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Our program could be expanded many times over. As a result of what has been happening with the program, we firmly believe that we can provide the feeding program-perhaps twice or three times a week. But; unfortunately, like every other agency, because of our times, problems of funding are always in existence. Presently the Senior Opportunity program is in jeopardy, and is not being refunded for another year. I think this has brought a great deal of dismay and heartache to our senior citizens. We have had an opportunity to remove from them the loneliness, the isolation, the feeling of being rejected from society in general. As a result of this, many of the health conditions which we have heard this morning are due to some of these causes and conditions of our senior citizens. They are alone, they want to be needed and they need to be wanted. This is one of the most important things that we are finding here in the city of Woonsocket.
I could probably go on and talk about some of the many problems. But I would rather confine my remarks to what this hearing is consisting of today. We have discovered that many of our senior citizens, if they eat one good nutritional meal a week they are doing excellent. A lot of them are not prepared to make a meal for themselves because, in fact, they are living alone. They have no desire to prepare meals for themselves. A great many of them came from large families, originally, and are only used to preparing large meals. If we have to talk about preventive care, one of the most important aspects of preventive care in regards to senior citizens is the maintenance of the common nutritional diet that is so important to their livelihood and wellbeing. Unless we have this type of effort in existence, I think we are going to see the chronic illnesses. I think we are going to see many of the health problems and the problems of delivery of services to our senior citizens. I think the problem of nutrition is very closely associated with health-and the health aspects that we have heard todayand, above and beyond that, I think it is rather important that we see to it that our senior citizens be at least provided with some of the nutritional services and nutritional benefits on a day-to-day basis. I would like to see our program expanded only for the benefit of our senior citizens. Thank you.
Senator PELL. Thank you for a very articulate statement, Mr. Duarte.
Now, coming to Mrs. Doss.
STATEMENT OF REBECCA DOSS,* DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF SENIOR OPPORTUNITIES AND SERVICES, WOONSOCKET
Mrs. Doss. Yes, thank you. I think the only thing I can really add to Mr. Duarte's statement is that all services through the Senior Opportunity and Services program are provided absolutely free of charge. There is no charge whatsoever. Thank you.
Senator PELL. Mr. Roy?
*See appendix 1, item 3, p. 196.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH ROY, WOONSOCKET
Mr. Roy. I want to thank you very much for all you have done in the past, Senator, and I know that you are not going to let us fall by the wayside. Now, I, as you know, am a senior citizen and I have been in Woonsocket for 45 years. I know all about Woonsocket, and was born in Woonsocket-left it for a while and I have been here now for the last 45 years. Now, getting the elderly together for amusement is very important, and this program, I believe, is one of the few in the State and probably goes a lot further than that. We put it in motion with Mr. Duarte's office that was Social Progress Action Corp. which is known as SPAC-and when they formed it they invited me to take part, and I certainly would not refuse. I did all I could and so did they. I think we have done a real nice job. Our people-when we told them, the last couple of weeks, that we probably could not be funded-almost fell down in their seats. It hurt very, very much. We told them that they were going to have an opportunity, when we heard you were coming down. I know that you are going to go to bat and pinch hit for us, and I know you are going to hit a homerun for us. Senator PELL. I don't know about that.
Mr. Roy. Now, I want to talk about our Gay 90's Dinner Club first. I think that was a mainstay of the program and it was decided that we were going to sign applications and get members to come to our dinner meeting. We never knew whether it was going to grow or not, but it grew and grew and is still going. The people are in love with the Gay 90's club, and we have more than 850 members at this time. I know if this club falls, it is going to hurt. This dinner club meeting gives the elderly a chance to meet old friends. Every week someone comes up and tells me that they met some people here that they hadn't met for years. That makes them very happy, and also they make some new friends, and they become pals, and they go out together, and they invite each other to their homes, and they are very very happy to meet those fine people. Now, Mr. Duarte was saying that a lot of people don't have one good meal a week. We don't do that either, because we give one a week; but, there are four groups and they have to wait 4 weeks before they have another one. We don't have the funds necessary to double it up so they would have at least two a week. Those are the same meetings with all kinds of people and, I would say, all kinds of groups that come to our meeting. They speak on different problems and projects and what have you. We also have doctors, nurses, priests and ministers, and everybody there, and it makes a whole nice day. We give them movie picturesand all that-and when the day is over, people hate to leave. So, all-in-all, I think this is a real fine program and all those that know about it would not want to see it fall.
Now, about the Senior Opportunity and Services that is something else again. People want to know about this, and want to know about that, or they need a ride here or a ride there. For example: to go to the doctor, the hospital or whatever, to a store for shopping and we do all that. All of us keep busy and, I must say, Mrs. Doss is one
that works. She doesn't care how many hours it takes; she wants to make sure that the program is well taken care of, and that everybody is happy. She never leaves anyone without an answer, and if she doesn't have an answer to something she is going to go out and find it; and make sure that the answer is turned over to the party that asked the question. This makes all of those people happy. Even, myself, I have taken a lot of people here and there; because, as you know, taxis cost a lot of money and their checks are not too high. If they go to the doctor, to and from that would be twice the amount. So we do this for them and we don't care what they ask, they are going to be taken care of.
I think there is no one in our group that wouldn't come up and tell you that they think it is the greatest thing that has ever happened to Woonsocket. Thank you very much.
Senator PELL. Thank you very much for your testimony.
18 PERSONS OVER 45 DIED OF MALNUTRITION
I am particularly interested in this problem of nutrition. I served for some time on the Senate Special Committee on Hunger and moved from that to the Special Committee on Aging, which is why I am up here now. I was struck, in the course of that, with the problems of malnutrition of our very older citizens. I realize that when inflation, and the taxes and the rent is due-or the utilities-you tighten up on the belt and it is taken out of food. In one 3-year period in our own State, my recollection is, 18 people died of malnutrition; and, every one of those who died of it was over 45 years of age. I remember those statistics. I also remember the fact that many of the advertisements you see on television for dog food and cat food is not only for dogs and cats, but older citizens use this food.
I realize that the problem of food is a much more real one than we are aware. In this connection-incidentally in the OEO grant that you are working under—I am not sure if you are aware of the fact that the Meals on Wheels portion of the program is funded.
Mr. Roy. We have Meals on Wheels better than 20 per week, at this time.
Senator PELL. I am talking to Mr. Duarte here. Are you aware of the fact that that portion of it is OK?
Mr. DUARTE. No; I didn't.
Senator PELL. We checked on it, on the telephone, and the Meals on Wheels portion-we have received assurance-will be funded. There is no assurance for the other portion of the program, and we will do our best. But, as you know, the general tendency in this administration is to cutback many of these human investment programs. At least one of the wonderful programs that you are working on here will go on; and it is news that I am delighted to bring, especially. Some pleasant Monday morning news for a change.
Now, what do you think, Mr. Duarte, that we should do to encourage or help along with these nutrition programs? What would you say I would like to see us do in Washington?
Mr. DUARTE. I think, Senator, through our investigation, meetings and dealings, and talking to people we have heard from them some of their needs in this particular area. There is a vast majority of them
living alone. Now, just the simple desire to prepare a meal becomes an insurmountable task for them; and they have no desire to really sit down and prepare a proper type of nutritional meal. We also find that their buying habits leave an awful lot to be desired. I think there has to be a tremendous educational process for them in a type of manner, a concrete educational process, which is one of the things that we are attempting to do through our program. We find that by bringing them together with their common problems they are neither bashful, shy, or hesitant to participate-because they are together with their peers. I think through an educational process, and by actual demonstration, where we have actually taken groups of people to supermarkets and shown them how to buy. We have also prepared some courses for the senior citizens, they have seen how to prepare a single meal for themselves. I think this is the type of effort that really needs to come about, in order that our senior citizens will be more aware of the types of situation that they are falling into. A lot of them are simply not aware that they are in a particular situation such as this; and, I think that we have to expand programs like this.
I kind of agree with your earlier statement that our society has a tendency to push older people out from the home. I think, if this is going to be a recurring thing, then we have to take the necessary steps to overcome the types of obstacles that people are going to encounter once they are pushed out of their homes. Quite obviously, if the majority of our senior citizens were living with their families, they would not have the problem of malnutrition.
S. 1163 WOULD PROVIDE HOT MEALS
Senator PELL. Thank you. In this connection I am cosponsoring a bill with Senator Kennedy, S. 1163,* that provides for programs where hot meals would be served in community centers such as nonprofit institutions. It would do a great deal to meet this part of the problem. Another question I would like to ask you. It is a little removed from the nutritional question, but for many years I have been working on the idea of some centers where older people can meet in the daytime. Daytime centers where in the summer it would be cool, and warm in the winter. Where they would have checkers, and chess, and cards, and books, and magazines, and television and they could meet and exchange ideas. Particularly those living alone.
We had this included in the authorization, because I am on the authorizing committee, but we could never get this put into OEO and have it properly funded. Do you have any centers along this line in Woonsocket?
Mr. DUARTE. Yes; we do.
Senator PELL. Would you describe them to me?
Mr. DUARTE. Certainly. We have four target areas in the city which are separated according to the areas of poverty in the community. In those four target areas we have established four neighborhood centers. We also have a fifth center which is geared specially for the elderly in Kennedy Manor; and, incidentally, I would like to make mention at this point that three of these areas are provided by the Woonsocket
* See appendix 2, p. 203. (S. 1163 was passed in the Senate on Nov. 30 by an 89-0 vote.)
Housing Authority-at no cost to the agency-and we are very grateful. Now, within these centers there is a variety of programs that are geared especially for senior citizens. Some of the things that we have discovered with our senior citizens is they do want to be active. Many of them have a great many sewing skills and they are preparing and sewing clothes for teenagers-whose families are on welfare, and otherwise could not afford to buy this type of clothing.
We recently-in the city of Woonsocket-had a Senior Citizens Day where we had over 500 people participating in the program. In each one of the neighborhood centers we have a variety of programs for senior citizens; such as, sewing, some taking typing, English as a second language, adult basic education. Woonsocket Housing Authority also runs what we term a "Young at Heart Club" where the senior citizens sew or play games, read books, and things of that nature. Out of all of this, Senator, we do have-in Woonsocket-a variety of activities which are geared especially for senior citizens and they participate in these programs.
Senator PELL. Thank you. Returning to the idea of the nutritional program, how many people do your programs here serve, and what is the cost per meal?
Mr. DUARTE. Presently-because of our accommodation and the amount of funding-we are serving between 200 and 250 people per week and the cost of the meal averages around 55 cents a meal.
Senator PELL. You say the cost of the meal-does that mean the funding, including the cost of the program as a whole or does that mean just the food?
Mr. DUARTE. Just the food aspect of it, alone.
Senator PELL. The food alone is 55 cents?
Mr. DUARTE. Yes.
Senator PELL. Do you believe that more attention ought to be paid, on the Federal level, to obtaining data and statistical information on the elderly and the poor? Or do you regard what we are getting for information now is enough?
Mr. DUARTE. Senator, our program has been in operation 5 months, and I have been involved in this Agency for 211⁄2 years now. I don't think that we have even begun to amass the type of data that is really necessary to deal with the many facets of problems of our senior citizens. I think all of the programs of the Federal Government that are in existence, a portion of them very well fall into some of the problems of our senior citizens. But we have a long way to go, and there is much more needed in the way of information to really begin to deal with the problems of our senior citizens.
Senator PELL. We both come, really, to the same thought that I opened with our older citizens are very often poor, and also less active, and less able to move about; and people, in general, are not aware of the problems of the older citizen. They are aware of the problems of youth, because they are very visible and mobile. But the older citizens are none of these; and, therefore, their hardships are hidden. This is why we need statistics to bring out the full extent of the really hard times that our older people are going through.