Legislation written and championed by Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) which would ensure caregivers have a larger role in advocating for seniors passed the House of Representatives on Oct. 28 as part of the Older Americans Act (OAA) reauthorization. As baby boomers age, more and more families in the Central Valley are becoming responsible for taking care of their loved ones. Rep. Harder’s amendment ensures these caregivers’ voices are included in the conversation surrounding one of the important issues seniors face, social isolation.
“As people retire and spend more time at home, they’re at greater risk for social isolation. That’s a problem – and not just because people feel alone – social isolation can cause serious health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and depression,” said Rep. Harder. “Family members and other caregivers often have the best sense of what’s helpful in the fight on social isolation, and we need to give them a bigger role in coming up with solutions. That’s just what my legislation will do.”
The OAA reauthorization bill supports a variety of important programs that help senior citizens, including Meals on Wheels and adding a new focus on homelessness prevention. This year’s reauthorization also includes the formation of a new advisory committee to combat social isolation.
The advisory committee will be responsible for making recommendations to the Assistant Secretary for Aging and to Congress on how to better address the problem. In September, Harder introduced this legislation to ensure the advisory committee incorporates the perspectives of family caregivers.
Older Americans are the most likely people in society to face social isolation as the result of retirement, loss of a spouse, or decreased mobility or transportation. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), social isolation contributes to a variety of physical and mental health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.