SEARAC's work on aging issues focuses on:
- Ensuring that community members and organizations are well aware of the various state and federal programs that impact elders in the community;
- Informing policy makers and coalition partners about the Southeast Asian American elder population, and how to shape future reforms to be more accountable to immigrant populations; and
- Articulating the challenges and disparities in caring for the aging Southeast Asian American population to policy-makers.
As the population of elders increases in America, and as “baby-boomers” begin to retire, national attention has begun to focus on programs such as Medicare and Social Security. SEARAC tracks the Older Americans Act, Social Security, and Health Care Reform implementation as it relates to aging.
SEARAC works with coalitions of diverse groups on these issues. SEARAC is a core work group member of the Diverse Elders Coalition, a coalition of five aging organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of diverse aging communities. Read about the DEC's guiding principles here. The other members of the DEC include:
- National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)
- National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA)
- National Asian-Pacific Council on Aging (NAPCA)
- Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
This coalition is supported by The Atlantic Philanthopies.
Aging and Long-Term Care
As they age, many Southeast Asian American elders face numerous barriers and challenges to attaining long term care. As a community, over 90% of Southeast Asian Americans 65 and older in California live in family households, as opposed to institutional alternatives.1 There are limited services that allow elders to remain in their own homes, and there are even fewer opportunities for culturally and linguistically-specific services that would support the independence and living choices of elders. SEARAC works toward ensuring that there is adequate and stable funding and resources for programs that support elders who choose to maintain independent lifestyles in their homes and their communities; and to ensure that provisions of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act preserve and improve existing community-based and in-home care programs.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
As part of the 1996 “Welfare Reform” legislation, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) was restricted to a seven-year limit for elderly and disabled refugees and humanitarian immigrants who are not able to obtain their citizenship within that time frame. As a result, thousands of elderly and disabled refugees have lost their benefits. While a two year extension to SSI was passed by Congress in 2008, the extension will no longer be available beyond 2011.
For many elderly and disabled refugees, SSI provides the bare minimum for survival—no more than $698 per month for an individual and $1,048 for a couple. The loss of SSI contributes to poverty among many aging Southeast Asian Americans and adds to the challenges of achieving full integration and participation in American society. SEARAC works toward ensuring a long term legislative solution that ensures that elderly and disabled refugees and humanitarian immigrants do not lose their SSI if they are unable to successfully naturalize. In addition, we believe that benefits must be restored for those who have already lost their SSI.
1Paul Igasaki and Max Niedzwiecki. 2004. Aging Among Southeast Asian Americans in California: Assessing Strengths and Challenges, Strategizing for the Future. Washington, DC: Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)