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Co-Chair Nancy Hooks Featured in Albany Times Union

From the Albany Times Union, January 7, 2002

Part-time job became her life's work

Colonie -- Nancy Hooks earns national recognition as an advocate for the aging

First published: Monday, January 7, 2002

Nancy Hooks' path to becoming a national advocate and leader for the elderly began as one of chance in 1992.

After 12 years as a part-time Medicaid policy analyst with the state Health Department, the Latham native was given a choice -- either move up to full-time status or resign her job.

A mother of two small sons -- and one who had struggled for years to begin a family with her husband, William -- she could not bring herself to leave her children for the sake of work. So she quit, despite her fear that a master's degree in public health administration would make her overqualified for most part-time jobs.

Within weeks she'd landed a part-time job as a consultant for the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

"I was really blessed,'' says Hooks, who moved on to posts as the executive director of the association's Adult Day Health Care Council and the director of housing policy. "A good deal of my career in helping the aging came from that opportunity. I grew to love working for the elderly.''

Hooks' commitment to the elderly has been recognized on Capitol Hill, where she serves as co-chair of the congressional Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facility Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century. She is also regional vice president for the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Those who work with her say Hooks' fervor and passion for the elderly's needs have helped her make a name for herself in circles where often only those who conform to the establishment move forward.

Hooks runs her office out of her two-story suburban home while raising her three children -- Brian, 12, Christopher, 10 and Nicole, 7. In between trips to basketball practices and Brownie meetings, she finds time to keep in touch with her five congressional commission staffers in Washington, D.C., and oversee nine state offices of the American Association of Homes and Services throughout the Northeast.

She also volunteers at her church as a eucharistic minister and works as a room mother for her daughter's classmates.

During lengthy conference calls with colleagues in Washington, it is not unusual for her children to quietly slip a note under the door of her home office asking for an after-school snack. And on at least two occasions, Hooks has been known to rush back from out-of-state business trips to be with one of her children during an illness.

Former congressman Rick Lazio, who met Hooks through her work in New York, appointed her to the congressional commission she now co-chairs.

Lazio said during his six years as chairman of the Housing Subcommittee, he came across hundreds of activists whose life's work involved housing and health services for the elderly. And though many of those Lazio could have chosen were far more conventional and experienced, he said Hooks impressed him most.

Lazio said Hooks' intelligence and tenacity will help spur this commission to more efficiently and effectively handle senior housing and health issues.

Hooks said watching her own father struggle from a stroke he suffered three years ago, as well as seeing her mother-in-law fall victim to Alzheimer's over the past decade, has nearly made her professional work a personal crusade.

Through the American Association of Homes and Services, Hooks helps represent 5,600 not-for-profit senior housing facilities, from nursing homes to continuing care retirement communities, by bringing their concerns before Congress and working as a liaison with other federal agencies.

On the congressional commission, she and 13 others are creating a portrait of the current status of senior citizen housing and health care services, so they can come before Congress by the end of June with recommendations to design and implement a coordinated housing and health strategy for the elderly.

"I am amazed at how I've been able to have my career on my own terms,'' said Hooks, who depends on her mother and husband to fill in for her when she is out of town on business. "Even with my own constraints and decisions to turn down jobs and opportunities in Washington and New York City, things have turned out the best for everyone involved.''

By 2020, according to a preliminary report by the commission, 53 million Americans -- or one in six -- will be aged 65 and older. Hooks said it is her personal goal to make sure society is ready for their care.

"It is an overwhelming feeling for an elderly person to work all their life and suddenly not have the means to take care of themselves,'' Hooks said.

"When I look at that generation and look at all the things they did to get this generation going, I want to do what is necessary to prepare government and the private sector to care for them."

The page was last modified on January 11, 2002