Social Action Can Leverage Change in Long-Term Services and Supports

By Bezaitis, Athan | Aging Today, May/June 2012 | Go to article overview

Social Action Can Leverage Change in Long-Term Services and Supports


Bezaitis, Athan, Aging Today


Anthropologist Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." At the 2012 Aging in America Conference in Washington, D.C., one such group-policy experts, communications professionals, grass roots organizers and community leaders-shared their experience building a social movement in California to improve home- and community-based services (HCBS) for older adults and their caregivers.

The packed session, "Creating Change for Aging and Long-Term Services and Supports through Social Action: Grassroots, Regional Coalitions, and Statewide Collaboratives," sponsored by The SCAN Foundation, focused on the three elements required to build a social movement: identify the galvanizing issue, collaborate between organizations and streamline the message.

Robyn Grant, director of advocacy and outreach at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, talked about the importance of speaking directly with consumers to identify what quality care at home means to them. Organizers can then use this feedback to bring older adults' voices to the table regarding policy issues. She also described how effective social media can be for reaching broad audiences and soliciting stories from those served. But for elders and people with disabilities who have no Internet access, Grant says that "the low-tech, old-fashioned telephone," is still an important tool.

When working with immigrant groups to encourage them to advocate for improved care, it's crucial to establish trust, said Rigo J. Saborio, president and CEO of St. Barnabas Senior Services in Los Angeles. He emphasized the role education plays in establishing this trust, creating a connection to valued services and honoring cultural sensitivities to language, beliefs and background.

"On a personal level you must gauge their view of the world," Saborio said. "Some people are grateful for being in the United States. They accept the current conditions. How can you move those people versus the folks who say, 'I can make a difference?' "

The California Collaborative

The session's second panel described the challenges faced by the now nearly two-year-old California Collaborative, a Sacramento-based coalition of more than 38 aging and disability stakeholders that seeks to provide a unified advocacy voice for elders at the state level.

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