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Conference Explores How to Make Future Elder-Friendly

There are more than 800,000 family caregivers in Washington state. (Hauoratrust/Wikimedia Commons)
There are more than 800,000 family caregivers in Washington state. (Hauoratrust/Wikimedia Commons)
September 14, 2017

SEATTLE – Health care professionals, providers and educators are gathering to brainstorm ideas for making sure the future is more friendly for older Americans.

The sixth annual Elder Friendly Futures Conference is taking place at the University of Washington Thursday and Friday and bringing together experts to share ideas on the future of elder care.

Featured speaker Lynn Friss Feinberg, a senior strategic policy adviser with the AARP Public Policy Institute, says the country's rapidly aging population combined with historical factors are contributing to the changing picture of family care.

"Family care today takes place in a very different world from that of my grandparents' generation when there were many more siblings in a family to help share the care for an older family member, for example – when women were less likely to be in the paid workforce," she states.

More than 800,000 Washingtonians are family caregivers, according to AARP, volunteering their time and often spending their own money to support loved ones.

Feinberg says Washington state is on the right track when it comes to supporting family caregivers and has become an example for the rest of the country.

"A number of initiatives that have been enacted in Washington state, like paid family leave, simply have not happened across the country as yet, but we're optimistic," she points out.

At the national level, Feinberg hopes to see passage of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, which would provide a blueprint to better recognize and support caregiving families.

She says another helpful bill is the Credit for Caring Act, which would provide tax credits to family caregivers who support loved ones.

All of this could be part of a larger shift in the way the country thinks about caregiving, and Feinberg says both the public and the private sector need to be involved.

"We will have to shift, I believe, from just looking at family care like in the old days as an individual family responsibility to the modern world and the future where it will be more of a shared societal responsibility," she stresses.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA