An ongoing public comment period will help inform officials drafting the state's first Master Plan for the Aging and align policy changes and future investments to help New York's increasing elderly population age in place.
About a quarter of New Yorkers will be over the age of 60 by the year 2030, according to the state Office for the Aging. The state is currently home to 4.6 million residents 60 and older.
Town halls will be held around the state this summer as members of the Master Plan for Aging Council prepare a draft to send to Gov. Kathy Hochul later this year. More than 100 people attended the state's second town hall in Albany on Tuesday — with higher pay for home care workers, better transportation and making affordable housing accessible for people with disabilities among the most-mentioned topics.
It was a chance for people like Jeanne Joyce, a 67-year-old immunocompromised Albany resident, to recount how she lost her Section 8 housing after struggling to navigate health care coverage, especially after the state changed long-term care coverage for New Yorkers who receive both Medicare and Medicaid.
"What works for the plan and what works for the agency is what they have to go on, it's not what works for me," she said.
The governor will ultimately review and adopt the final plan in early 2025. She first declared an executive order in November mandating its creation.
The Master Plan for Aging Council was divided into subcommittees to separately work and address a variety of issues plaguing older people, including housing, long-term care, social isolation, transportation, technology use, the workforce, ageism and more.
Advocates like Blaise Bryant said investing home care workers remains the most important needed change to support older and disabled New Yorkers after a $1 raise over the next three years was included in the latest state budget.
He pointed to Hochul's comments during last year's Democratic primary debate when she mentioned increasing home care worker pay $3 an hour last year was "a start."
"The  budget didn't necessarily add to that 'start,'" said Bryant, spokesman for the state Association on Independent Living. "It merely provides a $1-an-hour increase over the next three years, which most certainly does not keep up with the cost to exist — not even the cost of living, because to me living provides some kind of comfort. The cost to exist... which has increased significantly."
The investment in the home care work force needs to be at minimum 150% of the regional minimum wage, he added.
Bryant said home care workers help older and disabled people perform essential daily tasks that help New Yorkers live independently and age in place — or the mission of the Master Plan for Aging.
While the plan will create a blueprint, issues will persist as funding and staffing remains a massive issue in the long-term care and nonprofit sectors.
State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen agrees better benefits, higher pay and other incentives to attract staff must be addressed to bring in and retain a skilled workforce to care for the aging population. He touted the record multi-billion-dollar investments.
"If you can get a job that's paying a couple dollars more in another industry versus some of the things we're trying to do in the care economy, we need to recognize that because people are going to vote with their feet on their own economics," Olsen said.
Olsen and Master Plan for Aging Chair Adam Herbst, the Health Department's deputy commissioner, argue some of the changes will be more cost-effective and allow the state to prevent overspending.
"Part of the process is understanding where the needs are critical, understanding where there's overlap in the system and deciding where we can make efficiencies," Herbst said.
Officials said Tuesday the work to make the plan a reality will continue in next year's state budget and with the help of the Legislature next session. Hochul and legislative leaders will have the final say in where to direct state funds to make the future plan successful.
"Those are decisions that the powers much higher than me are going to have to deliberate on on how to rebalance that to really support people in the community," Olsen said.
Olsen and Herbst encourage New Yorkers to attend town halls in-person or virtually around the state this summer, and again later this year to share their input. Comments can be emailed to MPATownHall@health.ny.gov.
For more information, visit ny.gov/MPA