Potential Cuts to Senior Services Are the Unkindest Cuts of All

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    NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 11: Julia Rosales waits in the Delany Medical Center after receiving her flu shot on November 11, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The medical center has experienced higher than average interest in the shots as they have supplies of both the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine. Due to limited supplies and nationwide concern over the flu, the web browser Google unveiled a new service yesterday which will assist people in finding the closest places to receive their seasonal and H1N1 flu shots. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    They are among the most vulnerable of New Yorkers.

    It’s hard to understand how, when the budget axe falls, it has to fall so hard on senior citizens.

    Yet that is what is being considered by Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli of the city’s Department of the Aging. Under City Hall’s order to cut budgets to make up for a $3.3 billion deficit in the fiscal year beginning next July, she is thinking about trimming home counseling services for senior citizens by 40 percent.

    That’s what the Wall Street Journal learned -- though the commissioner refused to discuss it.

    Bobbie Sackman, a long-time advocate for the elderly, said: “You’re really saying to 85-year-old people in this city: ‘We’re not going to take care of you. We’re going to let you fend for yourselves.’ The Bloomberg administration, with each big cut to the Department of the Aging, is abandoning elderly people in this city.”

    She told me: “The city is eviscerating the system. The caseworker helps the frail, elderly person to get help. She tries to organize the person’s life, getting needed services, handling financial and medical crises.

    “If this cut goes through, too many senior citizens will be left alone at home. They may be depressed. They may suffer abuse from relatives. The absence of social workers can really hurt or even result in death.”

    In the Scriptures, old age is called a “splendor.”

    It would be sad if the progress New York City has made in 40 years in reaching out and caring for the elderly was destroyed by penny-pinching bureaucrats. The idea of slashing the budget for this tiny city department is totally insensitive. We can’t balance the budget on the backs of old people.

    In a society where the proportion of elderly people grows every year, we can’t forget our history. We have to try to make old age a splendor, not a disaster.