Op-Ed: Fighting for seniors and their ability to age in place

Julia Forman, candidate for city council, and Carol Wilkins, member of the community. (Photo courtesy of: Julia forman)

May 20, 2021 Editorial: Julia Forman

As a pandemic that has caused disproportionate damage to our older neighbors raged in the city, our government has flouted.

Communications focused on SMS and Internet messaging and those on the other side of the digital divide struggled to get the same information as our young citizens. Vaccine registrations have been hampered by technology that even millennials have deemed cumbersome.

And while New York State pushed to reopen, our senior citizens’ centers remained closed even to the vaccinated, extending a year of disheartening loneliness. As of March 2020, I have worked with the three welfare organizations serving Western Queens to create call lists from neighbors aged 65 and over.

District 26 volunteers took responsibility for contacting these neighbors to register, provide information, run errands, tackle food insecurity, or simply serve as a friendly listener during a time of social and informational isolation.

I’m proud to have joined my neighbors in helping our senior community, but the truth is, this kind of work should never have depended on a large-scale volunteer effort. It is absolutely essential that the new city council get down to work right away to strengthen the social safety net that has been letting our seniors slip through the loopholes for too long.

This week, after working with city council candidates Evie Hantzopoulos (District 22) and Ingrid Gomez (District 21), we released our full platform for seniors. Much of the platform has been inspired by experiences and observations of government failures over the past year as well as conversations with older people in our own districts.

I would like to share some highlights of our platform. First, as our aging population continues to grow in New York City, funding for the Department of Aging (DFTA) only accounts for 0.5% of the overall city budget. Nonprofits serving this population are often at the mercy of discretionary funding, which can vary widely from year to year, reducing efforts to plan ahead or ensure consistent service. .

We must increase AFDT’s funding and make the funding of NPOs permanent so that the services they provide can be extended and guaranteed from year to year. While increasing the availability of services for the elderly, we also need to open more publicly funded elderly centers to meet the daily needs of our elderly population, including social activities, meals, access to information and opportunities to interact with social workers to meet their personal needs. or concerns.

District 26 City Council candidate Julia Forman (Photo: votejulia.com)

I have also heard many concerns about senior housing, both for those who want to stay in their own homes and for those who would like the option of moving into senior housing. These two groups must be taken care of and their needs met.

In terms of development in West Queens, we must work to identify locations for 100% affordable housing specifically dedicated to seniors, designed to be accessible to all and where the services necessary to promote independence can be found either in the community. building, or directly nearby. .

For those who would prefer to stay in their homes, funds should be available for upgrades to make existing homes safer and more accessible.

We can also increase the independence of seniors by increasing the income requirement for the Rent Increase Exemption for the Elderly (SCRIE) and the Homeowners ‘Exemption for Seniors’ Housing (SCHE) so that seniors on tight fixed incomes are eligible for the rent freeze and property tax assistance.

AFTA social workers should be available to navigate existing housing assistance programs from all levels of government, ensuring that these seniors are not evicted from their homes.

We also need to ensure that the home health workers who care for them can earn a living wage and are supported by passing legislation to include protection for domestic workers as defined by the employer in the legislation on domestic workers. rights (Int 0339-2018), to expand access to paid leave and protect all workers against reprisals (Int 0800), and to pressure the legislators of our States to adopt Fair Pay for Homecare Act (S5374).

Finally, we cannot ignore the likelihood of another emergency hitting New Yorkers, whether it be health or weather related, and we must transform the lessons we learned at the start of the Covid pandemic. 19 into concrete measures to do better for our seniors in the future.

We need to work with the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to develop rapid and comprehensive response plans in collaboration with DFTA and existing organizations that work with older people in our communities. This should include multilingual communication plans including phone calls, mail and, if possible, in-person outreach.

In addition, while we should systematically fund a program to ensure the delivery of meals to any senior in need that is nutritious, culturally appropriate, and meets all necessary dietary restrictions, the emergency plan should include means. easy to navigate to extend this service and also offer. delivery of ingredients for those able to cook for themselves.

As with many of the failures of our leaders at the federal, state, and local levels, this pandemic has exposed our systemic contempt for New York’s seniors.

It is time to foster a culture that values ​​our seniors and supports them in their golden years, respecting the work they have done to build our city throughout their lives. With this comprehensive plan to support our DFTA and the senior community, I am ready to play a role in making this happen.

Julia forman is a candidate for city council to represent District 26, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Dutch Kills and part of Astoria

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