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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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?’ ”
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.