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JASA and other organizations for older New Yorkers are encouraging people to harness the attention of the new city government

Upper West Side There are more than 1 million people over 65 living in NYC, and by 2030 that number is expected to increase by 50 percent. With so much of the city changing, the Jewish Association for Serving the Aging (JASA) on the Upper West Side hopes to highlight the needs of older New Yorkers.

JASA has been making sure seniors take advantage of a moment of transition at City Hall, with a new mayor and 21 new city council members in office, making the issues important to them a part of the new administration's agenda. In addition to their senior advocacy courses offered through Sundays at JASA, the organization recently held a conference titled "A New Age for New York 2014."

In partnership with the UJA Federation of New York, JASA offered six different workshops ranging from topics like "Our Changing Political Landscape" to "Technological Trends for Tomorrow." The event gathered many familiar faces within the JASA community, like Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, but also welcomed new faces like Kathryn Zickuhr of the Pew Research Center.

Zickuhr ran the workshop on technological trends, discussing ways for seniors to learn more about social media, tablets, and smart phones. After her presentation, she encouraged the seniors taking the workshop to discuss their own experiences and concerns with technology.

Michael Noble discussed the immense resources the internet has to offer to seniors.

"The bottom line [of technology] is that it offers us a vast resource of knowledge. We shouldn't be intimidated by it," Noble said. "The more information you know, the longer you will live."

A popular topic among many attending the workshop was housing - mainly rent stabilization and giving more power to older tenants who are often pressured to move out of their rent controlled apartments. The workshops "Age-Friendly NYC" and "Transforming and Sustaining Spaces" addressed several issues surrounding housing in New York. Participants discussed concerns about making their homes more suitable to their needs as they grow older, and how to get help from their landlords to do so.

Caitlin Smith ran the "Age-Friendly NYC" workshop and raised the point that so many buildings that were not designed with senior citizens in mind, now have dozens of senior tenants who have been living in the same apartment for decades. Things like walk-up apartments and deep bathtubs can lead to serious falls and injuries.

"What age-friendly really means is figuring out how neighborhoods can sustain people, allowing them to stay in their homes," explained Borough President Gale Brewer. "This community of older New Yorkers is so vocal, so intelligent, and so committed to their communities. It is important for them to be kept up to date, so this [conference] is a great way to do it."

JASA stays on top of informing seniors about ways to get involved with their communities, and prepare themselves for the many different issues that can arise with aging. Doris Welch was raised in New York, and was introduced to the JASA class Institute for Senior Action (IFSA) through her union when she retired in 2000. She was happy to have taken the course because it made her aware of countless resources she didn't know existed.

Soon after retiring her brother became sick, and she explained that if she had not taken the 10-week IFSA class, she wouldn't have been able to find the best hospitals and homes for him that supplied the care he needed, and how to talk to social workers.

"There is a huge amount of seniors that don't feel comfortable leaving their own neighborhoods, but JPAC (Joint Public Affairs Committee for Older Adults) and JASA have really gone into the communities to see what people need," Welch said. "They've gone into the community centers, and with advocates like myself and others we have been able to work with the Department of Aging in increasing the awareness of what seniors really need. Ultimately that is the most important way to make New York safer for seniors."

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