Alumni Award Honors Torres-Gil for Rigor, Creativity, Innovation

Professor Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, received the 2020 Florence G. Heller Alumni Award from his alma mater, the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. The school honored Torres-Gil, an expert on health and long-term care, disability, entitlement reform and the politics of aging, for his multifaceted career spanning the academic, professional and policy arenas. The professor of social welfare and public policy has advised presidents from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama as well as state and local governments and agencies, and has conducted research around the world, particularly in Asia and Latin America. In one segment of a wide-ranging interview, Torres-Gil described his role as a young White House fellow summoned to the Situation Room to weigh in on the Carter Administration’s response to the flood of refugees fleeing Vietnam. “Many years later, I met individuals who were rescued in the late ’70s by the U.S. Navy. I take great pride that I had a direct role, in the right position at the right time, with the decision making,” he recalled. Torres-Gil, who earned his MSW and Ph.D. at the Heller School, said an invitation to attend the White House Conference on Aging in 1971 sparked a lifelong interest in gerontology and demographics, culminating in his most recent book, “The Politics of a Majority-Minority Nation: Aging, Diversity, and Immigration.” Torres-Gil is one of 15 recipients of the 2020 Heller Alumni Award, which honors individuals who have produced positive change through the rigor, creativity and innovation of their work.


 

Torres-Gil Paves Way for Young Leaders

Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, was interviewed by Generations Today about the importance of leadership in the field of aging. Looking back on his childhood, Torres-Gil said that he “learned early on to have big dreams (however unreachable), to have mentors and to listen to those mentors.” In college, he remembers learning the “value of building relationships with a diverse set of individuals, to get out of [his] comfort zone and to build relationships with people [he] was not comfortable with,” a lesson that has made his career possible. Self-confidence, resiliency and optimism are key to being an effective leader, he said. “The real action lies ahead of us,” said Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin. To future leaders, he said, “It’s your responsibility and a great opportunity to make a difference in the field of aging.” 


Torres-Gil Identifies Ageism in COVID-19 Treatment

Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, spoke to Ethnic Media Services about the health risks of staying in a nursing home during the COVID-19 pandemic. People 65 and older have been disproportionately infected and killed by the coronavirus, accounting for eight out of 10 COVID deaths in the United States. More than 43,000 deaths and 210,000 infections have occurred in long-term care facilities, accounting for about 40% of all COVID-related deaths. Torres-Gil said that many hospitals intentionally discriminated against elderly people in the initial stages of the pandemic, doling out scarce resources such as ventilators to younger people who had longer life expectancies. “Those who were older, those who have various types of disabilities were put at the back of the line, a clear example of ageism,” he said. Torres-Gil hopes to see a dramatic expansion of home- and community-based long-term care as a result of the pandemic.


Torres-Gil on Generational Impacts of COVID-19

Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil discussed the disproportionate generational impacts of COVID-19 as a guest on the “COVID-19 Heroes” podcast. The coronavirus pandemic has had a greater impact on older persons and persons with disabilities, who are more vulnerable to infection. Torres-Gil explained that “society as a whole tends to focus on youth and forgets that someday they will be older.” Pointing out that “no one escapes old age,” he said each generation has a responsibility to support the generation that comes before and after it. Without universal health care, minimum income, or adequate compensation and security for essential workers, many individuals have been left on their own during the pandemic. “It’s important to look at the long-term implications of this virus in hopes that we will learn from it,” Torres-Gil concluded. “We left too many people to be on their own and to be vulnerable during this terrible pandemic.”


Torres-Gil on Latino Retirement Insecurity

Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging, spoke to La Opinión about the economic and retirement insecurities Latinos face as they age. Although older Americans have “more disposable income and assets accumulated at this time in their life, they also have the lowest savings rates, higher debt and will live longer,” said Torres-Gil, a professor of social welfare and public policy. “Latinos in general — especially Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Central Americans (Cubans are the exception) — have lower savings rates and pension coverage compared to African Americans and whites,” he said. Latinos also have overall lower education levels and are less likely to have higher-paying jobs that permit them to save money, he added. “Latinos and especially Hispanic women have the highest life expectancy rates compared to whites and African-Americans and, therefore, will live longer with greater economic and retirement insecurities,” he said.


 

Aging Boom Must Be Addressed, Torres-Gil Says

Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Ventura County Star about the policy implications of the county’s aging boom. The number of Ventura County residents 60 and older — now about 196,000 — will likely exceed the number of residents younger than 18 early in 2020, local agencies reported. It also said residents age 85 and older will nearly quadruple in 40 years. Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, said that both Democrats and Republicans have neglected restructuring Medicare, Social Security and Medi-Cal. He commended Ventura County leaders for taking the lead and creating a master plan to address the aging boom. Torres-Gil said that voters will eventually support more funding for initiatives that address the aging boom when they come to terms with their age — when they realize, ” ‘Oh [shoot], I’m old. Now what?’ ”


 

Battleground Legislators Meet at UCLA to Develop 2020 Strategies Two days of leadership training energize lawmakers from Arizona, a state that reflects the nation’s changing demographics

By Maria Morales

“You’re the next frontier.”

Those were the words of UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Dean Gary Segura as he welcomed Latino legislators from Arizona to a two-day leadership academy at UCLA this summer.

The elected leaders came to deepen their understanding of educational, economic and social issues in Arizona and craft policies to address the needs of the state’s Latinos.

This is a crucial time to look at the opportunities and challenges faced by Arizona’s elected officials, said Erica Bernal, chief operating officer of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund and advisory board member of UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

The conference, which was held Aug. 16-17, was hosted by the two organizations, along with Arizona State University’s Center on Latina/os and American Politics Research.

One of the country’s fastest-growing states, Arizona will be “the marquee battleground state in 2020,” said LPPI faculty director Matt Barreto, a professor of political science and Chicana and Chicano studies at UCLA. The number of eligible Latino voters will be at a record high and the bilingual electorate will be a driving force in the campaign, he said.

For candidates, Barreto said, this creates a challenge: How will they connect and engage with this emerging demographic?

During workshops, conference participants explored demographic changes in the Latino community, the importance of state budget realities, lessons learned from former elected officials, and the essential role of accurate data in crafting policy.

Research- and evidence-based policymaking was a recurring theme throughout the two days. Edward Vargas, professor at the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University, shared current polling trends, strategies on how to analyze this data to determine its legitimacy, and best practices on using the numbers to build support among stakeholders.

Vargas also encouraged legislators to think of possible polling questions to engage and communicate with their constituents, keeping in mind the need for culturally relevant questions and true representation of the community.

The conference provided the 13 members of Arizona’s Latino caucus with the opportunity to exchange ideas, build a support network and learn how to incorporate research into their policymaking.

During the gathering’s second day, legislators applied the lessons they learned at a practicum led by Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, and Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging and professor of social welfare and public policy. The skill-building exercise allowed the legislators to incorporate polling data and effective messaging to develop sound legislative policy ideas.

“It was great to see it all unfold,” said Amado Castillo, a third-year undergraduate policy fellow with Latino Politics and Policy Initiative. “The practicum was quite inspirational as it not only gave the legislators the opportunity to use real examples to formulate policy proposals but also allowed us to look and see what type of legislators they are and what they prioritize.”

The Latino Policy and Politics Initiative and its partners will continue the training academy in December in Tempe, Arizona, and will host two roundtables in Phoenix, the state’s capital, in January and February 2020.

View more photos from the leadership academy on Flickr and Facebook.

Torres-Gil to Advise State on Master Plan for Aging

Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, has been named to an advisory committee formed to guide California’s leaders in the creation of a Master Plan for Aging. The plan is intended to serve as a blueprint that can be used by state government, local communities, private organizations and philanthropy to build environments that promote healthy aging. “The Golden State is getting grayer, and we need to be ready for the major population changes headed our way,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in commissioning the plan. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, appointed Torres-Gil to the new Stakeholder Advisory Committee, which will advise state Cabinet members tasked with drafting the master plan by October 2020. “This is our time to come together to build an age-friendly California,” Ghaly said. “Government cannot do this alone — I challenge all Californians to join us in building a California Dream that is inclusive of our older and disabled neighbors.” Torres-Gil’s career spans the academic, professional and policy arenas, and he is a nationally recognized authority on health care, entitlement reform and the politics of aging. He is director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin and co-author of “The Politics of a Majority-Minority Nation: Aging, Diversity, and Immigration.” 


 

Torres-Gil and Shoup on Disabled Parking Fraud

In a story about the Los Angeles City Council’s recent vote to increase the disabled-parking fraud fine from $250 to $1,100, the Los Angeles Times spoke to two UCLA Luskin authorities. Fernando Torres-Gil, social welfare and public policy professor and director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging, said that increasing disabled parking places, stiffening the fine and stepping up enforcement will not solve the problem of disabled parking fraud. Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, added, “Someone who has a real disability should be very outraged at the lax enforcement of placard abuse and the lax enforcement of placard issuance.” Torres-Gil and Shoup advocate for a reform that would limit the number of disabled people who have access to the parking placards. They argued that the reform should not be feared. “Let’s just bite the bullet and deal with it now,” Torres-Gil said.


 

In Memoriam: Yeheskel ‘Zeke’ Hasenfeld The emeritus professor of social welfare was a pioneer in the study of human service organizations, an influential author and a trusted mentor of UCLA Luskin students for more than three decades

By Stan Paul

Yeheskel “Zeke” Hasenfeld, a member of UCLA’s Social Welfare faculty for more than three decades, passed away Feb. 28, 2019, after a battle with cancer. He was 81.

Hasenfeld joined the faculty in 1987 following a post as professor and associate dean at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work. Upon retirement in 2014, Hasenfeld was appointed as a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus “to reflect his ongoing and continued engagement with his students and with our department,” said Laura Abrams, chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare.

“Zeke was a true friend, colleague and mentor to our faculty and students, which is how he will be remembered. I know I speak for all of us in expressing deep sorrow about his passing,” Abrams said in a message to the UCLA Luskin community.

Hasenfeld was a pioneer in the study of human service organizations, earning the Society for Social Work and Research Distinguished Career Achievement Award in 2011. In 2013 he was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. In February 2019, Hasenfeld was included on a list of the 100 most influential contemporary social work faculty by the Journal of Social Service Research.

“Zeke published many influential books and award-winning articles and was recently noted as one of the top 100 scholars of our time in the social work field,” Abrams said.

During his long research and teaching career, Hasenfeld focused on the dynamic relations between social welfare policies, organizations that implement policies and the people who use their social services. His research also looked at the implementation of welfare reform, as well as changes in the organization of welfare departments, and how those changes have affected the relations between workers and recipients. Recent work focused on the role of nonprofit organizations in the provision of social services.

Following his retirement, Hasenfeld volunteered with the American Civil Liberties Union, working on issues related to homelessness and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

Among his publications was the classic and best-selling text, “Human Services as Complex Organizations,” which was updated and republished in a second edition in 2018.

In 2017, Hasenfeld received the Frank R. Breul Memorial Prize from the University of Chicago’s publication Social Service Review for research on professional power relations in social work. Hasenfeld shared the prize with co-author Eve Garrow MSW ’03 Ph.D. ’08. Hasenfeld and Garrow married in 2018.

Hasenfeld, who was born in Israel, earned his undergraduate degree in sociology and economics in 1960 from Hebrew University at Jerusalem. He went to Rutgers University School of Social Work on a Fulbright Scholarship and received his MSW in 1962. In 1970, Hasenfeld earned his Ph.D. in social work and sociology from the University of Michigan and joined the faculty of the School of Social Work there following a yearlong teaching stint at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also held an appointment in the University of Michigan’s Department of Sociology.

“Zeke was a dear colleague and a good friend,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, UCLA Luskin professor of social welfare and public policy. “He and I had much in common — our interest in organizational behavior and community theory, commitment to doctoral students and, in a most personal manner, being polio survivors,” added Torres-Gil, who also serves as director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin.

Torres-Gil recalled Hasenfeld’s “steadfastness and courage that inspired me to stay involved,” adding that Hasenfeld used his adversity to enlighten others about important policy and intellectual issues. “His iconic humor gave one pause, no matter how serious or how funny. I will miss Zeke for all this and for his dedication to the academic enterprise and to aging gracefully with a disability,” Torres-Gil said.

Hasenfeld is survived by Garrow, his wife; daughters Rena Garland and Rachel White from his first marriage to Helen Hasenfeld; and granddaughters Cassie White, Allie White and Summer Garland.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in his name may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, 1313 W. 8th St., Los Angeles, CA 90017.