Economic security, quality affordable housing and health were all trending topics during the 2013 National Summit hosted by the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on October 10. The 2013 NHCOA National Summit called for leadership in aging-related programs and policies through a multilateral and intergenerational dialogue that was reflective of Hispanic older adults’ needs and concerns.
Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO, also presented testimonies and data from the new NHCOA brief, “State of Hispanic Older Adults: An Analysis and Highlights from the Field.” The brief is the result of a multi-city listening tour NHCOA conducted in key regions of the country to take the pulse of the issues impacting Hispanic older adults.
“Aging with dignity is a universal issue for all communities. Yet for Latinos – the fastest growing aging population – it is quickly becoming a critical issue,” said Dr. Cruz during the Sharing the Best of Us Keynote Address. “The challenges that face our community today are not new, but they have intensified. While grave, these issues can be resolved if we work together and share the best of our talents for a stronger, golden America.”
The Honorable Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham also addressed the audience, stressing the importance of healthcare and aging issues, both in the political and personal realm. Representative Lujan Grisham said”As a caregiver for my mother, I’ve experienced firsthand the challenges that older adults, their families and caregivers face every day. With a growing Hispanic population that is going to require long-term care, forums like the NHCOA National Summit provide a unique opportunity to have a culturally relevant dialogue about ways to improve the quality and affordability of care while preserving the dignity of older adults. I am honored to have participated in this event, and look forward to continue working with NHCOA on these important issues.”
Garth Graham, MD, President Aetna Foundation and former Assistant Secretary for the Office of Minority Health, underscored the importance of cross-sector collaborations to develop and implement meaningful solutions that help Hispanic older adults age with dignity and in the best health possible. Dr. Graham stated: “The 2013 NHCOA National Summit once again proved to be a powerful venue for discussing not just the challenges but the solutions faced by older Latinos in the United States. At a time in our country’s history when leadership becomes essential for bringing people together to solve difficult problems, the Summit showed that we can achieve that goal. The future of our older Latino population represents the future of our country, and the NHCOA National Summit set out a vision for how we define not just the problems we face but a road map for how we work together across political, geographic and societal lines to build a stronger future. The emphasis on more than the health needs but the financial, transportation and other social barriers faced by our aging population was crucial for defining real world solutions and emphasized that our solutions must be multifactorial.”
Emmy award-winning Univision reporter in Los Angeles Claudia Botero emceed the event, moderating the plenary sessions with experts on pivotal topics focused through the lens of economic security, including wealth attainment and generation, housing, and health.
The Honorable Representative Tony Cardenas also addressed 2013 NHCOA National Summit attendees, emphasizing the importance of Hispanic aging issues. He also spoke of the importance of working together to ensure our older adults lead prosperous and filling lives. “The work being done by NHCOA is a natural extension of the feeling of responsibility we all have toward those who came before us. Our elders led us down the path toward being the people we are today. Without them, we would be nothing and we owe them an immense debt for encouraging that growth in all of us. As a partial repayment for that debt, we should work as hard as possible, both individually and as a community, to ensure that our seniors are encouraged and educated to experience a happy, productive life as long as they are capable. I am proud to stand and to work with NHCOA to help make that goal a reality” Representative Cardenas said.
Participants, who represented a mix of professionals, advocates, policy makers, service providers, Latino seniors and community leaders, said they felt energized and excited about being part of a growing effort to improve the lives of older Americans. “NHCOA has shown me a new horizon,” said one National Summit participant. “I have discovered new ways of communicating with others, both young and older. I also learned to feel comfortable in my stage of life, as an older adult. I understand the importance of valuing who I am: my dignity, my talents and abilities, and more than anything, to value myself.”
The first two days of the National Summit convened dozens of local and out-of-state grassroots leaders at NHCOA’s Empowerment and Civic Engagement Training (ECET) to provide them with the tools to empower and mobilize Hispanic older adults, their families and communities as well as identify challenges and opportunities to better serve this important population. “Before, I only thought about my challenges and how difficult things were. Now I can see how I can use my talents to help myself, my family, and so many other people who are in need. I am thankful to NHCOA for helping me understand I have the power to make a positive change” said an ECET participant.
On the second day of the training, dozens of seasoned community and grassroots leaders from the NHCOA Leaders Network conducted congressional visits on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of their respective communities for positive changes in the areas of affordable housing, hunger and economic security.