The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) takes place only once every 10 years. Given the topic’s importance, one would reasonably expect quite a bit of hoopla to accompany this more-rare-than-a-blue-moon event.

Quite the contrary. Since the passage of the Older American Act in 1965, prior conference had 1,000 or more delegates and met over a few days. This time around, there were no delegates, but 200 instead people were invited to the national event. This time around the conference lasted only one day; it was held July 13. One reporter dubbed the event “The Conference on Aging that Wasn’t.”

Congress hadn’t reauthorized the Older Americans Act so there was no funding for the traditional multi-day event. As a result of the severe time constraint, the day’s content focused on 4 subjects,. Unfortunately, none of the four was how to pay for long term care.

If one were cynical, you could reflect that Congress’ lack of attention to the WHCOA – and the agenda for the event itself – reflected the greater population’s widespread denial of the importance of planning for how to pay for an extended old age. Long term care planning is the kind of topic that individuals, politicians, and even whole countries like to ignore.

Belle Likover, an elderly woman who commented at a regional forum leading up to the 2015 WHCOA:

“In 1995, I met Claude Pepper [the late politician and advocate for elderly rights] at the WHCOA,” said Belle Likover, “and the thing that strikes me is that the issues are the same issues year after year, decade after decade.”

By 2030, one in every 5 Americans will be age 65 or older. Experts agree it’s best to plan for future long term care costs by age 50 or 60 or so (the sooner one plans, the more affordable and attractive the options).

So, where are the widespread national initiatives to wake up Americans to the important of this planning? Why aren’t most politicians, legal and financial advisors strongly urging their constituents and clients to take action now (while they still can)?

Could the answer actually be that Americans are so afraid of aging that most won’t financially plan for the end of a very long life?

As you know, in my line of work I help people plan for the likelihood that, if they live long enough, they will need long term care.   It’s clearer to me now than ever before: the imperative to personally plan for how to fund long term care could not be more important. Now is the time to encourage those you care about to examine long term care insurance or other funding programs.

For heavens’ sake, if you haven’t yet done so, look into a plan for yourself. It seems that the idea there will be a widespread bailout of the population that has failed to plan is more dangerous and folly than ever.

How often is a blue moon?

NPR coverage:

White house fact sheet

Sherman Siek column (Belle Lipover quote)