Torres-Gil on the Rapid Growth of the Aging Population

Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, was cited in a Los Angeles Times column about the aging population and new challenges it will pose. By 2031, it’s estimated that a quarter of California’s population will be 60 years or older. As many more people have begun to find L.A. County unaffordable, older residents wonder whether they will struggle to make ends meet as inequities increase. The state of California projects a care-provider shortage of over 3 million people in the near future. The “sandwich generation,” consisting of people who simultaneously care for both their parents and children, have thus had to take on more responsibilities. Torres-Gil explains that the two main questions many aging adults are asking themselves these days are “can I afford to cover my bills as I get older, and who will take care of me as I get older?”


 

Social Welfare at 75 Field Training Is the Heart of the Program

By Stan Paul

Since 1947, Social Welfare at UCLA has been a leader in enhancing human well-being and promoting social and economic justice for disadvantaged populations.

Social Welfare has much to celebrate after 75 years. Under the direction of Professor Laura Abrams, the current department chair, the department will be hosting celebratory events throughout the academic year, culminating with an on-campus gala May 6. Fittingly, the theme of the 75th anniversary celebration focuses on community engagement.

“That’s why I became a social worker, that’s why I came to UCLA, that’s why I stayed at UCLA, that’s what’s shaped me is the community engagement,” said Gerry Laviña, longtime director of the field faculty at UCLA Luskin.

Laviña, who plans to retire in 2023, reflected on his experience as a student, instructor, leader, mentor and social worker over 30 years.

“One of the things that I learned as an MSW student from the first year throughout my career and is what I told my first- and second-year students, you cannot do this work alone,” Laviña said. “That’s what field education is.”

Laviña said the department has survived and thrived because it has long emphasized field education through deep ties to community service agencies and an emphasis on community engagement.

“I was here for the 50th anniversary, which was really significant, and now I’m going to end at the 75th anniversary,” he said. “There’s been a lot of positive changes in our program, which is due to the hard work of a lot of us who’ve been committed to making it a better place.”

Professor Fernando Torres-Gil concurs.

“In just over 75 years, this program really moved up in terms of respect, recognition and visibility,” said Torres-Gil, who has filled a number of leadership roles over his three decades at UCLA.

Social Welfare is the oldest and largest of UCLA Luskin’s graduate degree programs in terms of student enrollment and number of faculty. Thousands of students have received their educations and training over the years.

“Our Social Welfare program is embedded in the multidisciplinary Luskin School that’s part of a university that truly believes in cross-disciplinary collaboration,” said Torres-Gil, referring to the decision in the 1990s to join Social Welfare, Urban Planning and Public Policy in a School of Public Affairs. “It’s stronger, more influential, more impactful precisely because it collaborates with its sister/brother departments.”

He said it’s been gratifying to see the department and School’s academic and professional reputation grow in recent years. “It has finally come of age, recognized nationally, even internationally, however you measure it.”

Torres-Gil Selected as American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare Fellow

Professor Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, was elected as a 2023 fellow by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. The academy is dedicated to advancing social good through high-impact research, scholarship and practice, and its prestigious fellows program recognizes individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the field of social work and social welfare. Torres-Gil’s multifaceted career spans the academic, professional and policy arenas. He is a professor of social welfare and public policy whose research focuses on health and long-term care, disability, entitlement reform and the politics of aging. At the Center for Policy Research on Aging, established in 1997, Torres-Gil has directed studies into major policy issues surrounding Social Security, Medicare, long-term care, and the societal implications that accompany the aging of the baby boom generation and their children. His portfolio of public service includes presidential appointments in the Carter, Clinton and Obama administrations, several positions at the state and local level, and leadership posts at philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. A prolific writer, Torres-Gil has co-authored several op-eds, articles and books, including 2018’s “The Politics of a Majority-Minority Nation: Aging, Diversity, and Immigration.” Torres-Gil and 13 other fellows will be formally inducted at the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s annual conference in January. Previous fellows from the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare faculty include Laura Abrams, Ron Avi Astor, Aurora Jackson, Stuart A. Kirk, James Lubben. Robert Schilling and the late Yeheskel “Zeke” Hasenfeld.


 

Torres-Gil on Retirement Security for Latinas

A New York Times story on efforts to equip Latinas to save for retirement cited Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy. Latinas, who are among the longest-living yet lowest-earning groups in America, have faced challenges ensuring that their later years are financially secure. But that trend is changing, in part due to an increasing number of Hispanic women who are entering higher education. “They’re recognizing that they have to depend on themselves first, and they’re far more likely than previous cohorts to invest or have access to 401(k)s,” said Torres-Gil, an authority on demographics, disability and the politics of aging. He teaches his students that social programs meant to lift women out of poverty are essential. “We have to reinforce for them the critical importance of keeping Social Security,” he said. “Because a lot of them know it’s important for their elders, but they don’t think they’ll ever see a check themselves.”


 

Torres-Gil Urges a New Outlook on Retirement

Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, co-wrote an opinion piece for the Abilene Reporter News advising people to consider the future impact of a growing population of retired Americans. As life spans have increased, retirement from work has become more common. Yet a robust labor force is needed to ensure that the U.S. Social Security program remains solvent, particularly given data about the kind of care that older Americans will require. “More than 9 million Americans across the nation will need dementia care by 2030, and nearly 12 million by 2040,” wrote Torres-Gil and co-author Jacqueline L. Angel. To combat the financial stressors that this growing population demographic places on government, some lawmakers are proposing increasing the retirement age to 70 or increasing the eligibility age for access to Medicare. This would create hardship for many, Torres-Gil said, stressing the importance of a sustainable safety net to provide stability for those in their later years of life.


 

Torres-Gil Featured in ‘Sages of Aging’

Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, appeared on the PBS special “Sages of Aging” to discuss the experiences and lifestyle changes that emerge with aging. Torres-Gil spoke about ways that older generations can participate in the fast-changing digital age by keeping up with technological advancements and having an open mind. “We can show that, at the very least, we are still engaged, we are still willing to learn new things like new technology, and that we tried to mitigate the natural tendencies of older persons to be upfront with our biases and our own prejudices,” he said. Torres-Gil also shared aspects of aging that can make people feel pessimistic, such as decreased physical capabilities. “But life is still good. A lot of it is just accepting it with grace and just moving on,” he said. Torres-Gil is director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin.


 

On Protecting the Rights and Dignity of Disabled Americans

Judith Heumann, a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people, joined Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, for a wide-ranging virtual conversation focusing on the ongoing fight for universal accessibility. Hosted by the UCLA Luskin Undergraduate Program, the Feb. 8 dialogue came during Heumann’s weeklong appointment as a UCLA Regents’ Lecturer. Heumann and Torres-Gil spoke about their work shaping legislation and policies to protect the rights and affirm the dignity of disabled Americans. Both speakers have spent decades serving in key government and nonprofit positions focusing on health and aging, and both bring a personal perspective on living with disability as survivors of polio contracted as young children. Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, said making education, housing and health care more accessible will have a broad impact, as people young and old may face unexpected physical or cognitive decline and as the long-term health effects of COVID-19 become clear. Heumann also spoke about her work as a Ford Foundation fellow studying depictions of disabled people in the media. “The paper that we produced was a roadmap to inclusion,” she said. “It is making it normal that you could be blind, you could be deaf, you can have a physical disability, you can have an intellectual disability, you can have a memory issue — all these different things. They need to be built into the way we experience life.”

View a video or read the transcript of the conversation between Heumann and Torres-Gil, “Beyond Allyship: Disability Rights and Public Service.” 

View a video of Heumann’s UCLA Regents’ Lecture, “Disrupting Ableism in Higher Education and Beyond.” 


 

‘Beyond Allyship: Disability Rights and Public Service’

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Undergraduate Program invites you to a conversation with Judith Heumann and Fernando Torres-Gil. The conversation will focus on how individuals and organizations can move beyond disability allyship to engage in coalition building and adopt an intersectional approach to policy making. This session is open to student leaders pursuing careers in public service who are interested in examining the intersections of disability, public service, and advocacy. Participants are invited to submit questions to help guide the conversation.

The event will have CART captioning, ASL interpretation, and be recorded.

For questions about the event, please email undergraduateinfo@luskin.ucla.edu.

For a full schedule of the UCLA Regents’ Lecture with Judith Heumann, click here.

 

REGISTRATION

Register to receive the Zoom meeting link here.

 

SPEAKERS

Judith Heumann
About Judith Heumann: Judy is a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. She has been instrumental in the development and implementation of legislation, such as Section 504, the Individuals with Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Her memoir, “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist“, co-authored by Kristen Joiner, was published in 2020. She is also featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution“, directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham. Judy produces a podcast called “The Heumann Perspective“, which features a variety of members from the disability community.

Judy serves on a number of nonprofit boards, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Humanity and Inclusion and Human Rights Watch. She is also a founding member of the Berkeley Center for Independent Living. Prior to starting the Judith Heumann LLC, she served in the Clinton and Obama administrations.

You can purchase a signed copy of Judith Heumann’s memoir, “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist,” at the UCLA Store here.

Fernando Torres-Gil
Fernando M. Torres-Gil’s multifaceted career spans the academic, professional, and policy arenas. He is a Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy at UCLA, an Adjunct Professor of Gerontology at USC, and Director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging. His academic contributions have earned him membership in the prestigious Academies of Public Administration, Gerontology and Social Insurance. His research spans important topics of health and long-term care, disability, entitlement reform, and the politics of aging.

In 2010 he received his third presidential appointment (with Senate Confirmation) when President Barack Obama appointed him as Vice Chair of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that reports to the Congress and White House on federal matters related to disability policy. During his public service in Washington, D.C., he also served as Staff Director of the U.S. House Select Committee on Aging. For a complete bio click here.

Torres-Gil on Long-Term Care for an Aging America

Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil co-authored a commentary in The Hill about the growing demand for caretakers as the U.S. population ages. According to one study, the United States has an unmet need for 2.3 million home care workers. Congress is currently debating legislation to improve affordable care by expanding Medicaid coverage for home care services for seniors and people with disabilities, among other measures. Torres-Gil and co-author Jacqueline Angel from the University of Texas, Austin, noted that middle-class and working families are most likely to shoulder the burden of caring for family members, and these populations are most likely to suffer from burnout and caregiver stress. Eventually, the authors hope to see the implementation of a universal long-term care policy, such as those in place in the European Union, South Korea and Japan. “We can do better here in the United States,” they wrote.


Torres-Gil on Facing the Vicissitudes of Aging

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.

Watch the interview