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Multi-disciplinary Centers of Gerontology

Part C of Title IV-Training and Research of the present Older Americans Act authorizes the Commissioner to make grants to public and private nonprofit agencies, organizations and institutions to establish or to support multidisciplinary centers of gerontology. I regret to say that such centers have not been established or supported as a result of this far-sighted legislation.

I call this section far-sighted because it recognizes that studies and programs related to the aging must incorporate information of the biological, behavioral, and social science. Research and teaching in gerontology must be multi-dimensional for the aging human being is an organic whole.

The far-sighted nature of the present law is also illustrated by this language. "A grant may be made under Section 421 only if the application creates opportunities for innovative multidisciplinary efforts in teaching, research, and demonstration projects with respect to aging."

I hope and trust that in your deliberations concerning the Older Americans Act you will see that something concrete, useful, and innovative results in the next few years in the realm of multidisciplinary centers. They are still needed and could make a valuable contribution to our institutions of higher learning and to programs which will benefit America's older citizens.

The second topic which I wish to discuss is the way in which the present Act has been implemented. These remarks may be considered critical but they are not hostile. The point of these comments is to urge a change in how the law is administered. I think that if the intent of the Act is adhered to there will be an improvement in the situation of many of America's 20 million aged.

During the current fiscal year funds were severely curtailed for career training in gerontology as provided by Section IVa. The need for professional train; ing in aging has been recognized, but the present administration argues that there is no need for funding such training because the need for trained professionals in many fields has declined and the law of supply and demand should be allowed to take over. This line of reasoning has been applied erroneously to aging. The leaders of the Gerontological Society reject the applicability of the principle to the field of aging. The facts indicate the contrary for there are many areas in which trained persons are needed and will be needed.

The Administration has given great attention to short-run courses and training. Many of the graduates of these short courses are performing valuable services for the elderly. But I ask the members of the sub-committee to recognize that behind the short courses are a fund of knowledge, practices and procedures which have been planned and created by professionals who have had in-depth training and experience. Professionally trained personnel in gerontology are the ones to plan, to organize, and to carry out short-term training. The need for both kinds of programs-short-term and career training—is still great.

The lack of concern for long-range professional training by the present Ad. ministration has also resulted in the decimation of ongoing programs because funding is either inadequate or erratic, or sometimes both. The morale of dedicated educators in gerontology is low in many schools because of the lack of federal support. The amount of money required is small comparatively in order to insure the continuity of acknowledged programs of quality.

Moreover, I know of several situations when new programs which would fill gaps could use start-up funding if modest amounts were made available. In the Middle West there are at least two states which have excellent personnel waiting and hoping-indeed, almost begging—for support. I hope you will see that the Act is amended so that training in gerontology receives the federal funding which is needed. It is essential that the broad objectives of the excellent legislation enacted already be adequately supported. Specifically I recommend that funds be specifically earmarked for career training in gerontology. In terms of dollar amounts, we recommend that $12 million be allocated for training; $8 million for existing centers ; and $4 million for new centers.

My third point concerns the mass media of communication and aging.

As you rewrite the amendments to the Older Americans Act we suggest that a new Title be included that specifically consider the mass media of communication and aging. We recommend that in addressing research and the utilization of research for practie that appropriations be legislated for research in all the various mass media of communication-radio, print, video, etc.

The Gerontological Society has recently conducted a conference on Media and Aging which was funded by a small grant from the Administration on Aging. The participants included outstanding communications researchers, gerontologists, commercial and public broadcasting personnel and representatives of national aging constituent organizations. In his opening remarks, Dr. Alexander Comfort, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, succinctly expressed the importance and value of media and the elderly :

“Media are very important to the old, as they are to all of us—the old are big users of radio, of television and of the press; as a lifeline, as a source of information and enrichinent of their environment (something which in itself combats social deterioration with age) and as a substitute defense against the loneliness whicii many experience as their chief problem, Media can inform-not only of current events but of rights and facilities, they can entertain, they can activate and educate. Media, moreover, also address the whole citizenry and can project a true and a valuing image of what aging is and is not. They are therefore crucial in correcting the sort of black magic which has been generated about the useless, brainless, sexless old."

The results of the California conference stimulate the following recommendations:

1. Under this new Title to the Older Americans Act separate funds be allocated to create media centers which could stimulate and develop aging content in government and private sectors of media production. These centers would carry out research and where appropriate become involved. They would provide programmers, producers, gerontologists and communication researchers a centralized access to the material in the field.

2. Special attention sliould be given to develop model projects which involve Older People in the development of programs. Some experience regarding this kind of program has been acquired at the Gaylord White Residence in New York under a grant from National Science Foundation.

3. Research projects should be funded which analyze the content of current TV programs, the images developed, the characteristics of the viewing audience and effective use of community resources as the latter relate to program content and the audiences.

Both Title 111 and Title IV can provide the broad legislative base concerning aging and the mass media.

Congressman Brademas and your colleagues and staff, I want to thank you for this opportunity to testify before this sub-committee this morning.

Mr. BRADEMAS. Thank you very much, sir.
Do you wish to make any comment ?
Mr. BRADEMAS. We will begin the questioning with Mr. Cornell.

Mr. CORNELL. I was just interested in your recommendation and how that compares with the existing situation. You recommended $12 million for training programs.

Mr. STREIB. I think it is 7142 now. I probably should be better with arithmetic than I am when I come before this body, but the administration did not ask for the amount that we are requesting here.

Mr. CORNELL. Then you made the statement, I believe, that the administration claimed that there was sufficient personnel?

Mr. STREIB. They claim that, yes, that there are excess personnel in many professional fields as you know, physicists, historians, and all kinds of people are looking for jobs. They say, well, no need to train any more gerontologists. But actually, I think this is a very growing field as you know from listening to this testimony.

We think there is need to look forward not just next week or next year because it takes, 3, 4, 5 years depending on the level of professional development you are interested in, to train someone.

If it is in the biomedical area or in the sociological or social work field it takes a long time to get them through the curriculum that you need to give them the right to competence.

Mr. CORNELL. Would you disagree with the view then that at the present time there is sullicient personnel?

Mr. STRELB. Oh, yes, I would.
Mr. CORNELL. Thank you.
Mr. BRADEMAS. Mr. Beard.
Mr. BEARD. I have no questions.
Mr. BRADEMAS. Mr. Miller.
Mr. MILLER. No questions.

Mr. BRADEMAS. I would just like to ask you one question, Mr. Streib, about the nature of the American Gerontological Society.

What kinds of people belong to it? Who are embraced within your group?

Mr. STREIB. It is a professional society of 3,000, 3,500 members divided into four sections, medical, biological, social and psychological, and practice which would include social work, public health people. These are the four major divisions.

The two largest groups are the social, psychological and the practice division. They comprise over half of the membership. They are mostly people in academic and governmental and private research organizations, teachers, researchers, and practitioners.

Mr. BRADEMAS. I am very grateful to you as is the subcommittee for coming

I am especially interested in your suggestion about the impact of the media on the lives of the elderly. We shall certainly take into account your suggestion.

Thank you very much. Mr. STREIB. Thank you. Mr. BRADEMAS. The subcommittee is adjourned until 10 o'clock on Monday next.

[Whereupon, at 1:10 p.m., the committee was adjourned, to be reconvened at 10 a.m., Monday, February 3, 1975.]

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Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 10 a.m., pursuant to recess, in room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John Brademas (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.

Present: Representatives Perkins, Brademas, Thompson, Lehman, Jeffords, Hall, Cornell, Miller, and Pressler.

Mr. BRADEMAS. The Subcommittee on Select Education will come to order for the third day of our hearings on the operations of the programs supported by the Comprehensive Older Americans Services Amendments of 1973.

The Chair wants to observe at the outset that these hearings seem to be taking on increasing importance for the 20 million older Americans in our society.

Within the past 2 months we have seen the administration make two proposals that could have a grave impact on the elderly poor living on fixed incomes.

First, his Secretary of Agriculture, my fellow Hoosier, Earl Butz, suggested that the cost of food stamps for the poor should rise, on the average, to one-third of the income of the recipient of the stamps. Then last month the President suggested in his State of the Union Message that we impose a ceiling of 5 percent on increases in social security, thereby rejecting the decision of the 92d Congress that social security payments should rise with the increases in the cost of living so that elderly people would not be ravaged by inflation.

Then only last week Mr. Ford sent to Congress a series of proposed rescissions under the new budget act. Here is what they would have meant to the Nation's elderly were they to be agreed to by Congress.

A 33-percent cut in the $150 million Congress has already voted for and made available for the nutrition program for the elderly in fiscal 1975;

A $9 million cut in the $105 Congress appropriated for title III of the Older Americans Act;

Complete revocation of the $8 million Congress appropriated for training personnel in the field of aging; and

Twelve million dollars, the total appropriation for the older workers program, should be rescinded

My own judgment is that these proposed rescissions have not the slightest chance of being approved by either the House or the Senate.


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