Pagan Kennedy, author of "Inventology: How we dream up things that change the world," wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times recently. In it, she asserted that "we assume that creativity and innovation belong to the young. We're wrong." She went on to report about the number of patents in information technology, materials science, and the life sciences granted to people in the second half of life. They tower above those in their younger years. Why should this surprise us? The 94-year old scientist she wrote about, Dr John Goodenough, shared the observation that "you have to draw on a fair amount of experience in order to be able to put ideas together."


It sounds so logical and yet, our society continues to cast aside the wisdom of the ages with assumptions that are ageist. While we all won't invent something deserving of a patent, wisdom and experience produce invaluable insights. Among these are lessons we share with our children, decisions that draw on experiences, perspective that comes with having witnessed past events, and the "intellectual freedom" Dr. Goodenough describes, that expands our thinking.


Examples of disregarding people because of assumptions associated with their age are rampant. We see examples in advertising, the workplace, and in policy debates, particularly relevant today as Congress considers replacements to the ACA, which would significantly impact Medicaid.

Our priority in the Medicaid debate is to protect the structure and financing of this critical program. It will remain a priority for us as changes to the program are likely to reemerge in the coming weeks and months. LeadingAge is proud to stand with other Medicaid advocates in our shared commitment to older adults, children, people with disabilities, and those in financial need. Age is not a differentiator; Medicaid, as a critical program that touches all ages, is a tie that binds.


In the end, it comes down to a deep belief in the worth of all people, regardless of age. As we advocate for a more rational regulatory system for nursing homes, an increase in the supply of affordable housing, and the preservation of Medicaid, we are mindful of the needs of individuals, their families, providers, and communities. There is little that LeadingAge members do that doesn't have a ripple effect on each of these stakeholders.

We must continue to be vigilant about drawing on that “fair amount of experience” that Dr. Goodenough talks about as we advocate for what is right. In our policy work and in our to day interactions, Carol Silver Elliott, president and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, reminds us that, “We are all individuals, regardless of age and ability. We need to remember that and to help others remember it as well."