Feb. 9, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A local candidate for city council is vowing to introduce legislation that would pay for safety modifications to be installed at the homes of low-income seniors.
Aleda Gagarin, who is running as a progressive to represent District 29, plans to call on the city to allocate $50 million to pay for the renovations that would include ramps for wheelchair access, grab bars for bathrooms and no-slip showers.
If elected, she would also push to automatically enroll seniors in the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program that would stabilize their rent.
Gagarin–who seeks the seat that covers Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park and Woodhaven–said that the safety modifications would lower the risk of seniors getting injured from falls inside their homes that can lead to hospitalizations. She said low-income seniors are at particular risk since they cannot afford to pay for such safety measures.
“Our elders deserve to be cared for so that they can age in place, here in their communities, where they have laid their roots and built so much for us,” Gagarin said.
Falls are the leading cause of hospitalizations among seniors and cost the city around $722 million annually in hospital bills, Gagarin said, citing Department of Health and Mental Hygiene data.
Safety modifications, Gagarin said, would save taxpayer money in the long term by reducing the number of seniors requiring hospital treatment.
She said the safety modifications would also save the city on nursing home expenses since many injured seniors end up going into long-term care facilities for assistance during their recovery.
“This is a very efficient and cost-effective way that the city can help our elders age in their home and in dignity,” Gagarin said.
Gagarin said the funds would be administered through the city’s Home Repair Assistance for Seniors program that pays for home improvement work like plumbing and repairs for seniors of low or moderate-income.
She said the program would be modeled on Washington DC’s Safe At Home program that provides grants of up to $10,000 to seniors and people with disabilities for home safety modifications.
Gagarin said that seniors whose Area Median Income is at 80 percent or less would be eligible for a grant under her proposal.
“It would be such a small public cost compared to a hospital visit or nursing home costs,” Gagarin said.
Gagarin also says that she wants to protect seniors from rent hikes.
As part of her campaign platform, Gagarin would call for the automatic enrollment of seniors in the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program.
The program freezes rent for seniors but Gagarin said that around half of eligible seniors are not signed up, citing a report by the City Comptroller.
She said that many seniors are unaware of the program or unsure of how to apply. Automatic enrollment would ensure that the program is not underutilized and seniors can live affordably, she added.