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Resources scarce for seniors

A summit was held Oct. 25 at the Bethlehem Public Library to discuss issues relating to care for seniors. Pictured from left to right: State Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, Albany County Executive Michael Breslin, former State Office for the Aging Director Michael Burgess, State Senator Neil Breslin, and Bethlehem Supervisor Sam Messina.

A summit was held Oct. 25 at the Bethlehem Public Library to discuss issues relating to care for seniors. Pictured from left to right: State Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, Albany County Executive Michael Breslin, former State Office for the Aging Director Michael Burgess, State Senator Neil Breslin, and Bethlehem Supervisor Sam Messina.

The prospects of a longer life and a tight economy are leaving many seniors with few financial options.

That's the crux of the many subjects discussed during a Seniors Summit held Oct. 25 at the Bethlehem Public Library. The forum included perspectives from Michael Burgess, the former director of the New York State Office for the Aging, who described a situation of “promise and peril” for seniors. He explained how budget cuts in recent years on the state level have led to cuts in programs such as home-delivered meals and community services for the elderly.

“We should spend more to keep these people in their homes, rather than putting them on the Medicaid rolls,” said Burgess.

The problems were clear and familiar to many in the audience, who heard perspectives on what’s being done at the local, state and federal level.

“It may not be discussed by the public, but people who work with seniors all the time are very much aware that we do not have enough money to help people who are trying to age safely at home,” said Lois Wilson, a resident of Bethlehem who has experience working with committees on issues pertaining to seniors throughout the Capital District.

One main theme at the summit was a conversation about the differences between nursing homes and the concept of seniors staying in their homes and aging in place. Albany County Executive Michael Breslin was in attendance, and told the audience that it is less expensive to keep people where they are, but went on to say that there is “no question that there is a dramatic lack of resources.”

Breslin’s proposed county budget for 2012 calls for a 19.2 percent tax levy increase. Wilson said there is a connection between those rising taxes, and a failure to provide for seniors who want to stay in their homes.

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