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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.

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

NHCOA Celebrates Older Americans Month

This year’s theme, “Get into the Act”, focuses on community engagement to enhance the well-being of seniors 

Washington, DC— Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)— the leading organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers— made the following comments regarding Older Americans Month. Celebrated each year during the month of May, Older Americans Month was created to recognize seniors for their valuable contributions to our society. This year’s theme, “Get Into the Act”—in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act— focuses on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others.

“During the month of May we celebrate our country’s most valuable treasure: older Americans. While the challenges seniors faced five decades ago aren’t exactly the same as those older Americans currently confront, we must remain vigilant to ensure we are doing everything in our reach to ensure they can live their golden years with dignity, economic security, and in the best health possible.

“In particular, NHCOA centers its public policy and program efforts around what we consider four key indicators of well-being: health, economic security, housing, and leadership empowerment and development. We believe each area is equally important for all older Americans, especially Hispanic older adults. Latino seniors, like other diverse seniors, have a lot to celebrate despite the difficulties and challenges, including a history of low wages, language barriers, and access to healthcare. While, these barriers create significant roadblocks to healthy aging, opportunities like Older Americans Month help draw awareness to the issues most impacting seniors.

“This year, Older Americans Month’s theme is ‘Get Into the Act’, and we join the Administration for Community Living in raising awareness on the importance of community engagement as a tool that enhances the well-being of all seniors. Together, we can empower older Americans across the country to take charge of their health and become more engaged in our communities and organizations.”

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Vermont: on its way to becoming the fourth state to adopt paid sick leave bill

By Elyce Nollette, Public Policy Associate

There is a lot celebrate in Vermont with a 76-to-66 vote in the state House of Representatives on its paid sick days bill!

Although there is more work to be done, this sets a strong precedent for paid sick days for its workers. Currently, the state lacks a law requiring employers to provide their employees paid or unpaid sick leave. Through this bill, employers would be required to provide at least 3 paid sick days to their employees. Should statewide paid sick day provisions be adopted in its Senate, Vermont would become the fourth state to do so, joining the ranks of California, Massachusetts and Connecticut as paid sick and family leave trendsetters in the United States.

Every worker deserves the right to take time off in order to take care of their own health and the health of their loved ones without fear of losing wages or face disciplinary action. Yet, the fear and anxiety of having to choose is a reality more than 11 million workers must face each day. While there is a federal piece of legislation (called the FAMILY Act or the Healthy Families Act), which would establish paid sick and family leave standards throughout the United States and provide additional protections for American workers regardless of where they live, efforts to pass the bill through Congress and get it to the President’s desk have been stalled.

In the meantime, states like California, Massachusetts and Connecticut, took it upon themselves to pass their own state legislation because they understand the importance of paid sick leave and paid family leave as an integral part of the health and well-being of their residents. Now Vermont is one step closer to joining this elite group of states. We congratulate Vermont for another step in the right direction, and all those who are fiercely advocating for paid sick and family leave in the state and throughout the country.

Take Action

Contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives to voice your support for the Healthy Families Act.

Tell your State Senators to Reauthorize the Older Americans Act

The Older Americans Act is the single most important piece of legislation for older Americans that supports senior centers, long-term care programs, transportation services and other essential assistance services for older adults. Yet, the OAA, which was last reauthorized in 2006, was up for reauthorization in 2011. Since 2011, NHCOA has advocated tirelessly for the OAA reauthorization as many of its key programs underfunded and misaligned with the changing demographics.

Given the growth and diversification of the U.S. aging population, the OAA needs to be reauthorized to reflect our current reality, as well as meet the needs of our most vulnerable seniors across the country.

This past November, several members of NHCOA’s Hispanic Aging Network travelled from different corners of the country to attend the NHCOA Capitol Hill briefing and advocate on behalf of the Hispanic older adults they serve on a daily basis. These leaders shared their personal stories and a petition signed by more than 5,000 people asking the Senate to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (S.192). Thanks to their efforts and those of advocates, family members, caregivers, and seniors across the country, S. 192 is expected to be discussed on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

Now more than ever we need to send the U.S. Senate a clear, united message to reauthorize the Act, which is why we are asking for 5 minutes of your time to make two phone calls. Act Now. Call both your state senators.

Dial 1-888-277-8686 and follow the prompts to be connected to your state Senator. Once you are connected you can leave the following message for each of your senators:

I understand the Senate will be discussing the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act in a few weeks. I urge Senator [YOUR SENATOR’S LAST NAME] to reauthorize the bill so that it is updated to better serve the needs of diverse older Americans. Thank you for your consideration.

Spread the word. (Pase la Voz.)

We also ask that you forward this message to all your friends, family members, and colleagues. The more people who call, the more attention the Older Americans Act will get from our lawmakers.

Thank you for using your voice to advocate for older Americans across the country!

 

 

2014 State of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Field

Dr Yanira Cruz at NHCOA 2014 Capitol Hill Briefing

Older Americans are living longer, not better

For many seniors across the country, aging in dignity is not possible because they cannot meet their basic needs. While Americans are living longer, statistics show that we are experiencing more chronic conditions, less economic security, and less food security. Older and aging Americans – especially Hispanic older adults – are facing unthinkable choices between eating meals and buying needed medications. Many need to return to the workforce to make ends meet, and many are living in poor housing. Today, more than ever, addressing aging issues is vital.

The thought of a senior stocking up on cat food instead of tuna is truly appalling.

Yet, during our 2014 Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meetings in Florida, Texas, and in California, we were confronted with a troubling reality: seniors are going to bed hungry.

Many seniors, who depend on their Social Security checks shared that their fixed incomes weren’t enough to pay rent, buy food, and purchase their medicines. And then, a participant spoke the unimaginable: “Food is so expensive here that I know some seniors are eating cat food to make ends meet and not starve.”

Giving older Americans a much-deserved voice

On Thursday, November 13, NHCOA released its latest report, Status of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Fielda data and testimonial-driven status report with policy recommendations that captures the hardships and challenges shared by seniors during the regional meetings arising from the lack of policies, programs, and strategies to address the aging and diversification of our U.S. population.

Participants:

  • U.S. Representative Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA)
  • U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)
  • U.S. Representative Tony Cardenas (D-CA)
  • Cindy Padilla (NHCOA Board Member)
  • Kate Lang, Staff Attorney, National Senior Citizen Law Center
  • Dr. Jaime R. Torres, President, Latinos for Healthcare Equity
  • Jose Perez, Executive Director, Senior Community Outreach Services (McAllen, TX)
  • Francis Rizzo, Community Advocate (Dallas, TX)
  • Harry Paraison, MPA, Executive Director, DH Perfil Latino (Milville, NJ)
  • Elizabeth Jimenez, Director Senior Programs, Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Ariel A. González, Esq., Director, Federal Health and Family Advocacy, AARP

NHCOA 2014 State of Hispanic Older Adults Report Release

Read the report and click on the photo for more photos from the briefing.