Or how the magic of Manhattan can sprinkle its stardust on 305,446 60-plusers who call it home BY DOUGLAS FEIDEN
It's hard to conjure up a better place for senior living than Manhattan: Crime is low. Streets are safe. Livability is high. Discounts are bountiful. Culture is unrivaled. Central Park is heavenly. SummerStage concerts are free.
Volunteerism is a way of life: Kind hearts will escort you to doctor visits. Deliver meals to your home. Take you to an opera or museum. Read a volume of poetry. Walk the dog. Match wits in a game of chess or Go or pinochle.
Social isolation? There are 1.56 million ways to fight it. In other words, the entire population of this very sociable island, from the doorman to the shopkeep to the next-door neighbor. Consider an old-fashioned coffee klatch, bridge club or Mah-jongg circle. Or a new-fangled Pilates class.
Infrastructure? Benches are sprouting up on avenues. Pedestrian-safety islands on streets. Countdown clocks at intersections. Crossing times on Broadway have been increased. Sidewalks extended. Crossing distances shortened.
From Dutch times to modern times, Manhattan has enthralled every age group fortunate enough to call it home. But never in that 400-year history has it ever been more user-friendly to the aging, the old and the very old than it is today.
Boarding the new Second Avenue Subway? Every station is wheelchair accessible. Touring the relatively new High Line? Five elevators whisk you up to the elevated park. Visiting the newer still Sept. 11 Museum? Service animals and mechanized scooters take you down to bedrock.
Give City Hall some credit: The de Blasio administration boosted aging services by $84 million over three years, or 59%, investing in geriatric mental health and caregiver programs, providing weekend meals to seniors and curbing long waitlists for homecare and other services.
Broiling in your apartment in the summer heat wave? There's even a “Cooling Assistance Program” that provides a limited number of air conditioners to seniors with medical conditions exacerbated by heat.
“What's not to love?” says Lydia Cohen, an 84-year-old retired teacher and widow who lives off West 79th Street and loves her occasional forays into three national treasures nearby – the New-York Historical Society, American Museum of Natural History and Children's Museum of Manhattan.
“They're practically on my door step,” she says over delectable-looking, house-toasted granola with dried cranberries at the Nice Matin bistro on Amsterdam Avenue. “And you can't beat the prices.”
Gleefully, she ticks off the $17 suggested tab for seniors at the Museum of Natural History, a $5 discount. The $16 Historical Society ducat, also a $5 break. As for the $11 it costs her at the Children's Museum, “That's $3 less than the price I pay for my grandson!” she says.
Cohen has a daughter living in a “very nice, very sweet, very dull New Jersey suburb” who's been urging her mother to move in. But she tells her, “rather politely,” not to hold her breath:
“Like Ed Koch, I want to live and die right here in Manhattan,” she says.
The data suggests that thousands of other seniors share Cohen's point of view.
Wait a minute. That day has already arrived on the Upper East Side, where 25.31% of the population, or 54,106 people, is aged 60 or above, and on the Upper West Side, with a 24.25% tally, or 45,410 seniors.
By contrast, the more youthful downtown neighborhoods — Tribeca, Wall Street, Soho, Greenwich Village — have a much smaller populace of 60-plusers, 16.83%, according to “Profile of Older New Yorkers,” a 2016 report by the Dept. for the Aging.
Old really does mean old: On the West Side and East Side respectively, there are 5,486 and 4,713 residents aged 85 or older, versus just 1,831 downtown. As for the census of those 75 and up, nothing comes close to the East Side's 12,825 people. The West Side boasts 9,195.
In the city as a whole, 17.6 percent of residents are 60-plus. Brooklyn is a little younger, with 16.8 percent aged 60 or up, and Queens is a tad older, at 18.1 percent. But nothing compares to the graying of Manhattan, where 19.6 percent of the borough's population, or 305,446 residents, are so-called oldsters.
In 1980, Manhattan's life expectancy at birth for both sexes was 71.04 years. By 2000, it had climbed to 77.8 years. As of 2014, it had hit 81.86 years, according to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. It's still growing.
The outer boroughs don't come close. Brooklyn may be red-hot, but life expectancy there stands at 80.47 years, or 1.39 fewer years. Statewide, longevity is 80.36. And for the U.S. as a whole, the overall rate is 78.8.
Meanwhile, several Manhattan communities have outpaced borough-wide longevity, according to an April report on vital statistics by the city's Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Upper East Siders — with expected life spans of 85.9 years in 2015 — outlived both the rest of Manhattan and all four outer boroughs. And downtown residents, from the village to the Battery, can be expected to live 85.8 years.
Not only that, live-alone numbers are much higher in Chelsea, Clinton and midtown, 55.8 percent, and slightly higher on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side, 42.74 percent and UES 41.30 percent respectively.
Getting sick can be horrifying. The only saving grace: It's a prescription for receiving the most skilled medical care in the U.S. Three Manhattan hospitals were listed among the “2016-2017 Best Hospitals Honor Roll,” along with 17 other top medical centers in the nation.
No. 1 in the city and No. 6 in America was the 2,381-bed NewYork-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell, which ranked nationally in 15 adult and 10 pediatric specialties, according to the U.S. News & World Report rankings.
NYU Langone Medical Center ranked second in the city and No. 10 nationwide, while Mount Sinai Hospital ranked third in New York and No. 15 in the U.S.
How extraordinary are these three institutions for senior care? U.S. News evaluated 4,500 hospitals in 50 states and winnowed them out as the crème de la crème. No other city boasted more than two hospitals in the top 20.
The average score was 50. Manhattan merited a 70 — and outpointed such hot spots as San Francisco, Boston, Miami and Los Angeles. It even left self-referential Brooklyn (63) in the dust.
In all of America, the No. 2 most livable neighborhood was deemed to be the Upper West Side. While it's somewhat of a mystery that a place called Mifflin West, in Madison, Wisconsin, was ranked No. 1, hey, this is the AARP's bread and butter, so let's assume they know what they're talking about.
“Great restaurants, world-class culture, easy access to gyms and Central Park jogging paths,” marveled the AARP in tipping its hat to the West Side. “Expensive housing, but a walkable neighborhood with cheap and convenient mass transit. Multigenerational community.”