Diverse Perspectives on The Older Americans Act
A year into working at the Diverse Elders Coalition, I’ve been struck by the learning curve for the range of issues facing the elder constituencies our member organizations serve. I have worked on some of these issues in previous jobs, and I have some experience in policy areas such as immigration, LGBT equality, language access, and cultural competence. What has been exciting in the past thirteen months I’ve been with the DEC is thinking about these issues and their impact on the range of programs, legislation, and policy that specifically relate to aging populations. From Social Security to Medicare, applying an intersectional analysis has allowed me to think about how different kinds of discrimination such as ageism and xenophobia “intersect” to create a compounding effect on elders of color, American Indian/Alaska Native elders, and LGBT elders with all too often disastrous results.
The Older Americans Act has been referred to as “the crown jewel” of aging policy, and as it continues to work its way through the Congress, it is increasingly clear that an intersectional analysis is required to gauge its fuller impact on our country’s aging population. The members of the Diverse Elders Coalition have been at the forefront on promoting an analysis of aging policy that reflects a broader range of perspectives, and we now turn our sights onto this important piece of legislation.
To that end, the DEC has released the following resources:
This document reaffirms the increasingly important role that elders of color, American Indian/Alaska Native elders, and LGBT elders play as the nation’s population not only grows older but also more diverse. The Older Americans Act itself turned 50 this year, and in order to keep up with the nation’s changing demographics, the DEC lays out several policy recommendations that will improve how services can better meet the needs of a changing population. From data collection and research, to cultural competence, to anti-discrimination and equal treatment under the law, the recommendations the DEC makes here provide a helpful roadmap for policymakers to think about how to best serve a diverse elder population.
This fact sheet provides a useful overview of the Older Americans Act and the range of services it provides for elders. It also gives a snapshot of the diverse elder populations the DEC serves and some demographic data that illustrates their growing numbers. For too many of our diverse elder populations, many of the services provided by the Older Americans Act go underutilized, and this fact sheet also includes bullet points on the recommendations the DEC makes to improve service delivery to these constituencies.
Both documents are available on our web site. Check out our revamped page on the Older Americans Act here.
In the coming weeks and months, we will provide even more information about the Older Americans Act and what it means for our communities. Please be on the lookout for blog posts, e-newsletters, and social media posts about the Older American Act.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.