Areas of Expertise
- Aging Mastery®
- Benefits Access
- Economic Security
- Healthy Aging
- Public Policy & Advocacy
- Nonprofit Funding & Sustainability
- Social Enterprise
For more than 35 years, James Firman, EdD, has been a leading force for innovation in services, programs, and public policies for older adults.
Under his leadership, NCOA has developed many nationally acclaimed programs to improve the health, independence, and economic security of older Americans. NCOA also has built core competencies in collaborative leadership, fostering and scaling evidence-based innovations, and advocacy.
Since becoming president and CEO in January 1995, Firman has led NCOA to become the national leader in benefits access, economic security, falls prevention, evidence-based healthy aging programs, and public policy for older adults, especially those who are struggling. In recent years, Firman created and launched NCOA’s Aging Mastery Program®, an innovative effort to develop new expectations, norms, and pathways for people to make the most of their gift of longevity.
Prior to joining NCOA, Firman was founder and CEO of the United Seniors Health Cooperative (USHC), a nonprofit consumer organization. At USHC, he directed the development of the early version of BenefitsCheckUp®, now one of NCOA’s core bodies of work.
Also at USHC, he oversaw the development of one of the nation’s first insurance counseling programs for older adults, which helped lead to the development of the national Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP). As an advocate, he significantly influenced the development of federal Medigap legislation and long-term care insurance regulations throughout the United States.
From 1981 to 1984, Firman served as a senior program officer at The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where he helped develop initiatives in aging and health care finance, as well as the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers program.
Firman has served in several national leadership roles, including Chair of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (three times), Board Chair of the National Human Services Assembly, and Chair of the Independent Sector’s National Advisory Committee on Charting Social Impact.
In 2015, NextAvenue named Firman to their inaugural Influencers in Aging list. He was one of 50 thought leaders, innovators, writers, advocates, experts, and others recognized for their work changing how we age and think about aging.
Firman also has been named to The NonProfit Times’ Power & Influence Top 50 four times. According to the publication, “Many in the aging community describe Firman as an entrepreneur and leader on innovation in services, programs, and public policies. Setting goals that are specific, achievable, and targeted, few hold themselves so specifically accountable and have had their hands in so many areas of regulation and legislation resulting in impactful change.”
Firman earned his MBA and his EdD from Columbia University.