Town of North Hempstead’s Project Independence among topics at event
The challenges and solutions of “Aging in Place” were two main aspects of the Town of North Hempstead, Hofstra University and North Shore-LIJ collaborative conference and expo at Hofstra’s Student Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24.
Lawrence Levy, Hofstra University’s executive dean at Hofstra’s National Center for Suburban Studies, said that suburban life in Nassau County is no longer akin to that of previous generations.
“We are getting older. We are, by some measures, the oldest major suburb in America. That has major implications for individual people and for government policy,” Levy said.
According to Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz, approximately 15 percent of the population in Nassau is 65 and older, compared to 12.8 percent in Suffolk and 12.6 nationally. The trend does not apply to young adults as the population of ages 25-34 has dropped 15 percent, according to Rabinowitz, whereas nationwide that age group has risen 4.5 percent.
Since 2000, Long Islands’ over 55 population has risen more than any age group, up 21 percent, Rabinowitz said. He also noted that 90 percent of Americans over 60 prefer to age in place, according to an AARP study.
He also referred to another study, which noted the average annual cost for a home healthcare aid at around $50,000 a year while a private nursing home bed costs around $150,000 annually.
Michael Dowling, CEO of Health Systems at North Shore-LIJ, said all physicians under the NSLIJ umbrella are being trained as Emergency Medical Technicians and are preparing for Nassau’s changing population, citing its diversity and above average older population.
“We all have a responsibility to figure out how to make life better for people who are living longer,” said Dowling, who noted that babies born today, given the state of modern medicine, are expected to live to an average of 100 years old.
Dowling also said that it’s vital to identify areas, such as preventable falls in homes, to reduce hospital visits for older citizens.
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman spoke regarding the town’s Project Independence program, which he said, “Provides services to seniors where gaps exist.”
The program helps seniors maintain their independence, mobility and well-being through reduced-fare taxi rides for doctor visits and grocery shopping as well as other initiatives, such as the 311 hotline to act as a central network for various senior services.
Kaiman said the 311 hotline received 165,000 calls last year and 25,000 were directed toward Project Independence.
“We must increase access to in-home care and emphasize prevention to reduce hospital visits, incentivize more health professionals to work with seniors in their homes and invest in transportation so more seniors can live independently,” Kaiman said.
Kaiman said while the 50,000 seniors in Nassau County helped build our communities, they’re still paying taxes even though their children aren’t in the schools anymore. He proposed that government reinvest those dollars for visiting nurses, social workers, handymen and reduced-fair rides.
United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also spoke briefly at the event, noting the importance of addressing these issues on a local and national scale.
“The number one issue is the economy and economic security. This conference is so essential for how our family members can handle their day-to-day needs.
“How do you get to the doctors? How do you get to and from the grocery store? Project Independence is a hallmark for success on how to get that done, and if they could replicate that nationally, it would be a huge success for America’s seniors,” Gillibrand said.