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Presentation to
The Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facility
Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century

January 14th, 2002
Miami, FL

Dr. Ariela Rodriguez
Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers of Dade County

DR. ARIELA RODRIGUEZ: Good morning and thank you for inviting us to be here.

I represent Little Havana Activities Nutrition Centers of Dade County. It's a private, non-profit and last year we served over 54,000 elderly persons through a variety of services.

And it is our contention that in looking to provide services for the seniors, we need to look at a social model that begins even before a person retires and even before that person needs services.

And we would like to promote the use of facilities at senior centers which are available most places. The reason being that senior centers sometimes are staffed by social service experts and case managers and also provide a variety of supportive services, such as meals and sometimes provide some health services.

Through Little Havana's sixteen centers, we provide meals and we provide health services and we provide social services.

On top of that, we have an extensive home-delivery meals program so the people that begin with us while they're well and become frail as they continue to participate with us, eventually will be receiving in-home services through the same agency.

Meanwhile, they're also registered with the State of Florida through the client information system so that the State of Florida has that information and they can plan for the needs of Floridians as they analyze their data.

We have followed our elderly folks and in doing so, we have also instituted adult day care facilities because there comes a point that the senior can no longer participate in the open, independent type senior center.

But we are able to pick them up and bring them into the adult day care facilities, which have more or less the same kinds of services, meaning food, personal care, health care and then take them back home.

I can tell you that without transportation, neither program would be successful because there comes a point where a senior person does not want to use public transportation.

In Miami there are opportunities for seniors to get a pass for the bus, so it's not that it would cost them more to come by bus, but that they are afraid to take public transportation. So without our twenty-one buses, we would have be able to serve as many people as we serve.

Also, after Hurricane Andrew we bought a medivan and the medivan facility visits the senior centers and provides health education and also primary health support services.

One of the prior speakers was asking for some nurse to come into their center and do blood pressure checks. We do that, and in fact, we also are co-housed. The senior centers, a lot of senior centers, are co-housed in HUD facilities, which makes it very convenient for the senior who is aging in place to come down and have a meal and talk to a social worker if they need and maybe plan for the next step.

Also, what we have found is that in those same HUD facilities, as we are successful in maintaining people in their homes, we're also seeing a lot of frailty. There comes a time when they can no longer come down to the dining area, and for them then, we have to institute the home delivery meals program, which are always out of money, but we keep the people on waiting lists and so forth.

What I would like to see is the Commission look at the integration of services but at the same time, look at the other entities that have the monies and can be accessed, such as the area agencies for aging, the Department of Elder Affairs. Lots of money is channeled through them into the community for community-based services.

And if the HUD housing would allow, there could be a lot more services brought into public housing units without the public housing itself, the entity having to pay, because the money's already there and the services is already available in the communities.

The other thing is, poverty. As you know, and somebody said already, poverty is the problem with the people that are living in the community.

If you are on SSI and most of the people that we serve are, you are receiving $550.00 a month. Period. The End. And try paying for rent and utilities and telephone and your medicines with $550.00 a month. Florida does not have an old age assistance, Florida doesn't have a personal income tax base, so that's it.

What happens when persons like that come into our senior centers is they get hooked up with food stamps and with everything and anything that we have or that exists in the community that we can put into place, because for every dollar they get on food stamps, then it's another dollar that is let loose so that they can spend it somewhere else.

I believe that we need to look also at the inequities of the culture in the sense that women are the ones mostly affected by the low income. And this is, in one sense, because Social Security does not credit women for the years that they spent raising children. There's no credit at all for that, so they end up working for fewer years, for less money, and consequently, if you look at who makes up the elderly poor, you will see a preponderance of women.

Also, transportation, if you're living in a rural area, then you're really out of luck in terms of accessing services, and that needs to be looked at also.

I will leave it at that and answer questions later.

The page was last modified on January 30, 2002