Making 2021 Better Than 2020

Conversations with Katie | December 09, 2020

President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan shares the LeadingAge Action Plan for the Biden-Harris Administration.

December is a month of contradictions for most of us.

On the one hand, we want to slow down a bit as the year winds down, quietly reflecting on the successes and setbacks of the past 12 months. On the other hand, the year’s final month can also be our busiest, filled with frenetic planning for how we will do things differently in the new year.

The annual ritual of looking back and looking ahead is even more poignant and important this year, as we wonder how we can make sure 2021 is better than 2020.

We have much to reflect on, and much to grieve over, as we ponder this COVID year. We will face more pandemic-related challenges when the new year dawns and we continue fighting a winter surge in COVID-19 cases that promises to be the worst we have seen to date.

But, in another seeming contradiction, I believe 2021 will also give us great opportunities to safeguard and improve the lives of the older adults we serve—first by working with pharmacies and local public health officials to vaccinate residents and staff, and then by using what we learned during the pandemic to transform our organizations and our field.

The new year will also bring us a new federal administration in Washington—another source of both challenges and opportunities that LeadingAge is already embracing.

It’s always challenging to adjust to changes in the leadership of government agencies and offices with which we work so closely. Getting to know our new colleagues in the administration—and letting them get to know us—is a big job. But we have been successful in building these important relationships in the past and we are confident we can do it again as the new administration takes shape.

We’re already taking full advantage of opportunities to help the presidential transition team understand the hopes and dreams of older Americans, and the reforms that are desperately needed to ensure that older adults are able to live their best lives.

This week, LeadingAge and the Visiting Nurse Association of America (VNAA) sent President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris the LeadingAge Action Plan for the Biden-Harris Administration. I urge you to read the plan, which outlines nearly 4 dozen actions that we are asking the new administration to take in its first 30 days, 100 days, and first year. These actions fall into 3 main categories:

Fight COVID and its devastating impact on older people, and fortify aging services to keep older adults—and everyone—healthy and safe.

Our 17 recommended actions address the need to offer long-term care providers the financial relief they need, increase access to personal protective equipment and testing, strengthen the long-term care workforce, and translate the lessons of COVID into long-term care system and finance reform.

Ensure that older adults get the health and long-term care they need.

Our 14 recommended actions address the need to test alternative delivery and payment models, expand internet connectivity for healthcare, and take a variety of steps to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Ensure older adults have access to affordable housing connected to services.

Our 15 recommended actions underscore the need to recognize the expanded population of older adults with very low incomes who are severely burdened by their housing costs. We call on the administration to expand the supply of affordable housing, increase support for housing providers, and help affordable senior housing communities become platforms for delivery of services that older adults need to remain healthy and independent.

I have no doubt that 2021 will be a year filled with challenges. But I also believe firmly that the coming year can be a new beginning for older adults. Our action plan lays out a framework that we believe will help the Biden-Harris Administration meet the challenges and seize the opportunities that 2021 presents—by taking on COVID-19 and making our country a better place for millions of Americans to grow old.