Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso announced 10 steps his office plans to take in order to ensure a more age-friendly Brooklyn for the borough’s increasing 65+ adult population.
In partnership with the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) and the Age-friendly Brooklyn Task Force, the initiative – first launched in 2019 by Mayor Eric Adams during his time as Brooklyn BP – narrows down 33 recommendations to the 10 that are believed to hold the most immediate and sizable impact.
Together, with 29 Brooklyn-based organizations, Reynoso plans to utilize the task force’s outlined initiatives for a safer and more age-inclusive borough for the 352,000 65+ adults.
“Building a Brooklyn for all is how we show our love to the people who made our borough the beautiful place it is today,” said Reynoso. “As our borough rapidly grows and our aging community continues to increase, we must make sure it does so equitably – and that means providing the housing, infrastructure, and resources that encourage health, comfort and opportunities for our older adults.”
The released report, outlined below, addressed efforts related to increased housing, transportation, safety, health services and more:
Expand and promote housing options for older adults, including supportive housing, grandparent housing and home sharing options
The task force plans to create a centralized directory for Brooklyn housing information for older adults, incentivize real estate developers to construct affordable housing, increase support for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE), among other outreach efforts.
Ensure safe, clean, well-maintained sidewalks with well-lit intersections in Brooklyn neighborhoods
Through regulating ambient lighting from construction sites and permanent lighting, the initiative hopes for well-lit grounds – while minimizing light pollution – to ensure safety for the borough’s older adults and greater community. This will be accomplished through potential partnerships with local businesses, community boards, business improvement districts, and accessibility coordinators.
“When thinking about issues that are important to older adults, while using a universal approach, it will affect and benefit the entire Brooklyn community,” NYC Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez told the Brooklyn Paper. “Lighting, public safety – these issues not only benefit the older adults – pedestrian safety is for all individuals.”
Provide training to MTA bus drivers on working with older riders and riders with disabilities
The task force will work alongside the beep to advocate for improved training and considerations for older riders who utilize rideshare companies and public transportation. This will be accomplished through establishing contacts with the company community outreach departments and collaborating with MTA education and training offices.
Expand Access to information about news, events, health services and public benefits
In an effort to provide greater access to up-to-date information regarding news, events, health services and economic empowerment programs, the initiative intends to place information kiosks in or near affordable housing buildings, Older Adult Centers (OAC) and Adult Day Health Care Centers. They will prioritize kiosk placement around buildings and neighborhoods with a higher concentration of older adults in order to expand non-digital news options.
Increase digital accessibility and literacy for older adults, including an expansion of computer and technology classes
For less tech-savvy Brooklynites, the task force plans to expand the NYC Free Tablet program and create Wi-Fi enabled media rooms equipped with computers in affordable senior housing sites. They also hope to develop volunteer tech support squads and partnerships with groups like NYC Aging and Older Adults Technology Services to implement digital skills training.
Provide culturally competent mental health services, including language access
The Age-friendly task force plans to not only encourage a healthy body, but a healthy mind for Brooklyn’s 65+ community. Through seeking input and technical assistance from local and national organizations, the force hopes to provide culturally competent training to primary health care physicians so they can effectively educate their patients on mental health.
Establish opportunities for private and public partnerships
In order to encourage economic participation of older adults in the community, the initiative plans to establish an Adopt-an-Older-Adult-Center program to connect OACs with corporate and Brooklyn-based business partners. This will motivate business owners to improve the ways they cater to older Brooklynites.
Increase employment opportunities that fit the diverse vocational needs of older adults
By advertising existing employment opportunities, making digital education more accessible, developing partnerships and supporting older adult entrepreneurs, the initiative intends to increase and prioritize opportunities for older adults to remain in the workforce.
Increase opportunities and funding for programming at cultural institutions, community centers and spaces, and faith-based organizations
The report outlines a wide range of existing arts and culture programs for older adults that the task force intends to increase advertising and funding toward – including Su-Casa, Sing for Your Seniors, NYC Parks, and NYC-ARTS.
Cultivate and promote opportunities for volunteering
In an effort to utilize and involve the skills of experienced older adults, the age-friendly initiative plans to partner with and promote organizations that encourage older adult volunteers, as well as provide training to interested organizations on how to recognize and incorporate those skills.
The report generated by the beep’s office, NYAM and the Age-Friendly task force has attracted the support of other city officials, including Assembly Member Stefani Zinerman and Council Member and Chair of New York City Council Committee on Aging Crystal Hudson.
“We have to do all we can to ensure that our communities are responsive to the needs of our aging population today so that we may all age with the care and dignity we deserve tomorrow,” said Hudson. “I applaud the Office of the Borough President and the New York Academy of Medicine on the release of their recommendations for an age-friendly Brooklyn, and I look forward to continuing to work alongside the Borough President to ensure all New Yorkers have the opportunity to age in place, with dignity, in the city they call home.”