I am pleased to share with you the work of the Assembly Committee on Aging this year. 2009 will be remembered as a year of changes and improvements, as well as a year filled with difficult choices. I am happy to report that the Assembly’s commitment to the health and welfare of older New Yorkers remains strong and will not waver in the face of our difficult circumstances.
In my two sessions as Chairman of the Aging Committee, I have had the opportunity to tour the state and meet with seniors and program directors to learn about the issues that directly impact them. Issues ranging from transportation assistance, long-term care, healthcare, prescription drug coverage, property taxes, and the rigors of day-to-day life for older adults have shaped my view that, given these constraints, it is the responsibility of my colleagues in the legislature to enable our older citizens to continue to live in our communities – aging in place.
I would like to reassure everyone that we in the Assembly remain committed to addressing issues that impact the lives of seniors now and for many years to come. I look forward to facing these challenges in the upcoming year.
Chairman, Assembly Committee on Aging
Earlier this year the New York State Office for the Aging Celebrated Senior Citizens Day in Albany. Each year, the Assembly Committee on Aging selects a recipient of the Senior Citizen of the Year award to be presented at the annual Senior Citizens Day celebration. This year, Assemblyman Dinowitz had the honor of presenting the award to Joseph Librizzi of Oceanside, New York.
Joe is truly a remarkable member of our community. He is a retired high school teacher and World War II veteran who served on the USS Balao in the Pacific theater. In 1955, he co-founded the United States Submarine Veterans Organization to keep alive the memories of the more than 3,000 sailors who died at sea. Since 1992, Joe has been a volunteer at South Nassau Hospital, where he has helped out as a messenger, worked in the emergency room, and ran errands for hospital staff.
Joe is truly an asset to the people of New York. We would like to again congratulate him for his recognition as 2009’s Senior Citizen of the Year.
The Assembly Committee on Aging, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, held a memory screening event in Albany. The goal of the event was to raise awareness about memory issues and healthy aging for all New Yorkers.
Memory screening is a form of preventative medicine that looks to identify the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, which can begin to manifest themselves in people as young as 50. Memory screening will not produce a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, but is an assessment tool used to refer people to their healthcare providers for further testing.
The event also showcased the Alzheimer’s Foundations “Quilt to Remember,” a heartfelt arts’ initiative that includes more than 110 emotional and powerful quilt panels crafted by individuals and organizations from across the nation, including New York.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease or memory screening events, visit the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s Web site at www.alzfdn.org.
Significant Legislation - 2009
Senior Drug Guide – A. 1962 (Benjamin); Passed Assembly
This bill would require the New York State Office for the Aging to publish a guide explaining the purpose, function, and potential drug interactions of drugs commonly used by persons over the age of 62. The creation of a prescription drug guide for seniors would make seniors aware of the specific effects of the drugs seniors commonly use.
Financial Exploitation Prevention Outreach, Education, and Training Program – A. 4743 (Englebright); Passed Assembly
This bill would create a Financial Exploitation, Outreach, Education, and Training Program within the New York State Office for the Aging. Seniors are often an attractive target of financial exploitation for a number of reasons. Seniors control over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth. They may not realize the value of their assets, and often do not know what action to take when they are the victims of financial abuse.
Missing Vulnerable Adults Clearinghouse – A. 5220-A (Magnarelli); Passed Assembly
This bill would create an alert system to find missing individuals age 18 or older who have any cognitive impairment, mental disability, or brain disorder. The Commissioner of the Department of Criminal Justice would be authorized to develop a system that local law enforcement personnel could promptly activate upon confirmation of a report of a missing vulnerable adult.
Model Zoning and Planning Guidelines – A. 3397 (Englebright); Passed Assembly
This bill would require the New York State Office for the Aging to develop model zoning and planning guidelines that foster age-integrated communities, including the incorporation of senior units in areas currently zoned for single family residences and for mixed-use development.
Long-Term Care Worker Training Pilot Program – A. 5864 (Lifton); Passed Assembly
This bill would expand access to quality training for long-term care workers to improve the quality of care available to seniors and improve access to care in high needs areas of the State.
Senior Citizen Rent Increase Expansion Program – A.1800 (Dinowitz)/S.2210 (Diaz); Vetoed
This year the Assembly passed, and the Governor vetoed, A.1800 (Dinowitz), which would authorize local governments to allow seniors to offset the income they report for eligibility in the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program by the amounts they paid for out-of-pocket medical and prescription drug expenses that were not reimbursed.
Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC)
EPIC is New York State’s prescription plan for seniors aged 65 and older with an income of $35,000 or less for single seniors, or $50,000 or less for married seniors. It covers almost all prescription medicines, including insulin and insulin syringes, and works with Medicare Part D. For more information, the toll-free EPIC hotline is available at: (800) 332-3742.
This year in the budget, a few changes were made to the EPIC program. The program was expanded to include out-of-state pharmacies that register with the state, which gives seniors more options when choosing a pharmacy that meets their needs. In addition, the EPIC program will now enroll eligible seniors in low-income subsidies and savings programs for Medicare.
Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program (SCRIE )
This program is available to people age 62 or over who are heads of the household and live in rent-controlled or rent-regulated apartments or Mitchell-Lama public housing. To be eligible, renters must also pay one-third or more of their income for rent. The income limit can be up to $29,000, depending on where the senior lives. Contact the local government or the NYC Department for the Aging at 311 to find out the limit in each locality.
Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
New York State’s Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) helps pay heating costs. Eligibility is determined by annual income and household size. To find out more about HEAP, call the New York State Senior Citizen Office for the Aging hotline at (800) 342-9871 or the local office for the aging. In New York City, the NYC Department for the Aging can be reached at 311.
The State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offer services to assist residents in making energy-efficient improvements to their homes to further reduce their energy costs. For more information, contact DHCR at 1-866-ASK-DHCR or NYSERDA at 1-866-NYSERDA.
Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program (EISEP)
If taking care of everyday chores is a problem, EISEP can help. The program helps people aged 60 and over who want to live at home but need help with everyday activities, such as dressing, bathing, shopping and cooking. The cost depends on the senior’s income. Call the local office for the aging for more information.