BY MAJA GAWRONSKA, MA
More than 200 people attended the March public lecture by Ai-jen Poo to learn more about empowering caregivers.
“The majority of people want to age at home. But staying in one’s community requires support from caregivers—family caregivers and professional care workers. And both are being pushed to the brink,” said Ai-jen Poo.
A national and international expert in caring for caregivers, Ms. Poo was the March keynote speaker of the public lecture series hosted by the UC San Diego Stein Institute for Research on Aging in partnership with the San Diego Foundation, the local leader of the Age-Friendly Cities Initiative.
She inspired more than two hundred in the audience at the Medical Education and Telemedicine Building at UC San Diego. Her talk, “Who Cares? Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America,” explored how domestic workers can play a key role in providing affordable care for the nation's aging population.
The lecture was moderated by Nick Macchione, director of the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. Macchione reiterated the region’s commitment to tackling the issue of aging. He also announced that during same week, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to formally enter into the AARP Network of Age Friendly Communities, a national affiliate of the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities Network.
Some crucial questions the initiative will tackle include where older adults are going to live, how they will be cared for in situations of illness and end-of-life, and who is going to pay for it all.
Ms. Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign, comes at this issue from the unique perspective of her experience organizing immigrant women workers for two decades. After noticing an increase in the number of domestic workers originally hired as nannies and housekeepers who were being asked to provide home care for their employers' aging relatives, she shifted her focus and co-created the Caring Across Generations campaign to ensure access to affordable care for the nation's aging population and access to quality jobs for the caregiving workforce. This work led to many awards and recognitions.
Ms. Poo was named a 2013 World Economic Forum young global leader and one of Fortune.com's world's fifty greatest leaders. She is a 2014 MacArthur fellow and one of Time 100’s world’s most influential people in 2012. She also is author of the book "The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America.”
“As a result of the growing need for care, caregivers are among the fastest-growing occupations in our economy today,” Ms. Poo said. “But the quality of home care jobs is extremely poor with low wages, lack of benefits, high turnover, and a high degree of stress.
“Communities must come together to create a web of public policy and community-based solutions that will bring quality care to every home.”
Caring Across Generations is working on legislation in Hawaii, the first of its kind in the nation, that would establish a social insurance fund to support the long-term care needs of aging individuals, Ms. Poo said. She also outlined her vision, called the Care Grid. The grid would unite “public, private and non-profit resources” to create “a comprehensive coordinated system in which elders can age with dignity and their caregivers, both professional paid workers and unpaid family or friends, can thrive, as well.”
In case you missed it: The video recording of this lecture is now available (see below)!
To view on YouTube, please click