2007-12-05 / Seniors

Plan 'Age Friendly New York' For Seniors' Future

Looking ahead to the year 2030, when New York City's senior population will grow by an estimated 40 percent, the City Council, medical officials and senior advocates have joined together to develop a blueprint to deal with the city's growing aging population.

While the city has already begun to prepare for future changes in the environment, infrastructure and energy use, there has been no effort to create a plan for the senior population explosion.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D- Manhattan); a leader in this effort to create an "Age Friendly New York", stated: "New York 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. 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.

"Age Friendly New York will 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."

New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) President Jo Ivey Boufford, also part of the planning group, stated: "This initiative will assess New York City using a universal standard of what is required for citydwelling seniors to thrive. It marks an exciting opportunity for New York to join a network of global cities working to address issues of aging, urbanization and globalization.

"While focused on the needs of older adults, this initiative stands to increase the quality of life for residents of all ages. Modifications that make a city more agefriendly- such as well-maintained sidewalks- are good for seniors, small children disabled individuals and mothers with strollers."

NYAM will assess the present conditions New York's seniors are living under and develop a multifaceted blueprint for improvement by calling upon key decision makers and local communities to implement policy recommendations. This will include a steering committee of policy makers, service providers, community leaders and senior residents that has been formed to advise the Academy.

Toward this end, NYAM will hold a series of six round table discussions between December and January. These will be led by prominent New Yorkers, who will bring together experts in a number of fields.

The topics to be discussed and the chairmen involved include:

•Business, chaired by Kathryn Wilde, president of the Partnership for NYC.

•Transportation and Outdoor Space, chaired by Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the Straphangers Campaign.

•Jerilyn Perine, Housing Development of Citizens Housing and Planning Council executive director.

•Tenant Rights, chaired by Louise Seeley, Citywide Task Force on Housing Court Executive Director.

•Civic Engagement, Dr. Walter Stafford, Wagner School of Public Service associate professor.

•Health, chaired by Bufford.

The roundtable discussions will focus on keeping older workers productive and contributing to the economy, development of a transportation system geared to making it easier for seniors to get where they need to go and adequate provision of services, among other goals and topics.

Councilmember James Vacca, chair of the council Senior Centers Subcommittee, also present for the "Age Friendly" announcement, said, "As a 52-year-old baby boomer, I recognize that we must begin planning now for a senior-friendly city for my generation and those who are now seniors and living longer. Our quality of life is important to us and I know that we can only be secure in our future if we have foresight today."

Also participating was Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo, chair of the council Aging Committee.

The council and NYAM will conduct at least one community forum in each borough to solicit input from residents of all ages. In addition, NYAM will be researching existing literature and studies and will be conducting focus groups to incorporate the views and needs of vulnerable populations of seniors, often underrepresented in secondary research.

Other concerned individuals can also submit their ideas, comments and queries online at www.AgeFriendlyNYC.org.

Last month, the World Health Organization released a guide for cities throughout the world to become more agefriendly. It provides a protocol for cities to utilize as they engage in comprehensive planning efforts around the needs of their seniors, present and future.

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