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Living life with dignity

by Suzanne Bonamici

During my three years on the job, between meetings, hearings, and visits to schools and businesses, I have made time to visit several of our local Meals on Wheels programs.

Bringing meals to homebound seniors is a powerful experience, and I'm proud of our nation's commitment to the program. The gratitude of Oregonians receiving the meals is always heart-warming, and it’s important to remember that the meal delivery is often the only interaction the senior receives that day. This program helps so many to live independently and stay in their homes.

May is Older Americans Month, which was established to acknowledge the contributions older Americans have made to our country and to remind us that our communities are stronger when people can age with dignity and support systems are in place.

Making sure our seniors live with dignity should be a goal every month, not just in May. To help with that goal, I have been working on a renewal of the Older Americans Act (OAA). This is the federal law that provides comprehensive services for older Americans, including nutrition programs like Meals on Wheels, transportation services, legal aid, disease prevention programs, protection from elder abuse, and much more. It’s my goal get a strong bill passed this year.

The bill should reflect the unique challenges our seniors face today. I am advocating for important updates to the legislation by including:

Stronger protections against elder abuse; Improvements to nutrition programs like Meals on Wheels, senior centers, and supports for family caregivers; Increased outreach to low-income and minority communities; and Job training and placement of unemployed older Americans who are still willing and able to work.

Providing seniors the support they need to live independent, healthy lives is the right thing to do.

It’s also the fiscally responsible thing to do. As those of us in the baby boomer generation approach retirement, a larger share of the U.S. population will be facing the challenges that come with aging. We need to put smart programs and policies in place now that support the health and independence of older Americans tomorrow.

I’m going to keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation and improve the OAA so more of our seniors can stay in their homes and live fulfilling, independent lives.

Thank you for supporting me in this effort.

Posted on May 21, 2015.