AARP NY Working to Meet Needs of 50+ residents

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On Thursday Oct. 9 I had the pleasure of being one of approximately 20 attendees at an AARP NY BoomTown event in Syracuse, NY.  I was accompanied by my colleague, Dr. Mildred Warner of Cornell University, with whom I have collaborated on multigenerational planning issues.

This event was one in a series of statewide BoomTown events focused on survey findings from an AARP NY study.  A summary and a pdf of the full report, 2014 State of the 50+ in New York State, is available as a resource.

NYS Senator David Valesky, Chair of the Senate Aging Committee, welcomed us and praised AARP NY for their efforts with the research project and the application of the findings.  Senator Valesky described the value of such programs as EPIC, which assists NYS residents with covering the costs of prescription medications.

Leading the event were Beth Finkel, AARP NY State Director, Bill Ferris, AARP NY’s Legislative Representative, and Associate State Director of AARP NY, Bill Ambruster.

Cheryl Matheis, Senior Principal & Counsel for AARP, presented on issues related to the 50+ population.  Do you know that the Longevity Economy, defined as the direct and indirect economic impacts of the 50+ population is currently $7.1 trillion?  This is projected to grow to $13.5 trillion by 2032, comprising 52% of the GDP.  The impact of this population appears to be underestimated.

A key concern in New York state is out migration of 50+ NYers.  There are a variety of reasons for this including weather, relocating to be near family (particularly adult children who can assist with future caregiving), and misconceptions about being a senior in NY.

Key issues of findings for Onondaga county included:

-impact of (unpaid) family caregiving particularly on paid work

-struggling with utility bills (some of the highest utility rates in the nation; and NYS is one of ten states which does not have an independent utility consumer advocate office)

-concerns about crime, personal safety, lack of effective public transportation–how Age Friendly is your community?

-lack of retirement savings

Lastly, the eye-opening finding that 50% of the respondents reported that they were “somewhat likely” to “extremely” likely to leave the region and the state.  This would result in a $2 billion loss to the Onondaga region’s economy–annually.

Following the presentations on the findings, Bill Ambruster  led an informative group discussion, in which several attendees pointed out that NY state actually has many advantages for older adults.  Lisa Alford, Executive Director for the Office of Aging in  Onondaga County, brought up the EISEP program, a valuable NYS program which helps elders remain safe and independent in their homes by providing housekeeping, personal care, respite, case management, and related services (such as emergency response systems).  This income-based program is not offered by many other states.  Another attendee pointed out that NYS actually has many advantageous tax benefits for retirees, such as not taxing the first $20,000 of a pension (consult with your tax accountant for those details).

Clearly, one important issue to come out of this preliminary meeting is the need for residents, advocates, service providers, seniors and their families to be clear on the many advantages of being 50+ in New York State.  Therefore, a future step is working to raise awareness of these benefits in order to keep New Yorkers here and happy.