Our History

We look toward the future, while rooted in our history.

The Diverse Elders Coalition was created in 2010 to ensure that the needs and perspectives of vulnerable elders would be heard when and where it mattered. Until the coalition formed, the needs and perspectives of LGBT elders and elders of color—as a unified voice—was largely absent from national policy discussions on aging. Today, the DEC represents millions of diverse older people and focuses on advocating for policies and programs that improve aging in our communities as racially and ethnically diverse people; American Indians and Alaska Natives; and LGBT people. We have mobilized diverse older adults to speak up to policymakers about their unique experiences, engaged the White House Conference on Aging to include the needs of diverse elders in Federal aging policy, and fought for the rights of our communities to age with health and dignity on the federal, state, and local levels. Expand the years below to glimpse the history of our coalition.


Robert Espinoza was at that historic first-time meeting of national aging organizations working with older people of color and LGBT elders. Explore how the Diverse Elders Coalition came to be—from someone who was there.


February 2020: The Diverse Elders Coalition is awarded additional co-funding for our family caregiving work from the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust. This funding will support our training efforts with healthcare and social services providers as well as general operating support for the coalition.

March 2020: As the COVID-19 novel coronavirus takes root in the United States, it becomes quickly apparent that diverse older adults are disproportionately impacted by the virus. The Diverse Elders Coalition launches a virtual COVID-19 hub on its website to share targeted, in-language information and resources from the field. Additionally, we urge Congress to authorize funding that will support the immediate and immense needs of our communities.

May 2020: The Diverse Elders Coalition is awarded additional co-funding for our family caregiving work from the RRF Foundation for Aging. This funding will support our training efforts with healthcare and social services providers through a partnership with the American Society on Aging.

June 2020: After the murder of George Floyd catalizes a racial justice uprising around the United States, we stand with Black and Brown communities who have been fighting in this country for equity for hundreds of years. Many of our members launch rapid response resources to support older adults who are harmed by police violence and other forms of racial injustice.


January 2019. The Diverse Elders Coalition joins the NIH’s new All of Us Research Program initiative and promotes the importance of diverse participation in clinical trials and health research through a powerful blog post on our website. This blog was shared on the websites of all five DEC member organizations, and it helps to spotlight the ways that precision medicine is working to improve the health of older adults and future generations of diverse elders.

March 2019. As Congress begins to consider the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, the Diverse Elders Coalition revises and releases our recommendations for reauthorization, which are summarized here. Our requests to Congress include increased authorized funding for all Titles of the Act, strengthened support for SCSEP, the recognition of LGBT older adults as a population of most need, and more. We attended several meetings and advocacy opportunities on Capitol Hill to promote these priorities.

April 2019. The Diverse Elders Coalition launched our Caregiving Community Survey, which seeks respondents who are providing support to an aging partner, family member, friend or neighbor to better understand the unique experiences of family caregiving in our communities.

Additionally, the Diverse Elders Coalition and its five member organizations attend the 2019 Aging in America Conference in New Orleans, where we presented our caregiving work to a packed house. You can read more about our time at the conference in this blog post, and for a summary of our panel on family caregiving, check out Liz Seegert’s article from the Association of Health Care Journalists.

July 2019. As a complement to our spring caregiving survey, the DEC began hosting a series of focus groups with diverse family caregivers to better understand the survey findings and the unique caregiving experiences in our communities. The findings from the survey and the focus groups will be released in 2020.

October 2019. Staff of the Diverse Elders Coalition join our member organization, SEARAC, for their biannual Moving Mountains equity summit in Sacramento, CA, during which we host a panel discussion with SEARAC staff and partners about the needs of family caregivers in Southeast Asian American communities.

November 2019. The Diverse Elders Coalition participates in the Gerontological Society of America annual scientific meeting in Austin, Texas. We participate in the GSA’s Journalists in Aging pre-conference workshop, meeting a number of journalists whose work has been featured on the DEC blog, and advising a small group of journalists on their fellowship projects for 2020. Additionally, we share some insights from our caregiving research with the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging at a poster session in the GSA exhibit hall.

December 2019. The Diverse Elders Coalition is awarded renewed funding from The John A. Hartford Foundation to continue our research, education, and training work for family caregivers in diverse communities. This new $1.1 million grant will fund our caregiving work through 2021 and provides training opportunities for healthcare and social services providers, listening sessions for family caregivers, and educational materials and events for policymakers.


January 2018. The Diverse Elders Coalition joined our member organization the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) and partner organization the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging (NCBA) for a Congressional Briefing in support of the Senior Community Service Employment Program. This event brought more than 50 policymakers, advocates and older adults together to discuss the value of meaningful employment for diverse elders, a powerful statement in light of White House budget proposals that have threatened the SCSEP program altogether.

March 2018. All five Diverse Elders Coalition member organizations traveled to San Francisco for the American Society on Aging’s “Aging in America” conference. A robust slate of programming throught the week highlighted the unique needs of diverse older adults, including our Thursday morning Symposium on advocacy and diverse elders.

July 2018. The Diverse Elders Coalition submitted a comment to the U.S. Census Bureau opposing the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census, which would reduce participation of immigrant communities and deny them the resources and representation that they deserve.

August 2018. In partnership with the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the Diverse Elders Coalition began surveying low-income older adults about their experiences accessing Federal benefits programs. The results of these surveys will be used by the DEC and NCOA to develop resources that will help greater numbers of diverse elders access the benefits like SNAP and Medicaid to which they are entitled.

October 2018. With support from The John A. Hartford Foundation, the Diverse Elders Coalition launches a new project aimed at supporting family caregivers in the communities served by the coalition. This initiative will research the issues facing caregivers in diverse communities and offer a coordinated, national training and education platform that will address those issues and meet the needs of diverse elders and caregivers.


February 2017. After receiving nearly 5,000 comments from our communities about the unique aging needs and experiences of diverse elders, the Diverse Elders Coalition hosted a standing room only Congressional Briefing in Washington, DC where we released our new report, “Aging with Health and Dignity: Diverse Elders Speak Up.” This report synthesizes the comments and provides concrete recommendations for advocates, providers, and policymakers who work with and for diverse elders.

March 2017. All five Diverse Elders Coalition member organizations traveled to Chicago for the American Society on Aging’s “Aging in America” conference. We presented workshops on job training programs for diverse elders, civic engagement and grassroots advocacy, and more.

April 2017. In response to the release of the Trump administration’s planned budget for FY18, which included massive cuts to social safety net programs, the Diverse Elders Coalition released a series of four fact sheets about federal programming that improves aging for diverse elders. You can read, download, print and share our fact sheets here:

October 2017. The Diverse Elders Coalition took advantage of two opportunities to submit comments on federal policy. We responded to a request for comments on a planned new direction for the CMS Innovation Center, and we shared comments with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in response to their Strategic Plan Draft for FY2018-2022. Both comments urged HHS to research, acknowledge, and respond to the unique aging needs of diverse communities.

November 2017. The Diverse Elders Coalition partnered with the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) to produce a printable flyer for senior centers and community centers that directs LGBT older adults to local and national resources that they may need during the sometimes challenging holiday season. Click here to view and download the flyer, which is available in six languages.

December 2017. In response to widespread, alarming news reports about the “banning” of certain words — such as “diversity,” “vulnerable,” and “transgender” in CDC budget documents, the Diverse Elders Coalition released a response condemning the ban. “A ban on these and other words from the federal government is misguided, dangerous and an affront to everything this country stands for,” we wrote. Read more here.


March 2016. At the American Society on Aging’s “Aging in America” conference in Washington, DC, the Diverse Elders Coalition and its five member organizations spoke on panels and in workshops about the experiences of aging in diverse elder communities.

June 2016. The Diverse Elders Coalition partnered with Caring Across Generations to respond to the ACL’s public comment period on their Guidance for the Development and Submission of State Plans on Aging, State Plan Amendments and the Intrastate Funding Formula. This guidance is used by Administration on Aging regional offices to develop state plans on aging, which provide statewide funding and support for Older Americans Act programs. For more information on this campaign, visit our civic engagement webpage.

August 2016. On August 22nd, the Diverse Elders Coalition submitted over 4,500 comments to the ACL from diverse communities, demanding that the final guidance released by the ACL explicitly acknowledges the needs of our diverse communities and encourages state aging programming to meet those needs.

The December 2016 edition of Common Threads offers a comprehensive round-up of the year in review for the DEC and its five coalition members.


February 2015. The White House Conference on Aging hosts its first of five regional forums in Tampa, FL. Prior to and during these regional forums, the Diverse Elders Coalition works to engage WHCOA staff on the issues facing elders of color, American Indian/Alaska Native elders, and LGBT elders. The coalition distributes a survey to these communities, requesting feedback on the four WHCOA policy areas (long-term services and supports, elder justice, healthy aging, and retirement security) with the intention of presenting that feedback to White House staff. Additionally, the DEC and its five member groups nominate speakers and attendees from those communities for each of the five regional forums and the main WHCOA event in July.

March 2015. At the American Society on Aging’s “Aging in America” conference in Chicago, the Diverse Elders Coalition and its five member organizations spoke on panels and in workshops about the experiences of aging in diverse elder communities.

April 2015. The Diverse Elders Coalition joins White House organizers and other Seattle-area aging groups for the Seattle, WA WHCOA regional forum. DEC staff are also invited to visit Asian Counseling and Referral Services in Seattle to meet some of the elders and advocates there and to participate in a roundtable discussion with AAPI aging activists from Washington state.

May 2015. The National Indian Council on Aging invites WHCOA administrators to Indian Country for a listening session with tribal elders. Kathy Greenlee and other White House staff travel to Norman, OK to meet with NICOA and other aging organizations to learn more about the specific needs of American Indian/Alaska Native elders.

On May 7th, The Diverse Elders Coalition and several partner organizations hold a Town Hall at the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles, CA to address the needs of diverse elders in Los Angeles and beyond. Nearly 100 elders attend, sharing their stories with White House staff and community members, and ensuring that their voices are heard as aging policies are shaped.

July 2015. All five DEC member organizations are invited to attend the White House Conference on Aging in Washington, DC, bringing with them the voices and experiences of their communities. The Diverse Elders Coalition is mentioned by name by HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, and the DEC’s social media feeds are among the most active on the #WHCOA hashtag.

Immediately following the historic WHCOA event, the Diverse Elders Coalition hosts a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill, at which a new report is released: “A Seat at the Table: Diverse Elders Engage the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.” A round-up of all DEC activity at WHCOA is published in the DEC’s new e-newsletter, Common Threads.

September 2015. In honor of National HIV and Aging Awareness Day, the Diverse Elders Coalition joins a number of other aging and HIV advocacy groups for a webinar entitled “The Graying of HIV.” Ben de Guzman presents some startling statistics about diverse elders with HIV, while Aaron Tax of SAGE shared some policy recommendations that could alleviate the burden of HIV on underserved populations. The DEC’s HIV-related activity and events are promoted in the October 2015 Common Threads.

December 2015. As the US Congress appeared to be nearing a resolution on the long-stalled reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, the Diverse Elders Coalition amplified its advocacy around this vital piece of legislation. A new statement from the DEC and its five coalition members as well as a fact sheet about diverse elders and the OAA are released.

The December edition of Common Threads offers a comprehensive round-up of the year in review for the DEC and its five coalition members.


February 2014. NHCOA, representing the Diverse Elders Coalition, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.  NHCOA discusses the success of the Older Americans Act (OAA) in helping older adults age independently and in good health. NHCOA also highlights the devastating effect that budget cuts have had on the ability of OAA programs to serve diverse elders and recommends that the OAA be updated to prioritize the delivery of services in a culturally and linguistically competent manner.

Additionally, the DEC sponsors the release of In Their Own Words: a Needs Assessment of Hispanic LGBT Older Adults, a national study on the status of LGBT Hispanic older adults. The report is produced by NHCOA and is released in collaboration with SAGE at its national headquarters in New York City. The report is the result of a national qualitative needs assessment on the health and socio-economic challenges facing LGBT Hispanic elders.

March 2014. The DEC presents at the Grantmakers in Health (GIH) annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia for a panel discussion entitled, “Grantmakers as Catalysts for Change: Empowering Communities to Strengthen their Voice.” The panel features organizations that span local, regional and national efforts to empower traditionally underrepresented communities to strengthen their voice.

Later that month, the DEC presents at the American Society on Aging (ASA) “Aging in America” conference in San Diego, California. The presentation, “Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities,” brings together leading experts from the DEC’s member organizations to talk about the barriers to signing up for health insurance, such as transportation or lack of computer savvy . Additionally, the DEC shared the needs to expand Medicaid nationally and to continue educating diverse communities about their options in the Marketplace.

May 2014. The DEC publicly announces its state advocacy project in Georgia and New Mexico. The project focuses on working with state partners to support low-income elders of color and LGBT elders on advocacy related to health reform, Medicaid expansion, ACA enrollment and health insurance exchanges. Partners include: The National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) and Health Action New Mexico in New Mexico; and The Health Initiative, Georgians for a Healthy Future, and The Bhutanese Association of Georgia (BAG) in Georgia, and Community Catalyst.

Also in May, SAGE, DEC, and ACRIA issue a new policy brief: “Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health and Wellness of Older Adults with HIV.” The Brief outlines eight recommendations to address the needs of a growing demographic of older adults with HIV, many of whom are LGBT and people of color. The full report, Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health & Wellness of Older Adults with HIV, can be found online here. The Brief has been promoted by DEC member groups, partners, and allies, and has received coverage in articles such as this piece in Healthline News. http://www.healthline.com/health-news/preparing-for-seniors-with-hiv-060414

September 2014. DEC cohosts a webinar on ACA Marketplace Outreach for Diverse Populations with CMS. The webinar provided important information on enrollment guidance for immigrant families, marketplace outreach resources, and lessons learned for reaching older people of color and LGBT elders.

November 2014. The Diverse Elders Coalition cohosts a webinar on “Dual Eligibles” with Community Catalyst. The webinar provided information and strategies on how advocates can address heath disparities among the disproportionately non-white population of individuals who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid (“Dual Eligibles”) through local demonstration projects set up by the ACA in over a dozen states. Speakers on the webinar included representatives from DEC, Community Catalyst, and Hospice of Michigan.

Later that month, DEC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) host the “Affordable Care Act and Diverse Elders” event in Washington, DC. Kathy Greenlee, Administrator for the Administration for Community Living (ACL), and Matt Heinz from the U.S. Department of Health joined SAGE’s Michael Adams, SEARAC’s Quyen Dinh, and Vickie Gottleich from the ACL for a wide ranging discussion on the impact of the ACA for diverse elder populations.


June 2013. The Diverse Elders Coalition hires its first full-time staff member. The National Coordinator works with members of the coalition to coordinate its joint advocacy, policy and education strategies and priorities, as well as build awareness about the many issues facing elders of color and LGBT elders. The National Coordinator focuses on three important policy areas: ensuring that health reform implementation reaches and supports older people of color and LGBT older people; making the Older Americans Act more inclusive of LGBT elders, as well as increasing culturally and linguistically appropriate aging services; and protecting and reforming Social Security.

September 2013. For National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, representatives from DEC member organizations SAGE and NHCOA present on Capitol Hill for a Congressional briefing, reception and hearing that highlights the challenges facing older adults with HIV, who are disproportionately people of color and LGBT.

October 2013. The Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) officially opens. The DEC releases Why the ACA Matters to Our Communities, a resource that offers step-by-step instructions for enrolling in the Marketplace, as well as a rationale for the ACA and diverse older people. The resource is made available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Additionally, the DEC launches an original website portal that helps older adults effectively navigate the Marketplace. The online resources also educates aging advocates on the importance of health coverage expansion for older people of color, LGBT older people and older immigrants.

November 2013. Representatives from NHCOA and SAGE present on behalf of the DEC in a webinar entitled, “Why the Affordable Care Act Matters to Diverse Older People.” The webinar outlines the DEC’s work around the ACA, and how funders could better support state specific advocacy around health reform. The webinar is sponsored by Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) as part of their “Conversations with GIA” series.

December 2013. The DEC partners with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a webinar entitled “How the Affordable Care Act Strengthens Medicare.” The webinar highlights changes in costs, coverage and benefits that will take effect in 2014, and encourages Medicare-eligible elders to review their current health and prescription drug coverage for possible improvements.


June 2012. The DEC and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development release a historic report, “Securing Our Future: Advancing Economic Security for Elders of Color, American Indian and Native Alaskan Elders, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Elders.” As part of the report release, members of the DEC work with Grantmakers in Aging to host a special webinar for U.S. foundations interested in these issues. The policy report describes the challenges facing these communities and offers concise policy recommendations in areas such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, senior employment programs, and more. The report also describes various models that can successfully improve economic security for millions of diverse older people nationwide.

July 2012. The Diverse Elders Coalition launches its official website, which also serves as a news and commentary blog on the social, political and economic issues affecting older people who are poor and low-income, people of color, American Indian and Alaska Native, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender.


April 2011. Members of the Diverse Elders Coalition work with the Leadership Council of Aging Organization on its official “Consensus Recommendations for the 2011 Older Americans Act Reauthorization,” to include eight recommendations specific to LGBT elders, as well as racially and ethnically diverse elders, and older adults with HIV/AIDS.

June 2011. In June, the National Prevention Council releases its National Prevention Strategy, integrating various recommendations offered by the DEC to make the strategy more age-inclusive, eliminate health disparities and integrate culturally competent approaches to improve the health of our aging communities.

Earlier in the year, the Diverse Elders Coalition submits official recommendations to the National Prevention Council on how the National Prevention Strategy could better improve the health and quality of life of our country’s diverse elders. In this guidance, the DEC noted: “A national effort to prevent disease and promote wellness should leave no community behind,” including LGBT elders, racially and ethnically diverse elders, and American Indian and Alaska Native elders.

October 2011. The Diverse Elders Coalition leads a panel on diversity and aging at the Grantmakers in Aging Annual Conference in McLean, Virginia.


April 2010. Four organizations that later help found the Diverse Elders Coalition meet with the Administration on Aging to discuss the issues facing diverse older people nationwide, including older adults who are poor and low-income; people of color; American Indian and Alaska Native; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender. The meeting includes the National Caucus & Center on Black Aged (NCBA), the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).

September 2010. As part of the National Hispanic Council on Aging’s national conference in Washington, DC, NCBA, NHCOA, SAGE and SEARAC hold a joint legislative briefing to discuss how reauthorization of the Older Americans Act can help improve supports for older people in our communities. The four organizations officially announce the formation of a Diverse Elders Coalition that will focus its advocacy on policy improvements and program models that engage elders of color, American Indian and Alaska Native elders, and LGBT elders.

October 2010. NHCOA, SEARAC and SAGE launch a joint community education and engagement project on Social Security, helping ensure the inclusion of an often marginalized voice in the public debate on Social Security. Funded by the National Academy for Social Insurance, this yearlong project supports these three organizations in developing original media resources that educate policy makers about the importance of Social Security to vulnerable older people nationwide. In addition, the three groups host a series of town halls around the country for older people and help raise the profile of these issues in racial and ethnic media, and in LGBT media.

November 2010. In the midst of President Obama’s Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and the looming release of a controversial plan that could jeopardize the future of Social Security, the Diverse Elders Coalition issues a series of media releases about the program’s importance to diverse older people. The ensuing news coverage helps to educate diverse older people about the Social Security debate and urges Congress to strengthen, not cut, benefits.

December 2010. The members of the Diverse Elders Coalition meet for the first time as a coalition, at the headquarters of the National Caucus & Center on Black Aged in Washington, DC. At this historic meeting, the Coalition discusses the urgency of the political moment, as well as the common issues and key differences among our various communities. The coalition continues to meet on a regular basis.

In response, the coalition forms three separate working groups to focus on reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, Social Security, and health care reform implementation. The coalition also agrees on a purpose statement: “To win policy gains that improve the lives of low-income people of color, American Indian, Native Alaskan, and LGBT elders, and to educate and engage our communities on policies that impact our lives.