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Officials hold town hall in Plattsburgh on draft New York State Master Plan on Aging

Welcome to New York sign (file)
Pat Bradley
Welcome to New York sign (file)

The New York State Department of Health and the state Office for the Aging have drafted a Master Plan for Aging and are holding a series of Town Halls across the state to discuss the plan. A recent session was held in Plattsburgh.

The meetingat Clinton Community College was intended to gather input on the plan that looks to assure access to programs and services for aging New Yorkers and people with disabilities by creating public-private collaborations.

Master Plan for Aging Chair and Department of Health Office of Aging and Long-Term Care Deputy Commissioner Adam Herbst calls state plan ambitious and unique.

“We need to ensure that the services, the supports and all the care that we provide in New York to New Yorkers with disabilities are addressed in our plan to facilitate them to continue to thrive and age in New York.”

Herbst added ageism, discrimination and ableism are real problems that undermine aging New Yorkers.

“We want to do what is needed to ensure that we in the state of New York have the resources to continue to provide those supports and services and work together at the state level, at the local level, to be coordinated as a whole, so that we can provide for all the different communities to ensure that people can age with dignity and independence.”

Master Plan for Aging Vice Chair and New York state Office for the Aging Director Greg Olsen noted that the majority of older New Yorkers are active and healthy, the top givers to charities, the number one volunteer group, the largest entrepreneur group and a huge tourism block. He says the Master Plan recognizes that service needs cannot be structured in a cookie-cutter fashion.

“How do we better engage individuals? How can we help folks if they want to go back to work or they want to volunteer, be civically engaged or how do we combat social isolation? How do we provide better transportation to get people together? Looking at people holistically not just from a deficits perspective.”

Association on Aging in the State of New York Executive Director Becky Preve says as the plan is finalized, past problems should be assessed.

“I think the Master Plan really needs to take the look at recommendations and policies that were either piloted with success and then funding went away or never implemented because of the resource issue. And I think when you talk about the overall state budget it’s imperative to look at the fact that we know about the aging population. We know they’re 43 percent of the tax base. Yet the New York state Office for the Aging budget is less than 1 percent of the overall state budget. And I think when you look back at Assembly and Senate hearings over the course of the past ten years you have thousands of hours of individuals that testified not only about aging services but also about disability services.”

AARP New York Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy David McNally, a resident of Essex County, advocated that concerns of family caregivers be included in the master plan.

“The unpaid, informal family caregiver is the backbone to all of this long-term care. And I so appreciate the opportunity and the direction and the passion for all this. But in the end if there’s not the resources behind it to make seismatic change in what we do here, then what’s the point?”

The Master Plan for Aging was established in November 2022 under an Executive Order issued by Governor Kathy Hochul. Adoption of a final plan is targeted in 2025.