The California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) is dedicated to protecting the rights of older Americans. Its efforts range from advocating for affordable housing and maintaining Social Security and Medicare, to educating seniors to know and assert their rights such as when hospitalized. CARA has established several Citizens Action Teams (CATs) in cities and counties around the state.

Therapist and activist Ruth Carter and former union staffer Kris Organ head the CAT in Marin. They have focused on educational programs for residents of assisted living facilities and retirement communities and they have organized local activist organizations to heighten awareness around affordable housing, particularly for older citizens. They meet with city councils and other local officials and partner with other affordable housing advocates to bring senior housing projects such as Victory Village in Fairfax to fruition. They are also working with Whistlestop on their efforts to bring affordable senior housing to central San Rafael.

CARA has two arms, a 501(c)(3) arm that handles the educational part of its mission and a 501(c)(4) arm that works on advocacy, including lobbying the State Legislature for improved services. The advocacy arm generally works on about eight bills a year. This year two stand out.

The first is AB-796, a bill to reinstate the cost of living adjustment for those receiving benefits through the State Supplementary Program for the Aged, Blind and Disabled (SSP). These funds are administered by the federal government and do not even provide beneficiaries with a poverty level income.

The second is SB-562, a bill to bring single-payer health care to California. This would greatly help those without insurance as well as those receiving Medicare as it would help provide services Medicare does not, including dental, vision, mental health and care for the feet, something many older people greatly need.

On a small budget with a minuscule staff of three, the organization is able to accomplish a great deal though its CATs and the help of many citizen volunteers. If your clients are senior citizens who may benefit from increased services or who might want to help out in these important efforts to help older Americans, CARA may be of interest to them.

Our local CAT meets on the first Tuesday of the month at the Northgate Mall community room from 1-2 PM and the public is welcome.