AgeOptions to host aging network summit to celebrate 50 years as the Area Agency on Aging for older adults and family caregivers in suburban Cook County

Champion Awards to honor state lawmakers Lightford, Murphy, Hernandez and Lilly, and former senator Gillespie for their legislative support and advocacy

AgeOptions, a leader in serving and advocating for older adults, is hosting an aging network summit to celebrate its 50th anniversary on Thursday, June 20 at the Hyatt Lodge, 2815 Jorie Blvd., in Oak Brook. The nonprofit was established as an Area Agency on Aging on June 20, 1974, under the federal Older Americans Act to promote better health outcomes and quality of life so older adults can live their lives to the fullest and remain in their homes for as long as possible.

The summit kicks off at 10 a.m. and includes a full-day roster of speakers who will share their thought leadership and best practices for designing programs and services to meet the growing needs of adults who are 60-plus and unpaid family caregivers, including those caring for disabled adults 18 and older and grandparents raising grandchildren.

Since AgeOptions was founded, the older adult population in suburban Cook County has grown exponentially, from 238,000 in 1970, to more than 600,000 in 2023. Over the years, this steady uptick has increased demand for home-delivered meals and programs and services to combat social isolation and elder financial abuse, to foster belonging, to better integrate social care with hospitals and managed care organizations, and to support family caregivers.

“The youngest of the Baby Boomer generation turns 60 this year. We’ve been preparing for this generation since the agency was established. I joined in 1976, and we saw then that we were going to run out of space in nursing homes and other care options for older adults. So, we’re stepping into a future where demand for services and support will remain at a consistently high level for years to come,” said Diane Slezak, president and CEO of AgeOptions. “We’ve had time to plan but the funding hasn’t kept pace. That’s why it is critically important for our service providers and partner agencies with boots on the ground to come together and share their challenges and best ideas to create a plan for the future.”

Here are the summit highlights:

10:40-11:55 a.m.: Robyn Golden, associate vice president of Social Work and Community Health and chair of the Department of Social Work at Rush University Medical Center, will give a presentation on “Coming of Age: Social Determinants Matter.”

1:20-2 p.m.: Janine Hill, Ph.D., president of Soar Strategies, a coaching and consulting firm focused on program, policy and organizational development of the social good sector, will present, “DEIB Done Right: A Model for Our Current Climate.”

2:25-3:15 p.m.: Sandy Markwood, CEO of USAging, will give the presentation, “Driving Change: Support for Caring and Caregiver Communities.”

3:30-4:30 p.m.: Laura Washington, Chicago Tribune contributing columnist and ABC 7 Chicago political analyst, will moderate the discussion “Aging in Place: Meeting Evolving Needs” with representatives from the Alzheimer’s Association, AARP, the Illinois Caregiver Association and the Illinois Commission on LGBTQ+ Aging.

6:30-7:15 p.m.: Following “Fifty Years Is Only the Beginning,” by aging advocate Bill Benson, state Rep. Camille Lilly, Mary Killough, director, Illinois Department on Aging; Megan Huisingh-Scheetz, associate professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, University of Chicago; and Mary O’Donnell, president and CEO, RRF Foundation for Aging will participate in a panel and Q&A.

7:15-7:30 p.m.: The summit culminates with the Champion Awards honoring aging network allies in the General Assembly: Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford, Sen. Laura M. Murphy, state Reps. Linda Hernandez and Camille Lilly, and former state senator, Ann Gillespie.

About AgeOptions

AgeOptions advocates, plans, develops and funds programs and coordinates a network of community-based senior service agencies to ensure an effective and efficient system of service delivery. Support is provided through the Older Americans Act, Illinois General Revenue Funds, local funds, and individual contributions. In 2023, AgeOptions and its partners served 230,976 individuals in 130 communities within 30 townships that have diverse populations of more than 602,017 older adults. AgeOptions has served older adults of suburban Cook County and their caregivers as an Area Agency on Aging since 1974. F

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