I’ve been thinking more and more about my grandma lately as I walk around my neighborhood in Crown Heights. My apartment is near a nursing home and two senior centers, and I often see my intrepid, eighty-year-old neighbor making the three block trek from his home to the grocery store with only the help of his walker. While at first glance, my gentrifying neighborhood might look like it’s getting younger every year, if you look more closely, you’ll notice the growing number of older folks all around.
My neighborhood isn’t unique. Every eight seconds in America, someone turns 65. The aging Baby Boom generation has been called a “Silver Tsunami” because of the unprecedented demands that will be placed on our healthcare system as this generation ages and life expectancy increases.
Like my own grandma, most seniors prefer to stay in their homes and communities as they age. But not everyone can or should rely on family caretakers. The good news is that home care services exist to help people stay in their homes longer. The bad news? Our current home care system is not ensuring the dignity and respect that everyone deserves.
Seniors and people with disabilities have trouble accessing affordable, high-quality home care. For care workers, wages and benefits are poor, and there is a lack of training and career ladders. Today, one in seven low-wage workers in New York City is a home care worker. High turnover rates—up to 60% in NYC— threaten quality of care and the stability of the industry, making it hard to imagine how there will be enough home care jobs to allow a growing number of seniors to live independently.
In the next two decades, up to one million more New Yorkers will require home care, and home health aides and home attendants are projected to be the two highest-growth occupations in the city. We need to make sure these jobs are real careers with good pay and training, which will reduce turnover and improve the quality of care our loved ones receive.We need to join with our grandparents, parents, and senior friends and neighbors to rise to the challenge.
As the most populous borough, the age wave will have a big impact on Brooklyn. Already, many of the city’s seniors, home care workers and domestic workers call Brooklyn home. My organization, ALIGN, is part of a growing movement called, Caring Across Generations, that is working in Brooklyn and throughout the city and the nation to build relationships between seniors, people with disabilities and home care workers, and to work together to improve the home care system.
This weekend, we’re letting seniors know that we care for them—and that we’re committed to making sure that they’re cared for in the long-term, too. We’ll be celebrating Grandparents Day on Sunday in Fort Greene Park at 2 pm, with music, activities and refreshments.
This is only one of many intergenerational events we’ll be hosting in Brooklyn this year. Please visit our website to learn more about Caring Across Generations and how you can get involved.