Chasing the Dream: Senior Housing

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In our continuing series regarding the American Dream and poverty, we tell you about affordable housing for seniors. We’ll take you to a senior housing facility run by Chicanos Por La Causa.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon" -- the latest on the measles outbreak hitting the state. Also tonight we'll talk about the weather. Specifically some record breaking temperatures for the weekend. And we'll discuss the increasing need for affordable senior housing. That's next on "Arizona Horizon."

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Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. APS is asking the state Corporation Commission for a rate hike that would mean $11 more per month for the average home. The utility filed a request today. The rate hike along with a new billing structure would bring in $166 million a year to APS when the increase takes effect next summer. Under the plan APS would actually charge less per kilowatt hour of electricity but charge a fee based on demand during peak hours. APS is asking regulators to approve a flat rate for customers who choose not to manage their usage paced on peak demand. APS says the hike is needed to help pay for new gas generators being built in Tempe and New Mexico. With we now have 11 reported cases of measles in Arizona with most linked to an immigration detention center in Pinal County. Here with more is Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, Medical Director of the disease control division of the maricopa county department of public health. Thanks for being here.

Rebecca Sunenshine: thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: Is it 11 or did we get more?

Rebecca Sunenshine: We are still currently at 11 cases. But we are constantly looking for more cases and we have specimens in the laboratory all the time. We do anticipate that that number will go up.

Ted Simons: And they are concentrated in Pinal County for now?

Rebecca Sunenshine: all the cases that we have identified so far have been linked to a federal detention center in Eloy. Unfortunately, those particular individuals were exposed and all of the cases -- the majority of cases that were in the detention facility are among those that are inmates. However, several cases are those who worked there and have spread the disease into the community.

Ted Simons: So far, the age range of those contracting the illness, are they mostly adults for now?

Rebecca Sunenshine: so far what we're seeing is mostly adults. In fact all adults. What we're trying to do is really control the spread of disease by working together with that federal facility. They are offering vaccinations to the individuals who are in the facility, those who work there, we're also identifying anybody who is exposed to a confirmed case at the County level doing investigations, getting hold of all the contacts, offering vaccine if possible then following them to make sure that if they develop disease that they don't spread it further in the healthcare facility.

Ted Simons: back to the patients, any word on the condition of the patients?

Rebecca Sunenshine: I can't answer that completely because the majority of the individuals are Pinal County residents.

Ted Simons: all right. So obviously no fatalities so far but that gets us into measles. How serious is measles? How serious for children, how serious for older folks? I seem to remember it being pretty strong stuff if you're older and perhaps immune deficient in some way.

Rebecca Sunenshine: Measles can be a very serious disease. About 30% of people who have the disease have some type of complication like pneumonia. It really knocks you out. A lot of folks are hospitalized with the disease. It can cause infection or inflammation around the brain and spinal cord and even lead to death. Before we had the vaccine in the 1960s we lost about 500 per year due to measles.

Ted Simons: my goodness. As far as -- back track a second. How is it spread? This is really contagious.

Rebecca Sunenshine: measles is the most contagious disease that we know of. A lot like tuberculosis, it can be spread through the air. So if you're infected with measles and I'm standing all the way across the courtroom from you, even after you leave the virus stays in the air for two full hours. So I can get infected without coming anywhere near you.

Ted Simons: My goodness. So spread very easily, obviously.

Rebecca Sunenshine: yes.

Ted Simons: symptoms. A we were in the same room and I did have it or whatever and you got thow long would it take before symptoms showed up?

Rebecca Sunenshine: so once you're exposed to someone with measles you can develop symptoms beginning with seven days all the way up to 21 days. The tricky part about measles is the first symptoms you have are fever, feeling not so well, conjunctivitis or pink eye, runny, stuffy nose and cough. That's like any other upper respiratory infection. The rash happens two to four days later. The problem is you can spread the disease the entire time you have those symptoms before you have the rash and that's what makes this disease so hard to get hold of.

Ted Simons: once you have the rash everyone around you says, we have all been exposed.

Rebecca Sunenshine: right. The thing is you've been exposing someone for four days already. But it's only when you have the rash that most health-care providers think of measles.

Ted Simons: all right. So we got how serious this is. We got the symptoms. We know how it's spread. Let's get to the vaccination aspect of this. Should people get a vaccination, who needs it, who doesn't need the vaccination?

Rebecca Sunenshine: The most important thing that people can do is know their immune status. Measles vaccine is one of the most effective we have. Just one dose of MMR, which is the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, is 93% effective preventing measles. We require two doses because the second dose gets you almost all the way up to about 98% effectiveness for that vaccine. So anyone born after 1957 is required to have two doses to be considered immune. If you're born before 1957, just one dose is recommended.

Ted Simons: why is that? What happened in 1957?

Rebecca Sunenshine: the vaccine was actually came out in the '60s, but before 1957, about 95% of the population actually had the disease as a child. If you've had the disease as a child you're 100% immune. You can't get it again.

Ted Simons: I remember as a kid I seem to remember the MMR, getting a vaccine for this. But also thinking that everyone had measles. Oh, measles. Almost like chicken pox. Everyone gets it.

Rebecca Sunenshine: well, it's so contagious if one person is infected about 18 other people will get the disease. So if you're unvaccinated and you're around somebody with measles chances are you're going to get it. That's one of the reasons why we needed a vaccine and why we need as many people in the community to be vaccinated or herd up immunity to keep it from spreading.

Ted Simons: what about a booster shot.

Rebecca Sunenshine: There's no such thing as a booster shot for measles. We recommend two doses in case you don't respond to the first one but getting an extra dose doesn't actually boost your immunity. The most important thing besides knowing your immunity is if you get symptoms of a cough, runny nose followed by a rash, before you see your health care provider call them first so they don't expose other people when they are getting seen.

Ted Simons: interesting. I looked, three cases of measles in Arizona in 2014. We had seven in 2015. We have 11 and counting this year. What's going on?

Rebecca Sunenshine: what's going on is that there was a large exposure in a facility that had a lot of people in close quarters. What we believe happened was that there was probably an individual with measles in late April that wasn't identified right away. Now what we're seeing is all the people that were originally exposed.

Ted Simons: So if you're watching the program now and you don't really know if you had measles as a kid, if you were born between '57 and '71 when it seemed there was some sort of vague, not sure -- what do you do?

Rebecca Sunenshine: If you don't know if you were vaccinated, one, you can get a blood test which shows whether your body has antibodies to the measles, second, get an MMR vaccine. Even if you have had two it won't hurt you.

Ted Simons: all right, very interesting stuff. Good to have you. Thanks for joining us.

Rebecca Sunenshine: thanks for having me.

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Ted Simons: Summer has arrived and it looks like it means business with record breaking temperatures as high as 116 degrees possible for the weekend. Here to explain why it's getting so hot so fast, ASU climatologist Randy Cerveny. Good to see you again.

Randall Cerveny: Nice to be here.

Ted Simons: it's the first week of June. We know what's going on here. It's going to play touch and go with 120 for a day or two sometime this summer. That usually happens in late June, not early June. What's going on?

Randall Cerveny: Particularly usually has a follow-up or we have some warmer temperatures that lead up to it. We went from 80s last week, to 110 to 115 this week. It's been a really quick major change.

Ted Simons: what's going on? Why is this happening?

Randall Cerveny: what's happened is the upper air pattern, storm track, has changed again. So what we're doing is building up a huge area of high pressure right over top of us called the ridge. It's like basically an air mountain. As that air mountain builds it compresses the air underneath of it so we start to warm up. That's going to be centered over Arizona for the next four or five days.

Ted Simons: we have talked about this in the past. It always seems like the higher the temperatures get, the more it draws in moisture from Mexico and here comes the monsoon. It we can't have a monsoon in early June, can we?

Randall Cerveny: No, no. The patterns won't allow that yet. We have to have a sustained period of that warm temperature. Last few weeks have been pretty mild. If this sets up and continues on for the next couple weeks we might have an earlier start to the monsoon but we're anticipating getting back to a little more reasonable temperatures by the middle of next week.

Ted Simons: again, we have already talked about, in the past, there is a relationship between those temperatures and drawing up that moisture.

Randall Cerveny: yes. Because what you have to realize is hot air rises, so when we heat up the ground during the summertime we are pushing the air up. Well, something has to replace that. That's air up from Mexico. So having that heat in the Sonoran desert during the summertime is a critical part of charging up the monsoon. We think of the monsoon actually as having two parts, a wet but also a dry part. June is our dry part of the monsoon. We have to have that to get to the wet part in July and August.

Ted Simons: it's like a vacuum. Sucks up the moisture from Mexico.

Randall Cerveny: Exactly.

Ted Simons: Cooler than average temperatures in May. What happened then? Why we were we so nice in May? We figured out we got the high pressure system but in May what happened then?

Randall Cerveny: Again, big change in the what we call the Rothby waves, upper air storm track pattern. If you remember, in May they were talking about having really hot temperatures in the Midwest and east coast. Well, when you have big oscillations, whenever you hear of hot temperatures in the east you can probably figure out it's going to be cold in the west because our atmosphere flip flops like that. So the reason that they had all the storms and all the heat that was going on there in May was the fact that we actually on the West Coast were relatively mild.

Ted Simons: they got what we usually get. Interesting. All of this follows I think it was a dud of an ElNino. We had you on here and we were so excited. Everyone was excited. This was going to be a monster ElNino. El Duddo. What happened?

Randall Cerveny: Well, it was El Duddo for us. It wasn't necessarily that way for the rest of the country or the rest of the world. ElNino was a major, major weather player for most of the world this winter. Just so happened we kind of lost the connection. But actually northern California got a fair number of storms and helped them a little bit in the drought but particularly Texas got slammed by lots and lots of moisture continuing today.

Ted Simons: Why did it avoid us?

Randall Cerveny: We think part of it, one of the things we'll be doing is figuring out why our forecast was so wrong here, the part of it was because of that again storm track pattern. It settled and forced the storms to go into northern California and Utah into New Mexico, bypassing Arizona so everyone around us came out pretty well. We didn't so much.

Ted Simons: Will the ElNino, dud or otherwise, carry over into the summer in any way, shape or form?

Randall Cerveny: No.

Ted Simons: not at all.

Randall Cerveny: Well, it's dying now. The Pacific is still a little warm. That's what ElNino is, a warming of the Equatorial part of the Pacific ocean, but it's dying. Within this summertime we'll switch from the warm Pacific, which we call ElNino, to a colder Pacific we call LaNina. That's going to be driving what happens in the wintertime for us. Summer monsoon not really influenced greatly whether it's an ElNino or LaNina event. It doesn't matter. Wintertime is what normally is influenced by the Pacific ocean.

Ted Simons: So we can tell now that the Waters around Christmas there in the Pacific that constitute the ElNino-LaNina area, that's going to be cool center.

Randall Cerveny: yes. All the models suggest that the warm Waters are lessening, that cold Waters are starting to come back from Antarctica along the West Coast of South America. That's the more typical situation. Unfortunately for us that also means that we're going to have probably a drier winter than what we have under ElNino.

Ted Simons: but we were supposed have a weather winter -- could things be flip-flopped? Could global warming and climate change be affecting the ElNino -- whatever it is. Could it be a factor?

Randall Cerveny: absolutely. One of the things that happened, you've heard a lot of people talking about how big this ElNino event was. It was Godzilla. They were putting all sorts of -- we hadn't seen anything like that in 150 years. This is one of the biggest events we have. All bets are off as to why it was occurring and global warming is one possible suggestion for why this was as big as it was.

Ted Simons: ElNino affects X during regular temperatures. If the temperatures are different it would be X plus the difference and that could make a big difference.

Randall Cerveny: Oh, yeah. ElNino play as role in global temperatures. When you heat up a huge part of the Pacific ocean because it's so enormously big it drives up the dire temperatures of the planet. It's true the planet temperatures may be influencing ElNino but ElNino influences the planet's temperature.

Ted Simons: as far as the next few months are we going to be drier? What's your extended forecast for the summer?

Randall Cerveny: one word, hot. Our best predictions are suggesting that the next three months we're going to see not only hot temperatures like we normally do but we'll see above normal temperatures. This is going to be a relatively hot summer specifically for the southwest here. But in terms of precipitation, right now the climate prediction center is throwing their hands up. They are not saying it's going to be above normal, no indication it will be a wet monsoon or dry either. There's equal chances. Probably normal type of monsoon.

Ted Simons: technically we're still in a drought, correct?

Randall Cerveny: absolutely, yeah.

Ted Simons: when does a drought become the new normal? When did does it become this is the way it is?

Randall Cerveny: some people would say Arizona is in a perpetual drought compared to other parts of the country. We measure droughts in terms of how much we get in relation to normal rainfall. Yes, our rainfall for the last roughly 17 to 20 years here has been below normal. That puts us into drought situation.

Ted Simons: All right, good information. Good to see you again.

Randall Cerveny: My pleasure.

Ted Simons: Casing the dream. Poverty and opportunity in America is a an ongoing public media reporting issue that looks at the temporary state of the American dream with emphasis on the changing nature of jobs, vanishing middle class, wage disparity and economic opportunity. Tonight we focus on affordable senior housing. Today one in seven Americans is over the age of 65 and by 2030 as baby boomers continue to age that rate will grow to one in five. A lot of the seniors will retire on fixed incomes and as producer Alyssa Adams found out the need for affordable senior housing is growing fast.

Video: On most Monday mornings at Casa De Primavera you'll find yourself in a time warp. Music from the '70s and some dancers are in their 80s. This class is just one activity where the residents can shake it up. They are grateful. Not just for the exercise but for their homes.

Video: elderly we're at 604 units that we manage. We own 539.

Video: Chicana owns this complex. They say when they asked their community what they needed affordable housing for elderly family members was a top priority.

Video: There's a huge need. It's even getting bigger. But it's just not Latinos. It's all challenged socioeconomic levels. So there's just a huge need for poor people.

Video: it's only open to seniors living at 30% or less of the median area income. Renters aren't hard to find. Income levels for most seniors dropped dramatically as they age. The average income for people over 80 is less than half those of age 50 to 65.

Video: It's very challenging.

Video: Gert Stokes is one of thousands of low income seniors looking for housing in Arizona.

Girth Stokes: So I have been so searching, searching since I left the place where I used to live.

Video: what she found were waiting lists of six months to two years. Pretty typical in a market where there are not enough units available for low income seniors.

Girth Stokes: Put the $50 deposit down which was required to get on the waiting list. I waited and I waited and I waited and I waited and I got no calls.

Video: She's lucky. She has a place to stay while she looks. But being a long-term guest can be tough.

Girth Stokes: Well, I'm living with relatives now. And I'm hoping to move because it's nothing like having your own place and being your own boss.

Girth Stokes: I'm very independent with my life. I get along very well. I do my housework.

Video: J.J. has lived here since 1997. His independence is one thing that has kept him going for 90-plus years.

James Rackley: I do do a lot of exercise. I walk from here to the store and back.

Video: Independence is one of the biggest areas of focus for folks who run Casa De Primavera. They know it's how seniors today want to live. More than three-quarters of people 80 or above live in their own homes. Independence means providing transportation and affordable meals. Being part of the community is also a necessity with this population.

Video: Working with elderly population one of the biggest issues is isolation. You want to make them feel as they are part of the community. So of course with this location people are welcome to come here to engage.

Video: Even lunch delivery for those who can't get to the dining room is a chance for interaction.

Video: Hello, your lunch is here.

James Rackley: I found out that I can get everything that I need.

Video: J.J. Stokes likes his tidy one bedroom. It's more than just a place to put up his feet. He like all the seniors we talked to say there are intangibles in a nice home that are just as important as the walls that shelter them.

Video: we view the elderly population as, you know, individuals that have set the framework for us now. So we're going to treat them with respect and dignity. So respect and dignity means that we have a place where they come and they lay their heads at night and they feel safe. And it's a good place to look at. There's a sense of peace here.

James Rackley: it's quiet.

Video: it may be quiet here but back downstairs the ladies are still sweating to the oldies and smiling through their workout. and why not?

Video: When you get older you want luxuries. You got to this point in your life you want to enjoy life. I don't want to be caged the rest of my life or put in a box or something. I want to enjoy these years. These are my senior years, years I worked hard for to get here and I want to enjoy them.

Video: At this point in their lives, the only thing these ladies should worry about is the next set of dance steps. [Cheers and applause]

Ted Simons: The community center is open to any senior who lives in the area, not just residents. They serve affordable meals every day and offer activities like Zumba classes, bingo and computer skills.

Ted Simons: Thursday, former NATO ambassador Kurt Volker talks about the future of NATO amid an increasingly fractured Europe. And June 1 marks 40 years since the car bombing that killed Arizona Republic reporter Don Bowles. That's is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for having us. You have a great evening.

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

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