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Aging Coalition Advocates for Our City's Seniors
By Rachel Sherrow, Associate Executive Director & Chief Program Officer
May 17, 2017
After more than twelve years at Citymeals and several years as a social worker before that, I understand the importance of New York City’s elderly community. Whether immigrants or lifelong residents, they built our city, raised families here and, most importantly, call it home.
My experiences have taught me that older adults often fear that they will be seen as diminishing. And, our perceptions of their capabilities are often misguided. Our meal recipients – despite chronic illnesses and disabilities – still have the ability to lead extraordinary lives. We owe it to them to ensure they have the tools and resources to maintain their independence and age in the way they see fit.
In order to meet the needs of the growing senior population, Citymeals works with the AARP, CaringKind, FPWA, JASA, LiveOn NY, SAGE, Selfhelp, UJA, and United Neighborhood Houses as an Aging Coalition. While our missions are different, our objective as a coalition is the same: to fight ageism and make New York City work for vulnerable older people. This means building a strong safety net with the resources to protect and support the elderly.
One of the Aging Coalition’s most important actions to date has been ensuring that 2017 – declared the Year of the Senior by Councilwoman Margaret Chin with support from the City Council – is more than just a name. Together, we asked the council to support $60 million in funding for the Department for the Aging (DFTA) in fiscal year 2018. But last month, Mayor de Blasio announced there would be no new funding for DFTA in Fiscal Year 2018 – which falls short of the budget priorities proposed by the City Council.
This comes at a time of great uncertainty at the federal level about funding for social services. By banding together, the Aging Coalition hopes to persuade the City to include adequate support for DFTA’s core services — homecare, senior centers and meal programs – in the baseline budget.
Building an adequate safety net for aging New Yorkers requires more than discretionary funding and short-term solutions. The Aging Coalition, above all, helps provide the long-term vision and persistent advocacy to ensure that our fastest growing population will no longer be ignored.
Continuing to work together as partners, I truly believe the Aging Coalition can change how older New Yorkers are seen, create greater understanding of the challenges they face and provide them with the support they need to live with dignity.