By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Community Board 6 hosted its first forum on senior issues at the NYU Medical Center on Monday, September 15. The event was hosted by State Senator Liz Krueger, a senior issues advocate whose office annually puts out the Senior Resource Guide, and panelists who attended included Linda Whitaker from the Department for the Aging, KARPAS Health Information Center director Julie Spillman, OATS and Senior Planet Exploration Center director of programs Kimberly Brennsteiner and Elder Care Giving Senior Care Advisor Joanna Leefer.
The panelists discussed opportunities for seniors and different healthcare options available, as well as some of the problems that seniors might face. Senator Krueger opened the forum with information on one of the issues that some seniors don’t want to talk about because of the stigma: hoarding.
“You’ve lived a long time. You’ve acquired a lot of stuff. But it can be a fire risk and can exacerbate a pest problem,” she said. “The worst calls that we get are from landlords who say they’re going to evict those tenants because it’s a health and safety risk.Our golden rule is to help people keep their homes.”
The senator also discussed the complications of providing healthcare to the rapidly growing senior population in the city.
“We don’t have adequate long-term health care programs and the programs that we do have pay for too little,” she said. “When you’re trying to decide in your 50s what will be good for you, things change by the time you hit your 70s and 80s.”
Linda Whitaker from the Department of Aging has been with the department since the 1970s and focuses now on emergency preparedness. She said that many people tend to think of disasters as only weather-related, such as Hurricane Sandy, but she reminded the seniors at the forum that there are other catastrophic events that seniors should be aware of, such as fires and other seemingly innocuous events like getting locked out of their homes and going to the hospital, both of which can be more upsetting than it would be for younger adults.
KARPAS director Julie Spillman said at the forum that the health information center at Beth Israel is trying to fill some of the gaps that seniors might find in their healthcare. She noted that there are social work and geriatric services available for seniors, as well as a house call program for seniors who can’t leave their homes but need healthcare services. She also added that there are a number of free services available through the information center, including free flu shots, and those events are also listed in T&V’s health section.
Kimberly Brennsteiner of the Senior Planet Exploration Center spoke about the technology opportunities available for older adults and explained why the center is trying to involve seniors in these programs.
“People have lived long and meaningful lives without technology but it’s important to connect to all these resources,” she said. “Technology can be a lifeline and a resource and we have to get seniors participating in the conversation that the rest of the population has been having for a while.”
Brennsteiner noted that all of the classes and workshops available for seniors are free. The center is located at 127 West 25th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.
CB6 district manager Dan Miner said that the community board plans to have additional forums on senior issues but a date has not yet been set for any subsequent events. Community Board 6 is also planning to live stream many of their larger events online and video of this forum can be found on their website at new.livestream.com/accounts/3241995/events/2014383.