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Happy 50th Anniversary Older Americans Act!

Today is the 50 year anniversary of the Older Americans Act being enacted. The Older Americans Act supports to this day, quite a range of home and community-based services with the intention of ensuring the dignity of older adults as they age through their golden years. Programs such as meals-on-wheels, in-home services, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention and caregiver support are all supported by the Older Americans Act and are essential to help older adults maintain their independence in their homes and communities. Unfortunately, the renewal of the Older Americans Act is much overdue. It was last renewed in 2006 and consequently expired in 2011. In the last Congress Bernie Sanders from Vermont made heroic efforts to get it passed, however its renewal did not gain much traction. That is why today, we urge you to reach out to your Representatives and Senators and encourage them to renew the Older Americans Act in this Congress.

Remembering the Older Americans Act During Older Americans Month

May is Older Americans Month

During the year this month of commemoration was instituted, there were approximately 17 million Americans who were 65 years of age or older. Of these, about one third was living in poverty. At the time, only a small amount of programs were meeting seniors’ needs. A meeting was organized in April 1963, between President John F. Kennedy and the National Council of Senior Citizens.

As a consequence of the meeting, May was designated as the Senior Citizens Month, which later became known as Older Americans Month. 

Every President since then has celebrated the contributions of older Americans to our country, and rightfully so. Every senior should be recognized for the contributions and sacrifices they have made— and continue to make— to support families, communities and our society. Starting within the household, seniors play a vital role to the well-being of their relatives and loved ones. Numerous older adults are caregivers to the children within their family, and even friends or neighbors. Others provide financial and emotional support to their grown up kids.

At the community level, older adults represent a high percentage of volunteers. 

It may seem the contrary, but the reality is that more seniors are seeking volunteer opportunities, both domestically and abroad. Frequently, they give their time to local religious and social service organizations, such as Maria in Miami. After years of helping family members navigate U.S. systems and seeing how vulnerable they were to fraud, abuse, and scams, she decided to become a volunteer. She received training from NHCOA on Medicare fraud prevention through our National Hispanic SMP

Despite their selflessness, older adults— especially Latino seniors— are falling into poverty as they age.

Currently, the poverty rate of Latino seniors is twice that of the total population of adults 65 years and older. Hispanic older adults are also more reliant on Social Security as their sole source of income. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21 percent of older adults who receive income from Social Security will only have their Social Security benefits to depend on for income. Among Hispanic seniors— who are estimated to represent 20% of the older adults by 2050— this percentage increases to almost 90%.

In addition to financial problems, a majority of Hispanic older adults suffer disproportionately from health problems. 

Hispanics are 66% more likely than non-Latino Whites to suffer from diabetes. According to Center for Disease Control report on AIDS, Hispanics were twice more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than non-Latino Whites. In 2013, data showed the U.S Hispanic population continues to face numerous health disparities and difficulty accessing healthcare. For example, Latino seniors were much more likely to lack health insurance than non-Hispanics. Moreover, diverse older adults typically bear more out-of-pocket costs for health care, which amount to more than one-third of their income for those at the lowest income levels.

The Older Americans Act— the most important piece of legislations for America’s seniors— can address these issues, but lacks the reauthorization to better serve the population it was created to help.

Given the growth and diversification of the U.S. aging population, the Older Americans Act needs to be reauthorized to reflect our current reality, as well as meet the needs of our most vulnerable seniors across the country. This law supports a variety of home and community-based services, including in-home care, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention, and caregiving support. The law helps older Americans remain as independent as possible, for as long possible, as well as help avoid hospitalizations and nursing home care, which translates into savings at the local and federal level.

Throughout the month, we will be sharing more information about the Older Americans Act, why we should all care about it, and what we can do to ensure it is reauthorized.

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!

 

 

Looking Toward the “Fourth Quarter”

By Dr. Yanira Cruz

Tonight President Obama will lay out his fourth quarter plan for his last two years in the White House. Over the last few weeks, he has shared a couple of “SOTU spoilers,” traveling the country to discuss different aspects of what he will present in tonight’s speech.

On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Hispanic older adults, families, and caregivers we represent, here are a couple of areas we would like to see the President prioritize over the next two years.

1. Work with Congress to protect low-income Medicare beneficiaries.

The Medicare Qualified Individual program, which pays for low-income seniors’ Medicare Part B premiums, has been temporarily extended until March 31, 2015. Congress should make this program permanent and provide funding to help low-income seniors, particularly Hispanic older adults, gain access to the Qualified Individual program and other Medicare benefits as those who are elegible are most likely not to receive it.

Medicare fraud is also a pervasive issue among Latino seniors. They are systematically targeted due to the multiple barriers that keep them from accessing and understanding their benefits and rights as Medicare beneficiares. Congress should ensure that proper funding be secured to conduct culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach and education to this vulnerable, hard-to-reach population.

2. Urge Congress to strengthen and reauthorize the Older Americans Act.

The Older Americans Act is long overdue for reauthorization, and needs to be modernized to better serve the needs of the growing and diverse older adult population it serves, particularly low-income seniors who are struggling to make ends meet. The programs of the OAA are also extremely important in allowing older adults to age in dignity and the best possible health as it authorizes a wide variety of programs focused on health, nutrition, caregiver support, job training, and more.

3. Urge Congress to pass the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2014.

The bill would provide some sorely needed updates to this long-neglected program which provides subsistence level income for over 8 million older Americans and people with disabilities. A majority of those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are women, including two-thirds of those who receive SSI on the basis of age. Revising the current SSI program to match 2014 cost of living standards and expenses is not only common-sense, but critical to the success, health, and well-being of all seniors, and especially those in the Hispanic community.

4. Provide increased subsidized housing opportunities for Hispanic older adults and low-income seniors.

The Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Section 202 Program helps to expand the supply of affordable housing with supportive services for older adults.  It provides very low-income older adults with options that allow them to live independently but in an environment that provides support activities such as cleaning, cooking, and transportation. Additionally, the building and housing units have railings and other features which make them easily accessible for older adults. Many Hispanic older adults live in subsidized housing, but the wait lists are long, and many wait years before qualifying. Increased funding for these housing programs is needed to reduce the wait periods and allow more Hispanic older adults and low-income seniors to have a safe and affordable place to live.

5. Take action so more working families have access to family and medical paid leave.

Currently, the United States is lagging behind other developed countries on paid family and medical leave policies: it is the only developed nation that doesn’t require employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave. According to the White House, it is estimated that 43 million private-sector workers in the United States do not have access to any form of paid sick leave. We applaud President Obama’s announcement last week, which included a call to Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, but there is more to be done to ensure that all working American families have access to the time off they need to take care of themselves or a family member.

NHCOA will be live tweeting tonight during the State of the Union, which starts at 9 pm ET. For live streaming and more information about tonight’s speech, visit wh.gov/SOTU.

NHCOA Releases State of Hispanic Older Adults Report, Conducts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill

NHCOA 2014 State of Hispanic Older Adults Report Release

NHCOA RELEASES STATE OF HISPANIC OLDER ADULTS REPORT, CONDUCTS ADVOCACY DAY ON CAPITOL HILL

U.S. Representatives Raul Ruiz, MD, Michelle Lujan-Grisham, and Tony Cardenas recommit to the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, the single most important law for U.S. seniors

Washington, DC – Picture this: to keep from going hungry in straitened circumstances, you may one day need to eat cat food for dinner, or search for your lunch in a dumpster. In its latest report, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)— the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers— reveals this is not merely a worst-case scenario; it is reality for some seniors in the U.S. today.

Last week, NHCOA released Status of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Field, a data and testimonial-driven status report with policy recommendations that captures the hardships and challenges shared by seniors during the organization’s Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meetings arising from the lack of policies, programs, and strategies to address the aging and diversification of our U.S. population. In 2014, NHCOA held community forums in Miami, Florida; Dallas, Texas and Los Angeles, California. The information gathered at these events, coupled with statistics, revealed that, sadly, older adults are unable to afford even their basic necessities.

“If you look at the statistics, the challenges today’s seniors are facing may seem insurmountable,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO. “However, once you listen to their stories, it is immediately clear that these challenges need to be addressed, no matter how challenging they may seem. The goal of the Status of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Field report is to sensitize us to a reality that is commonplace and unacceptable: people who have worked decades to bring prosperity and well-being to their families and country are simply not making ends meet, let alone aspire toward what we call ‘golden years.’”

NHCOA Board Member and former Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging Cindy Padilla moderated a panel of experts and community leaders— Kate Lang, Staff Attorney at the National Senior Citizen Law Center and Dr. Jaime R. Torres, President of Latinos for Healthcare Equity; Jose Perez, Executive Director of Senior Community Outreach Services (McAllen, TX); Francis Rizzo, Community Advocate (Dallas, TX); Harry Paraison, MPA, Executive Director of DH Perfil Latino (Millville, NJ); and Elizabeth Jimenez, Director of Senior Programs at Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (Los Angeles, CA)— provided context to the report’s findings through statistics and testimonials.

In addition to the data and testimonials from seniors in different parts of the country, the report details several policy recommendations, including the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, the single most important piece of legislation for U.S. seniors. Ariel A. González, Esq., Director of Federal Health and Family Advocacy at AARP spoke briefly on the impact and importance of the Older Americans, while members of Congress in attendance reaffirmed their commitment to reauthorizing this important law, which hasn’t been updated since 2011.

“We know the issues of senior hunger, poverty, and health access all too well in my home state of New Mexico,” said Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM). “The federal government must step in and provide the resources and the oversight necessary to ensure that all seniors receive the services they need.”

“As an emergency medicine physician, I have cared for many seniors in the emergency room, and I know how important it is that they get the resources they need, when they need it. We need to come together to ensure that every senior in America enjoys the dignified, healthy, and secure retirement they deserve,” said Congressman Raul Ruiz, MD (D-CA).

“I am thankful for the National Hispanic Council on Aging,” expressed Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-CA). “The work they did organizing last week’s briefing, and their support for Latino Community, is invaluable. I commend them on the hard work for our familia. I hope that, through this year’s summit, they are able to accomplish even more good for our community.”

Following the briefing members of the NHCOA Leaders network from across the country conducted congressional visits with members of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce to present a petition with signatures from seniors across the country urging for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. NHCOA leaders also discussed specific issues impacting Hispanic older adults in their communities.

“[The NHCOA Advocacy Day was an] opportunity to make a difference in the communities we live and serve, an opportunity to be the voice of those suffering from lack of food or proper nutrition, housing, or medical care— to ensure that our older population has the opportunity to live independently, in dignity and self-worth at home and community,” said Jose Perez, Executive Director of Senior Community Outreach Services in McAllen, TX.

“It’s been a wonderful experience for us advocating on behalf of the older adults we serve in southern New Jersey,” expressed Harry Paraison, MPA, Executive Director of DH/Perfil Latino in Millville, NJ. “It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to visit congressional offices and give our seniors a voice. We are working to ensure they have better access to social services so they don’t suffer from hunger, that they don’t have to choose between buying food or filling their prescription medication, and that they have adequate housing.”

“I feel very grateful for the opportunity to represent the senior community of Los Angeles,” said Elizabeth Jimenez, Director of Senior Programs at the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation in Los Angeles, CA. “Bringing us together as members of NHCOA gave us the opportunity to share similar challenges and learn  that there is still a lot to do and  continue to be a  voice for our  senior community.”

The 2014 NHCOA Capitol Hill briefing to release the State of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Field report was possible thanks to the support of Lilly, CVS Health, AARP, Comcast, Wellpoint, PhARMA, Pfizer, and Verizon.

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Click here to download a copy of State of Hispanic Older Adults: Stories from the Field.

For pictures of the briefing and congressional visits, visit our Facebook album

NHCOA Testifies at Older Americans Act Congressional Hearing

Washington, DC— This morning Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)— the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers— testified alongside advocates and experts before the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training regarding the pending reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA). As the U.S. aging population increases and becomes more diverse, the OAA is a key piece of legislation for all older Americans, including diverse seniors. Dr. Cruz’s recorded testimony is as follows:

“Thank you Chairman Foxx, Ranking Member Hinojosa, and Members of the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, for the opportunity to testify at this hearing.  It is an honor to be here to underscore the great need to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA).

“I am president and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers.  NHCOA is a member of the Diverse Elders Coalition, a coalition of five organizations advocating for aging policies that improve the lives of racially and ethnically diverse Americans, including the American Indian, Asian American and LGBT communities.  Though the particular needs of each community differ, maintaining health and economic security is something all seniors strive for, and the OAA helps them achieve this.

“We know the OAA and its services work.  Older adults experiencing the threat of hunger tell us that often times their only meal is through a local senior center.  We also hear stories about selfless caregivers who have received training and respite as part of the National Family Caregiver Support Program.  Across the nation, older adults are learning new skills and going back to work because of training received from the Senior Community Services Employment Program.  The OAA also helps seniors receive the services and support they need to maintain their health and independence, as well as avoid more expensive forms of care.

“Sequestration harms the OAA’s ability to fulfill its mission.  Every day, 10,000 people turn age 65.[1]  Yet, OAA funding has not increased enough to meet this demand.  On the contrary, some of its programs have been cut.  This means that millions of meals aren’t being delivered to senior centers or homes, hundreds of thousands of seniors are losing access to daily living assistance, and thousands of low-income older adults who are eager to learn new skills are turned away from job training.[2]

“Although the OAA has been successful, it is in need of an update because the demographics of the seniors it serves are changing.  Currently, there are about 8 million diverse seniors.[3]  And these numbers will only increase as the general U.S. population ages.

“The OAA must respond to these demographic changes.  In general, diverse older adults experience health inequities and disproportionate levels of economic insecurity.  The American Community Survey estimates that around 5% of Hispanics over age 65 lack health insurance.  In comparison, less than one percent of non-Hispanic seniors lack health insurance.[4]  This makes the health community services offered through the OAA particularly important for Latino seniors.  Similarly, the American Community Survey finds that 19% of American Indian older adults live in poverty.[5]  African American seniors— currently the largest group of diverse seniors in the country— endure diabetes at disproportionately high rates.[6]  We know that the OAA’s health education and nutrition programs can help reduce these inequities.

“At NHCOA’s regional community forums, I hear from older adults struggling to access OAA services because of cultural and linguistic barriers.  A Hispanic older adult in Los Angeles explained to us, “Many of the services do not have employees that have the capacity or the patience to help us. There is a huge lack of respect to seniors.”  A report by Hispanics in Philanthropy, entitled The Latino Age Wave, found there is a lack of places Latino seniors can go to access aging services.[7]  Cultural factors form a barrier to services for LGBT older adults as well.  Many LGBT seniors have endured a lifetime of discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.  As a result, many feel uncomfortable seeking out services from mainstream providers.[8]

“NHCOA strongly supports the reauthorization of the OAA.  And I know that we are currently in a challenging budgetary situation, but the OAA needs more funding.  The cuts of sequestration are harming the ability of our country to care for our older adults.  Additionally, in recognition of current demographic changes, the provision of services in a culturally and linguistically competent manner should be made a priority of the law.  LGBT older adults and people with HIV/AIDS should be identified as a population in greatest social need.

“Thank you for the opportunity to testify.  I am happy to answer any questions you may have.”

For more information about the Older Americans Act, click here.

To watch a recording of the subcommittee hearing “Serving Seniors Through the Older Americans Act”, click here.

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[1] Cohn, D., Taylor, P.  Baby Boomers Approach 65 – Glumly.  Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends.  December 20, 2010.  Accessed from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/12/20/baby-boomers-approach-65-glumly/

[2] Leadership Council of Aging Organizations.  Issue Brief: NDD Sequestration Hurts Vulnerable Seniors.  October 2012.  Accessed from http://www.lcao.org/files/2013/02/LCAO-Sequestration-Issue-Brief-Oct2012.pdf

[3] Administration on Aging.  Minority Aging – Statistical Profiles.  Accessed from http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/(S(2ch3qw55k1qylo45dbihar2u))/Aging_Statistics/minority_aging/Index.aspx and Services and Advocacy for GLTB Elders.  General Facts.  Accessed from http://www.sageusa.org/issues/general.cfm

[4] National Hispanic Council on Aging calculations based on data from the 2010-2012 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates.

[5] U.S. Census Bureau.  “Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months by Sex by Age (American Indian and Alaskan Native Alone).  2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

[6] Administration on Aging.  Minority Aging – Statistical Profiles.  Accessed from http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/(S(2ch3qw55k1qylo45dbihar2u))/Aging_Statistics/minority_aging/Index.aspx

[7] Global Policy Solutions.  The Latino Age Wave.  Hispanics in Philanthropy.  February 2011.  Accessed from http://www.hiponline.org/storage/documents/HIP_LatinoAgeWave_FullReport_Web.pdf

[8] Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, LGBT Older Adults and the Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act: A Policy Brief.  March 2011.  Accessed from: http://www.sageusa.org/resources/publications.cfm?ID=15

The Future of the Older Americans Act (OAA)

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is one of the most important laws for older adults, and on the 50th anniversary of Older Americans Month, it is in need of greater recognition. While most people are familiar with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, few know about the OAA. The programs of the OAA are also extremely important in allowing older adults to age in dignity and the best possible health. The OAA authorizes a wide variety of programs focused on health, nutrition, job training and caregiver support. Though the law has been successful in improving the lives of older adults, it can be strengthened. Sen. Michael Bennet, of Colorado, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, have developed policies that would enable the OAA to more effectively serve Hispanic older adults and other diverse elders, and give the law the funding it needs to carry out its important work.

The population of Hispanic older adults is growing rapidly, but many Hispanic seniors struggle to access services. Cultural and linguistic barriers are one reason for the difficulty in accessing services. For example, NHCOA has learned that conducting Spanish language outreach to family members and caregivers is an effective way of reaching Hispanic older adults. To help resolve this issue, NHCOA worked with Sen. Bennet to develop an amendment to the OAA called the Improving Services and Activities for Diverse Elders (ISADE) Act. This bill would add a definition of cultural and linguistic competence to the OAA and help the local, state and federal government better serve diverse older adults.

A few weeks ago, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) attended the OAA Summit, hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sen. Sanders is working to strengthen the OAA by reauthorizing the law and strengthening it for the future. He has included parts of Sen. Bennet’s ISADE Act to help diverse seniors, including Hispanic older adults, more easily access services.  He has also called for increased funding for the OAA, so that programs can grow along with the growth of the older adult population. At the OAA Summit, Sen. Sanders called on his colleagues in Congress to work for older adults and keep in mind those that are most vulnerable.

A small number of Senate champions for older adults joined Sen. Sanders. Sen. Tom Harkin, of Iowa, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, Sen. Ben Cardin, of Maryland, Sen. Al Franken, of Minnesota, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Wisconsin, all expressed their support for the OAA.

“It is rewarding to see the support for the Older Americans Act (OAA) and the impact it has made for the millions of seniors across the nation. We look forward to seeing the program grow in strength and effectiveness in the future and the services it will offer to our growing diverse elderly population,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of NHCOA.

The population of older adults is growing rapidly and becoming more diverse.  Although Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are effective programs, the OAA is a vital piece of the aging infrastructure.  The U.S. needs to modernize the OAA by adequately funding its work and making it responsive to the needs of diverse older adults.  NHCOA strongly supports the work of Sen. Bennet and Sen. Sanders, and calls on all members of Congress to follow their example of service to older adults.

NHCOA to Host Capitol Hill Briefing to Address Disparities in Diabetes Among Diverse Elders

Washington, DC—Every 17 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes, and the total impact of this disease reached $218 billion in 2007. In light of this, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)—the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers— will host a Capitol Hill briefing to discuss and offer solutions to the iniquities diverse communities face, particularly older adults, who represent the fastest-growing age demographic in the country.

With the upcoming Older Americans Act (OAA) Reauthorization, public policy recommendations will be discussed to address this demographic shift. NHCOA will also present the findings of a culturally and linguistically appropriate and age-sensitive public health intervention developed to help Hispanic older adults and caregivers prevent and manage their diabetes with the support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Walmart Foundation.

MEDIA ALERT

WHO: Dr. Yanira Cruz, President & CEO, NHCOA
Congressman Charles Gonzalez (D, TX-20)
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, FL-18)*
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D, CA-34)*
Cecilia Pozo Fileti, MS, RD, FADA, President, Latino Health Communications
Dr. Clive O. Callender, MD, Howard University
*Invited

WHAT: Capitol Hill briefing to discuss and seek solutions to the disparities diverse seniors face in terms of
diabetes prevention and management.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
1:00 – 2:00 pm ET

WHERE: 2103 Rayburn HOB

NHCOA Briefs Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) on Impact of Medicare, Medicaid & Older Americans Act Reauthorization on Hispanic Older Adults

Washington, DC — Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO, joined colleagues from the Latinos for a Secure Retirement and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) for a  Capitol Hill briefing with several Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on issues including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA). Following are Dr. Cruz’s prepared remarks:

“Good afternoon esteemed colleagues and honorable Members of Congress. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to brief you today.

“I will start by stating what we already know to be true, but needs to constantly be repeated: Hispanics stand to lose disproportionately if severe changes are made to Medicaid, Medicare, and the Older Americans Act as we seek fiscal responsibility and debt relief.

“Given that Latinos are the fastest aging segment of the U.S. aging population, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), NCLR, and Latinos for a Secure Retirement are concerned for our community, particularly Hispanic older adults who will be most gravely affected.

“It’s been discussed at town hall meetings across the country – the American people clearly aren’t in favor of privatizing Medicare because of the increased financial burden it will place on seniors. This is especially true for our Hispanic older adults: 90% depend on this vital program for nearly all of their medical expenses. Additionally, many supplement their health care coverage with Medicaid, which provides a crucial safety net for low-income seniors, women, and children across the country.

“If Medicaid’s government matching funding mechanism is replaced by a block grant that places the financial burden on the states, Hispanic seniors are put at serious risk of falling into poverty and staying there indefinitely. People over 65 stay in the poverty the longest of any age group, and in 2009 nearly one fifth of Latino elders were poor.

“Furthermore, the Older Americans Act is due to be reauthorized this year. This act provides important and cost-effective services that are beneficial to Hispanic older adults.

“Particularly, the National Family Caregiver Support Program keeps seniors in their homes and off Medicaid. The NFCSP provides states with grants to provide family caregiver training and support groups, aid to caregivers in accessing services, and respite care services for caregivers.

“In 2007, the cost of replacing unpaid caregiving with paid services totaled $375 billion. Aside from the fact that the NFCSP has been proven to provide caregivers with the necessary tool to be able to assist their loved ones, it is especially beneficial to Hispanics because the care they receive is from a loved one, in a language they understand, and in a culturally sensitive manner.

“Additionally, NHCOA as part of the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC), a group of seven national organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for this country’s diverse aging communities, have included eight recommendations into the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations’ official “Consensus Recommendations for the 2011 Older Americans Act Reauthorization” that are specific to racially and ethnically diverse elders, as well as LGBT elders, and older adults with HIV/AIDS.

“The bottom line is that Latino elders stand to lose the most, as the health iniquities they face—such as disproportionate rates of hypertension and diabetes— are due to social and economic barriers they’ve experienced throughout the course of their lives: lower levels of education, lower per capita incomes, poorer employment prospects, and reduced access to long-term health care.

“We recognize that we need to find solid, meaningful solutions to our financial woes, but let’s not do it at the expense of the Hispanic community and our Hispanic older adults who have painstakingly contributed to the wellbeing and advancement of our families, communities, and larger society.

“We respectfully ask you to help us protect Medicare and Medicaid from being unfairly affected in the budget negotiations, particularly by opposing spending caps that will inevitably affect these vital safety nets and potentially Social Security.

“We also strongly urge that the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act be taken up and renewed this year with an increased $35 million in funding for the National Family Caregiver Support Program, as requested by President Obama; and the Diverse Elders Coalition’s recommendations to change language in the act itself that are specific to racially and ethnically diverse elders, as well as LGBT elders, and older adults with HIV/AIDS.

“Muchas gracias, we thank you for your time.”

DR. YANIRA CRUZ: Today for You, Tomorrow for Me / Hoy Por Ti, Mañana Por Mí

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), as the name implies, works on Hispanic aging issues, but doesn’t limit its focus to the elderly. We understand that in order to properly address the issues of most impact to our Hispanic older adults, it is critical to include their families and caregivers in our work, whether it be research, policy or program-oriented. There is also a forward-looking nature in our work as aging is an issue that impacts us all, regardless of status, gender, profession, or creed.

Recently, I was proud to represent NHCOA and speak on behalf of those we serve at a policy briefing to discuss a new Hispanics in Philanthropies (HIP) study called “The Latino Age Wave: Examining the Future of Aging in the United States” (http://tinyurl.com/4knh5jk). This important study conducted by Global Policy Solutions made an important key finding: we are facing an aging agency infrastructure that is federally funded, yet has major gaps when it comes to serving our Hispanic older adults.

The good news is that we have a great opportunity to change this, as Congress is soon scheduled to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, which covers the gamut of federally funded senior services. Congress needs to take the necessary steps to ensure Hispanic older adults and all diverse elders-African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islander, American Indian and Native Alaskan, and LGTB elders- are served in a culturally and linguistically competent manner.

Aside from the moral arguments that can be made, we can no longer continue nor afford to underserve our Hispanic older adults. It’s as simple as looking at the numbers. The Census tells us Hispanic elders are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. senior population, in a nation that is also growing older. Today, there are approximately three million Hispanic older adults, but by 2050 that number is expected to increase almost six-fold to 17 million.

As the study points out, these new demographic realities demand a readjustment in policies, services, and programs targeted to Hispanic older adults. It also underscores the importance of having a solid national network of community-based organizations (CBOs) that serve Hispanic seniors locally. Sadly, the study indicated a scarcity in these CBOs.

Part of NHCOA’s work is to develop and expand a network of organizations serving Hispanic elders to ensure each community receives the specific resources, services, and programs needed to meet their needs. Over the last several years, we have successfully provided capacity building, outreach, and programming to CBOs from different parts of the country that touch the lives of millions of Hispanic older adults.

However, there is a great need of federal and private funding to replicate these efforts. These investments in infrastructure development would enhance CBOs’ capacity to deliver services at the local and national level, therefore improving the well-being and outcomes of our growing Hispanic older adult population.

Many may say, ‘Why now? We can afford to push it aside a bit longer’ or ‘There are greater and more important issues at hand.’ My response is, ‘today for you, tomorrow for me,’ because with the dramatic growth our aging population is experiencing, tomorrow isn’t that far away at all.

To read the HIP report, click here: http://www.hiponline.org/downloads/11Feb28_HIP_LatinoAgeWave.pdf.

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El Consejo Nacional Hispano de Personas Adultas Mayores (NHCOA, por sus siglas en ingles), como dice el nombre, se enfoca en temas relacionadas a los hispanos adultos mayores, pero nuestro trabajo no se limita a eso solamente. Entendemos que para que podamos abordar y resolver acertadamente los temas de mayor impacto para los adultos mayores hispanos, tenemos que incluir a sus familias y cuidadores en todo lo que hagamos, ya fuera investigaciones, políticas públicas o programas. También hay un aspecto de nuestro trabajo que nos requiere siempre tener la vista puesta en el futuro dado que el envejecimiento es un tema que nos afecta a todos sin importar estatus, género, profesión o credo.

Hace poco, tuve el orgullo de representar a NHCOA y aquellos quienes servimos en el lanzamiento de un reporte nuevo de Hispanos en Filantropía (HIP, por sus siglas en inglés) llamado “The Latino Age Wave: Examining the Future of Aging in the United States” (http://tinyurl.com/4knh5jk). Este estudio importante realizado por Global Policy Solutions hizo un gran descubrimiento: tenemos una infraestructura de agencias para la tercera edad que recibe fondos federales, pero que no alcanza brindarle servicios a los adultos mayores hispanos al cien por ciento debido a carencias en el sistema.

Lo bueno es que tenemos una tremenda oportunidad para cambiar esto, dado que el Congreso pronto está previsto a reautorizar la ley de los Adultos Mayores Estadounidense (en inglés, Older Americans Act), bajo la cual se contemplan todos los servicios que el gobierno subvenciona para los adultos mayores. El Congreso tiene que hacer lo necesario para que los adultos mayores hispanos y todos las personas de la tercera edad- afro americanos, asiáticos y de las islas pacíficas, indio americanos y nativos de Alaska y personas de la tercera edad homosexuales, lesbianas, transexuales y bisexuales- sean atendidas con las competencias culturales y lingüísticas indicadas.

Aparte de los argumentos morales que se puedan plantar, no podemos seguir ni darnos el lujo de darles un trato inmerecido a nuestros adultos mayores hispanos. Es tan sencillo como examinar las estadísticas. El Censo nos indica que los adultos mayores hispanos conforman el segmento de la población de la tercera edad de mayor crecimiento en un país que también está envejeciendo. Hoy en día hay casi 3 millones de adultos mayores hispanos, pero en el 2050 esta cifra se multiplicará por seis, llegando a los 17 millones.

Como señala el estudio, estas nuevas realidades demográficas nos obligan a reajustar las políticas públicas, servicios y programas para los adultos mayores hispanos. También resalta la importancia de establecer una red sólida de organizaciones de base comunitaria (CBOs, por sus siglas en inglés) que atienden a los hispanos de la tercera edad en sus comunidades. Tristemente, el reporte indica una falta de CBOs de ésta índole.

Parte del trabajo de NHCOA es desarrollar y expandir la red de organizaciones trabajando en pro del adulto mayor hispano para que cada comunidad tenga los recursos, servicios y programas precisos para satisfacer sus necesidades. En los últimos años, hemos tenido mucho éxito brindando capacitación continua, alcanzamiento comunitario, y desarrollo de programas a CBOs en distintas partes del país que afectan las vidas de millones de adultos mayores hispanos.

Sin embargo, hace falta muchos fondos federales y privados para multiplicar estos esfuerzos. Estas inversiones en el desarrollo de infraestructura expandirían la capacidad de los CBOs en prestar servicios a nivel local y nacional, mejorando así el bienestar y las circunstancias para la creciente población de adultos mayores hispanos.

Muchos dirán, ‘¿Por qué ahora? Podemos esperar un poco más’ o ‘Hay otros temas más importantes que debemos resolver.’ Pero mi respuesta es, ‘hoy por ti, mañana por mí’ porque con el crecimiento rápido de nuestra población envejeciente, el mañana ya no está tan lejano.