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Testimony to
The Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facility
Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century
November 7, 2001
Carol Voelker

Thank you. I'm Carol Voelker, and I'm with the AARP state legislative committee. I live here in San Diego, and with -- I chair the health long-term care subcommittee.

The three basic necessities of life are food, clothing and housing, housing being the determinant of quality of life.

AARP supports the position that people should remain independent in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.

Tied inexorably to the various housing options available to seniors in California are transportation issues, and this has already been cited several times.

Older adults need to access places and services that support their independence. Transportation services also link seniors with their care-givers and others who provide in-home services which the elderly can no longer perform or provide for themselves.

In 1995, 79 percent of Californians age 65 to 74 owned their own homes, and 21 percent rented apartments or other dwellings; by age 75 or older, 72 percent lived in their own homes, and 28 percent rented.

However, many aging homeowners live in older homes with lots of deferred maintenance, and low-income rental housing is often in need of repairs.

Whether they own or rent, housing costs are the most prevalent housing problem for California seniors, especially here in Southern California.

According to this morning's paper, the average price of a detached home in San Diego County is $440,000. The cost of an attached home is more than $302,000.

The culprits are rising land costs, rambling city planning, over-regulation of the building industry, and construction costs.

One current problem which the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is currently studying are construction defect -- is construction defect litigation where attorneys can file lawsuits and include more than one unit of attached housing, and these lawsuits can go on -- under the warranty law for up to ten years and plod their way through the courts for another four to five years.

While we need warranties, we're asking the state to look at this and maybe decrease the warranty time or have a -- some kind of fund that would cover the construction company so that they will continue to build attached housing. Right now, they can't afford the insurance to do that.

In addition to making housing more affordable for homeowners and renters, housing must be more adequate, adaptable, accessible and more appropriate.

AARP defines appropriate as having a range of community services available to seniors. As seniors age, many depend on informal, unpaid care from family, friends or participate in other programs and services, and I'm sure much of this is familiar to all of you.

Those include adult day care, adult day health care, Alzheimer's day care resource centers, linkages, the senior companion program, services through the In Home Support Services, IHSS, the Multiple Senior Services Program, MSSP, home health agencies, senior nutrition program, senior centers and PACE -- PACE is the program of all-inclusive care for the elderly.

Now, while these are available throughout California, it's still spotty -- there is more of some than of others.

When seniors move out of their homes and require minimal assistance, they have some options. One is -- and I don't believe the man from Oregon mentioned it, but they have adult foster care where people will open their homes; they -- the state helps modify them, and one or two or three seniors can move in, have room and board and also minimal assistance.

Tax incentives here in California or the states of Oregon or Washington that have implemented this program might encourage people to open their homes to such care.

Also available in assisted living are residential care facilities for the elderly. In California, Medicare -- Medi-Cal does not fund those. There's also congregate housing and independent living facilities.

As the California population continues to grow from 36 million to an estimated 50 million by 2020, more day care facilities, community programs and housing options will be needed to meet the needs of this soaring population.

I would like to suggest some possible actions.

Developing programs that would enable older adults with low and moderate incomes to access residential care, creating administrative data systems to consolidate and integrate existing information regarding residential care in California, evaluating California's Medi-Cal assisted living reimbursement demonstration -- AB-499, developing demonstration products and conducting natural experiments regarding the respective balance of residential care and nursing care; providing consumers with timely information on the services, costs and performance of each residential and/or assisted living facility in the state in order to facilitate market competition and thus improve the quality and availability in residential care, and developing a system for collecting uniform and authenticated data on the characteristics such as staffing services and costs and quality of residential care facilities in California for use by consumers. Thank you.

The page was last modified on November 29, 2001