September 9, 2018
Learning and Teaching at the 2018 NICOA Conference on Aging in Indian Country
By: Jenna McDavid

This week, the Diverse Elders Coalition will be participating in the 2018 NICOA Conference on Aging in Indian Country, learning and teaching alongside Tribal Elders, advocates, and service organizations at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, CA. The 2018 Conference — NICOA’s 21st conference since the organization was founded in 1976 — will be the second that I’ve been a part of after traveling to Niagara Falls for the 2016 event. I’m looking forward to connecting with our friends and partners at NICOA as well the 1000+ other advocates and Elders who will be in attendance.

Talent show participants perform at the 2014 NICOA Conference in Phoenix, AZ (photo courtesy of NICOA)

NICOA’s conferences tend to be really special events, with a Tribal fashion show, traditional foods served at conference meals, and a strong emphasis on community and culture. Because the majority of attendees are Elders, there are breaks in the schedule for walks and exercise, and there are opportunities for Tribal leaders to vote on resolutions that will be passed along to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). I feel so honored and humbled to be even a small part of these proceedings, which shape the ways that American Indian communities and governments respond to both the successes and challenges of aging in Indian Country.

For the Diverse Elders Coalition, I’ll be presenting at two different workshops during the week. The first is an overview of the DEC and the ways that our five members work together to improve aging in our communities. This is a great opportunity to introduce the DEC to NICOA Conference participants and inspire new supporters to take action on behalf of diverse older adults. Additionally, over two sessions during the week, I will be collecting surveys from conference participants on their experiences applying for public benefits programs, like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This survey, developed in partnership with the National Council on Aging (NCOA), will help the DEC to better understand how our communities are learning about these programs and how easy or difficult they find it to apply for the benefits to which they are entitled. We’ll then share that information with other advocates and government agencies in the form of toolkits, fact sheets, and action items that we can take to get more elders enrolled in these programs.

And even if you’re not attending the NICOA Conference this week, you can fill out the survey on your computer! Just visit to get started. The survey is completely anonymous and is available in six different languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Khmer, Korean and Vietnamese.

The NICOA Conference will run from Monday, September 10th through Thursday, September 13th. You can follow the Diverse Elders Coalition on Twitter for live coverage of the event, or visit to learn more about future conferences.



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