Reading Help

NHCOA Promotes Leadership, Advocacy and Community-Driven Solutions at Miami Open Forum

Participants’ ideas will be included in recommendations made to the upcoming White House Conference on Aging

Washington, DC—The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers, hosted its Miami Open Forum last week with more than 130 participants, which included Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Miami-Dade county officials, congressional staffers, representatives from local NGOs and senior centers, NHCOA leaders, Hispanic older adults, family members, and caregivers.   

“Miami is a unique city with unique needs, especially among its older populations. And, beyond the needs, there is a real commitment to offering and being a part of the solution,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz. “NHCOA is proud to give Hispanic older adults in Miami, as well as key stakeholders, a microphone that will elevate their input and feedback to the national discourse.”

Mayor Tomás Regalado referred to the uniqueness of Miami and its residents, as well as the key issues that are impacting local Latino seniors that need to addressed at the federal level.

“One of the most important conversations we should have is regarding the issues of aging, health, dignity, and employment among older Americans. They should be able to be influential in their community, participate in the political process, and most importantly, have a voice,” said Mayor Regalado. “And, we as local government should do two things: recognize and value our senior citizens, and understand that older Americans like myself are capable of doing many things and achieving goals.”

Peter Wood, Vice President of Programs and Community Investment at the Health Foundation of South Florida, is also co-director of an initiative to make Miami-Dade County more senior friendly, especially in the areas of public transportation, housing, and public safety.

“We know that if we can achieve these improvements, people of all ages—not just older adults—will be benefitted,” said Mr. Wood. “The input from today’s meeting needs to be put into the hands of elected officials at levels of government so that we can ensure every community is a senior-friendly community.”

Michael Lu, Director of Public Housing and Community Development for Miami-Dade County, also expressed his commitment to working with the senior community living in public housing, and recognized the work of local advocate María Campos, a resident of Robert King High Tower, one of several public housing communities for Miami-Dade County’s older adults.

“One of the key things I have learned is that our senior population in public housing know many, many things and they can translate for us ways to reach the goal of living together, and ultimately creating an environment where everyone can have a dignified life in public housing,” Mr. Lu said.

The format for this year’s Open Forum was dynamic and solution-driven. The organization identified healthy aging and retirement security as key issues, based on data collected from previous years, as well as a recent survey conducted among Latino seniors in Miami.  Participants engaged in small group discussions, answering a specific question on topics assigned to each table such as health, paid sick leave, saving for retirement, health literacy, food insecurity, housing, and healthcare access. Each table also shard their suggestions with the entire group, allowing others to chime in and provide different perspectives.

“We will work together, we will volunteer, but we need to continue with the invaluable programs that have been serving seniors for many years,” said Selva Joseph from Senior Lift Center. “The government should not cut back on them.”

“I’d like Congress to fund the Older Americans Act, and to keep on funding it because people are suffering,” said Kathleen Sarmiento from the Alliance for Aging.

“Every community should have a place where they can go to voice their needs and concerns,” said NHCOA Leader Roxana Iraola. “This group can then to go to the local agencies and government officials to convey this information and address it accordingly.”

The input is being analyzed for inclusion in NHCOA’s recommendations to the White House Conference on Aging in July.  In addition to the suggestions, success stories that demonstrate the importance of working with local officials to address local problems were also highlighted.

“For more than 10 years the residents at Robert King High Towers have advocated for the basic needs: security, air conditioning, lighting,” said María Campos, “It wasn’t until the new housing director (Mr. Michael Lu) came in September that these needs were resolved. This happened because we worked as a team and because we received support and guidance from NHCOA. Today we are proud to say that our basic needs have been met because we didn’t stop advocating until the change we needed happened.”

This year is of great significance for the country and the field of aging as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. It also marks the first time this decade that we celebrate the White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA), a catalyst for the development of aging policy since 1961. All of these events set the stage for this year’s Miami Open Forum, creating a renewed sense of urgency surrounding aging issues and an opportunity to represent the voice of Hispanic older adults across the country.

The 2015 Miami Open Forum is underwritten by Abbvie, Aetna Foundation, the John A. Hartford Foundation, Lilly, the Office Of Minority Health, PhRMA, Pfizer, Univision and Verizon.

###

NOTE: For high-resolution photos from NHCOA’s Miami Open Forum please e-mail mlane@nhcoa.org