonderful family, hosting TV shows and on. He was given NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Housing (NISH) interest group’s Sid Spector Award presented to an individual who has outstanding accomplishments and achievements in the field. I was lucky to have dinner with Bill, his lovely wife Sue and accomplished UD architect daughter Christina, carrying on a years long tradition we have of sharing great food.

Jon Pynoos, probably recognized as the father of home modifications and aging in place and the name and face most associated with University of Southern California’s Andrus Gerontology Center, the founder of The National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modifications, the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence received the richly deserved ASA Award presented to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to aging-related research, administration or advocacy. I made some remarks at a reception in Jon’s honor.

When I came into this field Jon was already a legend worthy of the awe in which I held him. What happened was hardly what I expected (though I had no basis to expect anything different). Jon has been the most open, interested and encouraging mentors. I am not the only one. He has mentored so many, seeding agencies, business and universities all across the country and the world with advocates, thinkers and leaders not with ‘his vision’, but one he has grown, adapted and refined by being open, listening and respecting all. He is also a wonderful dad and husband. I am lucky to count him as a close friend.

Does the fact that these two Aging in Place advocates received awards mean that the stature, recognition, the expectation of Aging in Place has grown? Is this a sign that our cause has matured, that the tipping point is being reached, and the shift in priorities I felt is coming in our direction? I hope so.

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