Following President Joe Biden’s joint address to Congress, The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — is commending his call for public investment in infrastructure across many dimensions that will impact the nation’s well-being.
“We thank the Biden Administration for recognizing family caregivers in its American Families Plan by including a comprehensive national paid family medical leave program,” said GSA CEO James Appleby, BSPharm, MPH, ScD (Hon). “The program will allow people to manage their health and the health of their families, which will benefit us all as we age.”
GSA recently signed on to a letter to the administration sponsored by the National Alliance for Caregiving, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, and The Arc calling for a national paid family and medical leave program that meets basic standards to protect and support all types of caregivers.
According to “Caregiving in the United States 2020,” a joint report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, “one in 10 working caregivers have had to give up work entirely or retire early. When this happens, caregivers more often face financial impacts and are twice as likely to report high financial strain.”
Additionally, GSA supports measures in the American Families Plan to provide four additional years of public education, including pre-school and community college, and invest in making college more affordable for low- and middle-income students, including those at minority-serving institutions.
“Research demonstrates that increased education not only benefits us economically, it also improves our health,” Appleby said.
One recent study in GSA’s The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences found that people with more education have lower prevalence of dementia, more years of cognitively healthy life, and fewer years with dementia. Another study points to the potential value of education both for reducing overall dementia burden in the older population and also for decreasing race disparities — reporting that dementia experience and dementia burden differ dramatically along race–education lines, and that race and education combine to exaggerate disparities and they both have enduring effects.
“We also greatly appreciate the administration’s continued efforts to make COVID-19 vaccinations available for all throughout this pandemic,” Appleby said. “As we move into new phases of recovery and beyond, we are reminded of the continued importance of providing access to all vaccines for older people.”
The Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act of 2021, for example, would help inform more Medicare beneficiaries about that program’s coverage for vaccines, while bringing parity between out-of- pocket costs between Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D.
And as a professional membership society whose mission is to cultivate excellence in interdisciplinary aging research and education to advance innovations in practice and policy, GSA also applauds the president’s recognition of the need for continued investment in research and development to produce breakthroughs to prevent and treat diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer.
“We look forward to continuing the discussion in approaches to investing in research funding — particularly as we know it will impact not only our lifespans but also our quality of life,” Appleby said.