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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.

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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NHCOA Joins Older Americans Month Celebration

This year’s theme, “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.”, focuses on injury prevention among 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, and provide them with information to make their golden years more healthy and active. This year’s theme, “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.”, focuses on the injury prevention. According to the Administration for Community Living, unintentional injuries among older Americans result in at least 6 million medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 injury-related deaths each year. 

“Each year, during the month of May we celebrate the legacy of our country’s most valuable treasure, older Americans. Their hard work, their example, their experiences, and their contributions are the foundations we build on today. Older Americans Month is an opportunity to recognize our seniors for their efforts as productive citizens in our society, as well as showcase information that can improve their quality of lives.

“At NHCOA, we center our public policy and programming efforts around 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 many challenges, including a history of low wages, language barriers, and access to healthcare. While, these barriers are 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 ‘Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.’ we join in raising awareness about different ways we can keep our seniors safe to ensure they age securely, and in the best health possible, including injury and fall prevention, elder abuse, and improper use of medicine. Together, we can help older Americans across the country lead longer and healthier lives.”

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Older Americans Month: Memories of Histories Lived

By Dr. Henry Pacheco, NHCOA Director of Medicine and Public Health

Families getting together or pictures found in the basement or attic often generate questions. Who was this? Where was this? How did we get here? Who are we?  Unfortunately, these questions may never be answered, leaving a large pool of the unknown that we have to live with. It is said that a lot is known about German history, culture and psychology, because Germans are great writers of diaries. There is an equivalent to that in Latino culture, such as sitting around the table after dinner or after lunch and having those casual conversations about lives lived decades ago. Memories triggered by some current event or the casual question of some younger, perhaps not fully engaged participant, provoking older bearers of so much oral history to weave a whole forgotten universe of experiences lived, some in this adopted country, some in the old country. So much life, so many memories, so many tears, so many laughs and a lot of courage – this is what Older Americans Month is all about.

It happens that we often run into those large pools of the unknown past that would make us whole, if we had only taken the time to ask, record or remember. For those who still have the benefit or the privilege of being in the company of their grandparents, it’s not too late to sit down and ask. Ask about their earliest childhood memories, who were your parents? Where did they live? What did they do? How was life when you were a child, what did the country look like? What were the stories making the rounds then? Who was in power? What happened? Why did you move? What happened to your brothers or sisters, my great aunts and uncles? What was your home like? What did you eat? What games did you play? The questions are endless, once you get started.

Additionally, it happens that older folks have an incredible memory for things past. They may not remember where they left the keys but they remember who was president in the 1920’s and what happened as a result. They remember the songs of the 1930’s and the first car that rolled into town. They remember who got the first refrigerator and radio. They also remember the bad, such as the struggles of daily living, the great plagues that made the rounds and the one who got polio that summer and couldn’t walk again. They remember who got smallpox and was called el fiero (pockmarked) if he survived. They remember going to the pharmacy with a list of potions to be prepared, like the recipe of an alchemist, in hopes that once mixed in the right proportions and taken regularly from the small bottle or envelop, with water, after a few days some malady would be resolved.

They remember the great revolutions, the great wars and where they were and what happened. The heroes, the scoundrels, their names forever remembered in admiration, in fear and in hate. Those who won got to stay, had jobs and had a future. Those who lost often had to leave everything, but they were the lucky ones. At least they didn’t end up forgotten in some dungeon or in some common grave yard somewhere out there, lost forever to everyone, with no memory, no children and no relatives to see into the future.

There is so much history, so much folklore, so many stories you wish you hadn’t known or you wish you knew more about, but at least now when you look back, you can see forever and things that happened make more sense, your parents and your life make more sense. Don’t wait until is too late and lost forever- take a pen, take a notebook and ask. Abuelo y abuela, quiero saber, ¡cuéntame!  (Grandpa and Grandma, I’d like to know, tell me!)

NHCOA Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Older Americans Month

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 – thanks Senator Bill Nelson for submitting a resolution to designate May 2013 as “Older Americans Month.” NHCOA is also grateful for the co-sponsorship of the resolution by Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, and Senator Chris Coons, of Delaware. Recognizing the growth of the older adult population and their ability to make positive contributions to the country is more important than ever.

Sen. Nelson noted that during the first Older Americans Month in 1963, about one out of three older adults in the U.S. lived in poverty. Since then, the country has made great strides in improving the ability of older adults to live in health, economic security, and dignity. The poverty rate for those over 65 is now 8.7%. However, many older adults still struggle to pay medical bills, afford housing, and put food on the table. For example, Hispanic older adults endure a poverty rate that is substantially higher than average, 18.7%.

NHCOA joins Sen. Nelson in his call to the people of the U.S. to encourage more opportunities for older adults to positively contribute. Over the past several years, NHCOA has carried out trainings to help Hispanic older adults improve their communities and take charge of their health and economic security. NHCOA hosts its Empowerment and Civic Engagement Training to demystify the public policy process and teach older adults how to tell their stories to policy makers. NHCOA also carries out a variety of programs to help Hispanic older adults prevent chronic diseases, like diabetes. The older adults that NHCOA works with also contribute to Medicare by preventing and detecting fraud, as part of the National Hispanic Senior Medicare Patrol.

“Fair and positive change is at the heart of every community,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO. “And, at the heart of each community are thousands of seniors who want— and can— be part of that change. Older Americans Month is an opportunity to highlight their ability to contribute positively to our society given their vast life experiences, wisdom, and talents.”

The U.S. still has work to do to ensure that all older adults are able to age in economic security and the best possible health. NHCOA is happy to have champions like Sen. Nelson, Sen. Collins, Sen. Sanders, and Sen. Coons, leading this effort and continuing the legacy that was started by President Kennedy.

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NHCOA Wishes You a Happy Older Americans Month!

By Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO

NHCOA is committed to enriching the lives of older Hispanic adults. As we celebrate Older Americans Month, we invite you to explore the different ways NHCOA is working to improve the lives of thousands of U.S. Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers. Below are some examples of our work in the areas of health, economic security, leadership development and empowerment, and housing.

As NHCOA continues to find new ways to better serve Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers, we thank you for everything you do in your families, communities, cities, and states. We also invite you continue joining our efforts to ensure that our most cherished and vulnerable population can age with dignity, economic security, and in the best possible health.

In commemoration of Older Americans Month, here is a look at some of the work we do at NHCOA:

Leadership Development & Empowerment

Leadership and empowerment, one of NHCOA’s top priorities, is at the core of any successful advocacy work. As part of its work in this area, NHCOA convenes key community grassroots leaders, including Hispanic older adults, their caregivers, advocates, and professionals to connect, network, and gain culturally and linguistically competent advocacy tools.

Through NHCOA’s Empowerment and Civic Engagement Training (ECET), grassroots leadership is cultivated by helping participants develop a strong, collective voice to speak on behalf, and represent our Hispanic older adults at all levels of government and community. This year, NHCOA will train a second generation of ECET leaders across the country and drive voter registration.

Economic Security

Health care fraud is one of the most pervasive types of fraud targeting seniors. Given that harder-to-reach populations, such as Hispanic older adults, are disproportionately victimized, NHCOA in conjunction with the U.S. Administration on Aging is working to fight Medicare fraud within the Hispanic community through the National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP).

Through the NHSMP, NHCOA is committed to being an active player in curbing Medicare fraud by providing assistance and capacity building to local community-based organizations (CBOs) and state SMPs in areas with high concentrations of Hispanic older adults, as well as providing resources for Hispanic older adults and their caregivers.

Health & Well-Being

As part of its work in the area of health and well-being, NHCOA implements a variety of programs, including:

Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative is a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative focused on HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts directly targeting Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers.

Vacunémonos (Let’s Get Vaccinated) is a partnership with the CDC to raise awareness among Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers about the importance of getting vaccinations through adulthood to protect families and communities from preventable infectious diseases.

Salud y Bienestar (Health and Well-Being) is a national program that educates and informs Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers on how to prevent and/or manage diabetes and its complications. Its current expansion is supported by the Walmart Foundation.

NHCOA is also working to increase Alzheimer’s disease knowledge by conducting research to understand the attitudes, level of stigma, level of knowledge, and challenges within the Hispanic community as it relates to both caregivers and health care providers. The findings of this study could potentially serve as the basis for interventions designed to ensure effective management of Alzheimer’s within the Hispanic community.

Housing

NHCOA owns and administers low-income senior housing buildings located in Washington, DC and Garden City, KS. As the Latino community has lost significant household wealth, we are working to ensure Hispanic older adults have access to affordable, quality housing so they can age in place and in their communities.

NHCOA Celebrates Older Americans Month / NHCOA Celebra el Mes del Adulto Mayor

Washington, DC – Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO, made the following remarks regarding Older Americans Month, which was established in 1963 to meet a broadening interest in senior issues. The Administration on Aging has chosen “Older Americans: Connecting the Community” for this year’s theme as a homage to the many ways seniors are pillars for the communities they live in.

“Every May, as a country we recognize and pay homage to the life-long contributions, importance, example, and value of our parents, grandparents, and loved ones. This celebration also gives us the opportunity to be thankful for their influence in our lives and allow us to more deeply appreciate the many ways in which they have contributed to our development and wellbeing throughout the years.

“Older Americans Month strikes a distinct tone within the Hispanic community, especially this year’s theme, as the typical family structure is multigenerational and community-oriented. Many grandparents live with their children and grandchildren, and are an integral part of the family unit and the communities they live— and perhaps still work in.

“NHCOA congratulates Hispanic older adults across the country for their hard-work, dedication, and courage, as well as their families and caregivers for their encouragement, support, and love. In doing so, we also redouble our commitment to our mission so that one day all seniors, particularly Hispanic older adults, are able to age with dignity and respect.”

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Washington, DC – La Dra. Yanira Cruz, presidenta de NHCOA, hizo las siguientes declaraciones respecto al Mes del Adulto Mayor, el cual fue establecido en 1963 en respuesta a un interés creciente sobre los temas de la vejez. Este año la Administración Sobre Asuntos de la Vejez de los Estados Unidos (AoA, por sus siglas en inglés) han seleccionado el tema “Adultos Mayores: Conectando a la Comunidad” para rendirle tributo a las distintas maneras en que los adultos mayores son baluartes de sus comunidades.

“Cada año en el mes de mayo, el país reconoce y le rinde homenaje a nuestros padres, abuelitos y seres queridos por sus contribuciones, ejemplo, valor e importancia en nuestras vidas. Esta celebración también nos permite agradecer su influencia en nuestras vidas y apreciar más profundamente las maneras en que han contribuido a nuestro desarrollo y bienestar a lo largo de los años.

“El Mes del Adulto Mayor es un evento que resuena particularmente con la comunidad hispana, especialmente el tema de este año, ya que la típica estructura familiar es de múltiples generaciones y enfocadas hacia la comunidad alrededor. Muchos abuelitos viven con sus hijos y nietos, y forman parte integral tanto de su unidad familiar como de las comunidades en las que residan y hasta aún trabajen.

“NHCOA felicita a todos adultos mayores hispanos a través del país por su trabajo, compromiso y valentía, así como a sus familias y cuidadores por su apoyo, aliento y amor. Igualmente aprovechamos esta oportunidad para redoblar el compromiso a nuestra misión de modo que un día todos los adultos mayores, en particular los adultos mayores hispanos, puedan vivir sus años dorados con dignidad y respeto”.