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AARP DC 2018 Lobby Day: Testimony for DC Office on Aging Budget Oversight Hearing


AARP District of Columbia State Office
Testimony for DC Office on Aging Budget Oversight Hearing
Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization
April 25, 2018

Testimony delivered by Ward 6 resident and  AARP DC Volunteer Jean Link.

AARP is the world’s largest membership organization, with nearly 38 million dues-paying members. AARP District of Columbia State Office (AARP DC) represents more than 89,000 members living in the District of Columbia. AARP DC is pleased to submit this testimony regarding the budget and performance of the District of Columbia Office on Aging (DCOA).

Washington DC is home to approximately 108,000 seniors representing approximately 1/6 of the population. AARP’s vision is to create a society in which everyone ages with dignity and purpose, and in which AARP helps people fulfill their goals and dreams. AARP is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all as we age. To do so, AARP leads positive social change and delivers value to members through information, advocacy, and service.

My name is Jean Link, I live with my husband Bob in Ward 6 at Gangplank Marina my father lives at our condo in Harbor Square. I am testifying on behalf of AARP DC. Today I would like to share my experience in navigating through the benefits and gaps in services provided in the District.

My Father

In 2015 my husband, Bob, and I decided to move my 73 year-old father from Michigan to DC due to his declining health. At that time, my husband and I were renting a 2-bedroom apartment on H Street and were looking to purchase a home. My father stayed with us in the apartment until his dementia became too aggressive for my husband and I to handle. Also, during this time we tried to secure in-home care so I could be free to run errands and take care of daily needs without worrying when I was away from my father. Because of the move and his complex medical needs, we ended up in the Emergency Room at George Washington Hospital. That trip to the ER connected us to a patient advocate who helped smooth the rough edges of getting Medicaid, determining what resources were available, and figuring out the best course of treatment for my father. Over the next two years, my father became isolated while in an independent living facility. During this time, against medical recommendation, he was denied 24-hour care. He was approved for 16 hours but was required to pay the difference. This experience opened my eyes to the loopholes in the process to obtain home and community-based services. After having to move from the independent living facility due to a water leak, I am happy to report that my father now lives in our condo at Harbor Square and has 24-hour Care. Bob and I are lucky to have the means to take care of my father and I am fortunate to be able to devote time to be an advocate for my father’s care. However, this ordeal taught me that there are unaddressed gaps in both services and information about available services.

DCOA Budget

The mayor’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget includes a significant increase for the District Office on Aging (DCOA). I would like to highlight specific points that identify positive execution of services and areas for improvement :

  1. Caregiver programs have an increase of $118 thousand over FY 2018. AARP DC applauds the increased funding for these programs that provide respite and resources for family caregivers. These important services help people care for family members and loved ones while maintaining a sense of self. However, AARP DC would like to see more communication and information with the public about these programs.
  2. In-home services offered through DCOA were also increased in the Mayor’s proposed budget. The increase of $1.5 million is a good step to assist DC seniors to age in place and stay close to their families for support.
  3. Lead agency management (money to help ward-based lead agencies serve the community) has an additional $829 thousand proposed in 2019. AARP DC and I believe that this increase reflects the Mayor’s concern that the demand for services is increasing resulting in the current flat funding is not adequate to cover the need for services throughout the city. If our assumption is correct, the increase is essential to covering the needs of our seniors and helping lead agencies and DCOA develop reliable metrics to determine future needs.
  4. Senior villages offer support systems for seniors throughout the city. Their programs help keep seniors from becoming isolated while aging in place. This model, which seems to be effective, is flat funded at $300 thousand. Preventing senior isolation is a key domain of the Age Friendly program. DCOA and the city should take all steps to expand access to social inclusion, and prevent social isolation. AARP DC supports a budget that bolsters programs to keep on the age-friendly track and closes the gaps in home and community-based services for people across the District and of varying income level.
  5. Nutrition services provide meal delivery, congregate meals, and commodity-based services such as farmer’s markets for seniors. Nutrition services were cut by $581 thousand. AARP DC understands that there are federal dollars to back portions of the meal services ($2 thousand), but AARP DC is concerned that the $579 thousand cut from farmers markets and other commodity services does not reflect demand and will only serve to exacerbate the current food desert that exists in parts of the city, specifically Wards 7 & 8. AARP DC reached out to DCOA regarding this issue but has yet to receive a response.
  6. Senior wellness centers, which help promote social inclusion and health, were cut by $83 thousand. While it was reported that this cut reflects a change in funding for the virtual wellness center, AARP DC questions whether this was a necessary budget cut. AARP supports re-instating the $83 thousand.

Performance Improvements Needed in FY19

As an older adult living in DC, it is important to me to highlight specific points where DCOA needs to improve. M many of the issues I have discussed have been shared with DCOA and executive leadership and both have expressed interest in partnering with AARP DC and community partners to address the gaps in services. The Mayor’s office and the Office on Aging are working with the community to find the best way to address the following issues. By addressing these issues, the city has the potential to help seniors in the District of Columbia stay health and stay in their community.

  • Data access and collection has been an ongoing and observed problem for DCOA. Over the past year, AARP DC advocated to update the last needs assessment, which was conducted in 2016. AARP DC encourages DCOA and the Mayor’s office to continue to work with community partners to get an accurate survey of demand and supply of DCOA services throughout the city.
  • As highlighted in the testimony about my father, there is a lack of communication between DCOA and the community about available services. While communication improved in 2018, however, there is still significant work to be done. DCOA should continue to work with community partners such as AARP DC and the Senior Advisory Coalition to improve communication with the population most in need of DCOA services.
  • Finally, through our membership in Senior Advisory Coalition (SAC), AAPR DC learned that DCOA takes up to 2-3 months and multiple checks and follow-ups by providers to receive payment for services. While AARP DC does not and is not advocating on behalf of the providers, AARP DC is concerned that the lag-time and onerous processes will discourage eligible and quality providers from providing services. A smaller pool of providers has potential to shrink available services, which will ultimately harm seniors.

I know that AARP DC and our community partners feel that significant progress has been made to begin to address all these issues. During the next fiscal year, I want to help AARP DC work to address the many problems I faced while trying to care for my father in the District. No family should have to jump through as many hurdles as my husband and I did to get adequate care for an aging loved one.


My husband and I learned over the past three years that there are services in this city that are wonderful and front-line staff are caring, skilled professionals. However, at the administration level, DCOA and DCHF lack data and understanding of the demand for services throughout the city. I encourage the committee to demand answers on cuts and flat-funded budget lines. I also encourage the Council and Mayor to undertake develop budgets closely tied to the need of District.


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