Over 260 people participated in the 2017 National Aging and Law Conference (NALC) on October 26th and 27th at the DoubleTree Hotel in Silver Spring, Maryland. This was the Commission’s fourth year of hosting NALC, and attendance was up from just over 250 the year before. This year’s conference theme was Carry it On: Promoting Elder Rights in a New Era. The agenda contained four plenary sessions and 30 workshops across a broad spectrum of topics.
The comments of Lance Robertson, the new Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Administration for Community Living, which closed the Rapid-Fire Plenary, provided a program highlight. For most in the audience, this was the first opportunity to hear Secretary Robertson talk about his vision and goals for the Administration on Aging. He spoke of his four key issues for improving aging services: supporting families and caregivers, improving information about services, supporting community based organizations, and protecting rights and preventing abuse. (For more information see: https://www.americanbar.org/news/ abanews/aba-news-archives/2017/11/assistant_secretary.html).
Jack Rives, the Executive Director of the American Bar Association, opened the Rapid-Fire Plenary with comments about the importance of the work of advocates for older adults, especially legal aid and public interest advocates. There were seven presenters in Rapid-Fire with five minutes each on topics covering elder care, health care decision making, fraud and exploitation, guardianship and global issues in aging.
The remaining three plenary sessions focused on the conference theme of promoting elder rights in a new era and addressed major policy issues. The first plenary session was entitled Protecting the Safety Net. Participants discussed protecting and strengthening Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SSI and legal services. The second plenary addressed the importance of caregivers and the aging network. The emphasis was on how legal services and aging networks can create an environment that better supports caregivers. The last plenary focused on civil rights and older adults. Speakers focused on the challenges faced by older adults, minorities including LGBT adults, and persons with disabilities.
For the first time since 2010, NALC included a pre-conference intensive the day before the conference. The pre-conference intensive was on Supported Decision Making and Older Adults (SDM.) The agenda included a session on understanding the fundamentals of SDM, an update on SMD laws, a review of the PRACTICAL tool, a session on restoration of rights, and an hour of legal ethics and SDM. Space limited the pre-conference to 30 participants.
The Conference was made possible in part by generous support by the Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging, the AARP Foundation and Attorney Camilla McRory. Borchard provided a $15,000 donation, making possible the opening reception and enhanced audio-visual services. The AARP Foundation continued their tradition of supporting NALC by funding the Jerry D. Florence Scholarships with $10,000. The scholarships help pay the cost of attendance for 10 or more first-time attendees at NALC. Maryland Attorney Camilla McRory continued her long-term support of NALC as a break sponsor. The generous support of the sponsors makes it possible for more people to attend, pays for improvements to the attendee experience, and helps to keep the registration cost as low as possible.
In 2017, NALC hosted five exhibitors. Exhibitors offer attendees an opportunity to learn about important programs and services. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission shared a table where they distributed information about their programs and resources to help older consumers, Krause Financial Services provided information about services to help with Medicaid and other public benefits, The National Center for Victims of Crime disseminated information about programs and services for older survivors of crime, the Center for Medicare Advocacy offered advice and publications on advocacy for Medicare beneficiaries, and the National Center on Law and Elder Rights offered information about training, expert advice, technical assistance and communications tools. Exhibitors support NALC by paying for exhibit space.
It takes a village to plan NALC. Planning and production takes over a year from start to finish. Commission staff provide critical leadership, creative services and management to the process. The ABA Meetings and Travel Department handles bidding and contracting for the venue. We contract with the ABA Center for Professional Development to provide logistical support, registration set up, CLE accreditation, record keeping and reporting, and compiling and publishing the conference book. We work closely with a planning committee representing the AARP Foundation, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, the Borchard Foundation, the Weinberg Center, Center for Elder Rights Advocacy, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Justice in Aging, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, National Association of Senior Legal Hotlines, National Consumer Law Center, National Association of Legal Service Developers, and The Center for Social Gerontology. The event is co-sponsored by the ABA Commission on Disability Rights, Division for Public Services, Health Law Section, Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defenders, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Senior Lawyers Division, and Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division. Members of ABA co-sponsoring entities receive a discount on conference registration