I recently found out that May is Older Americans Month. As I enter new age brackets and start to feel new aches and pains, I am keenly aware of the concept of getting older. Gray hairs seem to be sprouting on a daily basis and the new sounds I make as I get out of a chair or engage in physical activity are quite real. But although I acknowledge I may not be able to do all that I used to do in my teens and 20s, I truly understand that it is a blessing to grow older.
As I observe the older New Yorkers in my neighborhood, I think of the work of Brooklyn City Councilmember Crystal Hudson, who chairs the Committee on Aging, which has jurisdiction over issues relating to New York City’s senior residents, including the Department of the Aging. Listening to the Councilmember, I had no idea of the number of New York City’s elderly who are housing and food insecure.
The elderly population is also often targeted by those attempting to scam them out of resources, money, pensions, and even deeds to their homes. Protection is especially needed for our seniors when English is not their first language. It is imperative that we continue to plan for the aging community in our city by thinking of ways to secure not just housing, but accessible transportation, access to hospitals and libraries, and clear communication about how they can obtain various types of information needed.
The City Council also has a Subcommittee on Senior Centers and Food Insecurity that reviews and makes recommendations on New York City’s senior center facilities and issues related to food insecurity among older adults. For people who have aged out of the workforce and may not have family members who can assist them financially in their twilight years, the role of city government can fill this necessary gap and assist elderly New Yorkers in living with dignity and access to government resources.
I did not realize that New York has a Department on Aging, which supports the city’s nearly 1.64 million older adults and handles everything from eliminating ageism to handling quality of life issues to supporting caregivers through service, advocacy, and education. As we swiftly approach 2040, when roughly 20% of New Yorkers will identify as older adults, we must codify programs in the Department of Aging that work “with hundreds of community-based organizations to provide services through older adult centers, naturally occurring retirement communities, case-management and home-care agencies, home-delivered meal programs, mental health and friendly visiting programs, and much more in each borough.”
For more information for yourself or a loved one, you can reach out to Aging Connect by calling 212-AGING-NYC (212-244-6469). For additional information about City programs, call 311.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University; author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream”; and co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and host of The Blackest Questions podcast at TheGrio.
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