left to right — Bob Carter, Strategy Advisor for Age-Friendly Sarasota, Jim Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging, and Bob Blancato, president of Matz, Blancato & Associates

Revisiting the Florida Conference on Aging

Posted on August 22, 2018 by Bob Carter
Editor's Note: From left to right — Bob Carter, Strategy Advisor for Age-Friendly Sarasota, Jim Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging, and Bob Blancato, president of Matz, Blancato & Associates.

I’ve always been struck by the aspirational and inspirational quotations ever-present on the walls at The Patterson Foundation (TPF). The quotation “The important things in life are the connections you make with others” recently took on special meaning as I revisited an annual gathering that had a major impact on my professional career. The Florida Conference on Aging was held this year in Tampa Florida. It’s presented by the Florida Council on Aging in partnership with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and the Florida Association of Aging Services Providers. The majority of conference attendees come from providers of government and locally supported aging services programs. For decades I actively worked in this aging network. Besides learning about program innovation and policy issues, it was a great time to connect, learn, and share with colleagues from around the state. My one-day attendance this year was from a decidedly different vantage point than my prior professional life as a nonprofit leader. Now my presence was as a consultant for the Age-Friendly Sarasota movement actively supported by The Patterson Foundation. As I viewed former colleagues still dealing with ongoing bureaucratic issues and funding challenges, I was reminded of how easy it is to get stuck in the “what is” world. To my good fortune, my current consulting situation encourages visioning beyond, into the world of “what could be.”

The conference usually features national speakers. This year’s included Dr. Whitney Bailey from the U. S. Administration for Community Living (ACL), Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of AARP Foundation, and Dr. Sara Czaja of Weill Cornell Medicine. Also featured was Bob Blancato, President of Matz, Blancato & Associates and Chair of the American Society on Aging. Bob has numerous other impressive national aging network credentials and presented an update on what is happening in Washington D.C. This year’s motivational speaker was Donavan Darius, former NFL star with the Jacksonville Jaguars and now speaker, author, and life coach. The workshop tracks this year included care management, policy, senior centers, and memory disorders. The good news for attendees open to new ideas is that such opportunities exist at the conference. Workshops like the “Aging Mastery Program” and “Age-Friendly Communities” provided the opportunity for those interested to think well beyond the status quo. For those of you who have read some of my previous blogs about Age-Friendly Communities, I encourage you to visit the AARP website to keep current on the ever-growing age-friendly movement and other important aging related information.

The Aging Mastery Program (AMP) workshop presented by Jim Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging (NCOA) deserves additional special mention. For us who work in the field of aging, Jim is a rock star. He’s been at NCOA for decades and is an innovator, advocate, and leader extraordinaire. The AMP program is a creative engagement and incentive program designed to support older adults’ actions to improve their health and well being. It has already had over 10,000 participants at over 250 sites nationally. In our region, the Friendship Centers, Meals on Wheels Plus, Aging in Paradise, and JFCS have all offered such programming with topics that include exercise, sleep, healthy eating & hydration, financial fitness, advance planning, healthy relationships, medication management, community engagement, and falls prevention. As Jim puts it, “it’s a playbook for aging well.” Self-directed and other specialty versions continue to be developed. I encourage you to visit the NCOA website to learn about the great things they are doing to support optimal aging.

The 2018 Florida Conference on Aging offered such visionary workshops and more. It continues to provide some unique opportunities, if even for a short while, for attendees to glimpse beyond their current situations into the world of “what could be.” At its best, the Conference is an uplifting experience, expanding the positive elements of connecting within a learning and sharing environment. I was very fortunate to attend and re-connect.

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