Our CEO at the White House

July 14, 2015 - Serving Seniors

What does it mean to get older in 2015? The President of the United States convened a group of the nation’s top experts and leaders on older Americans to answer this question at the White House Conference on Aging on July 13. Among those in the group of about 200 attendees was our president and CEO, Paul Downey.


“It was very exciting to be part of the White House Conference on Aging.  Sitting in the East Room of the White House listening to an inspirational speech by the President that touched on our core values of assisting seniors in need and doing so with passion was very moving.   The rest of the sessions, which included the Secretaries of HHS, Labor, Agriculture and the Surgeon General, were also important because they emphasized the importance of strong and supportive policies for our nation’s seniors.”

Paul Downey, and West Health’s CEO, Shelley Lyford, attended the once-in-a-decade conference, to be part of the conversation about planning for retirement, caring for older loved ones, and working to improve our quality of life as we age.


2015 also marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. These reminders of where we have been helped set the stage for discussions about our booming population of seniors.

“In just about every field, Americans who once might have been dismissed as out of touch or past their primes are making vital contributions in every field. And all of us, as a consequence, are able to raise our own ambitions about what we hope to achieve in our golden years,” said President Obama in his remarks to the group.

More than 70 million Baby Boomers are rapidly aging and putting unprecedented pressure on the long-term care industry. The way caregiving is managed today will not be sustainable for the future, said panelists. Mirian Rose, a senior research analyst at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging in Cleveland, advocates providing family caregivers with respite care—planned and funded temporary relief.

“Most people don’t have long-term care insurance,” said Rose. “They think Medicare is going to pay for a nursing home or long-term home health services, and that is not true. So there’s a lot of education and more thinking at the policy level that needs to happen.”

About 15 percent of Americans who are over age 65 and who seek out long-term care are living below the poverty level, according to data collected by the Family Caregiver Alliance. The “oldest old”—people over age 85—are among the fastest growing segments of the population, and they are the ones that will need the most support going forward, both financially and emotionally.

“One of the best measures of a country is how it treats its older citizens,” said President Barak Obama in his remarks at the conference. “We have to work to do more to ensure that every older American has the resources and the support they need to thrive.”

WHCOA Watch Party

The Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center was one of four locations in San Diego to host a Watch Party, with the event live-streamed into the Gathering Place as well as the Dining Room for seniors to watch and discuss.

“Perhaps the most important thing from the conference was, at least for a day, the nation (and the media) talked aging policy,” says Paul. We couldn’t agree more.

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