Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

manifestations of problems faced by the aging and aged have all been extensively documented in the material assembled in preparation for the White House Conference on Aging and for the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Despite these needs, the question may well be raised as to why they cannot be met through existing governmental agencies and programs. In my opinion, the case for the proposed legislation does not rest on the fact that the needs of the elderly are being neglected, but on the fact that there is inadequate coordination among a wide variety of programs and inadequate planning in the field of aging. During the last decade, we have made impressive progress in improving income maintenance programs and in developing many special services for older persons, but the policies are uncoordinated, the services and resources are unevenly distributed among States and local communities, and above all we lack a rationally developed conception of priorities in meeting the needs of older persons. Research and training programs are spotty and inadequate, and almost no attempt has been made to develop adequate estimates of the social gains or losses associated with alternative methods of meeting various problems.

These general points could be illustrated in a number of different ways, but I should like to select a few illustrations from the field I know best relating to the economic problems of older people. I am sure that other witnesses, such as the chairman of the California Citizens' Advisory Committee on Aging, will discuss the need for expanded services in other fields.

Let us consider first the problem of employment opportunities for older people. During the last few years a number of States, including California, have developed and expanded special placement services for older job applicants in their local employment offices. Although these services are vitally needed, the older work specialists have been handicapped because of the fact that a large proportion of all job placements occur through channels other than the public employment service. Some of the centers for senior citizens, such as Little House in Menlo Park, conduct a special placement service for older persons as part of a broader program of activities, thereby providing a valuable supplement to the work of the public employment service. If grants to the States are used in part to support the establishment of new senior centers or the expansion of existing centers, as proposed in the type of legislation under consideration, the expansion of special placement services for older persons could be an important byproduct. The formation of local employment committees, composed of representatives of employer and union organizations and of other appropriate groups in the community, could also be stimulated under this legislation.

My second illustration will be from the field of housing which is in large part, though not entirely, an economic problem. In recent years, the Federal Government has adopted a number of programs designed to stimulate the provision of improved housing for elderly people, and California has also recently enacted legislation in this area. However, there is a serious dearth of adequate information on the housing needs and preferences of elderly people. This need must be met through expanded research by Government agencies, academic institutions, and local community groups. The pioneering research of Dr. Wallace Smith, of the real estate research program on this

campus, on “Housing for the Elderly in California” not only provides striking evidence that a large proportion of older people in the State cannot afford adequate housing, but also raises some searching questions about whether a number of existing Federal programs relating to housing for the elderly are making a significant contribution in meeting the needs of the low-income sectors of the aged population. There is a vital need for more research of this type. A more modest, but nevertheless impressive example of the type of project that can be carried out in a local area is a report on “Housing Conditions of Old-Age Security Recipients in Alameda County, prepared by the Alameda County Welfare Department and the Council of Social Planning of Alameda County. The proposed legislation would provide valuable support for locally oriented studies of this type.

Even more critical from my point of view is the need for a searching examination of the interrelationships among a wide variety of programs affecting the income status and welfare of elderly people. Încreasing awareness of the inadequacy of the incomes of a large proportion of the aged has led to action on many fronts to cope with the situation. Although the OASDI program has been greatly expanded and liberalized during the last decade, average benefits received by elderly beneficiaries are seriously inadequate in relation to present-day living costs, as I have pointed out in numerous previous statements before the McNamara committee. The inadequacy of OASDI benefits underlies much of the pressure for other methods of closing the income gap faced by elderly beneficiaries—including expansion and liberalization of private pension plans, special tax exemptions for the elderly, special programs for housing and medical care, and improvement of veterans' pensions. Horeover, a significant proportion of elderly OASDI beneficiaries with inadequate incomes receive supplementary old-age assistance, particularly in a State like California where the basic monthly old-age assistance grant is considerably higher than average OASDI benefits. To what extent should this problem be met through improvement in QASDI benefit levels and to what extent through continued expansion of other programs for dealing with the situation? And what savings could be effected in other public welfare expenditures if OASDI benefit levels were substantially improved? This type of question has been almost totally neglected and in my opinion is likely to continue to be neglected unless there is a Federal agency that is especially designed to exert the necessary leadership toward improved coordination of programs and continuous reexamination of the manner in which a wide variety of policies impinge on the welfare of the elderly.

· This brings me to some of the specifics of the proposed legislation, and in particular to the question of the type of agency that would be best adapted to assume responsibilities contemplated in the various bills that are under consideration. Although I am not an expert in public administration, such acquaintance as I have with generally accepted principles of public administration leads me to favor establishment of an Office of Aging in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare rather than a U.S. Commission on Aging, as proposed in the Fogarty bill. Since the Federal Government is already large and complex, it seems undesirable to create an additional commission directly responsible to the President unless the reasons for it are com pelling. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare is the most logical department in which to locate the proposed agency since it already administers a large number of programs affecting older persons. Moreover, I have the impression that the experience of the existing Special Staff on Aging suggests that an Office of Aging within the Department would have no difficulty in getting cooperation from other Federal Government departments. Establishment of an Interdepartmental Committee on Aging, as proposed in a number of the bills that are under consideration on aging, would also tend to insure the necessary cooperation between departments.

One question that concerns me somewhat is that none of the bills that I have had an opportunity to read defines what is meant by an older person. I would hope that the activities of the proposed agency would not be confined to persons in the 62 and older or 65 and older bracket. As I have emphasized in much of my writing, many of the problems of the elderly have their antecedents in earlier adult life. Particularly in the field of employment, we are all well aware that the disadvantages associated with aging may appear as early as 40, or in some occupations even earlier.

Finally, I should like to urge that adequate provision be made for a research staff within the proposed agency. Although the proposed provisions for research, training, and demonstration grants are admirable, there are some types of research which might most successfully be carried on within the agency itself or in cooperation with other agencies with closely related interests, such as the Social Security Administration. Although the increased provision that has been made for research and training grants administered by various Federal Government agencies in recent years has been most encouraging, there seems to be a tendency to neglect the direct research function of the agencies. The report of the Advisory Group to the Commissioner of Social Security on a research program for the Social Security Administration, prepared under the chairmanship of Prof. Eveline M. Burns, of Columbia, presents, in my opinion, a very strong case for expanded research within the Social Security Administration itself. I believe there would be a similar need within the proposed special agency on aging, particularly if adequate attention is to be paid to the issue which I have particularly stressed, that of encouraging a more searching examination of the interrelationships among all the programs affecting older persons. Thank you.

Mr. O'Hara. Thank you very much, Dr. Gordon. Your testimony goes to the heart of the question facing us. That is the question of establishing an independent office or an agency. One of the arguments used against putting an office of the aging in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare is that NEW, if it had such an office, might not be objective with regard to a program to meet the needs of the aging. Would

you

comment on that? Dr. GORDON. Well, I recognize that that is one of the reasons why some people favor the establishment of an independent agency, but I don't really think that such experience as we can draw on suggests that this would be the case. We do have at present a special staff on helping in HEW. I know the people involved. I think they are very broadly informed on problems of aging. I don't think they would be inclined to promote the interests of those programs administered by HEW in preference, and the interrelationships among the programs are so important that I can't see that there would be a great danger that this kind of a thing would happen.

Mr. O'HARA. Another suggestion is that a small staff charged with the responsibility for coordinating and stimulating programs for the aging be added to the White House staff as a part of the office of the President. What do you think of that approach?

Dr. GORDON. Well, I don't really feel prepared to say how many specialists on how many different kinds of subjects the White House staff should include. One could multiply this indefinitely. I would think there would have to be someone on the White House staff who was reasonably informed on these problems, who could work with whatever agency was especially concerned, but I am not sure that one should multiply indefinitely the number of people who are exclusively concerned with particular problems like this on the White House staff.

I do think that another kind of protection would come from the provision in the proposed bills that I have seen for an advisory council for the office on aging, because this advisory council presumably would have people on it who would represent a great many different aspects of interest in the aging problems, and that this again would be a protection as would the interdepartmental committee proposal.

Mr. O'HARA. Dr. Gordon, I wish to thank you very much for giving us the benefit of your experience. We heard testimony yesterday from the chairman of the Governor's Advisory Committee on the problems of the aging in California, and the indications are that the committee is working quite well in California.

Dr. GORDON. I have the impression that it is.
Mr. O'HARA. Mr. Giaimo, do you have any questions?
Mr. GIAIMO. Yes; I do.

Doctor, you mentioned the importance of having coordination in this field.

Dr. GORDON. Yes.
Mr. GIAIMO. You said there was inadequate coordination.
Dr. GORDON. Yes.

Mr. GIAIMO. You stated there was unevenness in the distribution of resources.

Dr. GORDON. Yes. Mr. GIAIMO. And you stated there was a need for scheduling priorities.

Dr. GORDON. Yes.

Mr. GIAIMO. In general, I believe the sum total was you said that you felt the Federal Government could perhaps do this job of coordinating.

Dr. GORDON. Well, I think there needs to be coordination at the State level, too, but the Federal Government is already involved in very, very substantial programs.

Mr. GIAIMO. On a piecemeal basis.

Dr. GORDON. Yes. Perhaps I could illustrate my thinking on this, Congressman Giaimo, a little bit on the basis of an experience I had a

year ago. You may know of the report that the Brookings Institution did for the Federal Housing and Home Finance Agency on the need for research on housing. I happened to be asked to prepare one of the papers for that report, which was concerned with the capacity of the elderly to pay for housing.

I was asked in part because, although I worked on economic problems of the aging, I had not worked on housing before, and I did not have a fixed position on that problem, which I would be likely to defend, so I entered it with an open mind.

I was very much impressed with the fact that we have been developing programs in this particular area without very much research, without very much understanding of the needs, without very much consideration of the key question, which I raised in my testimony, how far should we try to meet the special needs of the aged through particular programs of this kind, and how far through a general effort to improve the income status of the aged.

Now, I am not raising this point to suggest that we should withdraw from housing programs. I am not sure that the particular programs we have are reaching the most critical needs; that is, the need of the people who simply cannot afford adequate housing in today's market. But what I am suggesting is that as we move ahead with these programs, we need much more careful thought to the question, how far are we going to tackle the problem through doing something about housing, doing something about medical care, providing tax exemptions. We are even getting pressure now for tax exemptions at the local level for elderly owners of real estate.

Now, to my mind, if we keep moving in that direction, we are going to have a very patchy kind of approach to meeting the income needs of older people. It doesn't seem to me to be at all sound to be getting into a situation in which each local committee is grappling with the problems as to whether or not elderly persons should get special tax exemption, and it is because of this kind of problem that I stressed the need for more careful study of all of the interrelationships and of the indirect benefits, for example, that would flow from improving the general level of social security benefits.

Mr. GIAIMO. You feel all of these programs can only be done in cooperation and coordination, and the administration would come from the Federal level, is that so?

Dr. GORDON. I think there needs to be substantial leadership at the Federal level, but certainly these bills all provide also for grants to the States to stimulate this kind of coordination activity at the State level.

Mr. GIAIMO. What I am trying to get at is the justification for the Federal participation in this program under the suggestions in the legislation. Now I think you have made clear that we should have Federal participation because of the fact it can coordinate which is lacking at the State level and from one State to the other it can foul up the whole thing, so to speak, rather than having them work separately in 50 separate States, but do we need also Federal money, Fed. eral financing to assist the States, to stimulate the States.

Dr. GORDON. Well, I suppose that this comes down to the question that arises in connection with almost every program of grants-in-aid, that the wealthy States need it less than the poorer States, that the

« PreviousContinue »