4 Takeaways from the ASA On Aging Conference

“Hi, my name is Ashley, and I am an Aging Influencer!” Before you scroll to the next article, let me tell you why I added this dippy title to my name.

This past week while attending the ASA On Aging Conference, I decided to add this title. A title I never thought I would proudly exclaim, by the way.

We all know “influencers” get a bad rap. Whenever I would hear “influencer,” I'll admit that I would quickly roll my eyes. What typically comes to mind when you hear the word influencer?

  • Unoriginal
  • Lazy Millennial
  • Makeup and fashion obsessed
  • In it for themselves 

Sound familiar? But these labels are simply not true. And I want to share with you a few takeaways I gathered from the On Aging Conference, that reminded me of the power of our aging advocacy and influence.

Takeaway #1

Never underestimate the power and influence of aging leaders of color:

The inaugural group of ASA RISE Fellows showed up and showed out at this year’s Conference! The RISE Fellowship is a launching pad for the next generation of aging leadership. According to ASA, “Our vision for ASA RISE is that it will lead to improved well-being across an increasingly diverse aging population by creating a BIPOC leadership pool that improves policies and programs at the local, state and national levels.”

I had the immense pleasure of speaking with this energized group of aging leaders about, “Rising to the Occasion of Social Media Advocacy,” and sharing your WHY. My friend and colleague, Christina Peoples (@Gero_What?!) and I spoke to this group of empowered, knowledgeable aging advocates. Speaking with them was inspiring. Being with them was refreshing.

And as you might be aware, the field of aging is in dire need of leaders of color. So, it was truly a historical moment to witness these leaders share their WHY as well as their passion for breaking down barriers in the field of aging for people of color.

Takeaway #2

The panel of pundits were on fire about aging policy, and so were we:

This year’s dialogue from the Panel of Pundits did not disappoint. Featuring the dynamic voices of Josie Kalipeni, Jason Resendez, Ramsey Alwin, Joel White, Paula Basta—and moderated by Bob Blancato. This blistering-paced chat focused on Economic Security and the importance of investing in caregiving infrastructure.

Being an aging influencer is not silly or dippy.

I was particularly moved to hear more efforts around investing in caregivers. As we know, there are over 11 million unpaid dementia caregivers. Without a true infrastructure where we are intentional about the way we care for our elders and our caregivers, we will not advance as a society. Caregivers deserve to feel supported, be compensated fairly, and have their voices heard.

The Panel of Pundits reminded us to continue using our voices and influence to be agents of change. You can get involved by joining Caring Across Generations #CareCantWait advocacy efforts.

Takeaway #3

I’m ready to die and have a conversation about end-of-life decisions:

Sounds bizarre right? Not really. We all should be thinking about our own end-of-life wishes, compassionate dying, and how to have those tough conversations.

I attended two sessions, “Café la Muerte: A Most Lively Conversation on Mortality, Death, and Dying,” and “Medical Aid in Dying: It’s Time We Put End-of-Life in Our Own Hands.”

Both sessions offered deep thinking and insight into our own perceptions of death and how we desire to die. I especially enjoyed having a moment to experience a real live “death café.” We broke out into small groups to have a deeper dive conversation about our wishes and advanced directives.

10/10: would highly recommend.

Takeaway #4

There is so much value in making connections with diverse professionals in the field of aging:

Most of us know this already, but it’s different when you’re in the room together, all at once, fired up about aging movements and innovations.

Something about that is tremendously empowering. It was uplifting to be among peers who just “get it” and can share their own lived experiences, as well as their passions. I learned that many of us arrived in the field of aging because of a personal connection. A deeper meaning.

We all have our WHY. We all have a mission to use our voices and to influence others to advocate for our elders.

This commonality feels like home. It enlivens me and reminds me that we are collectively fighting for a greater cause.

Being an aging influencer is not silly or dippy. We are intentional and motivated. We are not unoriginal; we are optimistically creative. We are not lazy; we are passionate. We are not in it for ourselves; we are 100% in this fight together.

So, I will proclaim even louder, with confidence, “Hi My Name is Ashley, and I’m an AGING INFLUENCER!”

Ashley Stevens, MSW, LCSWA, is a gerontologist and master’s level licensed social worker. Her graduate certification is focused on aging & dementia care. Ashley works collaboratively with caregivers in the state of North Carolina. You can also find the dementia advocate offering brain tips and caregiving solutions on her blog platform, www.thedementiaguru.com, on Instagram, and on Twitter.

Photo: Author Ashley Stevens, left, with Christina Peoples of @Gero_What?! attend the On Aging 2022 conference.