Two of North Shore Elder Services’ employees, Ariel Engler and Jennifer Arias, attended the 2018 n4a Aging Policy Briefing & Capitol Hill Day in Washington, DC April 18 – 19.
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) is a membership association representing America’s national network of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and providing a voice in the nation’s capital. North Shore Elder Services is both an AAA and an ASAP (Aging Service Access Point).
“Whether it is helping Washington set priorities, building the capacity of our members, raising the visibility of AAAs and Title VI programs nationwide, offering training and educations events, or working to drive excellence in the fields of I&R/A, transportation, livable communities and volunteerism, n4a is dedicated to supporting the success of its members.”
The n4a’s mission is to build the capacity of its members so they can help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible.
This was the 24th annual Aging Policy & Capitol Hill Day. Approximately 170 participants representing AAAs and Title VI Native American aging programs from across the country attended.
The Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator of the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Lance Robertson, shared the Administration’s priority focus areas in serving older adults, including critical issues such as caregiver supports, elder justice and addressing an expanding epidemic of opioid abuse. He talked about Trump wanting laws and programs to be “efficient, effective, and transparent.”
Ellen Nissenbaum, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities presented a big-picture overview of current federal budget and appropriations debates and flagged some potential policy pitfalls that could adversely affect older adults.
Attendees also heard from national Medicare and Medicaid experts about the current legislative and administrative opportunities and challenges facing these critical health care safety net programs.
There was also an advocacy training where attendees heard directly from their peers about successful federal advocacy strategies; tips on how much to say, what not to say, how to prepare your talking points and how to be flexible in expectations of meeting with an official. This was in preparation to act as an aging advocate for the next day when participants met with elected officials.
On day two, the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, n4a, Autumn Campbell, talked about The Goal of Advocacy. She talked about elders and how advocating was “amplifying their voices.” She said advocacy is meant to “build relationships while combating ageism” as well as to influence policymaking. However “first, we need to make the right case to the right people at the right time.” Then she went on to talk about how we need to have compelling facts, real life stories, and have the ability to “offer a narrative that weaves facts and personal stories together.” In addition, while advocating, we need to understand how our own need or issue relates to the actual person we are talking to.
Ariel and Jen arranged to meet with a staffer in Massachusetts’s Congressman Seth Moulton’s office. They described their meeting as a chance to educate the staff person on the workings of ASAPs in Massachusetts.
“I came away with a much better understanding and appreciation of how the system works and how complex it is. Several layers of people are involved in the budget. It is much more complicated than I would have realized before attending these sessions.”
Ariel believes that advocating at the local level can affect policy. “Being in Washington felt very overwhelming but what we can do on a local level is exactly what happens on the federal level. It is up to people on our level, working in ASAPs, to explain specifics to our local officials. Being more involved in our own communities is what can help.”