Supporting Older Adults
Older adults face challenges with healthcare access, accessibility to transportation, nutrition, and acquiring adequate and healthy foods. These challenges are only exacerbated for older women, low-income older adults, and older people of color in the Bronx. The New York Academy of Medicine has done extensive work on how to support the aging population in New York and in the Bronx specifically. This includes tackling challenges directly related to fixed income, inequitable city services, including access to food and healthcare services in the Bronx.
Healthy aging through the support of basic health services and senior centers programs
Implementing solutions from Age-Friendly NYC
Equitable distribution of services for older adults in the Bronx
As a city we need to implement basic health services through city-supported senior centers to improve coordination across the healthcare system, before, after and specifically during a pandemic.
One of the biggest concerns for aging populations is the quality and accessibility of healthcare. By ensuring there are robust and continuing wellness programs offered by senior centers, we can instill resilience and help aging populations thrive in NYC. This includes the issue of older adult poverty in NYC, which can be alleviated by reducing the cost and logistical burden of finding basic wellness services, such as exercise, check-ups, mental health screenings, and prescription management. This means putting more money into senior centers for instructors, supplies, nurse staff, and more food options.
At last count, the city budget for the Department of Aging was just over $400 million, or 0.5% of the city budget, meanwhile older adults aged 65+ represent 13% of NYC. In terms of financial allocations, older adults are an important underrepresented population in the city. The harsh realities are compounded when older residents are people of color, low-income, or women.
Ensure resilient, affordable, and accessible transportation is available to all residents in the Bronx. This should be coupled with effective advocacy for housing to help older residents remain independent for as long as possible.
Improving the NYC transit system in ways that will benefit everyone is key to my platform. Great public transit will create equity and resilience for the vulnerable, aging, and low-income neighbors who depend on the system to get to their appointments, buy groceries, and see family. Some of these solutions include improving micro-transit solutions, which would provide older residents with access to fast and reliable transportation. I also support renovating the remaining 10 subway stations in my district so they are ADA compliant. Lastly, I think it’s important to improve our buses and roads to make them more reliable, accessible, and affordable.
Effective transportation also allows seniors to stay in their homes, which are generally rent-stabilized or controlled. Transportation options that are affordable and reliable, along with the ability to stay in their home, is important for the mental health and wellbeing of older adults.
One way to help support older adults is through expanded In-home Services for the Elderly (EISEP), which ranges from case management to everyday tasks. EISEP can help seniors advocate against harassment by building managers and landlords who want to free up apartments. By coupling effective transit, in-home services, and more case management, we can help the elderly age in place without having to relocate, spend more money, or lose their independence.
New York City needs a Food Justice Committee and a Food Agency to tackle complex food justice issues. We also need to expand the health bucks program for older adults that qualify for the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP).
Older adults are among the most food insecure populations in our city. I want to work with the City Council to create a Food Justice Committee and a Food Agency to tackle the issue of basic human need. We have agencies for environmental protection, water, emergencies, education, etc. We need to elevate complex food issues to the same level. The solutions include affordability, access to healthy, fresh and useful resources. The pandemic highlighted how vulnerable our food systems are, how complex the issues are and how there is no oversight towards making the system more resilient.
We should solve multiple problems by supporting a Fresh Meals on Wheels program to engage the human connection with food and provide the often-lacking social element, and also supporting local businesses that can cook for the elderly in our community. This is better for our local food system, our local businesses, our economy, and most importantly the older adults who receive this essential service. The human connection is an important factor because the volunteers who deliver meals may often be the first point of contact on site, to discover a mental health or medical emergency, such as falls — they can save lives in many ways.
The City has reported that older adults have low utilization rates of SNAP benefits. The healthy bucks program can supplement these funds, and I have called for an expansion of the program to support healthier bodega options, which would also reduce the need for travel and with the help of city organizations/agencies older adults can sign up for these assistance programs and make full use of our community resources.