Suozzi talks senior care in Manhasset

Suozzi talks senior care in Manhasset
A panel of health experts and Rep. Tom Suozzi met at the Manhasset Public Library to discuss elder care. (Courtesy of Suozzi's Facebook page)

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) described it as “a storm here and a storm coming.”

Of Nassau County’s 1.4 million residents, about 310,000 are over the age of 60. Those over 60 are also the county’s fastest-growing demographic, according to the deputy commissioner for Nassau’s Human Services Office for the Aging, Jorge Martinez.

The rapidly growing senior population of Long Island was the reason behind Suozzi’s “Aging in Place Roundtable” event held on Tuesday at the Manhasset Public Library.

Martinez was one of several officials from Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties (parts of the three make up Suozzi’s district) who attended to speak about the challenges in caring for a graying population and look at what was working.

“[Building] more nursing homes is not enough,” Suozzi said.

The program opened with a panel consisting of several local officials who worked with seniors. In addition to Martinez, there was Greg Olsen, the acting director of the New York State Office for the Aging; Karen Taylor, the assistant commissioner for the New York City Department for the Aging; Holly Rhodes-Teague, the director for the Suffolk County Office for the Aging; Dr. Maria Carney, the chief of geriatrics and palliative care at Northwell Health; and Paula Uhl and Rebecca Miller, the deputy commissioners for the Town of North Hempstead’s Project Independence.

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth opened the panel.

“It’s not easy to get a group of people together and have them all agree on something,” she said. “But I think that today we all can agree that caring for our country’s senior citizens is of paramount importance.”

Bosworth touted the town’s Project Independence, which provides a range of services such as social activities and transportation to local seniors.

“Project Independence … it started very small, it didn’t start as something that took care of the entire town,” she said. “It started with a NORC, or Naturally Occurring Retirement Community … we are so grateful that we have been able to do this thanks to the support of our residents … and in no small part because of the advocacy of Congressman Suozzi.”

The directors of several NORCs spoke during a second panel, although discussion of Project Independence was part of the first. Uhl said the program’s success was due to the partnerships it formed with outside organizations and the fact that it worked closely with the town’s 311 service to provide services.

“It’s not so much what we provide but how we provide it,” she said.

Carney, who previously served as the commissioner of the Nassau County Department of Health, said providing these services was essential to getting seniors out of the hospital.

“If you don’t have someone to care for you [at home], you can’t do anything,” she said. “We want to send people home [from the hospital] but they’re not set up for that.”

In a post on Facebook later on Tuesday, Suozzi wrote that money alone will not solve the problem. Instead, efforts should be made to create more NORCs and have senior centers, hospitals, nonprofits and local governments working together.

“Today was a great first step,” he wrote.

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance

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