What older New Yorkers are earning in the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic

“We must ensure that New York City’s growing population of 1.25 million adults ages 65 and older have access to quality services, resources and opportunities that meet their needs and preferences, that celebrate their strengths and resilience and they empower to live in the communities they helped build and continue to make meaningful contributions to.”

Adi Talwar

An early evening game of dominoes in an affordable senior housing complex in the Bronx.

Last month, New Yorkers said goodbye to the city’s universal contact-tracing program after nearly two years of service. The closure of Trace is just one of many signs that the COVID-19 pandemic has entered a new phase in the United States as immunity rises in the community, the widespread availability of vaccines and tests, and the development of new ones treatments.

Like Trace, Clio — an organization that connects older adults with essential community resources and volunteers for weekly friendly phone calls — was founded in spring 2020 to meet the urgent needs of New Yorkers living at the epicenter of the pandemic. Faced with significantly higher risk of serious illness and mortality from COVID, older adults sheltering in New York City have been severed from close ties to the communities and resources they once enjoyed in senior centers, houses of worship and physicians’ offices. on site stairways and sidewalk benches, as well as in hallways of high rise buildings, neighborhood parks and local supermarkets. In response, the three founders of Clio, with seed funding from the Columbia School of Social Work, quickly launched a new program that matches socially isolated older adults in uptown Manhattan with volunteers who will assess their basic needs and provide safe company in eight different languages.

Two years, 2,272 phone calls, 137 letters, and 64 care packages later, our 87 volunteers across the country have empowered 75 older adults in some of New York City’s most COVID-hit neighborhoods to continue aging in place with dignity through an unprecedented time Public Health Emergency. As more in-person programs resume during this new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, like Trace, we’re closing our doors — and warning New Yorkers against future complacency.

Even an endemic disease, like COVID is likely to become, can be disabling and sometimes fatal. At Clio, we saw how endemic ageism, or pervasive discrimination against older people based on negative and inaccurate stereotypes, infected the lives of participants as they overcame daunting barriers to accessing meals, food, support services, medical care, and vaccines in the everlasting world. changing parameters of pandemic life.

Many Clio participants found new phone lines and online portals difficult or impossible to use, and expressed frustration at being constantly redirected, given different information, or simply being overlooked by systems designed without their unique needs and preferences. Some expressed an interest in learning and using Zoom to access virtual programs and connect with friends, but did not have access to devices with cameras and internet connection like many older adults with limited financial resources. One Clio participant, who postponed visiting her GP’s office during the height of the pandemic, told her volunteer she had waited for months to seek relief from her chronic pain – only for the doctor to see her pain as a “natural part of aging.” abtat process.” One participant who had difficulty standing for long periods of time reported being yelled at for asking if he could stand in front of the checkout at his local grocery store after it adjusted the hour that it had been reserved for older shoppers in the early days of the pandemic.

These stories are merely symptoms of the structural inequalities that affect the physical, mental and social well-being of our elderly neighbors and, in turn, the well-being of our society. The digital generation gap, for example, runs deep here in the Big Apple: Internet access is a critical key to accessing telemedicine appointments, benefit applications, and virtual classes that encourage improved cognition and socialization, but about 30 percent of New Yorkers aged Those 65 and older have no access to the internet at home, compared to less than 10 percent of New Yorkers ages 18 to 64.

In healthcare, ageism can manifest itself in the rejection of treatable pathologies as inescapable features of advanced age and in the underdiagnosis of conditions such as depression, anxiety and pain. In public spaces such as grocery stores and office buildings, environments built without consideration for people with reduced mobility can hinder older adults’ independence and economic participation.

Ageism in all its facets comes with a hefty price tag: A recent study found that ageism accounts for one in $7 — or $63 billion — spent in the United States on the eight most costly health problems affecting people ages 60 and older be issued; Another suggests that discrimination against workers age 50 and older cost the US economy $850 billion in lost gross domestic product in 2018.

To reduce the transmission and harmful effects of age-related prejudice, we must ensure that New York City’s growing population of 1.25 million adults ages 65 and older have access to quality services, resources and opportunities that meet their needs and preferences, celebrate their strengths and resilience and empower them to live in the communities they helped build and continue to make meaningful contributions. In April 2021, the de Blasio administration took a step in the right direction by announcing a five-year community care plan to expand local aging support services, including home care services, and create a more age-friendly city for our loved ones , mentors, neighbors and colleagues.

As the nation celebrates Older American Month in May, Clio is urging the Adams administration to demonstrate its commitment to the plan with a city budget for fiscal year 2023 that rightly invests in the empowerment and well-being of older New Yorkers. While we appreciate the additional $14.8 million allocated for home-delivered meals and case management services in the Executive Budget released in April, that amount will fall far short of the increased demand for these essential programs. The city should also invest millions more to support the growth of expensive but critical home care services and $7.5 million, as required by the city council, to improve technology education and access for older adults.

We think that 2022’s Theme of the Month for Older Americans is appropriately “Age My Way,” echoing the classic Frank Sinatra tune; To honor the experiences, dignity and contributions of its older residents this month, New York City should allocate money for the support they need to age in the post-pandemic era.

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