Illinois Department on Aging Hosts a Conference on Improving the Lives of Older Adults

Director Johnson leads an initiative to engage older adults in civic activities

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA), in collaboration with the National Governors Association (NGA), hosted A Day of Celebration and Conversation about the Civic Engagement of Older Adults today at the State Capitol. The event, which included breakout sessions on education and training, employment and service, highlighted experts who then worked with participants to develop the beginning of a blueprint for engaging older adults in Illinois.

This initiative began in June 2008, when Illinois was selected to participate in the NGA Policy Academy on the Civic Engagement of Older Adults. For the past year, IDoA Director Charles D. Johnson has led this statewide effort, working with a 12-member core team and a 36-member advisory team, to develop strategies to get older adults in Illinois engaged in civic activity in their communities. The group had a particular interest to increase the proportion of seniors who are employed or participate in volunteer activities.

"This initiative will expand our state’s progressive record to support older adults and their families," said Director Johnson, who serves as the Illinois team leader. "The goal for today’s meeting is to set in place new momentum for promoting civic engagement through individuals, organizations and networks." Today’s event included sessions with speaker presentations and then a group discussion on topics that will lead back to the question, "How can we promote civic engagement for older adults?"

In addition to the experts who lead the breakout sessions, participants also heard from The Honorable Deanna Demuzio, State Senator, on behalf of Senate President John Cullerton, Linda Hoffman of the National Governors Association, Center for Best Practices, Bob Gallo, state director of AARP, and a keynote address by Merri Dee, former WGN TV anchor from Chicago and state president of AARP.

Efforts for next steps were also announced with a proclamation from Governor Pat Quinn. The proclamation, Launch of 2010: The Year of the Engaged Older Illinoisan, states that the year 2010 will mark a celebration of engaged citizens in communities and neighborhoods across the state with events that encourage participation in learning, service and work. Planning for those events will begin in January 2010.

Members of the Illinois Core Team:

  • Team Leader: Charles D. Johnson, director, Illinois Department on Aging
  • Project Director: Jane Angelis, director, Intergenerational Initiative, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
  • Representative from the Governor’s Office: Cory Foster, director, Community Affairs
  • Bob Gallo, state director, AARP
  • Marilyn Hennessy, president, Retirement Research Foundation
  • John Hosteny, Illinois director, Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Peggy Luce, vice president, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
  • Edward Maloney, chair, Senate Higher Education Committee
  • Robert Mees, president, Illinois Community College Council of Presidents, and president, John A. Logan College, Carterville
  • Michael O’Donnell, executive director, East Central Illinos Area Agency on Aging, and chair, Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging
  • John Sirek, director, Citizenship, McCormick Foundation
  • Bernarda Wong, president, Chinese American Service League


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