By Mark Hallum
The city’s senior population is rising fast with an imbalance of programs and services in neighborhoods where aging populations live, according to a new report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.
The senior population in New York, which has grown 19.2 percent since 2005, currently faces a litany of issues, from affordability, transportation and housing, Stringer said, calling for a “holistic,” “agency-by-agency” take-down of these challenges.
“We need to act today – not tomorrow. Seniors are the anchors of our communities, and we must ensure they have the support they deserve. We need to have an all-hands-on-deck approach, from every city agency, because this is too important. As we face significant demographic changes, we need to reimagine how we support out current and future seniors,” Stringer said. “We hope these specific ideas and this blueprint will jump-start a long-term conversation in the city – and help a long-term strategy –about how to deliver for New Yorkers for decades to come. Our approach should help more New Yorkers stay in their homes and age in place – it’s cheaper, it’s smarter, it allows New Yorkers to remain involved in their communities.”
According to Stringer, Bayside, Cambria Heights and Queens Village were specifically mentioned as “senior center deserts” with a high concentration of seniors with few options to visit sites where they can access health care and other services.
Stringer said the Department of Aging’s budget is only 0.4 percent of city’s expenditures and equals only about $300 per senior citizen, while six out of 10 seniors spend over 30 percent of their income on rent. With 35 percent of seniors living with a disability, only 61 percent of residential buildings are ADA accessible. Seniors with disabilities are not able to access many subway stations, while many bus stops lack shelters and benches critical to travel for the elderly, Stringer said. Access-A-Ride failed to show up for up 31,000 scheduled trips in 2015, he said.
Stringer said the Department of Aging should not be dealt the burden of serving seniors on its own. The Health, Transportation, Housing Preservation and Finance departments all have programs to serve seniors, he said, proposing a process of coordination between the agencies.
Giving seniors the opportunity to “age in place” rather than in nursing homes and institutional settings is something the city comptroller would like to implement with rent freezes by enrolling aging New Yorkers in the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption, expanding tax credits through the Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption and opening programs which help seniors fund updates to their homes to make them more accessible.
.“The non-profit sector provides essential support and opportunity for older adults to remain engaged, safe, and fulfilled in their homes and communities and needs the city’s full support to continue to provide these crucial services,” said Kathryn Haslanger, CEO of the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, which has a center in Rego Park.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall