Older New Yorkers, who make up roughly 13% of the city’s population, are living longer than ever, according to a new report released Thursday from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The life-expectancy of older New Yorkers is now 81.2 years, roughly 2.5 years longer than the national average and up from the reported life expectancy of 80.9 years in 2010. Roughly half of the city’s older New Yorkers, defined as those 65 and older, were born outside the U.S. and are more likely to live in neighborhoods where there are high rates of poverty with less access to medical care.
In a statement Thursday, the city’s health commissioner, Oxiris Barbot, said, “Healthy aging is not a luxury only for those who can afford it. Healthy aging is a right for all New Yorkers.”
Roughly 21% of older adults in New York City live below the federal poverty level, which in 2019 was $12,490 for a single person. Researchers found that 6% of older New Yorkers went without medical care in the past 12 months, and 12% didn’t fill a prescription because of cost.
Life expectancy is largely determined by where a person lives. New research this week from the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine found that large gaps were more likely in cities in which residential racial/ethnic segregation is more common.
In New York City, according to researchers, the life expectancy gap between neighborhoods is as much as 27.4 years. People living in a section of East Harlem may live, on average, 66.3 years, while those in parts of Chinatown live, on average, 93.6 years.
The two reports, taken together, “emphasizes the convergence of social issues that exist throughout the country and city and how they are exacerbated over time and impact individuals in their older years,” said Katelyn Andrews, director of public policy at LiveOn NY, a Manhattan-based advocacy group representing the city’s older New Yorkers. “We are seeing a lot of racial disparities when you are in your older years.”
The city’s health department regularly issues reports examining different population groups to help set priorities across city agencies. The population of older New Yorkers is projected to grow by more than 41% over the next two decades from roughly 1 million to 1.4 million.
Statewide, roughly one in six New Yorkers are 65 and older, according to a 2019 analysis from the Center for an Urban Future.
Health department researchers found than more than half of the older population in New York City rate their own health as good to excellent. Some 97% of older New Yorkers are covered by some form of insurance, and two-thirds of them speak English very well. Women make up 60% of the older population, while men comprise 40%.
Roughly a third of older adults report having sex with one or more people in the past year, with men twice as likely as women to report being sexually active, according to the health department.
About a third of older adults have no dental insurance, with 19% having untreated tooth decay. Four in 10 older New Yorkers have lost six or more teeth; more than half of black older adults have lost six or more teeth.
More than a quarter of older New Yorkers have diabetes, the city’s report found. Only two in five older adults get the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week. Nearly 2/3 of older adults are considered overweight or obese, and 65% have high blood pressure. About a third of older adults live alone.
Write to Melanie Grayce West at firstname.lastname@example.org