One of the great triumphs of medicine and public policy in the United States of the 20th Century was the transformation of old age from a brief period of likely poverty to a longer phase of life with some semblance of financial security for most people. Life expectancy at birth rose from 47.3 years for people born in 1900 to 78.6 years for those who came into the world in 2016. And senior poverty has fallen nearly 70 percent over the last 50 years.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that an aging population poses new policy challenges for older people and for society at large—especially in New York City, where the racial inequities that affect all phases of life, from wealth to health to housing and criminal justice, are magnified in the city’s large and diverse senior population. COVID-19 has exposed the deadly consequences of these disparities.
The next mayor of New York City will likely oversee a decade when the city’s 65+ group grows five times faster than the city as a whole and eclipses the school-age population. That will raise profound questions not just about direct senior services like senior centers and long-term care, but also housing, workplace discrimination, the transit system, technology access, immigration issues and more.
On a deeper level, the next mayor will have a chance to embrace this demographic shift and turn aging from a policy problem to be managed into a social asset to be celebrated and harnessed.
On Wednesday, April 14, City Limits, LiveOn NY, AARP New York, New York Academy of Medicine,United Neighborhood House, Citymeals on Wheels and Hunter Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging presented a mayoral forum on aging policy.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former Obama administration Cabinet member Shaun Donovan, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and financier Ray McGuire attended.
Watch the full forum here: