Last week, all five members of the Diverse Elders Coalition were represented at the American Society on Aging’s 2017 Aging in America Conference in Chicago, IL. In addition to robust programming presented by each member organization, such as the 2017 Diversity Summit featuring Randella Bluehouse of NICOA and the National Forum on LGBT Aging featuring Michael Adams of SAGE, the coalition hosted two panels of its own, bringing advocates, policymakers, and community members together to talk about the issues impacting communities of color, LGBT communities, and American Indian/Alaska Native communities.
Our two panels included a workshop session on job training programs for diverse elders, like the Senior Community Service Employment Program that both NAPCA and NICOA operate and the SAGEWorks program for LGBT older adults hosted by SAGE, as well as a symposium session on civic engagement and our new report, “Aging with Health and Dignity: Diverse Elders Speak Up.” Despite dozens of other simultaneous conference events, our presentations were well-attended, and each highlighted some of the biggest challenges facing diverse elders in the years ahead. As funding for SCSEP programs is threatened to be cut from the federal budget, and as policies that put our communities at risk are brought to the table, the more people we have in the country who can advocate on behalf of diverse older adults, the better off we will all be. In fact, that’s why the coalition was founded in the first place: to lift the collective voice of diverse older adults and advocate for our needs on a variety of fronts, such as at conferences like this one.
This was my first time attending the massive Aging in America conference, and the number of opportunities for learning and networking were overwhelming! I got to meet up with friends of the Diverse Elders Coalition, like Dr. Imani Woody of Mary’s House for Older Adults and Maria Glover Wallace of Affinity Community Services, two brilliant writers whose work you can find on our blog – and whom I rarely, if ever, get to see in person! I also attended some exciting celebrations of the work we’re doing to make aging in America a better experience for diverse elders, such as the networking event hosted by the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging and an Influencers in Aging reception sponsored by AARP and Next Avenue. It was so inspiring to see so many changemakers in one place, and it gave me hope that older adults in this country will be included and privileged in the discussions that shape their lives.
We livetweeted many of the events that we attended, and links to photos and stories from the conference can be found on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to follow us there! We’re looking forward to continuing our work with and for diverse elders in this country, no matter what. If you’re new to our blog because you connected with us at the conference, welcome and thanks for joining! Feel free to contact us with partnership ideas or potential blog topics. We’re glad to have you as a part of our community.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.