Advocating for seniors is about ensuring that they age with dignity, enjoy a high quality of life, and have access to the resources and services they need. As societies age, this advocacy becomes even more critical, as it shapes not only the lives of seniors themselves but also the broader fabric of our communities and the sustainability of healthcare and social systems. At the Sowega Council on Aging (SCOA) in Albany, Georgia, advocacy is at the heart of all they do. Let’s take a look at the importance of advocacy and ways those issues can be addressed.
Protecting Seniors’ Rights and Needs
“It is important to remember that as an area agency on aging, one of the main purposes of our existence is to advocate for the seniors of southwest Georgia to make sure they are being heard and their needs are being met,” says Izzie Sadler, SCOA executive director. Seniors, like all individuals, possess fundamental rights, including dignity, safety, and quality healthcare, which advocacy safeguards.
Elevating Voices through Public Input
Public input is a cornerstone of effective advocacy. For example, SCOA conducts annual public hearings, where seniors, consumers, volunteers, supporters, and the community share their concerns. Sadler stresses the significance of seniors’ participation in identifying gaps and redundancies in senior services.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
SCOA’s advocacy extends to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, dedicated to enhancing the lives of long-term care facility residents. Ombudsmen protect residents’ rights, working to eliminate abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Covering a large region in southern Georgia, this program advocates for thousands of residents in licensed care facilities.
Local, State, and National Advocacy
SCOA’s advocacy extends beyond local boundaries. They actively engage in advocacy at the local, state, and national levels. Collaborating with advocates across Georgia and specialized national groups ensures southwest Georgia’s seniors have a voice in policy discussions and legislation.
Joining the Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly (CO-AGE)
Sadler encourages citizens to join CO-AGE, a forum initiated by the Georgia Council on Aging. CO-AGE simplifies advocacy by providing information and recommended actions to engage with legislators effectively. It offers a platform for individuals to add their voices to critical conversations.
Grassroots Advocacy and Everyday Acts of Kindness
Advocacy is not confined to formal programs; it encompasses everyday life. Sadler reminds us that anyone can be an advocate by observing seniors in our communities and offering assistance when needed. Acts as simple as checking on a senior neighbor can have a profound impact on their well-being.
A Holistic Mission
Reflecting on SCOA’s mission, Sadler emphasizes, “I look at everything we do as advocacy.” From meals to transportation, SCOA’s programs spring from advocacy aimed at enhancing seniors’ health and well-being. SCOA’s mission extends beyond program provision; it ensures funding for all seniors’ needs and amplifies seniors’ voices on critical issues.
Addressing Senior Hunger
One of SCOA’s key advocacy initiatives is the Senior Hunger Coalition. This initiative aims to combat senior hunger, a pressing concern for many older adults. In 2016, 4.9 million Americans over age 60 were food insecure, making advocacy for food access critical. SCOA’s Senior Hunger Coalition partners with local organizations to ensure food security for seniors and raise awareness about this issue.
“Advocating for seniors is not just about recognizing their rights; it’s about celebrating their value in our communities,” notes Sadler. “Seniors have contributed to society in countless ways, and they continue to do so. As a society, we owe it to them to ensure their well-being, preserve their wisdom, and provide opportunities for them to lead fulfilling lives.”