Public policy related to senior issues has not kept pace with the changes called for by an aging population. Advocacy is an important part of the policy landscape as it promotes a united effort to create change and encourage legislative action. Effective advocacy helps inform and educate policy makers, allows individuals to have their voices heard, builds stronger communities, and allows people to live more fulfilling lives. However, policy makers are inundated with causes to support, and it is easy for certain populations or causes to be lost in this process. This has been especially true for advocacy efforts around the needs of an aging population. At the legislative level, the older adult advocacy network is disjointed, underrepresented, and drowned out by groups that have stronger, moreformidable advocacy networks. The lack of a strong grassroots advocacy network for older adults is of growing concern as our population ages. This is a particularly important issue in New Hampshire as we are one of the oldest states in the nation (US Census, 2014).
This paper examines the lack of advocacy for senior issues in the Granite State and explores strategies that can be employed to grow grass-roots leadership among older adults. The New Hampshire Senior Leadership Series, a program that provides support and training in advocacy and leadership skills, is highlighted as a promising practice to address this need.
The series educates seniors in leadership skills necessary to advocate for legislative and policy changes that promote healthy aging, livable communities, and options to allow seniors to live and age in the communities of their choice. In order to ensure that New Hampshire residents have access to services and supports as they age, advocacy and leadership is a critical need. To determine the value of the Senior Leadership Series, a survey was developed and distributed to all Senior Leadership Series graduates. The survey aimed to determine how effective the series was at preparing participants to be community leaders and advocates.
Institute on Disability
Center on Aging and Community Living
Fox, S., Davie, L., & Rataj, A. (2015). Building an Aging Advocacy Network: Findings from the New Hampshire Senior Leadership Series. Policy Brief. Center on Aging and Community Living. University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH