A recent report from AARP New York finds older rural New Yorkers are struggling to age in place due to a wealth of disparities.
The two biggest issues outlined in the report are housing and transportation access, each with its own set of challenges.
For housing, many rural homes weren’t built with accessibility in mind and modifications can be costly.
New York’s Access to Home for Medicaid Recipients program, which funds these modifications, received requests totaling $12 million. However, the program only gets enough funding to handle $1 million in improvements.
AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel said she feels a solution to this issue lies in easing zoning laws for accessory dwelling units.
“We could ease the zoning for those,” said Finkel. “Give people the opportunity to adapt their homes or build on smaller pods, onto their homes, so that they can have their family members close by.”
The other issue with housing is affordability. The report finds more than 30% of a person’s income is going toward housing.
It becomes an issue for older adults who are on fixed incomes. Aside from this, she said she hopes the state will provide more funding for the Access to Home for Medicaid Recipients program.
Regarding transportation, Finkel noted that there’s limited access to public transit or ride sharing.
The report also finds groups that provide transportation for seniors don’t have enough funding to make it more widely available.
She said she feels now is the time to affect change to help older people in rural areas.
“It’s really the right time for our governor and more lawmakers to really address these issues,” said Finkel, “so we can have impact and change really what is becoming a dimmer and dimmer picture for rural New Yorkers.”
Some ways to boost transportation in rural areas would be to have more public-private partnerships for transportation and increased funding.
Overall, she said she wants to ensure older New Yorkers living in rural areas have options to age in place, rather than looking elsewhere for the needs of their twilight years.
Edwin is a reporter and producer in North Tonawanda, New York. He’s previously reported for the Niagara Gazette and the Ithaca Times. Edwin got an early start in radio interning for WBFO-88.7FM, NPR’s Buffalo affiliate. In 2018, he graduated from SUNY Buffalo State College with a B.A. in Journalism, and in 2022, graduated from Syracuse University with an M.S. in Communications.