Staten Island, NY – Standing at New Lane Senior Center, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Special Committee on Aging, and State Senator Diane Savino today urged Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act, major legislation which provides critical in-home care, nutrition, housing, transportation and social services programs for seniors. In Staten Island, there are approximately 87,000 seniors and an estimated 30,000 people who will reach the age of 60 over the next five years.
With federal programs across the board, including some senior programs, at-risk of facing automatic cuts in 2013, also known as sequestration, if Congress does not reach a balanced deficit reduction plan by the end of this year, Senator Gillibrand called for passage of the Older Americans Act that she co-sponsored last month, which would fund senior programs over the next five years. Senator Gillibrand also emphasized that Congressional members from both parties must come together to work towards an alternative to sequestration.
“We must be better prepared for when our seniors reach retirement,” said Senator Gillibrand. “From opportunities to continue living independently, to access to better nutrition, to empowering our seniors with better financial literacy and protecting them from abuse, these are the priorities I will be fighting for. Cutting spending shouldn’t mean turning our backs on our Staten Island seniors. I will work with my colleagues to protect critical programs for older New Yorkers.”
State Senator Savino said, “Senator Gillibrand is leading efforts to ensure our seniors have proper nutrition, are safe from scams and can live independent full lives; older Islanders have a friend and I have a partner ensuring all of our futures are truly golden.”
GILLIBRAND PRIORITIES FOR THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT
Improving Opportunities to Age In Place
By living independently in their homes, seniors are more likely to remain active, and live longer, healthier lives, and taxpayers save money by relying less on costly nursing homes. In fact, keeping more seniors in their homes and out of nursing homes could save New York taxpayers upwards of $70 million each year.
As part of the Older Americans Act, Senator Gillibrand worked to increase the amount of funding states receive for community based supportive services. States use funding through the community based supportive services title to assist seniors with in-home health services, transportation, and support for home renovations to help keep seniors in their own homes longer. Currently, the community based supportive services title only receives $367 million each year. Given the increase of baby boomers, Senator Gillibrand requested an additional $450 million yearly to address the needs of seniors.
And as seniors rely more on public transportation, Senator Gillibrand worked to include more senior-friendly transportation options by including the Senior Transportation and Mobility Improvement Act as part of the Older Americans Act. The legislation would strengthen existing public transit programs for seniors and people with disabilities by giving states flexibility to use federal funding for senior-friendly transportation. The bill also provides grants for innovative community programs, and would establish a mobility management program for older adults and people with disabilities.
Strengthening Technology & Financial Literacy
To empower seniors with better proficiency in technology, Senator Gillibrand pushed for more computer training opportunities based on best-practices, and development of a web-based data reporting and analysis system to track the system’s effectiveness, and eliminate waste. Past technology language in the OAA has been inadequate to serve the intense demand for computer training. Senator Gillibrand’s amendment would help improve alignment with current needs and program models. The bill would update language in the OAA bill to reflect current best practices among nonprofit technology services providers.
Senator Gillibrand also advocated for measures to empower seniors with better financial literacy to help strengthen their retirement plans, and protect themselves for marketing scams that target seniors. The Senator’s bill requests that the National Resource Center for Women and Retirement be permanently included in the Older Americans Act with the other funded resource centers. The National Resource Center for Women and Retirement focuses on helping older persons avoid financial exploitation, poverty and dependence on government programs later in life.
Nine percent of older Americans live under the poverty line, and nearly 8 percent of households with seniors are considered food insecure, according to a 2010 report from the USDA and the Census Bureau. In New York alone, nearly 20 percent of seniors live in poverty – double the national average.
Senator Gillibrand worked to increase access to nutrition and meal services at senior and community centers, and expand access to home delivery meal services. According to research from the Nutrition Consortium of New York State, every dollar spent on nutrition for seniors translates to $3.25 in health care savings, by keeping seniors healthy and out of the hospital.
Preventing Elder Abuse
Older Americans are among the most vulnerable to violence and abuse. Nearly 8 percent of New York seniors reported being victims of abuse, according to one study commissioned by the Office of Children and Family Services. The same study found that less than 1 percent of seniors officially report instances of abuse.
To protect more seniors from abuse, Senator Gillibrand increased investments in elder abuse prevention services under the Older Americans Act, and is supporting additional legislation, the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act, to implement a comprehensive network of prevention and response measures.