‘Aging is cool, everyone is doing it’: Summit looks for opportunities to help Washingtonians age well


From left: DSHS ALTSA Assistant Secretary Bea Rector, TIA Assistant Secretary Soumam Debgupta, Special Assistant to the Secretary Lori Manning and DDA Assistant Secretary Tonik Joseph.

State leaders and advocates gathered in Tacoma on May 22 to discuss ways to ensure Washingtonians can age with dignity, fulfilment and fun at the Aging and Longevity Summit. Hosted by the Department of Social and Health Services, the Department of Health and Health Care Authority, the summit included discussions about improving quality of life as more people are living longer, how to reframe aging and avoid ageism and a look at the history and current state of long-term services and supports here in Washington.

DSHS Secretary Jilma Meneses thanked the legislators, state agencies, tribes and partners who have made a positive impact on how people age in Washington. She noted that within DSHS, the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration serves more than 80,000 Washingtonians each year, protecting vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation; regulating licensed care settings like nursing and adult family homes; and providing services and supports for the people needing care and their caregivers and families. She also recognized that Washington is a leader in supporting people as they age, being ranked second in the nation in long-term services and supports, including for family caregivers, by the AARP.

“Washington is a national leader in long-term care,” said Secretary Meneses. “We have the strongest unpaid caregiver support program in the nation, we have the only portable home care aid certification program in the nation. This definitely is a collective and it’s a collective that just cannot stop.”

Meneses also took a moment to celebrate the partnerships between DSHS and the tribes of Washington state, and the lessons they have shared.

“We have learned the value of raising up our elders,” said Meneses. “The tribes are a model for holding up your elders in love, respect and dignity.”

Governor Jay Inslee also addressed the crowd, recognizing how far he and the state have come since the first Aging and Longevity Summit in 2013. He recognized some big innovations, like the WA Cares Fund, a first-in-the-nation long-term care insurance program for Washington workers. But he says small things also make a big difference.

“I want to thank everyone for all the work they’ve done because you learn that states advance not by quantum leaps but by small steps,” said Inslee. “The small things to get better transportation for people who aren’t driving anymore to get to a senior center or to visit their grandkid. That’s a big thing in people’s lives. These little things that may not be quantum leaps forward like Social Security or Medicare but when you give somebody the opportunity like that, that is life changing.”

Facilitator Ana Pinto Da Silva and Governor Jay Inslee during a Q&A panel at the Aging & Longevity Summit.

In a moment of special recognition during the summit, Councilwoman Rosalee Levey-Jacobs of the Lummi Nation wrapped First Spouse Trudi Inslee.

Lummi councilwoman in a black shirt wraps a turquoise blanket around First Spouse Trudi Inslee
Lummi Councilwoman Rosalee Levey-Jacobs wraps First Spouse Trudi Inslee. (Photo courtesy Jim Kopriva)

“It is the Lummi way to show our love and respect for the work and the advocacy for health care that you’ve done,” Levey-Jacobs said, before wrapping Inslee in the bright turquoise blanket. “It is an honor to be with you and share the stage with you. It’s really important for us to acknowledge the more behind-the-scenes individuals, so this was just a prime opportunity for us to show you appreciation for all the work that you’ve done.”

Summit attendees learned about how to reframe aging and embrace a longevity mindset by recognizing the opportunities of people living longer lives and the importance of providing services and supports along the way. Key to meeting the needs of the growing number or people aging in Washington is multi-sector planning, or creating a coordinated system across housing, health care, transportation and more. In all, the day was a celebration of achievements as well as a call to action to ensure we continue innovations necessary to ensure that Washingtonians are able to age well.