5/3/2019 0 Comments
Below is the testimony that Age-Friendly Teaneck Project Director Elizabeth Davis presented at the annual Bergen County Public Hearing on Needs of Older Adults on May 2, 2019.
"I am Elizabeth Davis, a social worker and Executive Director of Geriatric Services, Inc, a non profit organization that provides affordable housing, assisted living and support services for older adults. We are based in Teaneck but have programs in Westwood and Garfield as well.
Two years ago I testified about the need for a central clearinghouse that would maintain information on affordable housing projects in Bergen County. I highlighted the challenges that older adults face when trying to find a building that might be accepting applications since there are so many buildings, many of which are independently owned and so many of which have waiting lists that are closed or have waits of 5 to 10 years. I am extremely grateful and congratulate the County for hiring a Housing Navigator who will maintain this data and serve as a tremendous, valuable resource for those seeking housing. I am also grateful to the County for providing other housing related services such as Options Counseling to help older adults better manage their housing costs. On the topic of housing, I would like to suggest that the Division of Senior Services, as part of the County's age friendly initiative, consider hosting a Housing Forum for older adults that will would include information on existing housing resources and options as well as education on newer housing alternatives such as homesharing. Homesharing makes tremendous sense for both house burdened older adults and renters seeking affordable options in a County where market rate rents are prohibitively expensive. Homeowners and renters, however, need education and counseling on this option since it is a concept that is quite foreign to many.
The other topic that is on the minds of most older adults as well as age friendly community initiatives is transportation. With the County's Age Friendly Community Initiative, five established towns that are working on becoming more age friendly and potentially many other towns joining this movement in the near future, we have an opportunity to work together toward regional solutions that will help the growing number of older adults who cannot, should not or cannot afford to drive a car any longer but who need safe and reliable transportation to shop, get to medical appointments and to participate in community activities including recreation programs and parks, visit libraries and cultural events and volunteer. I think we all need to consider new ways to tackle the transportation challenges we face now and that will only grow in the next decades. Complete streets projects, improved and expanded public transportation options, community arranged senior transportation, volunteer driven programs such as ITN and Uber type services should work in partnership to develop solutions that make sense within the varied landscapes of Bergen County.
Finally, this month in the Health Affairs journal, there is an article titled, The Forgotten Middle: Many Middle-Income Seniors will have Insufficient Resources for Housing and Health Care. It makes the point that over the past few decades, the senior housing and care market has expanded to accommodate people with more complex needs. Unfortunately, most of these communities are focused on attracting high income older adults. The writers of this article project that by 2029, ten years from now, there will be 14.4 million middle income seniors, 60 percent of whom will have mobility limitations and 20% will have high health care and functional needs. 54% of these seniors will not have sufficient financial resources to pay the high fees charged by so many of these senior assisted care facilities. I am very proud of my organization's work to address this need - we operate PALS - an assisted living program that brings services into affordable senior apartments so that tenants can age in place - and Bright Side Manor, Bergen County's only truly affordable assisted living community that is open to older adults of all income levels. We invite County staff and representatives to visit these resources and consider ways in which the private and public sectors can work together to meet the future long term care and housing needs of older adults."
Who We Are
Age-Friendly Teaneck formed in 2016 with this mission in mind: A great place to grow up should be a great place to grow old.