Advocating for Diverse Elders at the White House Conference on Aging

The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) is an important milestone event in the aging advocacy arena. Held only once every 10 years, it brings together policymakers, federal agency representatives, advocates, and leaders from the community to identify issues of concern and policy solutions to improve the lives of Older Americans. This historic event was held on July 13, 2015 at the White House.

The Diverse Elders Coalition and its members worked in the months leading up to WHCOA to engage the White House on three fronts:

Policy Asks

The DEC and its members took part in the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations’ coalition-wide set of policy recommendations to WHCOA. The LCAO is the premier coalition of national aging advocacy groups and a key partner to WHCOA, so these policy asks are high on their radar screen. We also amplify more specific policy recommendations put forward by DEC member groups.

On May 29, 2015, the Diverse Elders Coalition submitted a formal response to the four policy briefs released by the White House Conference on Aging during the months of April and May 2015. Our response provides guidance on how to include our communities of color and LGBTQ communities in policies being crafted to address Long-Term Services and Supports, Healthy Aging, Elder Justice, and Financial Security. You can read our response by clicking here.

Inclusion and Engagement

DEC coalition members and partner organizations have long histories in advocating for the cultural and linguistic needs of their constituencies in aging advocacy circles. Our “Principles of Inclusion and Engagement” provides the WHCOA with specific recommendations on how to make their events and programming most accessible and welcoming to diverse audiences. Click here to view and download.

The DEC was heavily involved in the process of inviting audience members and nominating presenters for each of the five WHCOA regional forums that happened during the first half of 2015. We ensured that our constituents were present — and their voices heard — at these crucial planning and learning events. Additionally, the DEC and its member organizations hosted events independent of the regional forums at which WHCOA organizers were invited to hear the stories of our communities, including a Tribal listening session for Native Americans in Norman, Oklahoma and a town hall session with diverse elder communities in Los Angeles, California.

Constituent Feedback

Many DEC members have engaged their constituencies to identify opinions on the issues facing Older Americans through conferences, meetings, and other mechanisms. DEC is gathering reports of these opinions to submit to WHCOA collectively. Additionally, DEC circulated a survey to members and supporters asking for their feedback on the four WHCOA policy areas, and we brought these responses with us to the five regional forums and again to the White House main event in July 2015.

Ben de Guzman introduces the EDs of the Diverse Elders Coalition member organizations at our Congressional Briefing on July 14th.

Ben de Guzman introduces the EDs of the Diverse Elders Coalition member organizations at our Congressional Briefing on July 14th.

WHCOA Follow-Up

On July 14, 2015, the Diverse Elders Coalition hosted a Congressional Briefing with Rep. Mark Takano to share our new report, “A Seat At The Table: Diverse Elders Engage the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.” This report highlighted the shortcomings of WHCOA’s deliverables, namely the absence of cultural and linguistic competent aging services, access to financial planning services and Social Security for those in our communities who are denied access to meaningful employment, and the identification of our communities of color and LGBT communities as disadvantaged groups. This report, as well as other WHCOA material, is now available to view and share on our Resources page.

Additionally, throughout the months of July, August, and September, the executive directors of our member groups submitted their own formal responses to the White House Conference on Aging. All of these responses are currently hosted on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog and can be viewed by clicking any of the links below:

NAPCA’s Response to the 2015 White House Conference on Aging” by Dr. Wes Lum, NAPCA
NHCOA Responds to the 2015 White House Conference on Aging” by Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA
National Indian Council on Aging, Inc. (NICOA) and the 2015 White House Conference on Aging” by Randella Bluehouse, NICOA
Positive Momentum: Reflecting on Yesterday’s White House Conference on Aging” by Michael Adams, SAGE
40 Years in the Making: Southeast Asian Americans and the White House Conference on Aging” by Quyen Dinh, SEARAC

For more information about DEC initiatives with the White House Conference on Aging, check out our Twitter and Facebook pages, or contact us.