Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging Statement and Pledge Against Racism

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The series of events of the last few weeks, sparked by the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and the resounding demands for change from the streets of American cities and towns, is a call to act to end racism in our country’s systems of power and privilege. 

The Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging denounces racism in all forms and recognizes racism as a systemic and ongoing public health crisis, amplifying the need to address health, social, and economic inequities.  

Research presented by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio shows that Black Ohioans are expected to live, on average, 4.2 years less than white Ohioans. Ohio Department of Health data indicate that Black Ohioans have higher mortality rates for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer compared to other racial groups. 

HPIO: “Ohioans living just miles apart in urban and rural communities experience strikingly different life expectancies. Shorter life expectancy is driven by community conditions and access to resources, such as education and income, and disproportionately impacts Black Ohioans and Ohioans with a disability.”

Racism is a systemic and pervasive problem deeply rooted in America’s beginnings and existing today in our culture, government, and systems of power, with significant harmful impacts to the health and longevity of Black Ohioans.

The Older Americans Act, the federal law that establishes the Area Agencies on Aging and originating 55 years ago, charges the Area Agencies on Aging with helping vulnerable older adults live with independence and dignity in their homes and communities.  Area Agencies on Aging must direct OAA funding to older adults with the greatest social or economic need.

The term “greatest economic need’’ means the need resulting from an income level at or below the poverty line. The term “greatest social need’’ means the need caused by non-economic factors, which include: (a) physical and mental disabilities; (b) language barriers; and (c) cultural, social, or geographical isolation, including isolation caused by racial or ethnic status, that: (i) restricts the ability of an individual to perform normal daily tasks; or (ii) threatens the capacity of the individual to live independently.

No matter our age, race, or ability, we are entitled to be treated as full members of our communities. For more than 40 years Ohio’s Area Agencies on Aging have been providing the right supports to promote independence and healthy aging, enabling Ohioans to stay connected and engaged as we age, with special focus on those with the greatest social and economic need. 

o4a and Ohio’s Area Agencies on Aging pledge to stand with our communities to fight racism, embrace diversity and stand against the legacy of systemic bias, racism and unequal treatment of any person, no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, nationality, sexual orientation or gender identity.   We will continue to listen, learn and act to address the social determinants of health that have disparate impact on older Black Ohioans.  We will amplify Black voices in our workplaces, in our training, and in the older adult communities we serve.

Larke Recchie, Chief Executive Officer 
Beth Kowalczyk, Chief Policy Officer 
Tamarak Arebalo, Event Planner & Office Administrator