There is increasing focus on prevention and health rather than illness and treatment in many arenas of U.S. society. In the planning world, this can be seen in the increasing push for walkable communities to improve the health of the citizenry. As decades of non-walkers are showing, sedentary lives lead to preventable conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
Tweets from a recent White House Conference on Aging listening session reflect this paradigm:
@Surgeon_General “The levers for health aren’t in hospitals, they are in communities.”
@ACLgov Kathy Greenlee: “We all want independence when we’re old… It’s important that health is part of the #WHCOA conversation”
Projects like John Hopkins’ CAPABLE are demonstrating that modifying the physical features of a home can enable independence and increase safety. Last year, the NYS Department of Health launched a $2 million pilot program for innovative approaches to provide supportive services AND Universal Design modifications to low-income seniors to enable their aging in place and prevent their move to more supportive, and costly, settings. As part of the program, data on the interventions will be collected to measure effectiveness.
In the vein of all the programs described above, a concerned group of seniors’ rights advocates and elected officials are working to sway the focus of government funding away from treating illness and towards support services and programs that promote successful aging-in-place.
Members of CAP (Center for Aging in Place), and its Village Council is a group of representatives from the Westchester Aging in Place organizations that meet monthly to learn from and support each other. They have joined with NYS Senator George Latimer (D) and NYS Assemblyperson Thomas J. Abinanti (D) and WestFair Rides, a Volunteer Drive Program, to put forth a bill proposing the creation of a New York State Aging in Place Task Force to develop recommendations for policy makers and practitioners in support of aging in place.
The purpose of this bill is to create a task force that will examine the multitude of issues which hinder or enable successful aging in place in New York State. Why would we want to make aging in place a priority, isn’t it happening anyway?
1) People want to age in Place: Since AARP’s Fixing to Stay (2000) demonstrated, the vast majority of us want to remain in our own homes throughout our lives.
2) We are losing our older New Yorkers to other states.
Recent surveys by AARP NY have collected input from NYS residents about their plans remain in the state as they age. In Syracuse for example, the eye-opening finding that 50% of 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.
3) The World is already doing it.
Several communities in New York state have already heeded the World Health Organization’s initiative to create Age-Friendly cities and communities which enable independence throughout the lifespan through thoughtful design, access to transportation and healthy foods, and policies which reflect the real lives of older adults and their families. New York City was the first Age-Friendly City in the United States, and is a model. AARP has joined the call and provides support to communities which would like to pursue the Age-Friendly designation. Elmira, NY and Chemung County have signed on, and I am a founding member of our Ithaca Age-Friendly task force, led by the Tompkins County Office for the Aging and the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute.
There is a lot of terrific pro-aging work occurring in our communities. The next step is to form a New York State Aging in Place Task Force to review these efforts and the efforts in other states, review upcoming issues and trends, and create a cohesive, comprehensive view of and plan for successful aging in place in New York.
Lastly, please note that by aging in place, we are referring to both aging in one’s current home as well as aging in community. A focus on successful aging in place seeks to avoid a) struggling to age in place–remaining in your home but living unsafely, unhappily, and without having your needs properly met and b) the need for older adults to be forced to relocate to institutional settings because their housing, the features of their community, and the services available to them.
Please read and review the FAQs and consider signing the petition. Please share this blog of this information to friends and colleagues interested in creating a strong, age friendly New York. Signed petitions should be emailed by April 15 to Friedhilde Milburn at:
Our goal is over 1,000 signatures. How many can you bring in?