Housing ∙ Public Health
Supporting our Seniors
There are approximately 1.1 million New Yorkers over 65. This population has increased by 19% since 2005. Unfortunately, seniors face a poverty rate twice the national average, and 6 out of 10 spend more than 30% of their income on housing, making them cost-burdened by HUD’s definition. Further, many seniors experience social isolation, difficulties accessing transportation, and elder abuse and exploitation. This past year has shown the negative effects of institutionalization on our elderly population, particularly in nursing homes. Andrew Yang will also focus on supporting New Yorkers who are aging in place, which has been the preference of the vast majority of seniors. One survey found that nearly 90% of seniors want to stay in their homes. Aging in place allows seniors to maintain community connections and has been shown to be beneficial to their physical and mental health, particularly when they have access to community programming. Andrew Yang will seek to make this a reality for all New York seniors who want to age in place.
To support New York seniors, a Yang administration will:
- Help seniors to stay in their homes
- Increase community programming offerings
- Make our transportation system more accessible
- Ensure seniors can access technology and the internet
- Prevent ageism and age discrimination, elder abuse and exploitation and support victims
To allow New York City’s seniors to stay in their homes, Andrew Yang will:
Automatically Enroll Eligible New Yorkers in SCRIE
The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) freezes the rent of qualifying seniors by providing the landlord a property tax credit. Due to a lack of information and bureaucratic hurdles, this program is sorely underutilized. It is estimated that less than half of all those eligible for SCRIE are not enrolled in the program. Further, the State already has tax returns and rental information that would make it possible to automatically enroll an estimated 70% of the eligible population in SCRIE. A Yang administration will require the Department of Finance, which administers SCRIE, to request this information from the State and proactively enroll those who are eligible in SCRIE. Additionally, a Yang administration’s Department of Finance will partner with the Department of Aging to to provide multilingual information and application help for the 30% of eligible seniors, who will not be automatically enrolled.
Reduce Burdens to Accessing SCHE
In 2017, the State expanded eligibility for the Senior Citizen Homeowners Exemption (SCHE), to offer property tax exemptions to senior homeowners with fixed incomes of less than $58,400. This program helps seniors to stay in their homes and is especially important for those living in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, who are at risk of being priced out. Andrew Yang supports this expansion. However, like SCRIE, this program has been underutilized. It is estimated that only 30% of those eligible for SCHE are actually receiving it. Andrew Yang proposes a partnership between the Department of Finance and the Department of Aging to ensure that more seniors know about these programs and know how to apply. Moreover, seniors who get SCHE are currently required to reapply every two years. This is an unnecessary burden in most cases that causes many seniors to miss out. Andrew Yang would like to see this process changed to a much less frequent renewal system, such as every five years, so that those whose finances haven’t changed will not risk losing SCHE purely because they forget to reapply.
Expand Project Open House
Many elderly New Yorkers face difficulties with accessibility in their homes. Something as simple as a ramp or a grab-bar can be the difference between being able to stay at home and age in place and moving into an institution. The Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities administers the Project Open House program, which allows low-income New Yorkers with disabilities to apply to have architectural barriers in their homes removed to increase mobility and independence. The program is funded by federal Community Development Block Grants. However, in Fiscal Year 2020, the program received 73 applications but a mere 10 projects were actually accepted. Today, the program is not even accepting applications. As mayor, Andrew Yang will seek to significantly expand support for this program, by finding other sources of funding, and exploring public-private partnerships, so that senior New Yorkers with disabilities are able to make the modifications necessary to remain comfortably in their homes.
Build More Senior Housing with Supportive Services
To allow New York seniors to live independently but also have access to community and the services they need we need to build more units of senior housing with supportive services as well as enriched housing, which offers necessary support while allowing seniors to maintain much of their independence. Further, these units need to be affordable for seniors living on limited fixed incomes. An Andrew Yang administration will push for the construction of this housing, including by offering incentives for developers to do so.
You can read more about our platform to create long-term pathways for permanently affordable housing here.
II) Community Programming
To combat isolation and increase City programming for seniors Andrew Yang will:
Reopen Senior Centers
After a year of extreme isolation and loss of community connections and access to services, it is crucially important that the City reopens senior centers, OACs and NORCs, for vaccinated seniors and with additional safety practices in place. The majority of New York seniors are vaccinated and all public health advice suggests that fully vaccinated seniors can safely return to senior centers in-person with reasonable capacity limits, social distancing, and masking indoors. Further, providers have indicated a readiness to return and many of New York’s vaccinated seniors are ready to regain what they have lost during the pandemic. Nevertheless, Mayor De Blasio has yet to put forward a clear plan and has only committed to an eventual “phased” reopenings of senior centers. So far, this has involved a shift to “grab and go” meal distribution instead of home deliveries, which is a good first step, but so much more can be done. As the City increasingly moves towards a full reopening of gyms, restaurants, libraries and museums, we should not be leaving senior centers so far behind. Mayor de Blasio should address this issue immediately and issue guidance on when and how our city’s vital senior centers will reopen. A Yang administration would address this issue with the urgency it merits. In his first days in office, Andrew Yang will ensure that all senior centers are able to reopen to the fullest extent possible in compliance with public health guidance.
Realize NYC’s Community Care Plan
In April 2021, Mayor De Blasio announced a 5-year Community Care Plan focused on offering universal and equitable access to services for seniors aging in place. The plan will add 25 Older Adults Centers (OACs) or Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) to neighborhoods with large aging communities that are currently underserved and to meet the needs of New York’s growing older population. These centers will offer health services, social services, and wellness activities to help support seniors in their communities. The plan will also expand outreach to seniors, offer transportation so seniors can access services, increase staffing at existing OACs and NORCs, expand the home-delivered meal program for home-bound seniors and optimize virtual programming offerings. Further, it will bolster the support for the non-profits across New York that the City contracts to offer services to seniors, many of which have been hit hard by the pandemic. The plan will also help link programs together through referrals and offer opportunities for collaboration between providers in developing programs and providers in more established programs. Andrew Yang supports this effort and would ensure that the goals of this plan are realized on schedule by offering funding and support. All new senior centers and housing developments will have an outreach worker to connect seniors to benefits.
Invest in Intergenerational Care
Many elderly people suffer from isolation and loneliness, which impacts their mental health, but also has been shown to contribute to functional decline and even early death. One innovative way to combat this isolation is intergenerational programming, which brings together young people and older adults. For example, there have been highly successful programs that put senior centers in the same building as daycares, preschools, and elementary schools. Nationwide, there are currently approximately 105 of these shared spaces. These programs are symbiotic, teaching children empathy and exposing them to different kinds of people and offering seniors opportunities for connection and the revitalizing experience of the energy of young children. Some intergenerational programming already exists in New York City. For example, the Geriatric Career Development Program of The New Jewish Home, which provides health care training for at-risk youth. Andrew Yang would like to make New York City the nation’s capital for intergenerational care. A Yang administration will champion these existing programs and will find new opportunities for intergenerational programming in New York City.
Expand Mental Health Services to more Senior Centers
Even before COVID-19 many senior New Yorkers struggled with mental health challenges, which have been stigmatized and woefully under-diagnosed. Especially as we emerge from this incredibly difficult and isolating period, it is crucially important that we care for all New Yorkers' mental health. An Andrew Yang administration will expand and increase awareness of the City’s Geriatric Mental Health Initiative, which brings mental health clinicians into a number of senior centers to lead open conversations, offer mental health education, screen participants for depression, provide on-site counseling and make referrals with the goal of offering these services are offered at every OAC and NORC.
Support LGBTQ Elders
LGBTQ seniors face distinct challenges and higher rates of disability and poor physical and mental health. Further, many of today’s LGBTQ seniors lived through the height of the AIDS epidemic in NYC and suffered the tragedy of losing friends and loved ones. Today, thanks to improvements in medicine, HIV-positive individuals are living into their golden years, with more than half of people with HIV in New York State aged 50 and older, many of whom are long-term survivors who received diagnoses before the development of antiretroviral therapy. It is crucial that LGBTQ-Seniors have access to services that cater to their needs. The six SAGE Centers across the City provide many important resources for this community. With 90% of LGBTQ older people reporting interest in LGBTQ-welcoming elder housing, we need to expand access to affordable LGBTQ-welcoming elder housing. SAGE is in the process of building a new LGBTQ-focused affordable senior housing development in the Bronx, the second of its kind in NYC. Organizations like SAGE, which are doing this important work to support our LGBTQ-elders, will receive support from a Yang administration to expand their housing model and services to more seniors. As mayor, Andrew Yang will also require LGBTQ competency training for all City-funded programs for older adults and ensure that these programs are LGBTQ-welcoming and affirming. A Yang administration will solicit the input of LGBTQ people and organizations to make sure that they are adequately serving this community and establish a standing Commission focused on the needs of this community. Moreover, to combat a lack of data on LGBTQ New Yorkers a Yang administration will include optional questions about sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and relationship status on all City forms where other demographic information is requested, and initiate studies specifically focused on identifying how best to support the LGBTQ community.
Offer more TV programming for older adults on public access channels
An Andrew Yang administration will offer more television programming aimed at older-adults on NYC’s public access TV channels in multiple different languages.
Protect home care workers and the growing workforce of care providers
A Yang administration has also committed to improving working conditions for home care workers by calling on the state to end the mandatory 24-hour workday for home health aides, raise wages, enforce New York’s domestic workers bill of rights, expand NYC’s human rights law to include protection for domestic workers and create a portable benefits fund for workers. Read more about the plan to bring justice for home care workers here.
Nearly 40% of Americans over 65 have at least one disability and two-thirds of these individuals have mobility challenges. Andrew Yang has a comprehensive plan for disabled New Yorkers. In particular, to make it easier for seniors with disabilities to traverse the city, Andrew Yang will:
Prioritize subway accessibility
Our subway system is shockingly inaccessible and was ranked last when compared to 12 other U.S. cities. The vast majority, approximately 75%, of subway stations are not accessible. This is an unacceptable statement about a lack of care for our disabled and elderly community, which will not be tolerated by a Yang administration. A Yang administration will combat this by:
- Taking municipal control of the subway
- Working closely with the Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities and the Chief Accessibility Officer to identify stations for accessibility upgrades
- Earmarking capital commitments toward ADA compliance to increase accessibility
- Pledging not to support any funds for station renovations, if the project does not also include money to bring the station in line with ADA standards for accessibility
- When appropriate, leveraging private sector developers to fund making stations more accessible
Improve our disability infrastructure and technology
There are numerous small infrastructural improvements that can make it easier for disabled seniors to get around the City. Andrew Yang will advocate for:
- Improved emergency communication for deaf individuals
- More accessible subway cars that make it easier for disabled individuals to board and exit trains
- More benches at bus stops
- Ensure that all curbs are accessible for New Yorkers with mobility and visual impairments by the end of his first term
New York City’s Access-A-Ride program is broken. It is inefficient, unreliable, has a burdensome reservation system, and takes circuitous and unnecessarily slow routes. Andrew Yang has a plan to fix this system by expanding and improving upon the e-hail pilot program, prioritizing allowing more monthly rides and increasing the MTA subsidy cap to $40. He will pursue public-private partnerships with ride-share companies to make this happen.
You can read more about the details of our plan for supporting New Yorkers with disabilities here.
To make sure our seniors can access technology and the Internet, an Andrew Yang administration will:
Expand OATS’ Presence in NYC to Help New York Seniors Gain Technological Skills
The collaboration between AARP’s OATS program and the Department of Aging and Information Technology has made New York City’s technology program for older adults the largest and most comprehensive in the nation. Federal funding has allowed OATS in NYC to offer 3,000 free technology classes, build 24 technology labs across all boroughs, launch the SeniorPlanet.org digital community, and opened the country’s first technology-themed community center for older adults, the Senior Planet Exploration Center, which has nearly 15,000 visitors a year. Especially as the pandemic has exposed the need for technological literacy, this exemplary program will receive a Yang administration’s full support.
Dramatically expand access to broadband
A recent report found that 42% of American seniors do not have wireless broadband at home. In New York, seniors who live alone make up a quarter of those without broadband. Broadband provides seniors with vital links to health information and telehealth services, commerce, financial management, news and media, and social connections. Andrew Yang has already put forward a comprehensive plan to spend up to $100 million a year to ensure that an affordable broadband option is available to all New Yorkers who want it. Virtually all NYC residences have physical access to broadband infrastructure and the State has recently announced a program that will offer a high-speed internet plan for $15/month for low-income households so much of the work left to be done is outreach. An Andrew Yang administration will embark on a focused and tailored outreach campaign to ensure that every New York senior who wants broadband can access it.
You can read more about our broadband access plan here.
To support older New Yorkers both in the workplace and in finding employment, Andrew Yang will:
Combat ageism and age discrimination in the workplace
Ageism and age discrimination are deeply troubling problems, particularly as they occur in the workplace. During the recruitment process, on-the-job, and in decision making regarding termination, older people across NYC face harmful discrimination, which is not only wrong but illegal. As Mayor, Andrew Yang will head NYC’s largest employer, the City government. Under Andrew Yang’s leadership it will be clear that age discrimination of any form will be unacceptable within city agencies. Further, to support New Yorkers facing age discrimination in workplaces across the city, a Yang administration’s Human Rights Commission will work to root out age discrimination and level harsh penalties against employers found to be perpetrating it.
Offer programs for older adult workers at Workforce1 career centers
The Department of Small Business Services (SBS) runs the Workforce1 program, which helps New Yorkers prepare for and connect to jobs citywide. A Yang administration will direct SBS to develop programming specifically aimed at older adult workers and the particular challenges they face finding new jobs.
VI) Elder Abuse and Exploitation
To combat rampant elder abuse and exploitation, Andrew Yang will:
Support victims of elder abuse
Elder abuse is a persistent and growing problem that is tragically faced by one in 10 Americans over 60, and we find these rates mirrored in studies of New York seniors. Elder abuse includes physical, psychological, verbal, and sexual abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect. These experiences endanger a vulnerable population, strip them of their dignity, and in the worst of cases, threaten their lives. Moreover, some groups suffer particularly high rates of elder abuse, two-thirds of elder abuse victims are women and low-income African American, and Latino older adults suffer higher rates of abuse. Further, in New York state there is a striking gap between the incidence rate of elder abuse and the number of cases referred to social service, law enforcement, or legal authorities, with the number of cases found to be 24 times higher than the number reported. Andrew Yang wants to ensure that all elders suffering from abuse are able to access services and help. To do so he will continue to support the Department of Aging’s public awareness campaign on elder abuse. Moreover, Andrew Yang will commission a study on the status of elder abuse in NYC and the availability of resources to determine if the current community-based programs offered in each borough are providing adequate support. He will also continue the PROTECT program, which offers mental health treatment to elder abuse victims through a partnership with Weill Cornell Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry and pursue other similar partnerships to expand this program.
Combat financial exploitation
One particularly common form of elder abuse is financial exploitation. An AARP study showed that the most common way that family members who are exploiting elders access their money is at financial institutions and taking money from bank accounts is one of the most costly methods of financial exploitation of elders. Financial institutions, thus, have an important role to play in preventing and reporting the financial exploitation of elders. Andrew Yang has proposed a People’s Bank of New York. To prevent the financial exploitation of New York’s seniors, Andrew Yang will require that staff at the People’s Bank undergo a rigorous exploitation prevention training program. People’s Bank employees will know how to identify and stop elder exploitation in progress and also be familiar with methods to prevent this abuse in the first place. This training will use the scenario-based method recommended by the AARP. The People’s Bank will also offer account features that help prevent financial exploitation by allowing third-party monitoring and alerts for caregivers. It will also implement and familiarize staff with the Interagency Guidance on Privacy Laws and Reporting Financial Abuse of Older Adults, so they know how to report suspected financial abuse while complying with privacy laws. Andrew Yang’s People’s Bank will offer a safe financial institution for senior New Yorkers and proactively work against financial exploitation.
You can learn more about the People’s Bank here.