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Connecting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the White House Conference on Aging

As May is both Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and Older Americans Month, we recognize that AAPIs are one of the fastest growing populations of older adults in the United States. AAPIs aged 55 years and older make up about 4 percent of the total older adult U.S. population, and about 20 percent of the total AAPI population. 

For the past year, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has been working to increase awareness of AAPI seniors and their issues. On April 1, the Initiative partnered with the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) to engage on a site visit to Asian Counseling and Referral Services (ACRS) the day before their regional forum in Seattle. Led by Diane Narasaki, member of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, ACRS created a space for the WHCOA’s Executive Director Nora Super and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living Administrator Kathy Greenlee to directly hear from seniors and organizational leaders about the issues impacting this population.  Additionally, on April 27, Michael Byun, member of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, participated in the WHCOA’s regional forum in Cleveland. And on May 7, Daphne Kwok, member of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, joined a session hosted by the Diverse Elders Coalition with Nora Super’s attendance in Los Angeles focused on the issues facing diverse elders in this country.

These sessions highlighted good model programs and solutions that focus on comprehensive services which already exist in many AAPI communities and should be replicated.  Throughout the sessions, AAPI leaders discussed the need for an emphasis on more transportation support and language access. Overall, these daylong events brought together dedicated stakeholders and leaders from a variety of sectors to discuss the pressing issues facing older seniors in our country, such as ensuring retirement security, promoting healthy aging, providing long-term support and services, and protecting elders and ensuring justice in the face of exploitation, abuse and neglect.

The WHCOA regional forums also included keynote remarks by federal officials, such as Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, highlighting key ways that their agencies are working to impact the lives of seniors in this country. The input and feedback gained from these meetings will inform the upcoming 2015 White House Conference on Aging. In total, the WHCOA has hosted five regional forums leading up to the national forum on July 13 in Washington, DC. This national forum only occurs every ten years, and it’s an exciting opportunity for AAPI communities to engage.

As we approach the 2015 Conference on Aging, I'm hopeful that AAPI communities will continue to share their stories and recommendations.

If you’re interested in engaging, we urge Americans of all ages to:

  • Watch the event: We are web-streaming the event live from the White House and encourage everyone to watch.
  • Host a watch party (PDF): Invite your friends and colleagues to watch with you. Use this link for additional information on how to host a viewing session for the conference
  • Participate in Q&A with the experts: Tweet your questions using #WHCOA, and we will pass them along to the panels at the conference. Then listen carefully – as you may get an answer the whole country can hear.
  • Complete the sentence (PDF): How would you finish the sentence: “Getting older is getting better because …”? Download this form and tell us how getting older is getting better. Take a photo, fill in your answer, and send it back to us via Twitter using #WHCOA.

For more information on how you can be engaged with the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, please visit

Doua Thor is Director of Strategic Partnerships at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.