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.
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.