The mission of LeadingAge is to be the trusted voice for aging. In and of itself, this is an enormous responsibility. Adding to this, each LeadingAge member is the trusted voice in their communities—for residents and clients, staff, and community partners.

I often ask myself how we will know that we are, in fact, being true to our mission? What does it mean to be trusted?

Are our members and other stakeholders confident that we are doing what is right, delivering what we promise, and consistent in doing so? Are we sought after by other advocates, the media and lawmakers for our expertise and credibility?

Do we advance public policies based on the integrity of our ideas, member experiences, and the desire to counter ageist policies? Are we acting in the best interests of those we serve and those who serve them?

According to trust expert David Horsager, trust is the single largest driver of public attitudes—and we are living in an era in which the public does not trust major institutions. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that trust is in crisis around the world. The general population’s trust in business, government, NGOs, and media has declined broadly, a phenomenon not reported since the public relations firm Edelman created its barometer to track trust in 2012.

To rebuild trust and restore faith in the system, Edelman suggests that “institutions must step outside of their traditional roles and work toward a new, more integrated operating model that puts people—and the addressing of their fears—at the center of everything they do.”

As we have aggressively pursued our policy priorities this year, we have argued for residents, clients, and families. People are at the center of our arguments.

The fight to preserve the structure and financing of Medicaid is about those who receive and will receive Medicaid— because they have no other options to pay for the services and supports they need. The need for funds to build and preserve affordable housing is about the thousands of older adults who benefit from a safe and affordable place to live— and the thousands more who are on waiting lists, desperate for the same. The push for regulatory relief for nursing homes is a focus on quality care for residents, rather than on filling out unnecessary paperwork.

Being the trusted voice means telling our stories and engaging members in doing the same. In the past 6 months, members have written, emailed, and called Congress more than 28,000 times to say that we can and we must do better for the older adults in our communities.

We tell the story of Barbara Ross in Washington, DC whose rent will skyrocket if adequate funding for the HUD 202 program isn’t authorized. We tell the story of Lena Jones in Lincoln, NE who has dementia and would be homeless if Medicaid didn’t cover the cost of her nursing home care. We tell thousands of stories just like these about the real people whose lives depend on policies that help them thrive—not suffer— in their later years.

Being the trusted voice is about not being afraid to stand up for the people who count on us the most. It’s about amplifying a single voice to create enough noise to make a difference.

Thank you for joining us at this critical time for public policy. Your trusted voice has never been so important.