Learn About Illinois Aging Together: A Statewide Movement for Aging Equity - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Learn About Illinois Aging Together: A Statewide Movement for Aging Equity

December 14, 2021

Illinois Aging Together is a statewide movement for aging equity. A campaign of Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, Illinois Aging Together is growing support from individuals and organizations across the state and across sectors for aging equity.

With collective action, we will advance these goals:

  1. Develop and advance a coordinated policy and advocacy agenda for aging equity
  2. Advance legislation that requires that a strategic action plan for aging be developed and adopted by state government to address issues identified in the policy and advocacy agenda
  3. Shift the narrative around aging with pro-aging themes and an aging equity focus, reframing aging in positive terms of value, meaning, and purpose

Critically, because this is an aging equity movement, we also must talk about and focus attention and action on systemic inequities. Ageism operates alongside other systems of oppression—racism, classism, genderism, ableism, xenophobia, and many others—to cause health inequities. An aging equity movement is needed to counteract ageism and develop solutions that support aging well throughout life. We won’t have aging equity Without justice across all other areas of people’s lives, we cannot have aging equity: we must combat not just ageism but all other systems of oppression. Further, we need solutions that span across sectors—housing, education, health care, public health, transportation, and more.

We are very passionate about Illinois Aging Together being a people-powered, grassroots movement. To that end, our staff continue to meet with stakeholders and professionals across the state through roundtable discussions, where we explore insights and stories from people who experience and encounter the changing needs and effects of aging. In addition to seeking input from people working in the aging sector, we also invite a broad range of people who support older persons, including educators, librarians, park workers, senior center staff, and transportation agencies.

Anecdotally, many trends have emerged from the discussions, often grouped by Illinois’s Area Agency on Aging regions. Urban and suburban regions have many commonalities and differ from rural areas, simply due to built infrastructure lacking in many rural areas. Discussion participants from urban and suburban areas report inequities due to violence and safety concerns; the inaccessibility and lack of housing options; cost and accessibility of health care; and access to adequate transportation.

Participants from rural parts of the state report inequities in the form of low health care provider density; underutilization of Medicaid; lack of age-friendly homes and lack of ability or funding to make them accessible; lack of broadband or dependable cellular network; long geographic distances and amounts of time to reach resources; no public transit infrastructure; and limited, often volunteer-based, transportation networks.

From our roundtables, we’ve learned that all Illinois’s regions and geographies have much in common. Across the board, aging sector professionals and community members report a lack of visibility for their services; underutilization of services for caregivers; lack of resources and funding to adapt and repair homes; workforce shortages; insufficient language resources; Medicaid waiver services not satisfying needs; rapidly increasing poverty; dependence on faith-based organizations for social support services; and health and wellness inequities as a result of a lifetime of inequities and adversity. While some issues differ across regions, there are many commonalities whose details differ depending upon the setting.

We also hear from participants that Illinoisans want and support the need for comprehensive change, including but not limited to having highly skilled, valued, well-compensated, and well-supported health workers; increased visibility of the aging network; age-friendly communities; networking across sectors; and elimination of silos. The clear solution is for the Illinois legislature to pass legislation that establishes a commission to develop a strategic action plan for aging that addresses these and other needs through cross-sector collaboration and systemic support. Illinois’s aging population grows every day, and we all deserve to know that our state values and supports our needs and experiences as we continue to live and age in Illinois.

Interested in joining an upcoming event? Check out our upcoming events here. To request a presentation about Illinois Aging Together for your organization, coalition, or association, please reach out to IllinoisAging@hmprgstage.wpengine.com.

Express your support for Illinois Aging Together today by signing on at IllinoisAgingTogether.org.