This past March, Justice in Aging (JIA) launched a new Advancing Equity initiative, which will center its advocacy on issues that directly address systemic inequities faced by older adults of color, older women, LGBTQ elders, older adults with disabilities and older adults who are immigrants or have limited English proficiency. “The initiative’s primary emphasis will be on advancing racial equity specifically,” said JIA executive director Kevin Prindiville.
JIA is a national organization that uses the power of law to fight older adult poverty by securing access to affordable healthcare, economic security and the courts for older adults with limited resources.
“From our direct experience with clients it has become increasingly clear that the most vulnerable in our population—women and especially women of color—are most impacted by the events of daily life,” said Prindiville. “The recent COVID pandemic has shown how tenuous are the lives of people already living close to the edge. This observation has underscored for us the need to use this lens as a way to create a new focus for all our work."
Through this Initiative, JIA will use deliberate strategies and dedicated staffing to help to more intentionally center its advocacy on issues that directly address these systemic inequities.
Why We Are Centering Our Work in Equity
The impact of racism only intensifies as people of color age and also confront ageism. The effects of the systemic racism they face throughout their lives compound, leading to higher rates of older adult poverty and homelessness, health inequities, institutionalization in poorly performing nursing homes and even premature death.
Older adults who are women, people with disabilities, limited English proficient, immigrants and part of the LGBTQ community also experience systemic inequities that create and sustain disparities in their health and economic security as they age.
For older adults who live at the intersection of more than one of these communities, the discrimination and inequities they encounter as they age intensify.
Who Will Staff This Work
JIA attorney Denny Chan will direct this initiative, leading a cross-issue, cross-organizational team charged with implementing our Initiative. All JIA staff will contribute to this work by pursuing systemic change in law and policy to improve the lives of low-income older adults who experience inequities rooted in historical, persistent and structural racism, ageism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and xenophobia.
How Our Work Will Change
Though our work has always tackled inequities and injustices faced by low-income older adults, we will be more intentional about which issues we work on, the partners we work with and for which policy solutions we advocate.
We will prioritize issues, projects and cases that either significantly impact or uniquely target older adults of color, older women, LGBTQ older adults, older adults with disabilities and older adults who are immigrants or have limited English proficiency. We will seek policy solutions that are tailored to these communities and go beyond a one-size-fits-all approach that can exacerbate or mask existing disparities.
How We Will Do the Work
We will build and deepen partnerships by listening carefully and grounding our advocacy in the lived experiences of the communities our partners represent. We will gather and analyze data on the ways inequities manifest in communities of color so as to better focus our advocacy. We will adopt new planning and evaluation processes to ensure our advocacy is creating systemic solutions to structural problems that perpetuate inequities.
Paul Nathanson founded Justice in Aging (JIA) (formerly the National Senior Citizens law Center) and was its executive director from 1972–1980. He returned to lead JIA from 2008–2013, and now serves on its Board of Directors.
On June 23 at 1 p.m. PT and 4 p.m. ET Nathanson will appear in discussion with Ken Dychtwald in the first of 12 Legacy Interviews; register here to join the discussion.