Approaches - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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For more information about this program please contact:

Wesley Epplin
Policy Director

Alizandra Medina
Health and Aging Organizer

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  • Overview


Aging equity is about health equity: The aging equity focus of the Aging Equity Center supports Health & Medicine’s overall mission to build power and momentum for social justice and health equity in Illinois. Our aging equity approach seeks to advance policies and programs that redress ageism and other inequities in our society that overlap with and compound ageism. 

Life course perspective: Inequities experienced throughout life shape the aging process across our entire lives. These inequities shape our health at all ages, determine whether we reach older adulthood, and lay out what kind of quality of life we can expect if we do. 

Intersectionality: Ageism overlaps with other systems of inequity and oppression that harm health and deny people their inherent dignity. Our intersectional approach challenges the aging field to consider overlapping and compounding systems of oppression that affect individuals with marginalized identities. Aging equity requires counteracting and redressing all systems of oppression, not only ageism. 

Systems of oppression include but are not limited to racism, anti-Blackness, white supremacy, socioeconomic class inequity, gender inequity, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, anti-immigrant bias, white nationalism, ableism, ageism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and other identity-based discrimination, hatred, and deprivation. All these oppressions harm health, reduce people’s ability to age well, and cause suffering, shorter lives, and health inequities. 

Intersectoral approach: Supporting aging equity also requires an intersectoral approach that seeks equity and justice not only in the aging sector of services, but in every other facet of life, including health care, education, transportation, housing, workforce participation, the broader economy, the criminal legal system, greenspace, and more. 

Given this, our approach includes a focus on structural inequities — the policies, systems, and norms that stratify the distribution of the social determinants of health. We seek to build bridges with sectors that are typically considered outside of “health” because we know that everything we encounter shapes our health. 

Reframing aging: Ageism exists not only in structures, systems, and policies — but also in attitudes, day-to-day interactions, and broader narratives and myths told about older persons and the aging process. Our efforts to reframe aging seek to counteract and replace the ageist narratives and attitudes that guide our collective understanding of the positive possibilities for aging well. 

We reframe aging as a lifelong process that requires a life course perspective. Because we are all aging all the time and may be called at one or more points into caregiving roles, conversations about aging are not limited to older adults. We must all consider our place in advancing aging equity and shaping the type of society we want, including the conditions in which we may provide care for loved ones and the ways we are cared for and about as we age. 

We also seek to use language that promotes positives of value, meaning, and purpose as we age. By reframing aging, we help our society reimagine aging in terms of the true positive opportunities that exist and benefit everyone as we age. This effort has been informed by the Reframing Aging initiative, which you can learn more about here. 

Movement building: Advancing aging equity requires the development of a movement of people and organizations to transform systems and policies to support aging equity across the life course. To make progress toward aging equity, we build power and a movement of people and organizations committed to a common vision. That’s why we launched Illinois Aging Together, a statewide movement for aging equity. Learn more and get involved here.