According to a newly-released report, seniors are a rapidly growing population in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments, and are less healthy than their peers both in the city and nationwide. Published in May 2011, Health of Older Adults in New York City Public Housing was completed by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the New York City Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and for the Aging (DFTA), along with the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Public Health.
Increasing from 53,722 to 61,546 between 2000 and mid-2010, residents aged 65 and older are the fastest-growing age group among NYCHA’s resident population. Overall, older adults account for 6% of the entire New York City population and 17% of the city’s very low income population (households with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level). Older adults are also 15% of all NYCHA residents, and are projected to increase to 20% by 2030. Furthermore, almost half (49%) of older NYCHA residents have very low incomes compared to 19% of all other NYC older adults.
This report supports previous research showing that low income adults generally have higher rates of chronic illness, receive poorer quality of care, and have worse access to health care services than higher income adults. A reliable indicator of physical and mental health, the self-reported health status survey recorded that 61% of aged NYCHA residents described their health status as fair or poor, significantly more than older adults in NYC (40%) and nationally (26%). Thirty-seven percent of older NYCHA residents were diagnosed with diabetes, the fourth leading cause of NYC deaths in 2009, compared to 23% and 18% of older adults in NYC and the US, respectively. Overall, 79% of NYCHA residents aged 65 or older were diagnosed with two or more chronic conditions (diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, or osteoporosis). Older NYCHA residents were also more likely to have a history of diagnosed depression (19%) than older NYC adults (13%).
Despite a 99.3% insurance coverage rate among older NYCHA residents, 11% reported having no personal doctor, 6% lacked needed care at some point in the past year, and 11% reported using an emergency department as a regular source of care. Additionally, 13% of older NYCHA residents reported not taking medication because of cost in the previous year.
The report summarizes survey findings and makes recommendations to improve physical and mental health outcomes among older NYCHA resident. Two key recommendations made were to strengthen NYCHA’s ability to provide more support to its older adult population, as well as strengthening its new and existing collaborations in that area.
Health of Older Adults in New York City Public Housing is based on findings from the NYCHA Senior Survey conducted in June 2009. The survey examines health status and barriers to care in the context of near-universal Medicare coverage for NYCHA residents aged 65 and older. Health of Older Adults in New York City Public Housing can be found at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycha/downloads/pdf/senior-report-nycha.pdf