In a move to address its graying population, the city has for the first time teamed up with a non-profit agency to develop housing for middle-income seniors. The Jewish community’s major anti-poverty group won the contract to build a 515-unit apartment building on Staten Island that includes an assisted-living component.
"I predict the demand will be enormous,"said William Rapfogel, executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. "We have many people who have expressed interest: in the city, Westchester and Long Island."
The need for such housing has particular resonance in the Jewish community because the percentage of Jews over 65 is 10 to 15 percent greater than the general population, he said.
Rapfogel pointed out that "New York stands behind the rest of the nation in developing assisted-living housing." And although there has been a recent influx of such housing, it is geared to the wealthy: each unit costs between $3,500 and $5,000 per month. Met Council’s project would cost residents about $2,400 a month. Rapfogel said 200 of the units would have an assisted-living component and that the other 315 would be for those wishing to live independently.
"Those in independent apartments could gain assisted-living help as they need it and without moving," said Rapfogel. "The services (such as assistance in bathing, dressing or even getting up in the morning) would come into play as they need them. Those who don’t need home-care would pay less."
Plans call for a central dining room that would serve three meals a day; each apartment would also have its own kitchenette for those wishing to prepare some meals.
Rapfogel said this housing development would be aimed at those who, because of income or savings, do not qualify for federally subsidized Section 202 housing. There would be no income limitations for this project, which Rapfogel said could break ground as early as next summer for the first 200 units. It would cost between $60 million and $70 million to buy the land: 60 acres on the old Seaview Hospital grounds that lie adjacent to the Jewish community along Brielle Avenue. Tax-exempt bonds floated in conjunction with the city, state and federal governments would finance it.
"We are looking to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for architectural costs, an environmental impact study and legal fees," said Rapfogel. "UJA-Federation is committed to this project and will help us find sources of funds to supplement our own fund raising."
In another development, Rapfogel said that at the behest of City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, an additional $13 million has been allocated by the city to provide senior centers with a sixth day of food. About 20,000 seniors are to receive the packaged meal Friday afternoons to take with them for the weekend. Rapfogel said that until now, many seniors had to sneak food out of the centers in order to have food for the weekend.
Rapfogel said also that UJA-Federation was of assistance in the completion of a citywide telephone survey of 1,016 residents that found broad support for governmental and charitable dollars to provide services to help seniors stay in their own homes.
Rose Dobrof, founding director of the Brookdale Center on Aging in Manhattan, said that finding is not surprising "partly because of one of the age groups surveyed: middle-age children. They are aware of the responsibility they will carry [for their parents] and know that they can’t carry them without communal support and help."
"Because of dual-career families, single-parent families and geographic mobility,’ she continued, "families now and in the future will probably be less able to provide the kinds of hands-on care that sick, chronically ill, disabled or mentally impaired older people need. The younger generation cannot provide that care without the help of the community, and the federal government in particular."
Although the telephone survey was of the general population (Jews comprised 6 percent of those called) Rapfogel said he believed a survey of Jews would wield the same results.
Among the survey’s other findings:
# There was broad public support by all age groups for senior-based services, such as subsidized transportation (70 percent) economic incentives to develop senior housing (78 percent), and more respite care services (74 percent).
# Sixty-six percent of those with parents over the age of 60 believe their parents will stay in their own homes during their retirement years, 7 percent believed they would move into retirement housing in the city, and 17 percent said they believed they would leave the city. When the same question was asked of those over 60, 80 percent said they would stay in their own homes.
# When those with parents over 60 were asked what they worried about most about their parents, 44 percent mentioned health concerns, 9 percent spoke of finances, and 8 percent worried about their parents ability to help themselves.
# Most seniors (65 percent) believe there will be family and friends to help them should they become ill. The number is the same for those with parents over 60. Among those who know that family and friends would not be available, half would look to the government for help, while the rest would rely on religious organizations or charities.
# Twenty-three percent of those surveyed who are under 60 are caregivers and almost half of them work with their parents while 19 percent work with other family members. Twenty-five percent of those with parents over 60 are caring for them. Nineteen percent of those over 60 are caring for someone also over 60. About 25 percent of senior caregivers are also caring for a younger family member at the same time.
# Over half the caregivers still working will miss work at some point as a result of their duties. Thirty-four percent said they needed time-off from their care-giving responsibilities.