As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued for over a year now, the population group most dramatically impacted from the beginning has been older adults more than any other group, with Black, Indigenous, and Latinx older adults being hit the hardest. The CDC reports that 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years and older. Due to how the pandemic has disproportionately impacted traditionally marginalized older adults, it is especially vital to design specifically tailored public health resources and outreach; reinforcing how essential an equity lens is when conducting engagement with older adults.
In addition to these devastating statistics, the pandemic has further exacerbated the social isolation of older adults and the prevalence of ageism, the wrongful discrimination towards older adults due to negative and inaccurate stereotypes. These realities pose a critical challenge for all communities across our nation and will require deliberate efforts to better include the voices of older adults, and to be more intentional in using an equity lens in our policy and placemaking.
This is why the timing of the National Civic League’s new civic assistance project, “Enhancing the Equity and Inclusiveness of Age-friendly Initiatives” has never been more important. Thanks to funding from the NextFifty Initiative, this project is aimed at helping Colorado communities infuse equity and inclusion into their work to improve the experience of aging.
Our research indicates many communities in the U.S. working to be age-friendly have plans that lack clear components of equity and inclusion. Many age-friendly plans for improving the lives of older adults do not mention differences among older adult populations in terms of race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender identity, or other factors. Nor is there dedicated attention to the need to reach out to these traditionally underrepresented populations to identify and address their particular needs, interests, and assets. Without specific attention and mechanisms that are tailored to each of these populations, they will continue to be underrepresented in civic affairs.
For this project, the National Civic League has partnered with the Colorado Municipal League, Colorado AARP, Denver Regional Council of Governments, and the Governor’s Office on Aging, with additional support from the National Council on Aging. Over the remainder of this year, the project will feature two parts: Guidance and Local Coaching. During Guidance, the League will conduct regional equity training workshops for age-friendly communities and aging professionals. During Coaching, three non-metro Denver Colorado communities will receive tailored civic assistance from the League, to conduct targeted outreach to underrepresented populations; ultimately in order to improve their current age-friendly plans and/or goals and improve authentic engagement with older adults.
As part of this effort the League will utilize and distribute our “Better Aging Civic Index” to assist communities in measuring their commitment to inclusively engaging older adults of all identities in civic affairs. By recognizing the intersection of identities and circumstances, we hope to support communities during this challenging time to better engage with older adults, improve the experience of aging, and create more just and livable communities for all. If you are interested in learning more about the program and/or the Better Aging Civic Index, please contact the League’s Civic Engagement Program Director, Keiva Hummel at firstname.lastname@example.org.