By Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO
As 2012 comes to a close, NHCOA would like to take the time to reflect on the accomplishments achieved, as well as express deep gratitude for our supporters who have made these successes possible. The new demographic reality we face has presented opportunities for both improvement and growth, especially for Latino seniors. In leveraging these opportunities for growth, the year 2012 has been remarkable in so many ways. These successes position NHCOA and its critical mission for increased success in 2013. Further, each accomplishment we have experienced this year is tied to an underlying hope and a sense of unity, commitment, and passion through your collective affiliation to NHCOA.
This year, we can start by pointing to the powerful movement to develop leadership and empower communities across the country through the 2012 Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meetings. NHCOA met with more than 500 Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers to take a solid pulse of the community, carefully listening to their specific needs and concerns. Older adults were empowered to talk about the problems they faced, but more importantly, to be an active part of the solution.
This was also a groundbreaking year for the expansion of the NHCOA Leaders Network. We hosted four Empowerment and Civic Engagement Trainings (ECET) in different parts of the country, training nearly 200 additional local leaders to become their own best advocates. These newest ECET leaders received 1.3 CEUs (continuing education units) from the University of Texas-San Antonio, adding a more meaningful dimension to this interactive and dynamic training. Throughout this effort, NHCOA has been able to train more than 800 grassroots leaders across the country over a three-year period.
In addition, remarkable accomplishments were met from the public policy standpoint. The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC), which NHCOA co-founded, developed the first national report on the status of diverse older adults and presented it at a Capitol Hill briefing in July. This is the first report of its kind, showing the importance of working together to positively impact diverse communities in need. NHCOA also worked closely with office of Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) to craft an amendment to the Older Americans Act, which includes language to improve states’ and communities’ ability to better serve diverse older adults with culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
As NHCOA sought to advocate for viable solutions, the organization spearheaded research in 2012 on issues specifically related to Latino aging, including a needs assessment for Hispanic LGBT older adults, a study related to Alzheimer’s Disease and Latino caregivers, and an updated version of the organization’s State of Hispanic Older Adults report, which was launched during the NHCOA 2012 National Summit in October. The National Summit is the annual leading information sharing and networking event, which convenes professionals, advocates, policy makers, and Hispanic community leaders to better understand the needs and concerns of Latino seniors and Hispanic families.
Additionally, NHCOA reached millions of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers with critical information to improve their well-being through programmatic efforts, which included preventing Medicare fraud through the National Hispanic SMP, a program sponsored by the Administration on Aging to help Latino seniors fight Medicare fraud within their communities. NHCOA also promoted the importance of getting vaccinated through Vacunémonos (Let’s Get Vaccinated), a community intervention sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to boost the rates of immunization among Hispanic older adults; raised awareness on HIV prevention through the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, a CDC program to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS in diverse communities; empowered seniors to live healthy lifestyles through Salud y Bienestar (Health and Well-Being), a program to prevent and/or control diabetes sponsored by the Walmart Foundation; and mobilized Latino workers and older adults to advocate for and raise awareness regarding paid family leave laws.
NHCOA has many things to be grateful for this year, especially your support. With your vision, commitment, and passion, NHCOA can achieve the impact and influence to fulfill its important mission. As we look toward the future, we thank you in advance for your support as we continue to work together on behalf of the Latino seniors we cherish and serve. While the road to better outcomes and increased successes will require great effort, I trust our collective perseverance will allow us to work toward a stronger, golden America for all older adults.