New York City Population Over 65 Expected to Increase by 45% by 2030
(September 15, 2008)-The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) president Jo Ivey Boufford, Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs today released a report that takes the viewpoint of older adults themselves to help guide the City’s planning process to meet the expected 45 percent increase in New York City’s over age 65 population by 2030. The report identifies eight specific areas of focus and is a culmination of the Age-friendly New York City Initiative, a yearlong assessment of New York City from the perspective of older residents in order to identify areas for improvement.
Key findings within the report revealed that many older New Yorkers find New York City a great place to age and recognize the City offers particular advantages in the areas of public transit; close proximity of stores and amenities; tight-knit communities that care for one another; the many events, activities, and institutions to enjoy in retirement; and proximity to high-quality health care facilities. The most commonly cited challenges for older New Yorkers included ageism, affordable housing, cultural and linguistic appropriateness of information, physical accessibility to cultural, business services opportunities and a lack of information about opportunities ranging from employment to exercise.
“Most planning for older adults focuses on age-specific health and social services. These are absolutely critical, but they alone do not insure older New Yorkers can remain healthy and active as they age. What’s unique about this assessment is that it asked older New Yorkers, their caregivers, and a broad range of experts and civic leaders what was needed to improve the lives of older people across all domains of city life, including housing, transportation, civic participation, employment, and outdoors spaces,” said Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, NYAM President.
“Older New Yorkers bring stability and vitality to our neighborhoods and by 2030, people over 60 will represent one-fifth of our City’s population,” said Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. “That is why the Bloomberg administration is hard at work engaging city agencies in our All Ages Project planning process and will use this report as a guide. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure we provide older New Yorkers with the services, programs and supports they need to age healthfully, actively and in their own communities.”
“New York City is expected to add a million new residents by 2030, and we’re already preparing for that impact on areas like our environment, energy use and housing stock,” said Speaker Christine Quinn. “What gets talked about less is the fact that our City will have over 300,000 additional senior citizens in 2030, and we want to be sure that we are focused on their needs as well. The Age Friendly New York City report provides us with an invaluable resource that will guide our recommendations and help us guarantee that the people who are working to make our City great have a New York that they can retire in safely and comfortably.”
NYAM’s work is part of an international effort, modeled on the World Health Organization’s Global Age-Friendly Cities Project, to ensure that cities throughout the world not only support their residents as they age, but also tap the tremendous resources older people can offer. Seeing New York through the eyes of its older residents, the report suggests that planning for older adults must be infused throughout all areas of City life. NYAM brought this initiative to New York in 2007 with the support of the New York City Council and the Office of the Mayor.
NYAM and the New York City Council conducted town-hall meetings, focus groups and one-on-one interviews with older adults throughout the five boroughs. Additionally, seven expert roundtables were held on topics ranging from tenant rights to social services. The report produced findings on eight issue areas including transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, community support and health services, and outdoor spaces and buildings that highlight the concerns of and advantages for older adults that live in New York.
Respect and Social Inclusion
• Older adults want to be invited to participate in designing plans for the continued development of New York City
• Older adults feel like they are sometimes treated unfairly in their old age
Information and Communication
• Older adults expressed frustration about the amount of energy needed to get help or information
• It can be a challenge for older adults to get information in their preferred language and communication medium
Civic Participation and Employment
• The role of older adults as primary caretakers for their grandchildren or their parents is not well acknowledged in some social service systems
• Older adults that stay involved enrich their own communities and their own lives but they need information about how to stay involved
• Older people and employers acknowledge the growing preference for phased retirement but there are barriers in the pension, social security and health insurance systems
• Older adults want to maintain the life they’ve always known and not let aging alter their quality of life
• Social networks are changing and shrinking for older adults due to family members moving and death of friends and loved ones
• Costs of transportation and cultural events can present an economic challenge for older adults on low or fixed incomes
• Housing costs as a percentage of income are particularly high among older adults
• Older adults are targets for harassment because many of their apartments have the greatest potential for increased rents
• Many older adults feel trapped in what they consider to be inappropriate (walk-up apartments or living in a three or six bedroom apartment) or uncomfortable housing (sharing a room)
• Some areas of the city with large populations of older adults are not well served by bus or subway routes
• Older adults expressed the need for restroom access for subway and bus riders
• Several areas of the City with high concentrations of older adults have low walkability
• Changing neighborhoods are losing elder friendly and affordable businesses
Health and Social Services
• Older adults would like to see an increase in information about available programs and services to increase the ability of older adults to care for themselves
• Older adults are financially challenged with out-of-pocket costs for prescription medicines and other healthcare costs
• Ongoing training and support is needed to expand the geriatric service delivery workforce
Addressing these and other issues identified by older New Yorkers cannot be done by government alone. It will require an innovative approach to planning that asks leaders and community members from all facets of City life how they intend to make their business, services, institutions, programs, and neighborhoods meet the needs of all New Yorkers – regardless of their age. This fall five groups of civic leaders will convene to develop an action plan in time for the summit where a series of recommendations and commitments will be announced. The groups will feature key representatives from Business and Labor, Academia and Research, Health and Social Service Providers, Civil Society, and Government; all of which play a crucial role in making New York City more age-friendly.
Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Aging, said: “The ‘Toward an Age-friendly New York City: A Findings Report’ represents the first phase in the efforts to make our City a place where we can age and live independently and safely. Many have participated and much work has gone into bringing us to this point. I look forward to the work ahead, which will bring us closer to our goal of an age friendly New York.”
Council Member James Vacca, chair of the City Council’s Subcommittee on Senior Centers, said: “There is nothing wrong with growing old! With proper planning in place, I see a New York of the future where older adults will no longer truly retire but only move on to their next challenges and next careers. This report goes a long way to beginning the discussion about what our city must do as hundreds of thousands of
New Yorkers live through their 80s and 90s and beyond, and baby boomers-like myself become even more ‘mature.'”
The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) has been advancing the health of people in cities since 1847. An independent organization, NYAM addresses the health challenges facing the world’s urban populations through interdisciplinary approaches to policy leadership, education, community engagement and innovative research. Drawing on the expertise of diverse partners worldwide and more than 2,000 elected Fellows from across the professions, our current priorities are to create environments in cities that support healthy aging; to strengthen systems that prevent disease and promote the public’s health; and to implement interventions that eliminate health disparities.
The full report is available at: www.NYAM.org.