Significant accomplishments marked the White House Conference on Aging, January 9–12. It took long strides toward the solution of a problem too long ignored and too little understood. Religion was recognized as a major factor in the ultimate answer.
The United States government has been shocked into action by the realization that there are now over 50 million Americans 45 and older who are facing retirement. Increasing longevity indicates that by the year 2000 two out of every three persons reaching 60 will have a living parent or close relative over 80. Unemployment, medical care, and scores of other emergencies confronting aging citizens cry for immediate action by community, state and nation.
The Washington conference drew 2,700 official delegates from 53 states and territories and 308 participating national organizations. Key federal agencies, the Congress, and state welfare departments were represented. President Eisenhower expressed the general feeling of many of the leaders when he said, “In striving to achieve a better life for all our people, we must give proper regard to the needs and abilities of our older citizens. The opportunity to live a dignified, productive and satisfying life in old age is the aspiration of every citizen and an important goal of our American society.”
Twenty citizen-directed sections—including “Religion and the Aging”—dealt openly and freely with all phases of aging. Politics catapulted health care into the spotlight. Seven sections were swamped with discussions over relative merits of the Kerr-Mills law and the Kennedy proposal of broader benefits under the Social Security system. Six out of the seven favored the new plan and it is believed that coming legislation will reflect that view.
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