NATIONAL INDO AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR SENIOR CITIZENS Inc.
Contact Person: Rajeshwar Prasad, NIAASC president
Address: 7 Roberta Avenue, Farmingville NY 11738 Telephone: 631-698-0512
FIFTH CONFERENCE ON SENIORS: ELDER LAW
November 05, 2002
Glimpse of Attendees:
The National Indo-American Association for Senior Citizens (NIAASC) had its fifth ‘Conference on Seniors’ in Elmont on November 02, 2002 in collaboration with the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) and the Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center. The subject was ‘Elder Law and Its Implications to seniors.’ About 50 people attended this interactive conference and NIAASC meetings from 10:30 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon. A number of organizations involved with senior programs were represented; notably among them were: Chan Jamoona, executive director and founder president of the United Hindu Cultural Council Senior Center in South Ozone Park, the only program funded by City of New York government and running five days a week serving more than 100 seniors; Nirmala Ramasubramanian, chairperson of the Senior Citizens Committee at the Hindu Temple in Flushing which had a kickoff of senior center on September 22, 2002; Dr. Ashwin Pandya and others from Senior Citizens Group of New York which meets monthly, at times twice a month, at the Vaishnav Temple in Holliswood attended by about 60 seniors; Sudha Acharya, president of the South Asian Council for Social Services; Kris Kalra, MSW, from Queens Hospital Center, representing the Hindu Center in Flushing; Monica Nandan, an activist on senior issues from St. Joseph, Missouri; Ashok Satkalmi Ph.D., president and Sharad Narvekar from Nav Nirmaan; Avinash Suri, immediate past president of India Association of Long Island which has arranged four senior luncheons; and Dr. Uday Naval, a noted academician and ardent supporter of senior programs in USA;
In his remarks, Rajeshwar Prasad, NIAASC president, asked for a moment of silence on the sudden passing away of Promod Mehta who had not missed any NIAASC conference in the past and was a big resource for the benefit of seniors. Prasad underscored the importance of this conference and reiterated that focus of NIAASC has been and will remain to be information, referral and advocacy without reinventing wheels and bringing, to the attention of seniors and their families, services available for seniors throughout USA. He summarized in brief subjects covered by NIAASC in its previous four conference: Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare and Medicaid Basics, Long Term Care, Transportation, Family Conflicts Faced by Seniors; Senior Housing, Respite Care for Caregivers; and Process of Knowing and Utilizing Available Services for Seniors. He also underscored that like today’s conference, previous conferences had eminent professionals to speak and discuss the issues. He also emphasized the importance of the NIAASC toll free telephone number and its web site, which is linked to various governmental and non-governmental agencies and institutions.
Welcome and NIAASC Background:
In his welcome remarks, E.M.Stephen, executive director and president of the Kerala Center outlined activities undertaken at the center for the benefit of Indian community: art and music, language classes for children and adults, programs for youth and seniors, celebration of Indian festivals and national holidays such as India’s Independence Day, recognition of community leaders for their accomplishments in different fields. He underscored the working relationship between the center and NIAASC. Dr. Thomas Abraham, president of GOPIO and chairman of the Kerala Center Board of Directors traced back the history of NIAASC. It was in July 1998, when the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) based in Seattle, Washington approached him for addressing issues of Indian seniors. At a dinner meeting of over 2 dozen Indian community leaders along with Clayton Fong, executive director and Ellen Bhang, project coordinator of NAPCA, efforts were initiated. He stated that under the leadership of Rajeshwar Prasad the NIAASC has come a long way in a very systematic manner beginning with identification of problems and continuing to provide services as outlined by Prasad in his opening remarks. He underscored the need of networking for expansion of the program and utilizing the rich resources other organizations can offer for the benefit of seniors. He, along with Stephen, also emphasized that the Kerala Center for all practical purposes is ‘India’ center and it interacts with many organizations in facilitating for services, meeting rooms and auditorium.
Recognition of Sponsors:
Sushila Gidwani-Buschi, a community activist, president of The Organization of Universal Communal Harmony (TOUCH), in recognizing the sponsors of the conference appreciated efforts of nonprofit organizations, involved with senior programs, domestic and elder abuse, social services, legal and defense education to interact with the NIAASC. She appreciated individual and corporate sponsors for recognizing the efforts of NIAASC and supporting the conference financially.
Keynote Speech and Panel Presentations and Discussions
In her keynote speech, Marianne Artusio, professor at the Law Center in Huntington, articulated that one should make decisions with regard to their legal, health-related and financial planning issues as early as possible. She emphasized that in absence of instruments such as power of attorney, living will, process after the death of a loved one can be very painful, costly and arduous for family members. At the panel presentation and discussion three more attorneys and counselors of law joined Artusio: Amy Siegel, Brian Andrew Tully and Manoj Kumar Patel. Step by step the panelists provided helpful information and underscored the importance of these issues: long term care planning, estate planning, impact of immigration on seniors and their families particularly in light of Welfare Reforms Act of 1996, health care proxy, Medicaid asset protection, durable power of attorney, real estate and joint bank accounts. Dr. Ashwin Pandya in moderating the panel, stated that by virtue of our nature and lethargy, we do not think of the unforeseen. Based on his professional expertise as a practicing psychiatrist and his personal experience he described that families go through a difficult and hardship phase after the death of a loved one. Their grief is aggravated by bureaucratic layers in their efforts of sorting out many issues. In his brief remarks, Muthu G. Mudaliar, identified the importance of health insurance and affordable prescription drugs. He indicated that financial planning go hand in hand with many components described at the conference.
Remarks by Chief Guest:
The conference participants were grateful to hear chief guest Honorable Uma Sengupta, an eminent personality, actively involved with state politics. She in her brief remarks outlined as to how she had developed a Montessori school and has been able to provide necessary tools and services to children and their parents. She asked that there is a growing need for adult day care services for Indian seniors and NIAASC and other organizations should focus on that. She assured the audience of her full-fledged support in their ventures.
Vote of Thanks:
Mathew Koshi, NIAASC secretary, proposed a vote of thanks to all the nonprofit organizations for being sponsors, Individual, Collaborative and Corporate sponsors for their financial support, Kerala Center president E.M.Stephen, GOPIO president Dr. Thomas Abraham, all the speakers, panelists and moderator, Honorable Uma Sengupta, NIAASC board members, news media for publicizing the conference as a public service and all the participants for their lively interaction throughout the conference. He also announced that all are invited to attend the NIAASC general body meeting. He also announced that with courtesy of Drs. Ashwin and Anjali Pandya, NIAASC has been able to provide a package of sweets to each and everyone as a token Diwali gift.
NIAASC General Body Meeting:
NIAASC president, Rajeshwar Prasad, gave a progress report of NIAASC activities. He focused on collaborative working relations with a number of community groups such as the Hindu Temple Society of North America, United Hindu Cultural Council Senior Center, India Association of Long Island in their efforts to address issues of seniors of Indian origin. He also elaborated on many inquiries received on the toll free telephone number of NIAASC and how NIAASC volunteers research those inquiries to the satisfaction of callers. He brought to the attention of participants a study just completed by Dr. Jyotsna Kalavar of Penn State University where NIAASC helped in facilitating sample selection and interviews with seniors in New Jersey and New York. The study, financed by the federal Administration on Aging, highlights many issues seniors face including adaptation in new land particularly by those seniors, mostly sponsored by their adult children, who have come in the last decade or so. He pointed out to an article developed by NIAASC ‘Front Line Support for Seniors’ which has appeared in many Indian weekly newspapers as well as on various web sites.
The NIAASC treasurer, Romesh Tewari, informed the NIAASC members that the annual financial statement ending March 31, 2002 had been mailed to all of them in July 2002. New members can get copies of the statement. The participants asked if any concerted efforts have been made on increasing the NIAASC membership. It was pointed out though no concerted efforts have been made in enrolling members, NIAASC maintains a database of people interested in issues of seniors and communicates with them on a regular basis. This database is updated regularly. It was, however, recognized that more efforts have to be made in this direction as current membership of 70 need to be increased considerably.
The chairman of the Nominating Committee, E.M.Stephen, presented its report. He informed that as per NIAASC Constitution and Bylaws, one-third of its Board members retire every year. Of the six members of the Board retiring on December 31, 2002, five have opted to continue and they are being recommended for reelection for a 3-year period. They are V.N.Sehgal MD, Manoj Kumar Patel, Vipin Shah, Sushila Gidwani-Buschi, and Satish Varma MD. The committee has also selected two new members and recommends their election. They are Tara Kotecha, an art and music lover and performer, recommended for a one-year term ending December 31, 2003, and Suprabhat Sengupta, a community activist with engineering background for a term of two years ending December 31, 2004. Stephen also informed that the Board has still two vacancies as it can have to a maximum of 21 members. The General Body approved recommendations made by the Nominating Committee. For the information of participants at the meeting names of the other current 12 Board members were also announced: They are Purushottam Karra, Mathew Koshi, Kamla Motihar, Dr. Ashwin Pandya, Rajeshwar Prasad, M.K.Ramasubramanian, Dr. Asha Samant, Dr. Ashok Satkalmi, Chandrakant Shah, E.M.Stephen, Surendra Sutaria and Romesh Tewari.
Meeting of the NIAASC Board of Directors:
Following the general body meeting the NIAASC Board of Directors met to address only one issue: Election of officers for a 2-year term ending December 31, 2004. The meeting was presided by E.M.Stephen. The current officers’ term expires on December 31, 2002. The election was conducted by the chairman of the Nominating Committee and assisted by Dr. Ashvin Doshi. They sought nominations for president, two vice presidents, secretary and treasurer. The members unanimously elected the current officers. They recognized the fact that as per NIAASC Constitution and Bylaws an officer can serve for a maximum of two consecutive terms. The officers elected are: Rajeshwar Prasad, president, Dr. Ashwin Pandya and Dr. Ashok Satkalmi as vice presidents, Mathew Koshi as secretary and Romesh Tewari as treasurer.