Cicilline Spearheading key comeback?

Rep. Wants to Reestablish House Select Committee on Aging

Published in Woonsocket Call on December 20, 2015

Four years after the Rep. Claude Pepper, (D-Florida) died in 1989, the former Chairman of the House Select Committee on Aging, would be turning in his grave with the elimination of his beloved Aging Panel three other House Select Committees in 1993.  Serving as its chair for six years, the nation’s most visible spokesperson for the elderly, put the spotlight on aging issues in his chamber.

In 1973, the House Select Committee on Aging was authorized by a House whopping vote of 323 to 84.  While in lacked the authority to introduce legislation (although its members often did so in their standing committees), the House Aging panel begin to conduct comprehensive studies on specific aging issues to identify issues, problems and trends.  It was not limited by narrow jurisdictional boundaries of the standing committees but looked broadly at the targeted aging issue.

Congressional belt-tightening to match President Clinton’s White House staff cuts and efforts to streamline its operations would seal the fate of the House Select Committee on Aging. House lawmakers supporting the elimination of the House Aging panel viewed its $1.5 million a waste because 12 standing committees had jurisdiction over aging issues. Those opposed to putting the House Select Committee on Aging on the chopping block to rein in Congressional spending charged that the standing committees staff did not have time broadly investigate issues of the nation’s seniors as this select committee did..

Even with the mobilization and lobbying efforts of a coalition of aging groups including AARP, National Council on Aging, National Council of Senior Citizens, and Older Woman’s League to save the House Select Committee on Aging, House leadership ultimately chose to “put the nails in the coffin.”  No vote was scheduled to continue its existence on March 31, 1993 when its authorization automatically expired.

But did the House Select Committee on Aging really have an impact on the development of aging policy crafted by Congress as its supporters contend?   In 1993, with the demise of this select committee staff, writer Rebecca H. Patterson reported on March 31, 1993 in the St. Petersberg Times (p.8A)that Staff Director Brian Lutz noted that during its 18 years, the House Aging panel “has been responsible for about 1,000 hearings and reports.” This writer believes that the House Select Committee on Aging’s advocacy role prodded Congress to act abolishing forced retirement, investigating nursing homes, monitoring breast screening for older woman, improving elderly housing and putting the spotlight on elder abuse and the issues nation’s caregivers face when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Bringing the Aging Panel Back from the Ashes

After the disbandment of the House Select Committee on Aging in 1993, a brief effort was undertaken by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) when she became House Speaker to bring back the Aging panel but this attempt was not successful.  Last month, Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), representing the State’s First Congressional District, urged newly elected GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan in November 6th  correspondence to bring back the Aging Panel to the House Chamber.  There were 63 cosigners out of 435 lawmakers, all of them democrats, says the Democratic Lawmaker, who noted that many who did not sign wanted “additional time to review the proposal with their staff.”

It was extremely obvious to Cicilline and his cosigners as to the House Aging panel’s importance to today’s Congress.  “The considerable challenges that face our nation’s seniors, including Social Security and Medicare solvency, the rising cost of prescription drugs, poverty, housing issues, and location term care and other important issues, deserve dedicated attention from lawmakers, said Cicilline in his correspondence to Ryan and House GOP leadership.

Furthermore, Cicilline stressed the select committees relevant today as America’s baby boomers face the struggles of growing old.  “The addition of this demographic to the senior population will require thoughtful policy development and a focused effort to meet the many challenges by the increasing senior population”. He added that “Strains on resources for America’s seniors not only impact the elderly, but also those who support them, including family and professionals who provide care to seniors.”

A Quick Legislative Process

Cicilline notes that the House can readily create a temporary ad hoc select committee by approving a simple resolution that contains language establishing the committee – giving purpose, defining members and detailing other issues that need to be addressed. All standing and select committees of the House (except Appropriations) are authorized by a House resolution, and funding is then provided through appropriations, he adds.  “If the Speaker is supportive of the initiative, we would like draft and introduce a House Resolution establishing the committee, says Cicilline.

Robert Blancato, the longest serving staff member on the House Select Committee on aging, knows that the cost issue may be brought up to derail Cicilline’s efforts to reestablish the House Aging panel in 2016.  “There are certainly costs involved but an effective committee can be operated with a reasonable budget,” he says.  Now with Matz, Blancato and Associates, a strategic consulting and public relations firm, he is firmly behind Cicilline’s efforts.

“The aging population and its issues from chronic care to care giving have grown dramatically since the end of the House Select Committee on Aging in 1993.  No [Congressional] committees and defined Congressional champion has emerged since that time.  A new Aging panel would be very relevant for the future,” notes Blancato.

As an eye-witness to the legislative activities of the Aging panel for 17, Blancato’s keen political observations must be heard by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.  The House Select Committee on Aging, with its bipartisan approach to crafting sound aging policy, is sorely needed now with a House divided and “compromise” being touted by some in the chamber as a “dirty word.” By bring this select committee back to life, House lawmakers can send a powerful symbolic message that they are ready to roll up their sleeves and tackle issues of concern to the nation’s seniors. Cicilline along with his letter’s cosigners calling for bringing by the Aging panel are definitely on the right track.

 

 

 

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Baby Boomers Already Making Reservations

 Newly-Released AARP survey details travel trends by generation next year — 2016

Published in the Woonsocket Call on December 6, 2015

With the coming New Year, Baby Boomers have already begun to plan next year’s vacations.  A new AARP survey released last month gives a little insight into what America’s Boomers are us a glimpse of this generation’s travel trends (about 76 million strong who spend over $120 billion annually to travel), from destinations, to lodging and trip planning tools used.

“The vast majority of Baby Boomers are planning to drive, fly or set sail on leisure trips in 2016, with an average of 4 or 5 trips already in the works,” said Stephanie Miles, VP, Products & Platforms, AARP. “Boomers make up a large segment of the traveling public, and so it’s particularly important for the travel industry to be aware of what Boomers are looking for in their vacations going into 2016. This new survey finds that their travel desires often differ greatly from younger travelers.”

Key motivators for older travelers to take vacations are to spend time with family and friends (54%), to relax (42%) and to get away from the routines of everyday life (39%), note the researchers.  Millennials are more likely than any other generation to plan a trip to “go on an adventure.”

According to AARP’s Travel survey, released on November 24, a whopping 99 percent of Baby Boomers respondent say they will travel in 2016, about three-quarters have already chosen their destination(s).  About 12 percent who are planning on taking a domestic trip have already booked it in September.

Baby Boomers tend not to use online resources and mobile apps for planning and booking trips to the same degree as their younger generations will, note the survey findings.

For the traveling Boomer, the survey says that the most important items to bring on a trip are meds, comfortable shoes, a camera and sunglasses.  But these older travelers do not forget to bring a good book and emergency phone numbers, too

The survey findings indicate that while Boomers carefully watch their pocket books the cost of the trip is not the “deal breaker,” say the researchers.  More than half of Millennials and Gen Xers say that cost is a barrier to leisure travel, but only 45 percent of Boomers agree with these younger generations. Additionally, more than 6 in 10 Boomers say that higher airfares have had no impact on their personal travel plans.

International traveling “will be especially hot” next year for older travelers. About 32 percent of the survey respondents plan to be traveling overseas in 2016 with 29 percent scheduling these trip in the spring.  Europe attracts the interest followed by the Caribbean and Mexico (each 19 percent) for the older travelers who view these “bucket list” trips or “once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” say the researchers.

But America’s Boomers are also planning to take domestic trips next year on weekends and during the upcoming summer. The survey results indicate that nearly a third of the Boomers will take advantage of hot summer weather to make domestic trips, with 23 percent planning weekend getaways.  Twenty-six percent of the older respondents say they will take domestic multi-generational trips (with three or more generations traveling together) in 2016, but that’s down from 32 percent in 2015.

Boomers, heading off to warm U.S. destinations, will be packing their sun tan lotion, shorts and flip-flops when traveling in 2016.  Florida (19%) and Las Vegas (9%) will be the most popular domestic destinations for these older travelers.  Big cities like New York, Boston and Chicago also catch their attention. While hotels will be booked by a large majority, 30 percent plan to stay with family and friends.

When it comes to hotel lodging amenities, Boomers look forward to free Wi-Fi.  Forty-three percent say that when choosing a hotel, free Wi-Fi is key to their booking a room.  Eighty six percent of older travelers seeking rental homes also want this amenity. While roughly 4 in 10 Boomers stay at hotels or motels when they travel, Airbnb and VRBO are gaining in popularity: 1 in 10 Boomers are planning to use those services to rent a private residence instead of using a hotel on a 2016 trip.

The researchers say that during travel Boomers do not tend to linger in an airport terminal and are the least likely generation to take advantage of onsite airport amenities, expect for restaurants.

As to social media, the survey found that when on vacation about two-thirds of the respondents say they will not post to a social media site. About eight three percent will stay connected to “the outside world” by watching news on TV or online.

Finally, older workers continue to behave differently from those in other countries. Slightly half plan to use all of their vacation time next years. When on trips, one-third plan to bring work with them that ultimately will account for 10 percent of their vacation time.

AARP’s online survey was conducted September 17-28, 2015 among males and females 18 and older who had taken at least one trip 50 miles or more away from home, with a two-night stay, in the past two years.  The survey can be found at aarp.org/2016TravelTrends.