Bringing Local Perspectives to Washington, DC: The NHCOA Capitol Hill Briefing

nhcoa01On Wednesday, October 28, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) held a Capitol Hill Briefing to launch its new report, “Status of Hispanic Older Adults: Recommendations from the Field.” The report provides a comprehensive overview of the needs, challenges, and resilience of Hispanic older adults, including a literature review and analysis of feedback and input from local communities around the country gathered at NHCOA Regional Forums in California, Texas, Florida, as well as from surveys collected from over 700 Hispanic older adults. The findings were presented in order to align with the four categories used by the recently held 2015 White House Conference on Aging: healthy aging, long term services and supports, retirement security, and elder justice. Many of the attendees in the room were also there to make visits with Congressional offices to talk about the issues in their local communities, using the information outlined in the report as additional evidence to support policy and legislative change.

NHCOA Board member Cindy Padilla opened up the Briefing by welcoming the audience and focusing on the role of the report to bring perspectives from local communities to Washington, DC, which sometimes keeps a Beltway insider lens on the issues. Two members of Congress came to share their observations about the report and the needs of Hispanic older adults. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-TX) has done extensive work in local communities to identify local needs and concerns and echoed many of the findings in the report. Rep. Linda Sanchez, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, affirmed the Caucus’ support for elders and was glad to be a partner with NHCOA in addressing the community’s needs.

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A panel of leading voices in the aging advocacy arena did a deeper dive into the issues presented in the report. Nancy Altman, Co-Director of Social Security Works, discussed the need for social safety net programs for the Hispanic community, given sharp disparities in accessing services and outcomes on a range of indicators. Bob Blancato, head of the Elder Justice Coalition, talked about the need for culturally competent services, particularly to help address fraud and elder abuse against Hispanic elders. Keith Prindeville, Executive Director of Justice in Aging, broke down additional statistics about poverty amongst Hispanic elders and the need for policies to directly address these issues. The final panelist, Gino Rinaldi, talked about the experience in New Mexico’s Hispanic community with the elders he works with there.

Gino identified himself as the son of one of the founders of NHCOA and talked about the role of family in the community. NHCOA President and CEO Dr. Yanira Cruz also invoked the family in her comments about the report and NHCOA’s work to lift up the voices of Hispanic elders and bring them to Washington, DC. She noted that if we do not support our elders, they will not be able to best share their wisdom and experience with the next generation.

One of the accomplishments that Dr. Cruz was credited with as NHCOA Board member Cindy Padilla introduced her was her role in helping establish the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) and the important role of bringing together different constituencies. NHCOA continues to be a key partner of the DEC and we look forward to integrating the voices NHCOA has lifted up in their Briefing and in their report as part of a broader message about the urgency of shifting our political climate to address the needs of diverse elders in a shifting demographic climate in this country.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.