Last week, I traveled to New Orleans for the 2019 Aging in America Conference, hosted by the American Society on Aging (ASA). This annual event brings together thousands of people working in the aging field for a week of workshops, film screenings, events and receptions. It’s a great opportunity for the Diverse Elders Coalition to connect with partners who are normally scattered across the globe but find themselves in the same room for this one week every year!
This year was an especially exciting one because not only were all five of the Diverse Elders Coalition member organizations in attendance, but we have two new leaders in the coalition since the last time we got together at this conference in 2018: Larry Curley has joined the National Indian Council on Aging as their Executive Director, and Joon Bang is now the Chief Executive Officer of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging. We were thrilled to have Larry, Joon, and the other leaders of the Diverse Elders Coalition — including Quyen Dinh of SEARAC, Dr. Yanira Cruz of NHCOA, Michael Adams of SAGE, and myself — all together for a discussion about caregiving in diverse communities. During our Monday afternoon workshop, each of the five DEC principals discussed some of the unique challenges and resiliencies that our constituencies brings to the caregiving world. For a thoughtful and comprehensive write-up of our panel, check out this article from Liz Seegert at the Association of Health Care Journalists.
The conference featured dozens of other panels with Diverse Elders Coalition staff and partners, and I was thrilled to be a part of two of them: a discussion about how cultural competence can work to overcome health disparities and another workshop on engaging older adults in meaningful advocacy at the Federal, State, and/or local levels. I also got to attend a number of panels, including highlights from Dr. Imani Woody of Mary’s House for Older Adults and Cassandra Cantave Burton of AARP who conducted a needs assessment of Black LGBT/SGL older adults in Washington, D.C. and important updates from friends at the National Council on Aging, SAGE, and N4A on what’s happening around Federal aging policy in the 116th Congress. It was so exciting to be a part of these robust discussions about how to prepare the United States for a rapidly aging and rapidly diversifying population and to shine a spotlight on organizations and communities that are already doing great work in this arena.
It always takes a few days to get back into the swing of things when you get home from a conference (and apologies to those of you are STILL waiting for me to reply to your email!), but the backlog of work pales in comparison to how invigorated I feel after spending time at Aging in America. Sometimes the challenges we’re facing can feel insurmountable, but this conference is a reminder that there are millions of people thinking about these issues and already working to overcome them. We have allies and advocates in every community in this country, and in fact, around the world. And the Diverse Elders Coalition will ensure that older adults of color, American Indian and Alaska Native Elders, and LGBT older adults have a seat at the tables where these challenges and their solutions are being discussed.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.