Many of us have parents or loved ones of advanced years. We all want to feel confident that they will be able to retain their independence and dignity throughout their life.
But guess what? We're all getting older. We're all stakeholders in aging issues. With one out of three senior citizens economically insecure -- either already living in poverty or with a health problem, a lost job or just a missed car payment -- it's imperative that we do everything we can to stand up for older Americans.
For this reason, Goodwill is proud to be among the co-sponsors of the One Away campaign, which is calling on Congress to protect and strengthen the Older Americans Act (OAA).
At OneAway.org,there are more than 4,600 stories from older Americans who are struggling to make ends meet.
Take 64-year-old Gretchen "Wendy" Harris, for example. Macular degeneration and progressive vision loss forced her to stop working after a career that spanned 30 years in accounting, banking and government.
Fortunately, Harris found her way to Tacoma Goodwill. She learned new ways that she could work, with accommodations, and learned how to perform a variety of duties. With those new-found skills, she took a position as a receptionist trainee at the Vision Loss Center in Washington State. Within a year she received a promotion, and she is now economically self-sufficient.
The Tacoma Goodwill program that made this possible for Harris is part of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the only federal program designed to prepare older workers for the modern labor market.
"Before entering the program," Harris said, "I thought my life was over. SCSEP interrupted that. It's a window into a life I didn't know I'd ever have again. It's amazing... just amazing."
We believe that every older American deserves the same shot that Harris received: the chance to live independently through the power of work. At Goodwill SCSEP programs across the country, older workers are matched with nonprofits and public agencies to get on-the-job training opportunities; then they get help transitioning into regular employment.
Since 2006, Goodwill has helped more than 6,000 seniors through SCSEP, making it possible for more than 1,600 people to earn unsubsidized employment and live securely. (By the way, this also saves taxpayers millions of dollars each year.)
Today, Congress has an opportunity to give millions of seniors the chance to live without financial hardships in their golden years.
SCSEP is funded under the Older Americans Act (OAA). For almost 50 years, OAA has been the major national vehicle for the organization and delivery of social services to seniors, and it is up for reauthorization this year.
As Congress moves to reauthorize the OAA this year, we are urging its members to protect and strengthen programs like SCSEP, in order to ensure that no older American lives one step away from an economic crisis.