By Jennifer L. Warren
CORNWALL – It’s a historic statistic that causes many to take pause: By 2034, the number of adults 65 years of age and older will exceed the number of children under age 18.
That first-ever statistic also caught the attention of United States Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Special Senate Committee on Aging, who is intent on providing the groundwork to allow every American to age with dignity and financial security.
Saturday, at the Town of Cornwall’s Munger Cottage Senior Center, Gillibrand, surrounded by the support of several local political dignitaries and those who work with the aging population, unveiled the 5-Point Plan on Aging that her Aging Committee has been hard at work developing after she witnessed first-hand during COVID the challenges this population faces without the needed resources.
“I came up with this plan after visiting a lot of seniors during COVID and seeing how so many were going through being lonely and their needs were not being met,” said Gillibrand.
Enter the five points of the Master Plan. First, there is The Farm Bill, prioritizing healthy food, including usage of SNAP benefits, delivered hot, nutritious meals, as well as medically designed ones. Another piece, affordable health care, was elaborated upon, when Gillibrand insisted, “We need to make all, not just some, medications affordable to seniors.” Economic security following retirement was another piece discussed. Social Security, Medicaid and a laser-focused effort to address the out of control scams seniors fall prey to was outlined.
Gillibrand herself related a story of how her mother was conned out of thousands of dollars by one of these malicious scammers and is something that must be addressed immediately. Aging in place was relayed as the fourth piece of the plan. Here, the dire need to increase home health care aide wages as well as family member care benefits- such as critical social security compensation- was at the forefront. Finally, aging-friendly spaces and employment rounded out the presentation. Better sidewalks, lighting spaces and public transportation were discussed as was making job firings based on age illegal.
“Many people over age 55 who want to work are fired and replaced by younger people who cost far less to pay,” explained Gillibrand.
In total, the Plan contains 18 bills, and Gillibrand remains optimistic about their approval.
“Getting these bills passed will be a priority, said Gillibrand, who is working across party lines with Lindsey Graham to finalize the specifics of the Plan. “We have a good chance of getting them all passed.”
The positive impacts of making the seniors a priority, providing them with the resources they need and respect deserved can be seen in the town, Cornwall, where Gillibrand unveiled the Plan. Walk around this Orange County community, and you will see all the sidewalks are in good shape, accessible and repaired as well as ADA compliant. A Senior Bus also assists with commuting needs to doctor’s offices, grocery stores and other essential places. Meanwhile, the thriving Munger Senior Center as well as commitment to keep the elderly population active through volunteering, in programs such as a partnership with Jewish Family Services, pairing individuals with seniors, reveals the type of focus and reality Gillibrand and her team members are trying to create on a national level.
“I feel very fortunate that she (Gillibrand) chose Cornwall to speak at because we are getting it right here with our seniors,” said Cornwall Town Supervisor, Josh Wojehowski.
Not only were people from the Town of Cornwall appreciative to learn more about Gillibrand’s Plan, so too was AnnMarie Maglione, Director of Orange County Office of the Aging.
“As our society ages, we have a responsibility to our adults to allow them to remain at home; this is a really good thing-socially, economically and mentally for our seniors and it’s also good for the entire community,” said Maglione. “We all thank Senator Gillibrand for hearing what we are saying and giving our seniors a chance.”