An 11-Step Care Package for Our Seniors: The Egregious Neglect of our Seniors Must End Now!

Kristin meeting with Harlem seniors

Our seniors are under attack. Capitalism’s focus on human beings as commodities constantly jeopardizes the welfare of our seniors, and the lack of care is unacceptable. Years of mismanagement and neglect has left many of our older community members without the means to survive, let alone thrive, and I am running for City Council to make a change.

By now, many of you are familiar with the evidence of this collective mistreatment: as of mid-March, more than 80% of the more than half a million U.S. deaths due to Covid-19 are among adults over the age of 64, and most egregiously, over a third are specifically linked to nursing homes.

Add to this the many preventable excess deaths caused by the strains on our medical system, these numbers barely begin to account for the incalculable devastation still felt among different families and communities. Our inability to hear their final words and properly mourn and grieve at their bedsides, in hospitals, at funerals, or in large family gatherings only added salt to our collective wounds. And we must never forget how much of this was the result of the negligence and mismanagement of our elected leaders.

As a third-generation Harlemite, I should also be clear that while the pandemic amplified the inequalities in our healthcare system, the problems around the care, treatment, and humane respect for the elderly has been with us for much, much longer.

Through my work in education, writing, and community organizing — including years of work at the Central Harlem Senior Center and the A. Philip Randolph Senior Center — I’ve observed first-hand how chronic underfunding and systemic neglect have deprived many older community members of the resources and platforms they need to live their best possible lives.

As Harlem’s next City Council representative, here are some of the city policies and priorities I will fight for in support of our seniors and their caregivers:

Housing

1.Automatically enroll eligible seniors in the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE), which freezes their rent at a level they are able to pay. This is a good program that is underutilized and automatic enrollment would help many more seniors benefit from it without needing to already be in-the-know.

2. Create a program where seniors can apply to have their homes retro-fitted for safety, including things like shower bars or wider doorways to fit walkers and wheelchairs.

Every part of my “actually affordable housing” plan will also benefit seniors, ensuring that Harlem stays affordable and tenants are protected from eviction and neglect, and allowing seniors to age in place.

Transportation

3. Make the MTA completely free for seniors, as other cities such as Philadelphia have done. Eventually, this can be a step towards making transit completely free for everyone.

4. End the caps on Access-a-ride usage. Currently, this MTA program has usage caps, which enforce the idea that transportation is only useful once or twice each day, and complicate the system unnecessarily with bureaucracy and limitations. We need to end caps for all New Yorkers — not just seniors.

Services & Safety

5. Seniors face more food insecurity than other groups in NYC. We need to launch a citywide grocery discount program for seniors, and keep the best of what’s been done during COVID-19 to provide groceries and prepared meals to those either stuck at home or with a need, incorporating lessons learned from mutual aid and community initiatives like community fridges.

6. Offer free technology help specifically aimed at seniors through all local library branches, and work with the State Attorney General’s office and the Manhattan District Attorney to provide education about senior scams and internet safety.

7. Seniors need comprehensive end-of-life planning, including the designation of a health care proxy should they need it. Make the documentation for health care proxy designation easy to find, and provide assistance in filling it out, perhaps through libraries or other community centers.

Community Space

8. Prioritize and fund sidewalk repair and snow removal. This can greatly improve accessibility and safety for seniors, and ultimately helps everyone ranging from those with mobility issues, to parents with strollers, to kids playing outside, to anyone pushing a grocery cart or even just carrying luggage. Similarly, some of the “anti-homeless” and “anti-youth” modifications that the city chooses to make to parks and other public areas end up disproportionately hurting seniors. When we remove benches and restrooms, that’s a big deal for seniors who want to spend time outside. We need to think holistically about making our public space more comfortable and more inviting to everyone, and deal with issues like homelessness compassionately through a homes guarantee, rather than hostile architecture.

9. Publicize group fitness programs, and incorporate more exercise equipment into parks that seniors can benefit from.

Senior carers and Caregivers

10. Support and fund our community’s senior centers to provide high level resources that improve seniors’ health, sense of safety and life satisfaction. More generally, support a continuum of supportive programs and advocacy for seniors including an increase in staff and resources.

11. New York has as many as 2.5 million family caregivers, most of whom are not paid but are providing critical care to their loved ones without many other options. The city should double its family caregiver support funding to at at least $8 million. Additionally, caretakers should be supported by assigned case workers and support groups. Additionally, the city should provide housing set-aside for caregivers in or near high-senior-population neighborhoods and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities. This is especially important as caregivers have some of the longest commutes in the city, and often live and work in transit deserts.

You may notice a theme throughout the policy points above: what’s good for seniors is ultimately good for everyone. This is reinforced for me when I go out into the community for wellness-checks, talking to my future constituents about what they need and helping them access those services, and noticing commonalities across generations — worrying about housing and food security, being able to stay in Harlem despite rising costs, having access to clean and safe outdoor spaces, and being able to live a dignified life. As we all continue to rebuild from unforgivable loss, my team and I will continue to promote the kind of intergenerational dialogue needed for a thriving and resilient Harlem.

Kristin Richardson Jordan (KRJ), Candidate for New York City Council District 9 Kristin is a poet, local activist, speaker, teacher, DSA member, Black queer woman, and third-generation Harlemite on a mission to disrupt District 9 (Central Harlem) with radical love. Started almost a year and a half before the murder of George Floyd, her Kristin for H.A.R.L.E.M. political platform includes advocacy for police accountability, abolition, affordable housing, redistribution of resources, senior care, gun control, education, and environmental justice. She is interested in making change both through her grassroots campaign and through a community-based participatory democracy once elected and has drafted policy on each of her HARLEM platform points. Find out more and get involved at KristinForHarlem.com.

Candidate for NY City Council District 9 (Central Harlem) Kristin for H.A.R.L.E.M. aka KRJ visit www.KristinForHarlem.com

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