Posts Tagged ‘food insecurity’

Testimony given by NJFA Executive Director Melissa Chalker to the inaugural meeting of the Assembly Senior Services Committee, 1/27/2020

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging’s Executive Director, Melissa Chalker, was invited to testify at the inaugural meeting of the Assembly Senior Services Committee on January 27, 2020. The committee includes Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Vice-Chair Shanique Speight and members BettyLou DeCroce, DiAnne C. Gove, Angela V. McKnight and P. Christopher Tully. This was Melissa’s testimony. To read more about the meeting, see the NJ Spotlight coverage here.

“Good afternoon, Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle and members of the Assembly Senior Services Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today. I am Melissa Chalker and I’m the Executive Director of the nonprofit New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA).

NJFA was founded in 1998 by four County Office on Aging Directors. They wanted to create a statewide organization that would address public policy issues related to the changing and diverse needs of our growing aging population. Since then, we have worked with a wide variety of partner organizations, as well as state government officials, to enable older adults to live with independence and dignity in their communities.

Today, I would like to tell you about NJFA’s advocacy priorities and present some current data related to older adults.

FINANCIAL INSECURITIES

NJFA developed the state’s first Elder Index Report — a cost-of-living table — in 2009. In 2015, the NJ State Legislature passed a bill that mandated the use and updating of the report by the Dept. of Human Services — specifically the Div. of Aging Services, which I am sure my friends from the Division can tell you more about.

From the first report in 2009, through the national database update that was unveiled last week, this Elder Index data allows us to look at the cost of living for seniors in NJ, determine how many fall below the Elder Index Benchmark ($29,616 a year for a single elder renter) and focus on how they can be supported by public benefits and other programs to fill the gap.

Because of the Elder Index research, we know that 8% of New Jersey’s older adults live at or below the federal poverty level. Those seniors are among our most vulnerable — both financially and medically.

Additionally, Social Security is the only source of income for 30% of older adults in New Jersey. The average annual Social Security benefit for a retired elder in NJ is $18,065. We know that number is even lower for women, plus there are many other seniors who receive far less than the average benefit. We have received calls and letters from older adults seeking help, stating that they are trying to get by on their monthly Social Security benefit of $700. After paying their rent and health care premiums, they are often left with $100 or less for groceries, co-pays and other expenses.

In addition to those seniors living below the federal poverty level, there are older adults who may be above that benchmark, but still struggling to meet all their basic needs. In fact, the most recent NJ Elder Economic Security Index indicates that more than half (54%) of New Jersey’s seniors do not have the annual income needed to provide for their basic needs. This is what is referred to as New Jersey’s statewide Elder Economic Insecurity Rate (EEIR). These are the older adults that we refer to as being “in the gap.” That gap is having income too high to qualify for government programs, but too low to adequately cover basic expenses.

The Elder Index statistics influence much of NJFA’s advocacy work, including, but not limited to, affordable and accessible homes, nutrition and food security, and access to quality healthcare. However, this data should serve as a reminder that the state must also consider older adults when discussing tax relief programs — including property taxes — and review the structure of retirement income taxes, compared to that of neighboring states.

HOUSING INSECURITIES

Ensuring that New Jersey’s aging population has safe and affordable housing is also imperative. Two years ago, we convened a stakeholder group, which developed a policy recommendation report. I have provided a copy for each of you to review [see the report here].

In the 10 recommendations listed, you will see that we are suggesting increases in vouchers and units for older adults within existing housing programs. We also identified ways to streamline the process and implement incentives to provide more housing to older adults that is safe, affordable and accessible.

When we consider the housing needs of seniors, we must consider every senior — there is no one-size-fits-all for older adults. When implementing policies and programs, we need to recognize seniors with chronic health conditions and those who are facing economic insecurity.

Additionally, there are middle-income seniors who struggle to find appropriate, accessible places to live in their communities of choice, and worry about being able to afford all their retirement expenses — including the potential need for long-term care services, which can add up to $50,000 a year to their costs depending on the level of care. Along with our partners, we’re engaged in discourse about age-friendly communities, particularly how social and wellness services can better be incorporated.

FOOD INSECURITIES

Much like anyone in any age category, the nutritional needs of seniors are a priority. Protecting the SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] program from Federal cuts would ensure that those who rely on the program will still be able to access healthy foods. What we have learned from partners doing outreach with seniors is that often an older adult on SNAP is better able to follow a doctor’s dietary guidelines because of this benefit.

One area of need, though, is finding and educating seniors who do not know about the SNAP program, or those who fear the stigma of public benefits and the stories about the difficulty in applying for the program. My friends at the Division of Aging Services can confirm that there has been under enrollment of seniors in SNAP for quite some time.

An improvement to SNAP program would be a Standardized Medical Deduction for seniors applying for SNAP, which would make it easier for seniors to take advantage of the medical deduction provision. Having one max deduction amount that all seniors could utilize would make it easier for them to apply for, and receive, SNAP.

FAMILY CAREGIVERS

The issues and struggles surrounding informal, unpaid family caregivers have been well documented. Family members provide most of the care for older adults and individuals with disabilities here in NJ. Our healthcare system will need to respond to the continued growth of the 65+ demographic over the next decade. Relying on family caregivers to fulfill all facets of care is unrealistic; but we know that it will become a necessity for many. Therefore, we need to not only look at policy changes to the healthcare system, but also the support of caregivers.

There is an urgent need to bring greater public awareness to this issue and to advocate for caregivers. Expanding access to home-based, long-term care services for NJ’s older adults would provide some relief in that area. The state has done a great job increasing the number of people who receive home- and community-based services through the state’s MLTSS [Managed Long Term Services and Supports] program.

Therefore, NJFA continues to participate in dialogue around the need for a policy or program to address those who fall in the gap between eligibility for Medicaid and the ability to pay privately for care.

In conclusion, there is no single answer to “how do we better serve older adults in NJ,” because there isn’t just one issue. Across our nation (and even the world), longevity is increasing, which is good news. However, that means that society’s ageist views, which place barriers on the road to aging well, need to be dismantled now. Investing dollars into housing, nutrition and healthcare services (including those that benefit caregivers) will ensure that everyone in NJ has the opportunity to live a long and healthy life.

Thank you for your time.”

Announcing NJFA’s 18th Annual Conference!

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Announcing NJFA’s 18th Annual Conference!

NJFA will hold its 18th Annual Conference on Thursday, June 2nd at the Crowne Plaza Monroe. The 2016 Morning Keynote Speaker will be Ruth Finkelstein, ScD, who is an internationally recognized leader of inspiring and creating strategies for aging friendly communities. She is Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health where she also serves as the Associate Director of the International Longevity Center-Columbia Aging Center (ILC-CAC). At the Columbia Aging Center she currently leads the translation of interdisciplinary scientific knowledge on aging and its implications for societies into policy-focused practice in order to maximize productivity, quality of life, and health across the life course. The Luncheon Keynote is Karin Price Mueller. She writes the Bamboozled consumer affairs column for The Star-Ledger which often addresses senior scams. Karen is also the founder of a personal finance web site that offers smart and objective advice on everything money, NJMoneyHelp.com. She is the recipient of many national and local journalism awards.

The 2016 conference workshop speakers will include policy makers, direct care & clinical practice specialists. Topics include Hearing Loss, Dementia, Older Worker Programs and more.

More information and registration can be found on NJFA‚Äôs website at www.njfoundationforaging.org Limited vendor space and sponsorships remain, call us at 609-421-0206, email at [email protected] ¬†or check out the website for details.

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) is a public charity with the primary goal to empower elders to live in the community with independence and dignity.

 

To learn more about the work of the Foundation visit www.njfoundationforaging.org or call 609-421-0206. The New Jersey Foundation for Aging was established in 1998, its mission is promote policy and services that enable older adults to live in the community with independence and dignity.

Announcing NJFA’s 17th Annual Conference!

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Announcing NJFA’s 17th Annual Conference!

NJFA will hold its 17th Annual Conference on Wednesday, June 3rd at the Crowne Plaza Monroe. The 2015 Keynote Speakers are James Firman, CEO of NCOA and Nora Dowd Eisenhower, Assistant Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans. Jim Firman will address the crowd in the morning. Heis recognized leader and advocate in the field of aging. Mr. Firman will discuss a variety of topics including key aspects of the political and legislative landscape, such as the White House Conference on Aging and the Affordable Care Act. He will also talk about NCOA’s work on Elder Justice, Economic Security, Benefits Check-up, Senior Hunger and evidence based programs.

Ms. Dowd Eisenhower will be the luncheon keynote speaker and will discuss the mission and structure of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the specific role of the Office for Older Americans. She will also talk about CFPB tools/guides on financial decisions such as reverse mortgages or choosing a financial advisor. This will include two programs from CFPB that look at preventing elder financial exploitation and guides created for powers of attorney, etc.

The 2015 conference workshop speakers will include policy makers, direct care & clinical practice specialists. Topics include Dental Health and Oral Cancer Screenings, Addiction and Gambling in Older Adults, New Models of Care, Elder Bullying and more.

More information and registration can be found on NJFA‚Äôs website at www.njfoundationforaging.org Limited vendor space and sponsorships remain, call us at 609-421-0206, email at [email protected] or check out the website for details.

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) is a public charity with the primary goal to empower elders to live in the community with independence and dignity.slide_01

WINTER HEALTH 101, BY: HELEN HUNTER, ACSW, LSW

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

soupHelen Hunter is a Social Worker and Geriatric Case Manager who often writes for Renaissance Magazine (NJFA’s online magazine for seniors, boomers and caregivers!) which you can view at http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/renaissance-magazine/

Here is a piece she has agreed to share with us on the blog, which is very appropriate for the season. Be sure to read to the end for a quick recipe.

WINTER HEALTH 101

With all of this bitter cold and bone-chilling wind we have had recently, I thought I’d share some information to help you stay healthy this winter (and for the rest of the year, too!)

Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, NOT from being outside or due to the abrupt change in weather temperature. Rhinovirus (the virus that causes the common cold) actually survives from the late spring through to the early fall months, when the humidity is high. Since we are more apt to be outside during these months, exposure is less likely. Cold and flu viruses spread more in the winter due to close contact with people indoors.

You CANNOT get the flu from a flu shot! Flu is spread through direct transfer of the virus from an infected person when they sneeze, cough, kiss or shake hands with someone else.

You lose heat from any part of your body that is exposed to the cold and not covered with clothing. If you’re wearing warm clothing, but your head is uncovered, then the only place you can lose body heat is your head. So, in addition to wearing warm clothing, you need to also wear warm socks, gloves and earmuffs and/or hats to protect yourself. Protecting your extremities is crucial, since those areas are most vulnerable to frostbite.

The sun’s rays are not as strong in winter as they are in the summer. However, you can STILL get sunburn, even if it’s cold and cloudy, and when the sun’s rays reflect off snow! Protect your skin by using a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and UVA/UVB blocker year round.

Pollen or ragweed allergies improve somewhat in the winter. If you are sensitive, however, to indoor allergens such as pet dander, mold or dust mites, your allergies may actually worsen! Sneezing or stuffy nose symptoms may be more problematic than usual during the winter season, so keep your home as clean and germ free as possible.

Eating chicken soup CAN fight a cold! Chicken soup may have a positive effect on the immune system and can bring white cells together, which help fight off infection in your body and help you recover faster if you become sick. So, ALWAYS have a stockpile of chicken soup (preferably homemade) in your refrigerator or freezer! In addition, hot liquids can also help reduce the symptoms of a cold or flu virus, relieving sinus and throat pain.

Hope this information is helpful to you in making sure that you go through the winter season and throughout the year as healthy as possible! Let’s all strive for a healthy body, mind and spirit EVERY day!

Want to make homemade soup? Here’s a quick recipe:

Chicken soup

Boil down all the bones with onions, garlic, carrots, celery and spices for a couple hours until all the meat that was left on the bones falls off and the bones have released their collagen (the gelatinous protein) and you’ve got homemade chicken stock. Strain it, pick out the chunks of chicken, add more ingredients like noodles or rice and new vegetables and you’ve got a pot of chicken whatever soup.

Encore Presentation!

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

 Encore Presentation!

 NJFA is pleased to announce that we will be hosting an Encore Presentation of two sessions offered at our June conference. If you were unable to attend in June or if you did attend and did not get to these sessions, now is your chance!

 Also, please send this along to any colleagues who may have missed out on our June conference.

 Space is limited! Register today!

 NJFA Fall Seminar Series

Monday, November 10th

8:30 am to 12 pm

Crowne Plaza Monroe

Aging in Place for All

Land Use and Complete Streets- Considerations for age friendly communities.

Karen Alexander, MPA, Managing Director, NJTIP @ Rutgers

Tim Evans, MS, MCRP from NJ Future

Recognizing and Adjusting Attitudes to Serve LGBT Seniors

Carolyn Bradley, Ph.D, LCSW, LCADC, Associate Professor Monmouth University.

 2 CEUS for Social Workers, LNHA/CALA, Activity/Recreation Professionals

 8:30 am        Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00 am        Welcome

9:30 am        Program Begins

 Registration: $45

Please RSVP by November 3rd.

Name:______________________________ Organization:________________________________

Email:_______________________   Phone#:___________________

Payment:

?Check

Please make check payable to NJ Foundation for Aging, 145 W. Hanover St. Trenton, NJ 08618

?Credit Card

(Visa/Mastercard/Discover Only)

Name (as appears on Card) _____________________

CC #________________________________________

Security Code(3 digit # on back of card)___ Exp Date___

Billing Zip Code ____________

This program has been sponsored by The Reinvestment Fund

Questions? For more information, contact the New Jersey Foundation for Aging at 609-421-0206 or email [email protected]

Please return this form by November 3, 2014 to the email above or fax to 609-421-2006

Space is limited, register early!

 

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http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/

Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Today (Oct. 15th)

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Today (Oct. 15th)

Open Enrollment is happening now. From October 15th to December 7th you can make changes to your Medicare coverage.

What changes can you make?

If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan with or without drug coverage. These plans are private companies that are approved by Medicare and give you the services of Original Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you do not need to have a supplement plan (also known as a Medigap policy) and if your Medicare Advantage plan has drug coverage, you will not need a Part D plan.

If you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or drop your Medicare Advantage Plan. If you decide to drop a plan and not switch to another plan, you will be enrolled in Original Medicare.   You should then consider enrolling in a supplement plan to cover the costs that Original Medicare does not pay for and enroll in a Part D plan for drug coverage.

If you are in Original Medicare with a Part D plan, you can stay in Original Medicare and switch your Part D plan.

If you are in Original Medicare and do not have a Part D plan, you can enroll in a Part D plan.

Why You Should Review Your Coverage

It’s important to review your coverage before making a decision. And remember just because your doctor and medications are covered in your Medicare Advantage plan, supplemental plan or drug plan this year doesn’t automatically mean they will be covered in the coming year. Research studies show that Medicare recipients can save money if they review their Part D coverage. Make sure to confirm cost, copays, coinsurance, covered providers, and prescription drugs. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Has your health changed in the last year?
  • Is your current plan still meeting all of your health needs?
  • How much have you paid out-of-pocket in the last year‚Äîand for what?
  • How is your plan changing for the coming year? How will that affect your out-of-pocket ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† costs?
  • Are there better options available to you now?

There are many ways you can get assistance with this process. You can contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE or at www.medicare.gov

You can also contact your County SHIP (State Health Insurance Program) by calling 1-800-792-8820 or visit http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/services/ship/

NCOA (National Council on Aging) also has some useful information and tools. Like Medicare Quick Check, where you can answer some questions and you’ll get advice on choosing a new plan. Find it at https://medicarequickcheck.benefitscheckup.org/medicare-quick-check/?SID=543e7baa3cc91

In November, tune into Aging Insights to hear from the Senior Medicare Patrol of NJ, including Open Enrollment.

News-Open-enrollment-Oct-15th

Property Tax Reimbursement Program Deadline Extended

Friday, August 8th, 2014

 Property Tax Reimbursement Program Deadline Extended

More seniors can benefit from tax relief

Access to tax relief is still available for New Jersey residents. The filing deadline for applications to the Senior Freeze (Property Tax Reimbursement Program) has  been extended to September 15, 2014. The original deadline was June 2, 2014.

The NJ Elder Index indicates that 184,320 persons over age 65 who own their home in NJ have incomes below $48,204, which is well below the eligibility threshold for the Property Tax Reimbursement program which hovers around $80,000.  These are seniors who struggle each day to maintain their quality of life by trying to cover their basic needs. The Property Tax Reimbursement is a huge help to these seniors.

In order to be eligible for the reimbursement in 2014 these homeowners must have paid their property taxes by June 2013. The Division mailed reimbursement checks to eligible seniors and disabled residents who filed their 2013 applications by the original June 2 deadline in mid-July. Checks for eligible applicants who file 2013 applications after June 2 will be processed and delivered as quickly as possible thereafter.

For more information and details on how to apply visit: http://www.nj.gov/treasury/taxation/ptr/index.shtml or call 1-800-882-6597

EyeCare America

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

You never know where you are going to find good information. This time we have to thank Abigail Van Buren, also known as, Dear Abby. A reader wrote in on the topic of eye care and how some people put off exams and tests due to insurance issues. Either lack of insurance or high out of pocket costs even with insurance; many of these people are seniors. The reader just happened to be an eye doctor and wanted to share information about a program that can help, EyeCare America. And luckily being the smart lady she is, Ms. Van Buren shared it in her column. So, we here at NJFA looked a little further into EyeCare America so we could share it with you.

EyeCare America is a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Their mission is to preserve sight by raising awareness about eye disease and providing access to medical eye care.

By age 65, one in three Americans has some form of vision-limiting eye disease. To help address this growing need, EyeCare America provides eye care to US citizens and legal residents through volunteer ophthalmologists (Eye Doctor) at no cost to those who qualify. The exam is focused on eye disease and will not cover eye glasses, please see below for more details on what is covered in this program or visit the EyeCare America Website

EyeCare America facilitates eye care for U.S. citizens or legal residents who are without an Eye doctor. and who do not belong to an HMO or do not have eye care coverage through the Veterans Administration.

So, who qualifies for this help?

  • Those who are age 65 or older and who have not seen an eye doctor in three or more years may be eligible to receive a comprehensive, medical eye exam and up to one year of care at no out-of-pocket cost for any disease diagnosed during the initial exam. Volunteer ophthalmologists will waive co-payments, accepting Medicare and /or other insurance reimbursement as payment in full: patients without insurance receive this care at no charge.
  • Those who are determined to be at increased risk for glaucoma (by age, race and family history) and have not had an eye exam in 12 months or more may be eligible to receive a free glaucoma eye exam if they are uninsured. Those with insurance will be billed for the exam and are responsible for any co-payments. The initiation of treatment is provided, if deemed necessary by the doctor during the exam.

SERVICES THAT ARE NOT COVERED:

  • Additional services necessary for your care such as, hospitals, surgical facilities, anesthesiologists and medications, are beyond the scope of EyeCare America services. The ophthalmologist is a volunteer who agrees to provide only services within these program guidelines.

EYEGLASSES ARE NOT COVERED:

  • Some eye conditions may affect vision as though eyeglasses are needed, when what is actually needed is the medical care of an ophthalmologist, and not eyeglasses. EyeCare America provides this medical eye care, only. The program does not provide eyeglass prescriptions, eyeglass/refraction exams (the prescription part of exam) or cover the cost of glasses. If you are concerned about the cost of these items, please discuss this with the doctor BEFORE the examination.

For more information or to see if you qualify, visit the EyeCare America website at eyecareamerica.org

 

Vulnerable Groups Linked by Need for Affordable Housing

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Vulnerable Groups Linked by Need for Affordable Housing

The NJ Foundation for Aging (NJFA) recognizes that aging friendly and age sensitive issues are in reality ageless. In this spirit NJFA works with many partners including the Anti Poverty Network (APN).  This organization represents a wide array of groups and concerns. The intersection or cross tracking of concerns creates a dynamic profile impacting people of all ages. Across the board access to nutrition & health services, employment and affordable housing are essential quality of life ingredients.

Among the vulnerable populations whose lives are deeply impacted by these intersecting concerns are our state’s elders. A simple examination of income data makes this reality painfully clear. The NJ Foundation for Aging’s NJ Elder Index and Data Report indicates that 25 % of all seniors living in NJ rely on their Social Security benefit as their sole source of their annual income. The average annual cost of living for a single elder renting a one bedroom apartment reported in the index is slightly below $28,000 and the cost of living is even higher in Bergen and Passaic counties. This level is a significant challenge when we know the average Social Security for a woman in NJ is $14,848 (and this is the average meaning many women receive significantly less). More than 252,000 single elders and elder couples face the daily crisis of covering their basic expenses with inadequate income.

Public benefits can improve the quality of life for the elder receiving the average SS benefit of $14,848 (as their sole source of income) as well as those with even lower incomes. This elder would be eligible for SNAP, for congregate meal programs, for Farmers market coupons, for energy and utility assistance, for PAAD, and a low income subsidy for their Medicare premium. Even with all of these existing programs, however, they would still fall short in the ability to cover their basic costs.

Here is where the needs and the solutions collide. Affordable housing is the only benefit that helps this elder really narrow the gap between their costs and their income. As declared by the headline for a recent NJ Spotlight article, “Affordable housing remains out of reach for a majority of NJ Renters”. This is not new news, but the article cites data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual “Out of Reach” report. The NJ Foundation for Aging recognizes that affordable housing is needed for people of all ages so people do not age into poverty. Housing policy across NJ is sorely lacking and we need to offer a full portrait of those who would benefit from this important resource: children, low income families, adults, health care workers, seniors, and residents with special needs. Let’s make housing for all a priority.

Aging Insights Episode 32, Financial Exploitation and SCAMS

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Aging Insights Episode 32, Financial Exploitation and SCAMS

NJFA is pleased to announce the release of the 32nd episode of Aging Insights TV program, Financial Exploitation and SCAMS, focusing on those that target seniors. This episode will be shown during May 2014. The show is broadcast on over 60 public access stations and may also be seen on NJFA’s website, http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/aging-insights.

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) is a public charity with the primary goal to empower elders to live in the community with independence and dignity. The strategies to age well are voluminous. Consequently, the Foundation uses several messaging platforms to highlight resources to age well. For example, Aging Insights is a ¬? hour TV program that is produced monthly by the Foundation, or Renaissance magazine which can also be found online at www.njfoundationforaging.org/renaissance-magazine.

For this episode Grace Egan is joined by Frank Goia, Esq., Director of Hudson Co. Protective Services and Steve Scaturro Director of Ocean Co. Division of Consumer Affairs. These guests share the current trends that they are seeing, provide prevention tips and offer information about reporting these crimes.

This show and the work of the NJ Foundation for Aging are possible by donors. To make a donation to NJFA, please visit our website, www.njfoundationforaging.org or call the office, 609-421-0206 for more information. Sponsorships spots are also available for future shows.

Viewers may also visit NJFA’s website to take the new online survey on Aging Insights to provide comments on the show and to suggest future topics the program should address. To learn more about the work of the Foundation visit www.njfoundationforaging.org or call 609-421-0206.