By Philip Lentz
Most New Yorkers of color over age 50 retire near the poverty line. They are more than twice as likely as older white residents to spend over half their income on housing.
And 330,000-plus New Yorkers 60 and older are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps) but have not signed up for it.
These are a few of the troubling findings in three briefs issued by AARP New York that highlight the stark and growing disparities among older state residents.
The briefs focus on the difficulties that older New Yorkers of color face in attaining economic security as well as access to affordable housing, transportation and health care.
AARP New York is using the briefs to press public officials to adopt policy changes that address the inequities. The briefs note that New York’s communities of color—which include African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders—grew by 16 percent from 2000 to 2016 while the state’s white non-Hispanic population decreased by 10 percent.
AARP New York is publicizing the disparities revealed in the findings and is working with advocacy organizations such as the NAACP, Urban League, the Asian American Federation and the Hispanic Federation.
The briefs recommend a state tax credit for caregivers, state-facilitated retirement accounts for employees of small businesses and, if possible, automatic enrollment in the food stamp program for those who qualify. To see the findings and recommendations, go to aarp.org/nydisruptdisparities.
“There are so many glaring disparities and we realized that no one was looking through the lens of the 50-plus,” said Beth Finkel, AARP New York state director.
“This is just the beginning. We’re asking policymakers, thought leaders, advocates and all New Yorkers to tell us what disparities they’re seeing out there, and if there is research, send it to us, and share solutions with us.”
The briefs are based on interviews with stakeholder groups and medical institutions, along with government data. They also cite the following statistics:
- The retirement incomes of white New Yorkers 50-plus are almost double those of people of color.
- New Yorkers of color make up 46 percent of employees without access to a workplace retirement plan.
- Among older New Yorkers, a higher proportion of African Americans and Latinos suffer from chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
- Older New Yorkers of color have less access to safe, affordable housing, transportation options and neighborhood amenities than older white New Yorkers.
Some of the other report recommendations include:
- Enacting state telehealth laws to make it easier for older residents to access medical care.
- Cracking down on deed-theft scams that target older homeowners of color.
- Adopting zoning laws to encourage affordable housing in gentrifying neighborhoods.
- Making streets and mass transit safer for older adults.
“AARP’s purpose is to empower people to choose how to live as they age,” the executive summary of the briefs says.
But the key disparities in health care and economic security among older New Yorkers, the summary says, “create inequalities that can limit or even impede their choices.”
Philip Lentz is a writer living in New York City.