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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.

Day Six: Show love to receive love

Over the next 12 days, we will be sharing daily posts to motivate you to think about your health and well-being during the holiday season. Some posts will focus on handy tips, while others will offer a reflexion. We hope these words will inspire you and we invite you to share them with friends, neighbors and family.  

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The holidays are filled with joy, parties and family gatherings. It should also be a time of reflexion, and sharing the best of ourselves, especially with those in most needs. In 2013, more than 4 million older adults in the U.S. lived in poverty, often suffering from hunger, loneliness and economic insecurity. And, during the holidays these needs are accentuated.

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When we travel to different regions of the country for our annual regional meetings, we hear heart-breaking stories of seniors doing the unthinkable to survive on a daily basis. The issues of hunger and poverty are overwhelmingly two of the greatest challenges the majority of Hispanic older adults face. And, they are also in need of a helping hand, a kind gesture to make their holiday season special and unforgettable, as many live alone and far away from their families.

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Let’s donate some our time or treasure so our seniors receive the attention and kindness they deserve this holiday season. There are many organizations that serve older adults, as well as senior housing that would greatly benefit from a donation or volunteerism. What if we made it a yearly family tradition? Remember that those who give love, receive love — and our Hispanic older adults’ are overflowing, ready to shower you with gratitude and kindness.

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Here are some of the organization who are part of NHCOA’s Hispanic Aging Network who are receiving donations for seniors in Los Angeles and Miami:

Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF), California

Contact: Elizabeth Jimenez

Phone: (323) 278-3634

Website: http://www.maof.org/

Receiving donations until December 23, 2014

 

Robert King Building, Miami

Contact: Maria Campos

Phone: 305-496-7488

Receiving donations until December 19, 2014

 

Abriendo Puertas, Miami

Contact: Flor Morales

Phone: 305-649-6449

Website: http://www.abriendopuertasfl.org/

Receiving donations until January 5, 2015

 

Be a Santa to a Senior

Website: http://www.beasantatoasenior.com/

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

Media Advisory: NHCOA Open Forum Tomorrow in Los Angeles

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    

MEDIA CONTACT: Patricia Guadalupe

CONTACT NUMBER: (202) 347-9733

August 20, 2014       

 

NHCOA TO HOST OPEN FORUM AS PART OF 2014 REGIONAL MEETING IN LOS ANGELES   Annual meeting empowers Hispanic older adults to be engaged in their communities

LOS ANGELES, CA — The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) — the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families and their caregivers — will hold its fourth regional meeting in its 2014 Promoting Communities of Success meeting series in Los Angeles, Ca. on August 19-21.

Each year NHCOA hosts regional meetings in cities across the country with high populations of Hispanics older adults to engage local communities. This year the regional meetings will feature a two day Empowerment and Civic Engagement Training and an Open Forum sponsored by Abbvie, Archstone Foundation, Herbalife, Lilly,  SCAN Foundation, Univision, and Walmart. The purpose of each regional meeting is to understand the challenges facing Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers; learn about resources available to serve Hispanic older adults and their communities; find ways to connect people to services; and share information with service providers and professionals on best ways to engage Hispanic older adults and their communities.

This year’s Open Forum discussions will include access to healthcare sponsored by the SCAN Foundation, and poverty and hunger in the Hispanic community. With Hispanic seniors currently representing 7% of the U.S. older population and continuing to grow, it is critical that Hispanic older adults are well represented and understood in all areas of U.S. policies.

 MEDIA ADVISORY

 WHO: National Hispanic Council on Aging, the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families and their caregivers

 

WHAT: 2014 Regional Meetings Series: Promoting Communities of Success

 

WHEN: Open Forum

August 21, 2014

8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

 

WHERE: The California Endowment

The Center for Healthy Communities – Yosemite Room

1000 North Alameda St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

 

MEDIA: For additional information, please contact Patricia Guadalupe at (202) 347-9733.

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The Significance of Social Security at 79

Social Security is important to all communities, including Latinos who depend on this social insurance program to make ends meet month after month. What would happen if Social Security didn’t exist?

More than half of all U.S. older adults would live in poverty. 

 

This means that about 1 in 2 seniors is economically insecure, making difficult choices to somehow meet their basic needs. Most times, however, they fall short. They are forced to make unthinkable decisions, sacrificing one basic need to meet another. Older Americans should not have to choose between eating a meal and paying for a dose of medication, but that is the reality many of our seniors face on a daily basis.

For the last several years NHCOA has traveled to different regions of the country with high populations of Hispanic older adults to listen to their stories, which we then use in Washington to advocate on their behalf.

 

Almost all of the stories we hear from Hispanic older adults on these listening tours are related to economic security— or rather, lack thereof. 

 

According to the Social Security Administration, Hispanics have lower median earnings because they tend to work in lower paying jobs:

  • In 2012, the average annual Social Security income received by Hispanic men 65 years and older was $13,295, and for women it was $10,500.
  • In 2012, among Hispanics receiving Social Security, 40% of elderly married couples and 62 percent of elderly unmarried persons relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

How does this data translate into real-world situations? Here is one story from our Los Angeles Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meeting in 2013:

I earn $400 in Social Security and $400 for supplemental. But I pay more than $600 in rent… [and] I have to pay for other bills and food is expensive. I also have to pay for medicines. If Social Security is cut, are we going to end up in the streets?  – Ana Margarita

As we celebrate the 79th year of Social Security’s existence, let it serve as a reminder of its significance to millions of seniors, disabled persons, and families across the country and may we never forget the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the signing of the Social Security Act in 1935:

“This law represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means completed… a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

NHCOA Regional Meetings: Leveraging the Power of Stories and Grassroots Leadership

Access to health care, Medicare fraud, poverty, and hunger were the most pressing issues discussed at the Miami and Dallas Open Forums, which are part of the National Hispanic Council on Aging’s 2014 Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meeting series. This post was originally published on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog on July 3, 2014. NHCOA is a proud founder of the DEC, which works to ensure that the needs and perspectives of vulnerable elders would be heard when and where it mattered. For more information, visit www.diverseelders.org. 

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The data speaks for itself:

  • Over one-quarter of the Hispanic population is in poverty.
  • There are about 750,000 older adults nationwide experiencing hunger and 5 million facing food insecurity. Of these, Hispanic older adults are 20% more likely to be hungry.
  • Latino seniors and diverse elders are more likely to suffer specific chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

However, data indicators, pie charts, and percentages eventually have a desensitizing effect on the reader. Without a face or a story to accompany the statistics, it is difficult to empathize with those affected or gain perspective about the severity of the issue.

As the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers, NHCOA relies greatly on community-based organizations that serve Latino seniors and families, as well as community leaders, to understand the needs and concerns of our Hispanic aging population. These are the folks who are the “front lines” — those who witness and are directly affected by issues that keep Latino seniors from aging securely and in the best health possible. In an effort to record these stories, anecdotes, and experiences, as well as promote bottom-up leadership, we launched the Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meeting series in 2011.

To achieve this, NHCOA began traveling to different areas of the country with the highest concentrations of Hispanic older adults and Latino families. By going directly to the community, we eliminate communication barriers, develop stronger ties, and create a unique opportunity for seniors, families, professionals, and local leaders to speak up and engage with each other. Each regional meeting consists of two parts: the Empowerment and Civic Engagement Training and the Open Forum.

The Empowerment & Civic Engagement Training (ECET) is NHCOA’s signature CEU-certified two-day popular education course. It was designed to train local, intergenerational leaders to mobilize their communities and create positive changes through grassroots advocacy campaigns. To date, more than 1,000 community leaders have successfully gone through the training, of which dozens are certified to teach the ECET in their respective communities.

Following the ECET we host an Open Forum, a culturally and linguistically sensitive space that brings together local CBOs, community leaders, seniors, professionals, and local policymakers to connect. We listen to first-hand accounts from Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers detailing concerns and problems they face on a daily basis, and they have the opportunity to connect with local resources and information to advance their quality of life.

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This year’s regional meetings are focused on the issues of healthcare, hunger, and poverty—three pressing issues which are of critical importance to the daily lives of Hispanic older adults. We launched the series mid-May in Miami, FL and recently wrapped up our regional meeting in Dallas, TX. At these Open Forums, we have heard numerous stories of the tough decisions people are making on a daily basis: skipping meals to fill a medical prescription or skipping medication doses to eat more. We have heard stories of Medicare fraud, myths regarding healthcare coverage, prevalent and persistent hunger, and the frustrations they feel each day.

Just as I tell the participants before we start the discussions, these stories make a difference and will have an impact beyond the meeting. After our final regional meeting in Los Angeles in August, we will compile and analyze the information gathered at each Open Forum and issue a report which will be released in September in Washington, DC. (The 20112012 and 2013 versions of this report are available on the NHCOA website.) While we have a long road ahead to solve the problems our diverse elder communities face, working together we can achieve a stronger, golden America for all.

The NHCOA Regional Meeting in Los Angeles will be hosted at the California Endowment from August 19-21, 2014. For more information, contact events@nhcoa.org or visitwww.nhcoa.org. The 2014 Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meeting series is made possible with the support of Abbvie, Lilly, and Univision.

NHCOA Congratulates Mayor Julian Castro on HUD Nomination

Washington, DCDr. 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—  congratulated San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro on his nomination as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Following a successful confirmation by the United States Senate, Mayor Castro will replace Secretary Shaun Donovan, who is concurrently nominated as the new Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB):

“As the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families and their caregivers, NHCOA has long identified the growing need for adequate and affordable housing for older adults as one of its core priorities. It is therefore to our delight that President Obama has tapped a fresh and energetic public servant to this high and critical post.

“Adequate housing is fundamental to both health and one’s quality of life. Moreover, housing costs are generally the highest expense in a household budget. Fluctuations in rent or mortgage can put families in economically precarious situations. This is especially true for seniors living on a fixed budget without options to increase their income.

“Latino homeowners were hit hard by the subprime mortgage crisis. As a result, more Latino families now live in substandard and overcrowded rental housing than five years ago. This is a growing crisis in the Hispanic community, and alarmingly so among Latino seniors.

“NHCOA is committed to alleviating the housing crisis for seniors by implementing public policy practices to ensure that all low-income seniors can afford to age in place, including advocating for affordable housing facilities and homeownership opportunities.

“It is towards this overarching goal that we look forward to the swift confirmation of Mayor Castro as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the U.S. Senate. With his leadership and our strategic partnerships and initiatives, we hope to make new inroads towards alleviating the housing crisis, especially as it relates to multigenerational poverty and providing adequate, affordable housing for all diverse older Americans.”

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