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Q&A: A Younger Professional’s Perspective on Long-Term Care

Stria Staff July 22, 2019
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Allison Cook, MPH, is the New York Policy Manager at PHI, a national non-profit whose mission is to improve the quality of long-term care. She is also the Chief Strategist at Emerging Aging NYC, a networking group for emerging professionals in the field of aging. We asked for her perspective on young people working on the long-term care crisis.

Stria is creating a series of Q&As with young people working in the longevity market to elevate new perspectives and explore the views of future leaders in our field.

When it comes to growing older, what do you think Americans care about most?

I think everyone, no matter their age, wants to be as happy and as healthy as possible. Most older adults utilize our long-term services and supports system at some point, so it can have a huge impact on their health and happiness. That’s why I advocate for policies that improve both the quality of care and quality of life provided by our long-term services and supports system.

What keeps you up at night when you think about our aging society?

Since I was in college and learned how our long-term services and supports system works, I’ve worried about how we fund it. Medicaid is a safety net that ended up being one of the primary funders. Most people think that Medicare will cover the long-term services and supports they need, until they find out the hard way that, for the most part, it doesn’t.

We’re left with a system where low-income folks can get coverage through Medicaid. Wealthy folks can afford to pay out of pocket. But people in the middle are really struggling. I might have spent my whole life working hard to save. But, if I need services on an ongoing basis, I have to spend all of those savings in order to qualify for Medicaid and get the care I need. It’s horrible and we can do better. Some states are beginning to figure out ways to address this problem, though. I’m excited to see how Washington State’s new public long-term care insurance program works.

What do you think older people working in aging and the longevity market don’t understand younger people working in the field?

Sometimes we get written off as not knowing anything simply because we’re younger professionals. We often have to prove ourselves before people will listen. In last job, where I was directly counseling Medicare enrollees on their benefits, I would get comments like, “You’re so young! I didn’t think you would have any idea what you were talking about. But, once I realized I was wrong, I found the information you provided to be extremely helpful!”

How do you think we can engage younger people to strengthen our field?

I think we can do a lot more to engage younger people to strengthen our field. Personally, I am trying to achieve this through Emerging Aging NYC, a networking group of emerging professionals in the field of aging. Our goal is to support emerging professionals who are passionate about this field. Through our events and newsletters, we help our members build a peer network, as well as connect with established professionals and organizations.

It’s also important to change the conversation around aging, as a society. People of all ages have to be a part of that. We need to start talking about aging in positive terms, rather than something negative that should be avoided at all costs. This will help minimize the ageism experienced by older adults, and will also attract more people into the field by making this work more respected.


WANT MORE FROM ALLISON COOK? HERE’S THE BOOK SHE RECOMMENDS TO LONGEVITY MARKET PROFESSIONALS.

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