Department for the Aging Partners with Hunter College on Healthy Urban Aging Initiative

Commissioner Edwin Méndez-Santiago, LCSW today announced that the Department for the Aging (DFTA) is partnering with Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity of Hunter College and the United Hospital Fund (UHF) to undertake a three-year effort to improve the quality of life for the city’s older adults. The goal is to develop effective programs in nontraditional health care settings, which will help prevent or delay the onset of chronic conditions that diminish the quality of life through pain, disability or the loss of function. Among the programs under study will be initiatives to improve self-management of diabetes, falls prevention, physical activity, and screening for breast and prostate cancers. This partnership highlights the Department’s commitment to meeting the health needs of the City’s growing and diverse senior population, making New York City a model of support for healthy urban aging. The Department works with more than a third of the seniors in the City and approximately 250,000 seniors have attended one of its 325 senior centers.

“Working with Hunter College’s Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity and United Hospital Fund will ensure reliable, quality information on the health of those who participate in our programs and this information will direct aging services moving forward,” said Commissioner Méndez-Santiago. “This initiative will provide us with important information about the health status of the people we serve as we move forward to modernize aging services in New York City.”

Over the next three years, DFTA will move toward evidence-based outcome measures for its senior center and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) supportive programs. Data on the health status of both NORC and senior center members will be systematically collected and analyzed over time, providing new information that will allow for 1) implementation of evidence-based, population-driven health interventions in these settings, and 2) measuring intervention impact and tracking health outcomes amongst these populations. NORCs are housing developments or neighborhoods that, over time, have become home to large concentrations of seniors. In the City today there are 34 funded NORCs that serve approximately 13,000 seniors. The United Hospital Fund will work closely with these NORCs, Brookdale Center and DFTA staff to identify unmet needs and design effective service strategies.

“We are pleased to be working with the Department for the Aging and the United Hospital Fund on this important effort to help further enhance the Department’s position as a pioneer in healthy urban aging,” said Jennifer J. Raab, president, Hunter College, City University of New York. “New York City has already been recognized by the Administration on Aging as a truly Livable Community and this initiative will further enhance the City’s efforts to meet the needs of its growing senior population.”

Currently, there are 1.3 million seniors over the age of 60 in New York City. According to projections of City’s Department of Planning, the City’s aged 60 and older population will increase almost 50 percent over the next 25 years. The number of oldest-old, those aged 85 years and older, will steadily increase from 122,000 in 2005 to almost 153,000 in 2030 (an increase of 25 percent). By these same projections, the 60 plus population will constitute 16.5 percent of the city’s total population by 2015, increasing to 20.2 percent of the total population by 2030. By 2030 there will be more seniors than school aged children in the city.

The new initiative will be directed by Marianne C. Fahs, Ph.D, MPH, professor of urban public health at Hunter College and the Rose Dobrof Acting Executive Director of the Brookdale Center. From the United Hospital Fund, Project Director Fredda Vladeck will participate in this initiative. The United Hospital Fund is a health services research and philanthropic organization whose mission is to shape positive change in health care for the people of New York. Additionally, Brookdale Center will involve faculty and students from the Schools of Nursing, Social Work, and Health Sciences of Hunter College to implement selected evidence-based prevention and health promotion programs.

The Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity (Hunter College/CUNY), one of the country’s first multi-disciplinary academic gerontology centers, has a long and outstanding reputation in identifying the needs of older New Yorkers, and in working with the service, policy, and philanthropic communities. Brookdale’s commitment to training, education, research and advocacy has significantly improved the quality of life for older New Yorkers in the three decades since its inception. Brookdale maintains an active research and evaluation department, working on many city and state initiatives.