Monday, April 19, 2010

WOW Launches New York Elder Initiative!

In Brooklyn tomorrow, advocates, researchers and service providers will rally around the release of new data on the real cost of living for seniors in New York State. The findings of the New York Elder Economic Security Standard Index™ (Elder Index), a new tool developed by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, show that an older New Yorker needs between about $16,100 to over $42,700 to meet basic needs, depending on his or her housing and health status.

We all know it is expensive to live, let alone retire, in New York, particularly in the state’s urban areas. So, what makes the release of the Elder Index new news? And what makes it exciting news?

What’s new is the data itself – and, more importantly, the goal it establishes. Until now, there was no real measure of what it costs to age in place as a New Yorker. So, until today, policy makers, service providers, seniors and family caregivers have been making decisions, developing policies, providing services and supports and creating financial plans – all related to economic well-being of seniors - without a clearly defined goal in mind.

What’s exciting about the Elder Index is the opportunity it creates to do all of these things and more, better. Here are just a few examples of how the Elder Index will help better serve our seniors:

• Policy makers at the federal, state and local level can make more informed decisions about where to allocate scarce resources. The Elder Index shows that housing, health care and long-term care costs are the most significant expenses for retirees, thus helping policy makers see how critical it is to invest in and strengthen assistance for elders in these areas.

• Service providers can quantify the value of their programs and supports. For seniors living at incomes that fall short of the Elder Index, community-based services, like care management and home-delivered meals, are what allow elders to stay in their homes and communities, thus allowing service providers to demonstrate just how critical their programs are to closing the income gap.

• For workers and family caregivers, the Elder Index shows the importance of taking advantage of new programs, such as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) provisions of health care reform – a benefit that will help today’s workers afford long-term care when they need it. The New York Elder Index shows that these costs can be catastrophic, adding from about $7,600 to $42,300 to a senior’s basic expenses.

After tomorrow's release, we can all do better by seniors in New York. With Elder Index data now available in ten states and plans to develop a national Elder Index, we will do better in more than just New York State alone. We will transform aging policies, programs and services with tomorrow's new, exciting news of economic security across the country.

Stacy Sanders, Director of the Elder Economic Security Initiative, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW)

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