Last Thursday a group of elder care advocates, seniors, and local politicians held an event to raise awareness of the possible closure of area senior centers. According to a report in Staten Island Live, the gathering was specifically called to ask Governor Cuomo to refrain from making changes to state Title XX funding. The proposed changes would essentially cut roughly $25 million from the budgets of senior centers citywide. Held on the steps of City Hall, state Senator Diane Savino led the event where more than 15,000 letters were unveiled written by seniors explaining how the cuts would affect their lives. Our New York elder law attorneys are aware of the ways that many local elders rely on various support services offered at these facilities.
The Title XX funding accounts for about a third of the total financial support provided to these centers. However, the funding is discretionary and some are proposing that it be moved over to support child welfare services. If the changes are made over a hundred senior centers will be forced to close. Lillian Barrios-Paoli, the Department for the Aging Commissioner repeatedly emphasized that the lives of thousands of seniors would be made qualitatively worse if these proposals were to advance. She explained that “this is an issue that shouldn’t even be debated.”
Others are questioning why such a proposal would even be brought forward in light of the changing demographics. As we have often reported, the elderly population is the quickest growing age group nationwide. The trends are no different in our area. Baby Boomers are now beginning to retire–a trend that will last for decades. The growing senior population means that New York elder care planning needs to be conducted now in anticipation of the needs of this population. Eliminating services to this group would seem to be a step in the wrong direction. Senator Savino commented on the pressing concerns already facing seniors by noting that “we have enough things to worry about. Take this off the table.”
The director of public policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City noted that these facilities have been relying on the Title XX funding for the past thirty five years. She said that eliminating the money would have serious effects on the already vulnerable elderly population. For example, right off the bat there would be two million fewer meals provided to the neediest seniors every year.
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