Statement Of Holly Cairns
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 23, 2003
Southwest Region Environmental Advocate
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Hello. I am the Environmental Advocate with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Although seniors are increasingly active in Pennsylvania environmental issues, growth in programs for older volunteers in environmental programs will only continue to increase in the future.
Whether it is acid mine drainage monitoring, environmental education or recycling, senior volunteers are a vibrant group to tap into to help us with this Initiative, and are actively doing so. If we don't collectively make the effort to turn individuals into healthy seniors, then we are limiting whom we can turn to in the future. For example, addressing issues such as adult onset asthma, and how it relates to air pollution is important and can limit consequences.
The healthier we can keep older Pennsylvanians along with the rest of the nation the more people there are to work with. Seniors should not have to do it alone. There are partnerships such as the Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, the Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement or the Senior Environmental Corps. These partnerships are actively working to improve the quality of life for Pennsylvania residents. The Aging Initiative is just what we need to address environmental concerns. The work that Pennsylvania seniors are doing is not just for their best interest but that for communities at large.
In addition, there needs to be careful consideration given toward the senior population that is not capable of involving itself. Whatever the limitations may be which could be health related, or socioeconomic, we may not hear from that subset, but we should not overlook that population. Programs that address the needs of those that are not positioned to do it need to be included as well. Doing more to increase senior volunteerism and outreach is necessary, but a process that is adaptive and able to look at a variety of needs and having solutions to address them is just as important. As we continue to work toward closing the gap between the environment, health and humans, we should take into consideration existing differences, whether it is income or housing differences, land use or other variables that make it a challenge to address needs for seniors. Hopefully, this aging initiative will make significant strides in the right direction and provide a working model for state and local agencies to follow. Affording this opportunity to hear the senior community express what they hope to see for themselves and for future seniors is certainly a step in a direction to establish a National Agenda that will meet the needs of seniors and the numerous environmental concerns now and in the future.