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that are on this committee jointly. They will handle any of our referred cases.
If I have a patient who I cannot restore to normal vision by any optical means I have at hand, then, of course, it is my duty to get in touch with Charleston ; in our case, Dr. Earl Fisher, the optometrist. He will contact the ophthamologist.
They have several days each month they go to this specially outfitted clinic. They have thousands of dollars worth of testing equipinent which the ordinary man could not begin to afford, and if he had it, he would not use it that often. This
all these cases are assembled at one point.
If the patient is unable to finance it himself, this is arranged. If he needs partial help, this is arranged. If he needs full help, this is arranged.
As far as optometry is concerned, right now, under the Kerr-Mills bill in West Virginia, I believe personally this could be arranged very easily so that the patient on a limited income could take advantage of this particular bill and receive full eye care and full help.
The part I personally cannot quite understand is why, if he has an income, he is not allowed to pay a portion of this himself. It is sort of a situation where you either take charity or nothing.
Why can't there be an in between? Why can't he say, “I will pay a part of it," and the State or Government is contributing a part of it?
This is the part I personally do not understand. I believe that the people who live in homes for the aged should be able to participate in some type of visual care program—again based on their ability to pay a portion of the cost of visual appurtenances.
Optometrists, unlike many other specialists, are generally not restricted to the larger cities, communities with hospital facilities, or major health care centers.
In other words, we have optometrists in quite a few of the very, very small cities and hamlets throughout West Virginia. So professional eye care is available in West Virginia.
Older patients should receive regular and thorough eye examinations and corrective lenses fitted so that the senior citizens may enjoy their retirement through God's most precious gift, the gift of sight. Most respectfully submitted. Chairman Bailey. Does that conclude your formal testimony? Dr. ZUBAK. Yes. Chairman BAILEY. Do you have any questions? Mrs. HANSEN. Yes. Do the aged in the nursing homes have no visual aid care?
Dr. ZUBAK. To my knowledge we are not utilizing this particular assistance, if it is available. I know people that have come to me personally from homes of the aged, but they have no program. If there is one it is not known.
Maybe it is a process of education. Maybe the people need to know what is available. We might need to know the same thing ourselves; that is, the optometric professionals.
We are willing to cooperate if such a program is available. You can be sure we will be definitely willing to cooperate.
Mrs. HANSEN. Thank you. Chairman BAILEY. Doctor, I can readily understand the interest of your association in this question of the aged and aging. It is
quite a handicap to grow old, but you have an added handicap, the loss of sight, is altogether different. I can understand why your society is vitally interested in making the declining years of our aged citizens more enjoyable by supplying them with what they have lost in the way of losing their eyesight.
We hope to make a recommendation. We will try to cover this phase of it.
Dr. ZUBAK. Thank you very kindly. I appreciate the time.
Chairman BAILEY. Our next witness is the Reverend William Albright, 115 Braldway Street, Wheeling.
Dr. Albright, you may come forward. Dr. Albright is the pastor of the Thompson Methodist Church in Wheeling.
STATEMENT OF REV. WILLIAM ALBRIGHT, PASTOR, THOMPSON
METHODIST CHURCH, WHEELING, W. VA. Reverend ALBRIGHT. It is a pleasure to know that the Congress of the United States is dealing with one of the major domestic problems of our Nation, namely the aging; and it is a problem which all of us will have to face sooner or later, we hope.
It does present quite a few problems. I believe the biggest problem is the anxiety about medical expense. This is not to condemn the present system, however, the cost of the present system seems to be mounting while the income of the senior citizen is staying the same. The senior citizen faces life with anxiety not knowing when he will have a medical need which will wipe out his complete life savings. There are some citizens who are not sick enough to go to the chronic ill hospital, and not well enough to stay in his own home. If someone is brought in to look after the sick senior citizen, the cost is too high. "The anxiety which the senior citizen carries could be met by some creative program which is modern enough for the 20th century.
Another problem is inflationary trends. Our country has always gone up economically, and it will continue to do so. However, many of our senior citizens made most of their savings and retirement programs when the money would buy more goods and services. Now, they have to struggle with past earnings which are far too inadequate. The medical expenses have gone up, but the income which they have goes down. Many of them have difficulty getting medical insurance, they tell me.
Another problem is the problem of being recognized with proper dignity. We have a tendency in our society to turn the country over to younger people in the professions, and business, and Government, and yet facts back up the fact that the maturity and mentality of a great deal of these people far exceeds that of younger people. Even the retirement age of 65 finds many men still with great mental and physical vigor, and yet once retired they sometimes lose their incentives, and have a tendency to come "apart at the seams.'
Another problem is recreational facilities, and the administration of these facilities. Sometimes the older people have a lot in the community which they could take advantage of—if they had transportation. For 4 or 5 years I worked in a volunteer senior citizens' group, and I found the simple problem of getting to the meetings, and getting
home afterward was one of the great problems. A little bit of professional administration could meet the needs here. A whole lot of activities could be set up using local talent such as an M.D. talking on heart trouble or a lawyer lecturing on the problems of the U.N. or a local Y recreational leader leading games of interest. Everybody's business, however, seems to be nobody's business.
I congratulate this committee on meeting at the grassroots and trying to find out what the problems are where they are. Wheeling has a host of older, in fact, just last week one of my members, Mrs. W. R. Dorsey, went to the Peterson Home for the Chronic Ill. She is 100 years old, and the last time she talked with me the first words she said: “Now, how about your four children?” The chairman of my trustees is 87 years old, and going strong; in fact, last week, he was named to be chairman of one of the important committees of the church. This was a new committee and he was put on for his progressive ideas. The associate lay leader is 86 years old; he has tremendous energy. The man who looks after our property and gives hours and hours of free service to the church is well over 70.
Chairman BAILEY. Congresswoman Hansen, do you have some questions?
Mrs. HANSEN. I notice in passing he mentioned cost. I was interested in what the average nursing home cost is per month here in West Virginia.
Reverend ALBRIGHT. I do not know what the average is. We have a very fine home here, Peterson Home, one of the finest I have seen. I think the cost out there for a month is a little over $200 plus the cost of medicine. I may be wrong on that figure, but I think that is it.
Dr. STEGER. It is $7 a day plus the cost of medicine.
Mrs. HANSEN. Do you know or have you any figures about the amount of time that a person would be in one of these homes in month or in a year?
Reverend ALBRIGHT. No. I am not competent to answer that question at all. This particular home has people out there who have been out there for years.
That presents quite a problem, not only to the older people, but to the younger people that are trying to pay the bills for them.
I do not have any answer to that particular problem. We have not been able to keep up with it. Mrs. HANSEN. I understand completely. In my own State the
. . problem of the growing medical cost and nursing home cost has been increasing terrifically.
Yet, we have been very grateful in our State to have had the nursing homes established, because it has met the problem of the small dwelling where people could not take care of the aged in their own homes any more, which has been one of the problems.
I do very much appreciate your statement.
Mr. O'Hara. Do you feel that some useful purpose might be served by establishing within the Federal Government some sort of office or agency that has responsibility for coordinating the various Federal programs?
Reverend ALBRIGHT. Yes, sir. As I was hurriedly writing this statement this morning, that thought occurred to me, that the problem
is getting more so every day, because we are living longer. I told the secretary as I left, "You will be 65 pretty soon.” She has 20 years. I have just a little over 20 years until I meet the problem
In 1970 quite a few of our citizens will be over 65. These men in the medical profession are helping to keep us alive and yet they are charging us pretty heavily to remain alive.
So that is the paradox of the situation. It is the fault of the inflationary time.
Chairman BAILEY. Do you not think there is a majority of Government responsibility, in that largely through the activities of the Federal and State and local governments the longevity of life has been increased some 17 or 18 years? People live longer than they used to do and we have been responsible for it by improving our health methods. In a way we are responsible for the fact there are approximately 17 million men and women in the Nation today beyond the retirement age.
Reverend ALBRIGHT. I think there is a definite responsibility here. I feel the Government has to do for people what they cannot do for themselves.
There is a host of these people that have no spokesman whatsoever. They do not have the American Medical Association or AFL-CIO. They do not even have any groups within the church to speak for them, because church people say, “Let the younger people take over.”
I always hear in the church that “This pastor does not do much for the young people,” but very few of them say, “This pastor does not do much for the aged. He expects to bury them when they die."
I think the Government should take over in this field. I think there is a lot that could be done, with a great deal of money that would meet the needs of these people.
Mrs. HANSEN. Isn't it true, too, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to place anyone who is transplanted from one job to another in the upper age brackets, from 40 above?
Reverend ALBRIGHT. I come from a mining area. When miners are cut off in the mining area, they are just cut off. Machinery takes their place.
I know a man that was earning $50,000 a year and was cut off because of the merger of the coal mine. Now he is walking the streets not being able to be used anywhere.
Mrs. HANSEN. Is there any job training program in West Virginia at the present time for the assistance of people whose jobs have been ended ?
Reverend ALBRIGHT. There may be, but it is not being motivated too much in our local community. I am sure there are a lot of facilities the Government has which are probably not used.
Mrs. HANSEN. To what extent do industries in the area or in the surrounding country retrain?
Reverend ALBRIGHT. I do not believe there is very much of it. I have heard of very little.
Mrs. HANSEN. I am very interested in this.
Chairman BAILEY. Doctor, we appreciate your presence here. The committee is pleased to note that the churches are interested in this problem that confronts our American society.
I notice you are willing to join in trying to reach some hoped-for program that will alleviate suffering of these people and see they are provided proper care, including medical care.
Thank you very much. Reverend ALBRIGHT. It is a pleasure to be here. Chairman BAILEY. Now we have Mrs. Lulu Coole, retired, 34 16th Street, Wheeling. You may go right ahead.
STATEMENT OF MRS. LULU COOLE, WHEELING, W. VA. Mrs. COOLE. My check is not nearly large enough to cover my needs.
Chairman BAILEY. Do you have any other comments? What income do
have? Mrs. COOLE. $51 a month. Chairman BAILEY. That is your total income?
Mrs. COOLE. That is right. At any rate they take such a big portion at that.
Mrs. HANSEN. Is this your retirement income from social security or from a State program, or just private income? Mrs. COOLE. It is from the State. Chairman BAILEY. Do you have any other means of supplementing
Bailey your income, or are you compelled to live on $51 a month? Mrs. Coole. That is right, I am compelled to.
I Mr. O'HARA. Have you had medical expenses in the last few years? Mrs. Coole. Something like 2 years ago, and last year.
Mr. O'Hara. $51 a month seems to be hardly enough to take care of food and shelter. I do not imagine you have much left over for medical expenses or any other kind of expenses, do you?
Mrs. COOLE. I do not have, and I always try to be very economical, too.
The rent takes considerably more than half that amount.
Mr. O'HARA. The rent for that shelter is more than half of your total monthly check. Is that right?
Mrs. COOLE. That is right. And it does not leave me enough for food such as I should have.
Mr. O'HARA. I can certainly believe that.
Mr. O'HARA. I am certain that the income problems you are having are shared by a good many other people in your age group. Would you not agree.
Mrs. COOLE. I certainly think so.
Mr. O'Hara. Mrs. Coole, I wanted to tell you that we are becoming increasingly aware of the income problems and other problems of retired persons in the United States. We hope that one of the results of the work being done by this committee and by other agencies of the Government and private agencies will be some alleviation of this economic problem you have spoken to us about.
Mrs. COOLE. I certainly hope so. I certainly would be greatly appreciative of it.