Celebrating Older Americans Month

By Vin Gopal, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey

In May, we celebrate the resilience, strength and successes of the older Americans and the power of connection and engagement they bring to building strong communities.

The Administration for Community Living, an arm of the US Department of Health and Human Services, created Older Americans Month around the fundamental principle that older adults and people of all ages with disabilities should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and with the ability to participate fully in their communities. Older Americans Month is a vehicle for raising awareness and ensuring funding for the support provided by networks of community-based organizations.

But like the nonprofit organizations in Monmouth County that help them, many older residents are finding it hard to keep up with their bills or to find affordable health care. That’s why we are sponsoring legislation to make it easier for people to add onto their homes in order to provide a place for their parents to live.

One of our bills would help by giving a tax credit to adult children for making home improvements so parents can move in. We also introduced legislation to give the homeowners whose parents live with them a property tax reimbursement of caregiver costs, providing transportation and other expenses related to their parents’ care.

Older people and people with disabilities often feel isolated and that’s never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why we were grateful to see the state Senate recently pass our legislation to create the “Persons with Disabilities and Senior Citizen Transportation Services Task Force” to study and make recommendations on ways to improve transportation for people in those two groups.

We also have sponsored legislation to require operators of community-based residential programs to adopt and implement written policies and have appropriate technology, staff, and other capabilities to prevent the social isolation of residents. Our bill would make an isolation prevention program a requirement to get a state license to operate.

Residents have been calling us with stories of hardship and the regression by family members with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have been unable to attend day programs that were forced to close during the pandemic. Adult day programs increase the physical and mental health for our most vulnerable residents. We pressed the governor to allow organizations that operate day programs to reopen and last week he issued new guidelines that will help them reopen safely.

Our district office also continues to offer the LD11 Savings for Our Seniors (S.O.S.) Program. Our staff helps seniors identify and apply for programs to lessen their financial burden. To learn more or to apply, you may also visit www.ericandjoann.com/sos. The staff also helps seniors apply for the Senior Property Tax Reimbursement Program, also known as Senior Freeze, to freeze their property taxes at the current level and be reimbursed if they pay higher property taxes in following years.

The LD11 staff also scheduled vaccination appointments for more than 3,600 Legislative District 11 residents in April, most of them seniors or people with disabilities. Working with our healthcare partners and hospitals, we are scheduling appointments for locations in Freehold and Eatontown this week. For more help getting a vaccination appointment, you may visit www.tinyurl.com/LD11Seniors, www.tinyurl.com/LD11Disability, or www.tinyurl.com/LD11Business, and our staff will contact you.