As the number of senior-citizens in New York City is expected to rapidly increase in the near-future, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer is calling for a city-wide, long-term plan to meet the needs of New York’s senior population. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of senior citizens (those over the age of 65) rose 19.2% percent. By 2040, New York City estimates that there will be 1.4 million senior citizens living in the five boroughs. According to the Comptroller, this rising demographic will have special needs that require an agency-by-agency approach to ensure an affordable and high-quality standard of living.
New York City’s senior citizens have unique needs. From a financial standpoint, almost 40 percent depend on governmental assistance for more than half of their income. The group also tends to spend more of their income on rent than other age groups – six out of ten senior citizens spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income just paying rent. To mitigate this problem, the Comptroller proposes freezing rents for senior citizens, expanding tax credits to senior citizens that own their homes and provide services to help finance home improvements that make homes more “senior-citizen friendly.”
Senior citizens also have unique accessibility needs – almost 35 percent have a disability that impairs their mobility or ability to travel. This is especially problematic in New York City, which relies heavily on walking, and where 61 percent of residential units are not wheelchair accessible. Sadly, senior citizens made up 39 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the city during 2014 – despite comprising only 13 percent of the city’s population. In addition to increasing wheelchair accessibility, the MTA expects “Access-a-Ride” (a city service for individuals with limited mobility) usage to more than double by 2022. To mitigate this problem, the Comptroller proposes increasing bus shelters and benches and expanding the MTA’s “Access-a-Ride” program.
Lastly, in addition to tackling the financial and accessibility problems faced by senior citizens, the Comptroller also recommends establishing programs that improve the well-being of the city’s aging population. These include public campaigns to increase Medicare’s free annual wellness screening, improving Social Security’s cost of living adjustments and providing additional resources for caregivers.