The second day of the Senior Centers 2016 Conference featured a plenary session on aging services advocacy. “Your Voice Matters: How Senior Centers Can Change Local, State, and National Policy” was a panel discussion with:
- Pennsylvania Senator Art Haywood
- Holly Lange, President and CEO, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA)
- Lynn Fields Harris, Executive Director, Center in the Park
- Bob Madonna, President and CEO, Surrey Services
- Kathy Cubit, Director of Advocacy Initiatives, Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE)
State Plan on Aging Advocacy
The impetus for bringing this group together for the conference in Philadelphia was a news article about how PCA, CARIE, Center in the Park and CARIE leaders made their voices heard in deliberations on the new Pennsylvania State Plan on Aging. One notable aspect of the original plan was the lack of senior centers mention in the document.
Senior centers’ experiences with contributing their voices and the voices of the seniors and caregivers they serve to state and area plans vary. To get a better sense of the knowledge base of the NISC membership on this topic, and where additional information could be helpful, we’ve prepared a survey. Please take a few minutes to share your own lessons or what it would be valuable for you to learn from your colleagues across the country.
If you haven’t seen your State Plan, it is easily found through an internet search. Google “(insert state) State Plan on Aging”.
State Plan and Advocacy Resources
To start, here are some basics:
- Administration on Aging (AoA) Program Instruction for 2015 State Plans
- National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD) Tools for Planning
Future Advocacy Tips/Discussions
Accessing the state plan process was just one of the topics that was covered in the panel discussion. We plan to continue the conversation in upcoming Senior Center Voice newsletters and NISC webinars. We’ll address some of the questions we didn’t get to pose to the panel, such as:
- Municipal senior centers have additional hurdles to overcome in order to advocate. How can they advocate at the local level without being perceived as not being a team player and raising concerns with the City Manager about harming essential services?
- Our state legislature historically supports and focuses on our children. Seniors are generally last. How can we fix that?
- What is the best case (e.g., data, message) to convince elected officials of the value of investing in healthy aging programs (i.e., Pay for health programs to limit the need for social services)?
Do you have questions about senior center advocacy? Share yours on Crossroads so we can address them too.
To access tips and resources for advocating in your own communities, review these NCOA Advocacy Toolkits: