Statement Of Ronald S. Taylor
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 3, 2003
Director, Statewide and Community-Based Services
Florida Department of Elder Affairs
My name is Ron Taylor and I am with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. I am here today on behalf of our Department Secretary, Terry White, who regrets not being here. We thank the Environmental Protection Agency and Governor Whitman for this initiative and appreciate the opportunity to offer comment. It is imperative for our country to embrace changes to improve the health of our citizens; by being better stewards of our environment is one of the ways we can effect change. From the National Institutes of Health, we have found several conditions that are more common in the elderly that are associated with environmental causes: cancer, heart disease and vision problems. Parkinson's disease researchers suspect that environmental agents play an important role in the development of that disease as well. We also found that women are more vulnerable to some environmental diseases, which include breast cancer, endometriosis, osteoporosis, and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. It is critical that environmental concerns are addressed now or thousands of people will continue to worsen and they will experience greater pain if we don't. Consider the population age 65 and over. This group directly experienced the great depression. They know what it is like to have shortages of supplies and goods and sometimes to even experience severe poverty. This made them more reluctant to waste. Living on fixed incomes also contributes to their prevention of waste. In contrast, we have the baby boomers, who will soon be elderly and more driven by desire for convenience. That desire for convenience leads to frequent use of disposable goods and those items associated with convenience. Convenience goods and disposable items are much more available today than they have ever been before. This means that in future years, we won't have the benefit of an older person or an older generation that is conservative in their affects on the environment unless something happens to change that trend. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs has two suggestions to address and prepare for an aging society. The first recommendation is that the Department encourages the incorporation of green building principles in new construction and in renovation of existing buildings. Green buildings are broadly defined as a collection of land use building design and construction strategies and technologies that reduce the environmental impact of buildings throughout their lifecycles. The second recommendation is that the Department also encourages the development of strong messages about the need for lifestyle simplification and reduced consumption. These messages need to be multi-dimensional, addressing the many reasons why people are resorting to convenience items. The current message of reduce, reuse, and recycle needs to be more prominent. Changing these ingrained behaviors will be challenging but will only occur if concerted efforts begin soon. We will breathe better for it. On behalf of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, we want to thank you for the opportunity to present today.