March 30, 2018
Promoting Advocacy, Collaboration, and the Value of Diverse Elders at the 2018 Aging in America Conference
By: Jenna McDavid

“Fighting For Our Lives: Advocacy and Diverse Elders” Symposium at AiA18 (photo by Nicole Van Nelson)

This past week, all five members of the Diverse Elders Coalition attended the American Society on Aging’s annual Aging in America Conference in San Francisco, California. Staff from our member organizations were featured on dozens of panel discussions, workshops, and at events throughout the week, including our Thursday morning Symposium, “Fighting For Our Lives: Advocacy and Diverse Elders.” This powerful session highlighted the advocacy efforts of each of the Diverse Elders Coalition members, many of which were inspired by the DEC’s groundbreaking 2016 #TellACL civic engagement campaign. From that template, our member organizations developed nuanced and successful advocacy campaigns that centered the voices of their constituencies, including:

  • ¬†SEARAC’s recent comment card campaign to protect the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion because of its life-saving impact on Southeast Asian American communities
  • SAGE’s #WeRefuseToBeInvisible Campaign, which forced the current administration to ask questions about older Americans’ sexual orientation and gender identity
  • NICOA’s Elder Needs Assessment and Elder-led biennial conference, which solicits input from tribal members and Elders across the United States and shapes the work that NICOA and the National Congress of American Indians will focus on in the coming years
  • NHCOA’s Caregiving Thoughtleaders Roundtable series that brought together Latinx family caregivers, older adults, and advocates to identify gaps and brainstorm solutions to diverse family caregiving, and
  • NAPCA’s SCSEP Success Campaign, which highlighted the importance of the Senior Community Service Employment Program to Asian American and Pacific Islander American older adults, and resulted in the continued funding of the SCSEP program.

I am continually inspired and humbled by the incredible work that the Diverse Elders Coalition and its members do to improve the health and wellbeing of diverse older adults, and I’m so glad that we were able to showcase this work during the nation’s largest annual gathering on aging issues.

Some other highlights of the conference include:

  • New research on LGBT older adults was released by AARP during the conference. L to R: Aaron Tax, Dr. Nii-Quartelai Quartey, and Serena Worthington. (photo: SAGE)

    During a panel on data and diverse elders, representatives from NAPCA, NICOA, SAGE, and our partners at the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging (NCBA) shared the value of disaggregation for race and ethnicity data as well as the necessity of comprehensive data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • The Aging in America Conference’s annual Diversity Summit featured several Diverse Elders Coalition staff members and leaders, including Dr. Yanira Cruz of NHCOA, Sadiya Abjani of SAGE, Quyen Dinh of SEARAC, and our former National Managing Coordinator, Robert Espinoza, now at PHI. Their presentations underscored the need for focus on diverse populations and targeted programming that meets their unique needs, as well as continued collaboration across all sectors to improve the lives of diverse older adults and family caregivers.
  • Two Diverse Elders Coalition members were named Next Avenue Influencers in Aging for 2017: Dr. Yanira Cruz of NHCOA and Dr. Wes Lum of NAPCA. During a presentation featuring four of these Influencers in Aging, Dr. Cruz discussed the value of working in coalition and innovating to meet the growing diversity of our society.
  • The American Society on Aging named its new Board Chair, Karyne Jones of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, and its Chair-Elect, Michael Adams of SAGE. These appointments illustrated ASA’s strong commitment to diverse elders and diverse leadership, and we are so proud to be working with Karyne, Michael and everyone at ASA to continute to elevate the issues facing our communities.

Presenters for the “Data and Diverse Elders” panel from L to R: Rebecca Owl Morgan of NICOA, Maria Hernandez-Peck of Asociacion Nacional pro Personas Mayores, Heather Chun of NAPCA, Angie Boddie of NCBA, Randella Bluehouse of NICOA, and Tim Johnston of SAGE. (photo by Sue Chapman)

Next year’s Aging in America Conference will take place April 15-18, 2019 at the¬†Hyatt Regency New Orleans in New Orleans, Louisiana. We look forward to continued advocacy for and powerful representation of diverse communities at this and other aging-focused events across the globe. Thanks to everyone who attended one of our sessions this week, and we’ll see you in New Orleans!



The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.