Data shows older adults represent New York City’s “fastest growing demographic.” Councilmember Crystal Hudson, The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and other electeds joined forces to introduce bills that will help senior tenants age in place on Sept 7.
At least 23 out of the 55 census defined neighborhoods citywide have a majority immigrant older adult population, said Hudson. She added that older New Yorkers, ages 50+, generally want to age in their homes and neighborhoods rather than institutional settings.
“This desire to age in place combined with increasing rates of poverty, social isolation, limited access to high speed internet and limited English proficiency leave many older adults disconnected from city services,” said Hudson in a committee hearing on aging. “This is especially true for immigrant communities and older adults of color who comprise a steadily growing proportion of the city’s older adult population.”
AARP polling also indicates that seniors account for the city’s largest volunteer and voting bloc.
Hudson’s legislative package is made up of three bills aimed at letting seniors age in place in the city comfortably and increases awareness about city programs for them, like home-delivered meals programs or older adult day clubs. Some of the “gaps” in services for seniors center around programming, transportation, and population growth, said Department for the Aging (DFTA) Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez.
The first bill requires DFTA to create a “know your rights” education campaign for older adults to inform them of agencies and community-based organizations with relevant senior services. The second bill expands linguistic and cultural programs at older adult centers. And the final bill expands on current tenant housing laws to include any resident over the age of 60 that’s facing eviction in housing court to get full legal representation at no cost.
Kevin Jones, associate state director of advocacy for AARP New York, testified at last week’s hearing. He said that AARP had put forth their comprehensive blueprint about older adult legislation in January and started collaborating with Hudson after the city budget was passed in June.
Jones said that many seniors built these New York neighborhoods, raising kids, opening small businesses and buying homes. They think the city is the best place to age because of its walkability and proximity to services. “You can walk to your doctors office, your pharmacy. You can walk to cultural events. There’s a real sense of community when things aren’t far apart,” said Jones.
AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel noted that the bills incorporate core principles of AARP, such as housing availability and affordability, ensuring seniors know about available services, and combatting potentially deadly social isolation.
“Our seniors helped build this great City and deserve to age in dignity and have their rights protected,” said Finkel in a statement. “Council Member Crystal Hudson’s legislative package is an important step in battling ageism and creating a more age-friendly city. These bills would help protect the dignity and quality-of-life of New York City’s large, diverse and fast-growing older adult population.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w