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.
“In this town, we really need more subsidized housing,” said Wilson, “and more support for seniors who are trying to age in place.”
During a question and answer session at the end of the summit, the issue of transportation was raised. Audience members made points about the impact on seniors when public transportation routes are reduced and altered. Burgess said transportation issues are always in the top three when a list of concerns for seniors is compiled.
Bethlehem Supervisor Sam Messina highlighted the successful programs for seniors in the town, and said that older residents need to stay in place for their continued contribution to the community.
“Our seniors are some of our most engaged people in the community, and I like the point that was raised about in some societies, there is a long-standing tradition of respect and appreciation for our seniors,” said Messina. “I think in some areas of our country that doesn’t exist anymore.”
That support for seniors may not be at the top of a list of priorities in the near future, when a bipartisan committee of federal lawmakers attempts to tackle the nation’s budget deficit. Burgess told the audience that while big-ticket items like Social Security may be off the table, cuts may be on the way in a number of areas. He cited the Older Americans Act, which was passed in 1965 in response to concerns that there weren’t enough community social services for the elderly. Burgess said he’s worried that deep cuts will impact state and local offices that handle issues pertaining to seniors.
“We are in a situation where we are in danger of not seeing the progress we’ve made continue,” said Burgess.
Burgess said many of the items related to funding cuts would be making news as the Washington committee reaches decisions in November.