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Aging in the Inland Empire: African American Elders in Peril

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By Linnie Frank Bailey,
New America Media, News Report –

Melendez said the increased cases of elder self-neglect are one sign of widespread angst among seniors over the deteriorating economy and fear about what the future holds.

This fear of the future is aggravated by recent budget cuts in California affecting senior services and programs. Many elders are living a retirement a lot broker than they planned, and they don’t know where to turn for help. Melendez said her organization is one of many that try to help seniors find resources, however it is harder as programs are cut.

The California Budget – “Nothing to Celebrate”

After a protracted battle, California state legislators approved a state budget on July 24, 2009, to address the state’s $26 billion debt. The negotiated bipartisan budget cut billions of dollars from local governments, education and social services.

That included reductions in programs affecting low-income seniors, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), MediCal, In Home Support Services and Adult Day Health Centers.

Initially, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended eliminating many programs in his May budget. The legislature, though, decided to cut programs, some drastically, but not completely zero out vital programs.

Subsequently, the governor used his line-item veto authority to slash an additional $489 million in cuts.

The governor “blue-penciled” all state funding for Community Based Service Programs in 2009-10. Some the services now denied funds to operate are:

· Alzheimer’s Day Care Resource Centers, specialized daytime programs for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias;

· The Brown Bag Program, which provided surplus and donated edible fruits, vegetables and other food to low income individuals ages 60 and older;

· Respite Purchase of Services, enabling caregivers for frail elders or functionally impaired adult to get relief time away from the constant stress of care;

· Senior Companion programs, in which older volunteers assist their impaired or terminally ill peers with a range of in-home assistance aimed at helping them remain at homes or in community settings (and out of institutions) for as long as possible.

After signing his revised $84.6 billion budget plan for the coming year, the governor stated, “These are ugly cuts” and “nothing to celebrate,” but, “we cannot afford the programs we used to be able to afford even two years ago.”

And he announced that he had increased the governor’s discretionary fund to a half-billion dollars—about the amount of his line item cuts—for use in future emergencies and did so without raising taxes.

“It starts with Downsizing”

You see them at the supermarket, lingering over the selections in the bread aisle, or going thorough the marked down items at the back of the store. At the register, they carefully count out change to pay for three to five items. Were you to follow them home you might find empty refrigerators and cupboards.

“It starts with downsizing,” Melendez said. “We are seeing seniors and their caregiver families look for less expensive housing options. Seniors in assisted living retirement communities are having to find less expensive housing options because they have lost savings. Some move from a two-bedroom to a one-bedroom, others are moving in with relatives and others are placed in nursing homes by family members.”

Seniors are being affected by the same economic perils facing all Americans. They have lost funds in the stock market and equity in their homes. Melendez observed, “The difference is elders don’t have the 10, 15 or 20 years it will take to rebuild their finances.”

She added, “This is causing great depression among those who thought they did everything right. They’re now looking closely at every expense and are cutting out all but the essentials. Depression is high among this age group.”

Some are suffering from too much credit card debt. A recent study shows credit card balances for low-and-middle income seniors soared by 26 percent in the past four years.

The report, by the policy group Demos, suggests that older adults, accustomed to cashing out home equity to pay bills, are finding themselves in the same predicament as younger borrowers because of falling real estate values, shrinking portfolios and rising energy costs.

With family members also strapped for cash, seniors are turning to credit to pay their bills as well as to relatives for help. Also, elders tend to have higher health care costs than younger borrowers. The Demos study says widening gaps between health care costs and insurance coverage are likely forcing some seniors to pay for medical expenses with credit cards. Maria Diaz knows many families who have used credit to pay the bills. She says people are barely holding on in her Riverside-area neighborhood, an enclave of working class Latino, African-American and white families. She sees families doubling up in small houses to make ends meet. Diaz, who shares a house with her mother, age 88, and a grown son, said budget cuts will take a toll on her family.

“Through In Home Supportive Services I pay a local woman to watch my mother, but she makes almost as much as I do, so much of my salary goes to her.”

She added, because of the new budget, her hourly rates are being cut and my mom’s SSI payments are shrinking. We all are struggling, but I know we have it better than some in this neighborhood.”

Riverside County, where Diaz lives, has the eighth-highest foreclosure rate in the United States. According to RealtyTrac, Riverside County is second in the state in foreclosure volume. One in 17 households is slipping into some stage of foreclosure during the first six months of the year. San Bernardino County was fourth, with one in 19 households in default.

According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, foreclosures were far more common last year among black mortgage holders. The report states, “African American borrowers were 3.3 times as likely as white borrowers to be in foreclosure, whereas Latino and Asian borrowers were 2.5 and 1.6 times respectively more likely to be in foreclosure as white borrowers.”

Unemployment in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties is near 13%. Among African-Americans and Latinos it is higher, by some estimates 17-19%. While younger seniors with jobs are putting off retirement, a number of adults 65-plus are trying to re-enter the tough labor market to help make ends meet.

Jackie Melendez believes the situation for seniors in the Inland area will continue to deteriorate, at least until the economy turns around. “These are people who never before needed help with housing, transportation, or food. Where will we send them?”

Soulful Sessions Underneath the Stars

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On Sunday, September 27, Black & White Entertainment and Lue Production will host a Soulful sessions underneath the stars with a magical night of Gospel, Comedy, Old & New School R&B, Consiouse Hip Hop, Spoken Word, Jazz, Funk, and Neosoul Music at the Castaways beginning at 6:00 p.m. Castaways is located at 670 Kendall Drive, SB, CA 92407 on top of the HILL.

Pre-sale tickets still available for $10.00, $15.00 at the door. Tickets can be purchase at Jay’s Place located on the corner of E and 4th street in Downtown San Bernardino for $10.00.

A portion of the proceeds raised from this event will be donated to St. Andrews Masonic Lodge #16 (Anthony Taylor, Right Worshipful Master & Bishop Smith, Club of Kings President). Providing scholarships for underprivileged youth.

For questions please contact Bishop Smith founder of Black & White Entertainment at 909.200.5650 e-mail Bishopsmith11@gmail.com or LUE founder of LUE Productions at 909.567.1000 or e-mail: LUEproductions@yahoo.com

BAPAC 31st Annual Convention Hall of Fame Awards Banquet

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On October 2-4, 2009 political and religious dignitaries, business executives and community leaders will join together to explore economic development, political literacy and health care issues.

The Black American Political Association of California (BAPAC) will celebrate its 31st Anniversary hosting a series of workshops, a luncheon, and an awards banquet culminating with a Sunday prayer breakfast held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, 506 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA.

Invited Guest Speaker Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a BAPAC 2009 Legend, joins the ranks of Attorney General Jerry Brown, UC Regents Chair Richard Blum, Bishop T. Larry Kirkland and the Honorable Gwen Moore BAPAC.

Riverside Community Agencies Participate in Senior Sensitivity Training Provided by SCAN Health Plan

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In an effort to better serve Riverside-area seniors, the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Task Force recently hosted an interactive senior sensitivity training workshop for various local community organizations. Among those taking part in the day’s workshop at the Hemet Workforce Development Center were staff members from the Riverside County Office on Aging, Department of Public Social Services and Moreno Valley Police Department.

The award-winning Trading Ages™ workshop, sponsored by SCAN Health Plan, provides participants the opportunity to literally “walk in the shoes of a senior” through a series of hands-on exercises and sensory perception education. “Through this program SCAN provides an invaluable opportunity to feel, see and hear the common physical and emotional challenges that are a part of the aging process,” said Valerie Wheat, program manager, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. “As society ages it is incumbent upon all of us to better understand what it’s like to grow older and raise our level of appreciation for seniors and what they confront.” “With our society rapidly aging, this type of education across all ages and industries is more important than ever,” said Sherry Stanislaw, senior vice president of the nonprofit SCAN Health Plan who created the Trading Ages™ program. “As a health plan focused exclusively on the needs of seniors, SCAN is in a unique position to help people understand more about the aging process. We are especially pleased to be providing this training to people who interact with and serve seniors on a daily basis.”

To mimic the difficulties experienced with arthritis, for example, program participants were asked to don heavy, clumsy gloves and then button their shirts or open medication bottles and handle small pills. Participants also put popcorn in their shoes and walked around to simulate the feeling of painful joints. Others strapped their arm to their side to see how limiting it can be to deal with the effects of a stroke. Depriving participants of the level of hearing and sight that most people enjoy their entire lives was also a critical part of the program. Ear plugs were used followed by a hearing test to demonstrate how isolating hearing loss can be. Perhaps most difficult for many participants was when they were asked to wear special glasses that severely limited their vision and approximated many of the seeing challenges and disorders that accompany aging.

SCAN has been offering aging sensitivity training to its employees for many years as a way to ensure that they better understand the needs and mindset of its approximately 110,000 health plan members. The program also continues to be offered to SCAN board members, physician groups and to elementary school children to enhance their sensitivity in dealing with older adults.

According to Stanislaw, “Participants are often surprised by how they react to certain physical limitations that are mimicked during the program, and many have commented on what an eye-opening experience it is.”

For more than 30 years, SCAN Health Plan has been focusing on the unique needs of people with Medicare and today is the fourth largest nonprofit Medicare Advantage Plan in the United States. The company currently serves approximately 110,000 members in seven Southern California counties as well as Maricopa County in Arizona.

Further information may be obtained at scanhealthplan.com.

Robinson: Riverside County's 1st Black Chief Deputy

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By Linnie Frank Bailey –

Boris Robinson, Chief Deputy with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, credits “great mentors” with getting him to where he is today. This includes a strong father who taught him the value of hard work, and a coach with the Police Athletic League in New York, who taught him an appreciation for the military and law enforcement.

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Boris Robinson

Growing up Chief Deputy Robinson learned lessons that today he passes on to his own children and youth he comes in contact with. “I tell kids to seek wise counsel,” says Robinson.

 

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Robinson recalls a strong family unit headed by his father. “I was raised old school,” he says. “My dad made it clear, my alternatives were school, military, or a job. I’ve worked since I was 14 years old!”

Robinson was a promising saxophone player in high school and played in several R&B bands; He also spent a lot of time playing basketball with the Police Athletic League in Queens. It was there that he met Officer Smith, or “Smitty’ as the kids called him. Robinson recalls, “Officer Smith was a Community Relations Cop and a great guy. He taught me the importance of finding something to be good at. It was around this time I started getting interested in law enforcement.”

After joining the Air Force in 1979, Robinson traveled the world. While stationed at March Air Force Base he met his future wife Felicia and decided to settle in the Inland area. After leaving the Air Force he joined the Riverside County Health Department, but his wife kept reminding him of his desire to enter law enforcement. Finally, in 1987 he joined the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Chief Deputy Robinson held a variety of assignments within the Sheriff’s Department as he rose through the ranks. He worked throughout the county, including Lake Elsinore, Temecula, Jurupa, Perris, Banning, and Moreno Valley.

He was given promotions and increasing responsibilities in areas such as: community relations, gang prevention, and drug enforcement. His duties have also included training teachers and parents on gang prevention. As a Captain he led the Internal Affairs and Administrative Unit.

In 2003, Robinson was selected to attend the F.B.I Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He credits his training and education with broadening his perspective.

One of his most treasured accomplishments was completing his Master’s Degree in 2007. “I won’t lie, it was hard.” he relates. “My kids would find me awake in the middle of the night at the kitchen table studying.

However…I can’t tell you how good it felt to walk across the stage and receive that diploma!”

Robinson was appointed Chief Deputy in July of this year and currently runs a division that oversees Court services in the County. He is happy with the support he has received from within the Department over the years.

“I’ve had great mentors here also,” he says. “I encourage people to be part of the solution if they want to see change. Law enforcement is a good career choice. It gives you an opportunity to serve.”

When not working Robinson is busy with his family, which includes his wife of 26 years, Felicia, and their children—three teenagers and a 21-year-olddaughter who is in the Navy.

“All of my kids are involved in sports and/or music, just like I was!” he says proudly.

“They keep me pretty busy.”

Robinson is also on the board of the Alternative for Domestic Violence organization, saying, “Within the Department we are encouraged to give back to the community and this is an organization important to me because I have seen the results of domestic violence.”

He also has a message for youth and parents: “Our kids need to know that a single incident, a single unwise choice, can cast a negative shadow over their lives for years to come. I tell them to work hard because nothing is given to you in life.”

These are all life-long lessons that Boris Robinson has put to good use over the years in his service to the residents of Riverside County.

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