Interview with d.health Co-host Shelley Lyford
President & CEO, West Health
What inspired West Health to take a leading role in d.health 2017?
It is a critical time for successful aging in America. We need to inspire new thinking and create and foster new models of care that are specific to the needs of our nation’s seniors. The number of seniors is growing at a faster rate than ever before, and we can no longer rely on systems of care that are not scaled, structured or responsive to the country’s large and growing population of older adults.
The theme for this year’s d.health Summit is Successful Aging 2030, and, if we hope to affect meaningful change, the time for action is now. We must come together as individuals, caregivers, business leaders, healthcare providers, advocates and community groups to ensure successful aging is a reality for all Americans. The Summit provides a forum for these important collaborations and for exchanges of information, knowledge and best practices that can make a meaningful difference in the lives of seniors and their families.
What does West Health hope to accomplish with this collaboration?
Through collaborations in applied medical and policy research, advocacy and outcomes-based philanthropy, West Health is becoming a catalyst for the development of more senior-specific solutions that are holistic, integrated, coordinated, accessible and affordable. The d.health Summit assembles some of the leading thinkers and doers in the world of aging. Together these individuals and the groups they represent have the power to make a meaningful difference in the lives of seniors today and help put the country on course for a better tomorrow. We have a common goal and mission: to enable seniors to age in place, with access to high-quality, affordable health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence.
What does West Health bring to this year’s Summit that is new and different?
This year, we are excited to collaborate on the first pre-Summit Visioning Session where leaders and top experts from the worlds of healthcare, social services, technology and business will analyze the challenges facing seniors and the opportunities we have to create a better future for an aging America. The group will work on developing a national roadmap for successful aging.
We will discuss this roadmap during a session at d.health 2017 and invite attendees to share their perspectives and vision for successful aging in America.
Talk about recent West Health achievements or initiatives that have improved the lives of older Americans.
In 2016, we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Gary and Mary West Foundation, which has awarded more than $175 million in grants to more than 400 organizations working to improve the lives of seniors and their families.
The Foundation also provided funding for the launch of two new models of care in San Diego, one focused on oral health and the other on geriatric emergency care for seniors. The Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center provides dental care integrated with comprehensive health and wellness services for lower-income seniors. We also established the Gary and Mary West Senior Emergency Care Unit, which provides comprehensive, senior-specific emergency care at UC San Diego Health. We are conducting applied medical research through the West Health Institute on both of these models of care and will share our learnings with key stakeholders and policy makers to encourage broader adoption.
This year’s Summit theme is Successful Aging 2030 – how does West Health envision the future of Aging in America?
By 2030, we envision a more integrated and coordinated system of care with senior-specific models of care that address both the medical and non-medical needs of older adults and their families.
Additionally, we believe home-centered and community-based care models will be more pervasive and serve as a highly effective complement to care delivery in hospitals. We will be in a better position to deliver health and supportive care where it’s best for the individual. For many seniors, especially for those dealing with chronic disease, the best place is in their own homes or alternative sites of care within their communities.
If you had the opportunity to meet with President Trump, what questions would you ask him related to aging?
- Achieving adequate nutrition is essential to the basic health of seniors and a challenge for those who are vulnerable due to having lower incomes and being home-bound. President Trump, when your original budget proposal was released in March, there were proposed cuts to programs which provide nutrition services, such as Meals on Wheels. Please explain how your administration could potentially justify cutting funding to the program while the number of vulnerable seniors is growing.
- Unlike medical care, only about 20 percent of seniors have dental insurance. Lower-income seniors often lack access to critically-needed care that alleviates pain, treats infection and enables them to eat. They must rely on Medicaid adult dental benefits already considered inadequate. How can your Administration provide incentives to ensure access to dental care, which is critical to meet the healthcare needs of low-income seniors?
- The increased use of telehealth has shown to have positive impact for many people and has great potential for seniors, especially those with great difficulty leaving their homes to receive care. Will you make finding an efficient means to provide telehealth to such seniors a priority?
Is there an area of interest that West Health hopes to learn more about at d.health 2017?
We hope to learn about innovative models of care that are working for seniors in various communities throughout the country. We would also like to hear more about the pace of adoption of telehealth and other technologies that can play a role in providing greater access to healthcare and other services that enable successful aging. We are excited about the possibilities because we learn from every interaction we have, especially at d.health!
President & CEO, West Health
For more than a decade, Shelley Lyford has been advancing Gary and Mary West’s philanthropic endeavors to enable seniors to successfully age in place with dignity, quality of life and independence. Under her leadership at West Health, which includes the Wests’ nonprofit foundation, applied medical research institute and policy center, the organization is driving innovative healthcare and supportive service models for seniors.
Since 2006, the Gary and Mary West Foundation has provided $175 million in outcomes-based grants to more than 400 senior-related successful aging organizations and research, policy and advocacy initiatives. In addition to her role at West Health, Lyford serves as vice-chair of Grantmakers in Aging’s board of directors and chairs the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center board of directors.