Last week, Clyde Haberman of the New York Times wrote about aging in his column, celebrating all that New York City is doing for its older residents:
[I]t was interesting to come across a bit of news the other day that drew few headlines. The World Health Organization added New York to its “global network of age-friendly cities.” It was an international tip of the hat to the city for trying to make itself a better place for growing old. “It makes us members of a club of people who are struggling, in their own and perhaps much different ways, with learning about and thinking about and approaching this issue,” said Linda I. Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services. “It’s really a lovely recognition.” In some respects, New York is a great place in which to grow old. A decade ago, the Department for the Aging banged that drum, promoting this as “the ultimate retirement city.” It listed advantages like reduced mass-transit fares, splendid parks and limitless cultural opportunities to keep the mind active…
New York ranked No. 7, based on considerations like available medical care, living space for the elderly and the relative ease of getting around on subways and buses. Portland, Ore., had top billing, a decision that surely had nothing to do with the fact that Sperling’s is based in Portland. “We’re a retirement destination,” Ms. Gibbs said. “A lot of retirees come with their bank accounts.” In recent years, the Department of City Planning says, about 11,500 people 65 and older have moved into New York each year.
Unfortunately, this presents a distorted picture of what’s going on. In the same week that Haberman’s column was being celebrated for its “age-friendliness,” I received an email regarding cuts to New York’s services for the aging from Bobbie Sackman. She is a leading advocate in the City for the elderly, and runs the Center for Senior Community Services (CSCS), a non-profit that serves 300,000 older New Yorkers through a network of 363 senior centers, housing, adult day care, services for the homebound, mental health and other programs. Sackman wrote:
The New York City Department of Aging DFTA is a very small city agency and was just cut by $22 million – vulnerable seniors were hurt as social adult day services for people with Alzheimer’s lost all its funding which is devastating to both the individual with Alzheimer’s and their family caregivers being ripped apart by this disease, a 40 percent cut to a home care program for people above the Medicaid level (with incomes mostly $15,000-$20,000 a year in NYC), and other cuts.
The cuts affect New York’s most vulnerable elders–those who are poor, seriously ill, or suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. These older people were living on the edge as it was. With these deep cuts, there’s cause to wonder how they will even survive, much less enjoy New York’s “age-friendly” attractions.