Bill aims to mandate display of senior citizens bill of rights
Senator Nancy Stiles comes out against House Bill 370, a bill to repeal New Hampshire's new education tax credit program, at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing; Thursday, January 31, 2013. SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff
The elderly have rights, too. At least that’s the message Sen. Nancy Stiles wants clearly conveyed at senior living facilities across the state.
The Hampton Republican plans to introduce a bill next year that would require licensed facilities, including retirement homes, senior centers and elderly housing projects, to prominently display a “Senior Citizens Bill of Rights” at all times. The bill would not create new rights but would amass those relevant for elderly individuals, such as the right to organize, the right to use and consult outside services, and the right to receive prompt service from a landlord.
Stiles said she has received complaints recently from elderly constituents about intimidation and even outright disrespect from management and caregivers at certain facilities.
“It’s basically about harassment and being treated fairly,” Stiles said.
Reps. David Borden and Tom Sherman are co-sponsoring the proposed legislation. Borden, a New Castle Democrat, reiterated Stiles’s account.
A sampling of concerns Borden has heard: not having a response to maintenance requests, not shoveling the walk soon enough, not raising the temperature when asked.
“Things they feel might create a specific danger to them,” he said.
“Some of the people I’ve met with have long-standing grievances,” Borden added. “This will give them confidence.”
If the bill is signed into law, facilities would have until Jan. 1, 2015, to display the document. Violators would be subject to license suspension and other penalties, Stiles said. She said the flier would detail how residents with harassment concerns can notify law enforcement.
Borden said in his meetings with elderly constituents, he gathered they often avoid making requests out of fear of retribution from management, particularly in low-income housing facilities.
“People tend to hold in their grievances until they become quite major,” Borden said. That’s especially a concern for older residents, he added.
“Time is incredibly important to someone elderly and maybe living by themselves,” he said. “Responding faster doesn’t really cost any more.”
Some of the other rights to be displayed:
∎ The right to “select or refuse services and to accept responsibility for the consequences.”
∎ The right to “develop and maintain social ties with opportunities for meaningful interaction and involvement with the community.”
∎ The right to “recognition of personal space and the furnishing and decorating of personal space as private.”
∎ The right to “set the resident’s own schedule, have visitors and leave and enter the facility as he or she desires.”
∎ The right to “be treated with consideration, respect and due recognition of personal dignity, individuality, and the need for privacy.”
∎ The right to “private communications, including receiving and sending unopened correspondence, telephone access, and visiting with persons of one’s choice.”
∎ The right to “exercise civil and religious liberties.”
∎ The right to “establish and maintain a garden if such housing project or congregate housing has land appropriate for use as a garden; provided, that any such resident establishing a garden shall consult with the authority, developer, or corporation regarding the type of herbs, fruits, flowers, vegetables or other plants the resident would like to plant in the garden.”
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, email@example.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)