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City Council Grapples with How to Fund Aging New Yorkers

Elderly New Yorkers wait outside City Hall ahead of the City Council's budget hearing on the Department for the Aging.

ANYA SCHULTZ, HOST: New York City’s elderly population will reach almost two million within the next 20 years. That means, by 2040, one in five New Yorkers will be seniors. That’s pushing officials to figure out how the city can keep up with the expanding population. Today, the City Council held a hearing to figure out how much money it will give the Department for the Aging over the next five years.

LUCAS BRADY WOODS, BYLINE: There are SO many areas within the elderly population that need additional funding, it’s difficult to decide what area needs it most, says New York City Councilmember Paul Vallone.

PAUL VALLONE: Senior centers, transportation, meals, worker reimbursement, care programs, growth of culturally sensitive issues.

WOODS: But one of the biggest needs for eldery New Yorkers is finding safe and comfortable housing. According to the City Council, three quarters of senior centers in New York City are at or over 100% capacity. And existing facilities are in need of repairs. Vallone said he’d asked for an updated count of outstanding repairs, but the Department for Aging could not provide one. And then there’s the salaries of senior center staff … They’re too low, Vallone says.

VALLONE: Retention of staff is always one of the most difficult. You have these wonderful workers working day and night and we can’t keep up with market rate and we lose them.

WOODS: Another concern is making sure seniors with different backgrounds can be accommodated… for example, by providing Kosher or Halal meals. And making sure more active, healthy seniors have resources, too. Gail Myers, with the New York StateWide Senior Action Council, says not all older adults are frail or disabled.

GAIL MYERS: Not everyone in the older population is going to be in need of services to be cared for, but they certainly would benefit for perhaps job readiness, issues related to congregate dining, socialization, social senior center support.

WOODS: Mostly, New York seniors want to feel seen and valued. Margaret Dearlove, who’s over sixty, said she often feels overlooked.

MARGARET DEARLOVE: The seniors are like forgotten people. Nobody realize we still exist. And we need to have a voice to let the public know that the seniors do exist.   We want the politicians to recognize, that’s why we out here.

WOODS: Dearlove said seniors need more recognition from the city. She joined a couple dozen older adults at the hearing who carried signs that read “Senior pride” and “seniors with attitude.” Lucas Brady Woods, Columbia Radio News.


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