In an interview with the American Society on Aging, Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil spoke about his research in the field of aging as well as his own life story. After contracting polio as a child, Torres-Gil described his commitment to education despite going in and out of hospitals for years. “My particular disability opened doors that at that time were not available to low-income, ethnic or minority communities,” he said. When Torres-Gil first got involved in gerontology, the field was primarily focused on the aging of white older adults. His research focused on diversity within the older population, and he has also explored aging as an intergenerational issue. “Aging is not just about older persons,” he explained. “Aging is a lifelong process.” He recommended expanding universal healthcare, guaranteeing minimum income and providing retirement security in order to ensure that young people are able to enjoy their longevity.
Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil was featured in a Next Avenue article about COVID-19 and the future of aging. Torres-Gil spoke at the Milken Institute 2021 Future of Health Summit, which focused on ageism, technology, the impact of COVID-19 on older adults, and solving social issues with an intergenerational approach. “I’d like to think that the pandemic is pushing us, forcing us to reframe, redefine and reconfigure what kind of society we want,” Torres-Gil said. “One of the great silver linings is that we began to realize that everyone matters and we need and want to reconstruct both the social safety net and its social contract.” After observing ableism and ageism during the pandemic, Torres-Gil said that one of the great challenges for society will be informing and educating young people to stop seeing elderly and disabled people as expendable and realize that they, too, will grow old someday.
Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil was featured in a Covering Health article about developing policies to support aging populations. While advances in public health and medicine have increased the average life expectancy for humans, age- and health-related inequalities persist. Communities of color are especially vulnerable to social determinants of health and often have significantly lower life expectancies than other Americans. “If any good has come out of the pandemic, it may be that we are at a rare moment of opportunity for a paradigm shift moving away from individual to more collective responsibility,” Torres-Gil said. “One of the benefits of this great new era is that if we do all the right things, we have the real possibility to live a good long life, well into our 80s, 90s, and to be centenarians.”
Professor of Public Policy and Social Welfare Fernando Torres-Gil was interviewed by Next Avenue about the generational impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Older adults have experienced a heavy toll, and Torres-Gil argued that the failure to protect our oldest and most vulnerable communities is indicative of a flawed system. “We recognize that your ZIP code, race, income and education level matter when it comes to who is most likely to pay the price during this pandemic,” he said. As part of California’s Master Plan on Aging Task Force, Torres-Gil has spent the last few years working on ways to better prepare the state for its growing population of older adults. “If we use a holistic perspective — one that takes a lifespan approach — we can increase equity and intergenerational cohesion,” he said. “With understanding and commitment, we can get there, and I hope that will be a positive outcome of this very difficult time.”
Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil was featured in a Forbes article about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Master Plan for Aging. The number of Californians age 60 and older is expected to nearly double from 6 million in 2010 to 11 million in 2030. One in five older adults in the state is living in poverty and older adults comprise the fastest-growing group of homeless individuals in California, Torres-Gil said. The Master Plan was also shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, including recommendations to avoid prioritizing younger people with COVID-19 over older ones and acknowledging the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on older adults. “The pandemic really dramatized that certain populations were at terrible risk, especially Black and brown communities, low-income communities, older adults, nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, and persons with disabilities and chronic conditions,” Torres-Gil said.
Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil co-authored a piece in the San Antonio Express News about the need for a new federal program to aid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic and ensuing economic recession have exacerbated existing inequalities in the United States. During the Great Depression, New Deal programs and private investment in public enterprises helped promote economic recovery. According to Torres-Gil, President-elect Joe Biden has an “opportunity to create new economic policies for a healthier America and a social compact in which we can all value equity.” Torres-Gil described a “massive federal infrastructure spending bill — akin to a Marshall Plan — that creates more jobs, helps small businesses, emphasizing green industry as well as the hardest hit health and senior care sectors.” He recommended designing a new social contract that assures all Americans basic health care coverage, minimum income in old age, employment and caregiver support.
Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil was featured in a Forbes article about President-elect Joe Biden’s plans for improving Medicare, Social Security and other income security policies that will have a large impact on older Americans. Panelists at the 11th annual Journalists in Aging Fellows Program recommended an intergenerational framework to shift the focus from the needs of people over 50 and instead see all issues as aging issues. “What I am suggesting for our generation [of baby boomers] is not only must we be advocates whether it is health security, retirement security, pension reform, protecting Social Security or protecting Medicare and Medicaid, but we must find ways to drill down and begin to represent the interests of younger, emerging, ethnic minority populations,” said Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin. “Otherwise, I fear we may see greater incidents of generational tension, exacerbated by racial and ethnic tensions.”
Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil spoke to Senior Living Foresight about a new California report on government responses to aging. The article summarized two government-initiated efforts: a federal report, prepared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, that suggests improving funding, infrastructure and access to personal protective equipment in nursing homes; and a report by the Stakeholders Committee for the California Master Plan for Aging, which Torres-Gil summarized. The California report calls for improving long-term care services and support systems, ending poverty, and ensuring affordable housing and equity of resources for all, regardless of individual circumstances. The report notes the impact of ageism, ableism and systemic racism — exacerbated by COVID-19 — on older adults and people with disabilities, especially in Black, Native American and Latino communities. “We are leading the nation,” Torres-Gil said of the statewide efforts. “We can show that there is no need to be afraid of diversity.”
The Larchmont Buzz highlighted Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil’s perspectives on the eradication of polio and lessons for the COVID-19 era at an online event marking World Polio Awareness Day. Polio cases have been reduced by 99.9% since Rotary launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, the article noted. Torres-Gil, a public health expert who survived polio contracted as an infant, told fellow Rotarians that he is concerned about mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. “Science matters, unity matters, public-private partnerships matter,” said Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin. “That’s what made the fight against polio work. … Unfortunately, it has been the exact opposite with COVID-19.” In addition to a death toll that has climbed past 200,000, the credibility of the scientific community is in danger, Torres-Gil explained. “The health of the nation is not a partisan issue,” he said. “We need data and facts.”
Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, co-authored an opinion piece for the Abilene Reporter News on the accumulated lifelong disadvantages experienced by the Hispanic community, which leave it particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. “Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to experience health conditions tied to poverty, low levels of educational attainment and inadequate retirement income,” wrote Torres-Gil and co-author Jacqueline L. Angel. Eliminating these disparities should be a national priority, they said, arguing for a robust social safety net that ensures access to health care coverage, fair housing and an equitable education. They also called for the creation of “new and innovative community assets — like affordable adult day and child care services — that are critical resources to improve intergenerational relations, health and well-being, as well as the academic success of generations to come.”