The most interesting thing about the conference may be what isn't being discussed -- which includes social security, and access to elder services for LGBT and other minorities.
As a delegate, my only officially sanctioned input is to vote "yes" for 30 to 50 pre-written resolutions, with no opportunity to add, delete, modify, or otherwise effect the resolutions in any way. Once the top 50 are selected, I get to contribute thoughts on implementation in brainstorming sessions.
The kicker is that the vast majority of resolutions are so bland as to be completely no-brainers, and the focus of the conference is on exercise and health living. Exercise and healthy living are great ideas, but not national policy issues. Improving access to care, addressing inherent discrimination in federal programs, and taking seriously the logistics and costs of our aging population are worthy policy issues. These are being given short shrift.
I spent much of my day with the "Diversity in Aging Coalition" folks, who take seriously LGBT and other minority issues in elder care. Imagine your life partner dying in a alone in a hospital bed while you are kept at a nursing station because you are gay. Imagine being unable to make medical decisions for your partner because the hospital and state won't recognize your union. Imagine loosing the home you shared because Medicaid doesn't consider you married -- even in Massachusetts where we have state same-sex marriage. (The federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law under Clinton, ensures this.) Imagine being terrified of assisted living -- not just for all of the usual reasons, but also because you will be helpless and dependent on people who may not approve of your lifestyle, who may try to "fix" you. This is the reality for many LGBT seniors today.
Everyone knows that the Bush administration assault on Social Security and Medicare has been an abject failure -- so far. However, it is too soon to declare victory. The assault is still on and the WHCoA 2005 proves it. Many delegates just assume that we've won this one, but unless we keep the pressure on Congress until this administration is out of office we could still loose. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is a great organization that is working to do just that.
The real meta-problem is the lack of delegate input into the agenda-setting process. Most all of the delegates I've met are savvy, involved people with a lot of insight and a lot of compassion. We could write a kick-ass agenda for this conference if they let us. There are some petitions circulating to try to force delegate agenda items into the program -- we'll see where that goes. Look for a ruckus on the floor sometime tomorrow, and some press conferences to follow.