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SENIOR CITIZENS SPELL OUT PRIORITIES FOR POLICYMAKERS

Frail senior citizens want the right to grow old in their own homes, but they need help to do it. They are looking to government agencies and programs for expanded home-based community services.

They also want to see that nutrition programs and transportation assistance for senior citizens are protected.Several hundred senior citizens and state policymakers gathered at the Salt Lake Hilton Thursday to draft a list of the priorities they would like to see emerge from the White House Conference on Aging.

The conference, which is held once a decade, sets the nation's agenda for services for the elderly. Delegates were selected and issues discussed during local meetings held around the state recently. Those were taken to the conference Thursday. And the final result will go to Washington, D.C., for the conference in May of 1995.

Senior citizens are concerned about many issues, according to Lee White, regional director of the American Association of Retired Persons and keynote speaker for the state-sponsored conference.

"There is unprecedented public and media anxiety about what the future may bring, especially for (baby) boomers and their offspring," White said.

That includes "growing concern" about entitlements in a number of different programs, including Medicare and Social Security. White cited what he calls "an intentional campaign to get people to decide we can no longer afford to pay entitlements for aging services."

Leading the list of priorities is the need for intergenerational support and cooperation, White said.

"We need to get corporations and young people more involved," he said. "How do we proactively present some of the policies" that are important to all generations?

Other Utah senior-citizen concerns are protecting Social Security and cost-of-living adjustments, health-care reform (many senior citizens disagree about what form it should take but all agree it is important), affordable housing, zoning and planning ordinances that restrict housing options and employment.

White said the conference has a history of setting strong policies for an aging society. Medicare emerged from the conference in the 1960s. In the 1970s "dialogues helped solidify what we want to be doing." And in the 1980s aging issues found a secure seat on the national policy agenda.