Comprehensive Master Plan on Aging in NY

Independent Perspective 1726 with Todd Vaarwerk about Gov. Hochul's Executive Order creating a Comprehensive Master Plan on Aging in New York.

Host:  Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Todd Vaarwerk, the Chief Policy Officer of WNYIL and I'm your host Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to program Todd.

Guest:  Always good to be here.

Host:  You're with us today because you're our expert on all things having to do with government policy and whatnot. And within the last few weeks Governor Cathy Hochul has done something which may ultimately have consequences for older New Yorkers. What is it and why does that affect people that are served by independent living?

Guest:  Well as all of our regular listeners know, independent living as a program that is birth to death. We serve disabled children at less than a year old, all the way up to the advanced aged, all the way up into the senior system brackets. And the thing that Kathy Hochul did, surprisingly right before election day, was to make moves to stick to creating a master state plan for aging. Right? Only the second state in the country to do that. To get all of the State Department's together, health, aging, housing, transportation to talk about how to make New York a better city for seniors to live in.

Host:  Better city did you say?

Guest:  I'm sorry, better state. A better state for folks to live in. We think that this is great, independent living has been talking about all this stuff for years. It's a core part of our independent living principles. We want communities to be accessible and safe and healthy and walkable and all of these things that are elements of the master plan for aging. So, we think that this is really kind of a bold first step as she moves into her first official term that she's elected for.

Host:  That's wonderful. And just so people understand this, there's a fair number of people who are on up in years that would be considered to have a disability.

Guest:  Yes. Oh, yeah. It's called aging into disability. You know, as you get older, you might not be walking on your own anymore. You might be using a mobility device, a cane or a walker, or a wheelchair if you need one. You may have advanced medical needs. For things like diabetes or high blood pressure. You might have a cognitive difficulty as you age. And all of these are factors and being able to make a state more livable. And all the factors are all the things that independent living are constantly talking about. Things like more affordable and accessible housing, more affordable and accessible transportation, accessible health care equipment and facilities. All of these things are going to be front row center in terms of the stuff that the governor talks about, in creating a master plan for aging. Strengthening the aging network, making sure it's easier for people to get Meals on Wheels, for example.

Host:  And in fact, isn't there encoded right into law that people over a certain age are automatically considered disabled because they're called frail elderly?

Guest:  Yes, if you're if you're over 85 years of age, you meet the category of being a frail elderly, even if you're not frail, right? It's kind of like readily achievable isn't always achievable, but that's what they call it.

Host:  Todd, would you believe we're totally out of time, I'm sure if people will have questions. How can they reach you?

Guest:  They can always call my office 716-836-0822 extension 101 and I'd be happy to answer any questions they might have.

Host:  Thank you so much for bringing all your knowledge and experience to the program, and best of luck as you help the state develop this. You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today has been Todd Vaarwerk, Chief Policy Officer of WNYIL and I've been your host Ernie Churchwell.