- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2003

Katrinka Smith Sloan is trying to improve elderly care through the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

Ms. Sloan, 48, recently was promoted to chief operations officer of the D.C. nonprofit trade organization, overseeing its membership, which comprises 6,500 nursing homes, retirement-living centers and community-service groups.

She keeps her duties as senior vice president formembership services. She also will spearhead a reorganization effort to expand the association’s focus from serving members to improving elderly care.

“There is a major focus on research and sharing education among members, but the goal here is to improve on problems we see in the elderly services market,” she said.

Those problems include rising nursing home and health care costs, insufficient funding for nonprofit centers and a lack of public trust in the industry, said Larry Minnix, association president and chief executive officer.

Mr. Minnix said Ms. Sloan’s 16-year stint with AARP, the largest organization for senior citizens, gives her an edge in understanding how to improve an industry surging with the growing population of seniors.

“It’s important for us to have viable information on the consumer because the needs of older people are quickly evolving,” he said.

For example, many more seniors are working now than in 1980, a Census Bureau study reported last week.

About 4.5 million of them, 13.2 percent of the 65-and-older population, were employed or looking for work in March 2002, the study said. About one-third of those people live alone. In 1980, about 3 million were in the labor force.

The government also predicts Medicare, the health care program for seniors, will be bankrupt by 2026 and Social Security will run out by 2042.

“Seniors are facing issues they didn’t see 20 years ago, so it’s my job to share research with service providers to lower costs and make things like nursing care more available,” Ms. Sloan said.

The biggest challenge is understanding the operations of members such as Hebrew Home, a Rockville elderly care group, or Goodwin House Inc., an Alexandria retirement community.

“A lot of these organizations have been operating for 100 years. So I really have to step back and try to fill their shoes before I can even try to identify the problem, and that takes time,” she said.

Ms. Sloan lives in Bethesda with her husband, Rick, and their three children.

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