Habitat for Humanity Supporting Aging in Place Efforts; Village Movement Growing in Capital District

Habitat for Humanity is highlighting its aging in place efforts in its most recent newsletter  The international organization best known for constructing houses for low income households says that one third of its efforts are now focused on aging in place through its home repair efforts for older persons who want to stay living where they are.  The projects are locally driven and the newsletter says many local chapters of Habitat for Humanity are engaging in these efforts.  There is no national requirement for each chapter to do so.  Contact should be made with the local chapter to learn of their efforts to help older persons remain living in the community through home repair.

Meanwhile, forty persons turned out in the Albany County town of Bethlehem on May 24 for an informational session sponsored by the Albany Guardian Society to discuss the Village Movement.  The Guardian Society is embarking on an effort to create a network of “Villages of the Capital District”to promote the movement that is spreading nationally for aging in place communities.  There are currently several villages formed or forming in the Albany area including a newly formed Bethlehem Neighbors organization. Throughout the Town of Bethlehem which includes the well known communities of Delmar, Slingerlands and Glenmont there is interest among residents to develop aging in place communities such as the villages.

Another new entity is Livingston Village, in the City of Albany which is sponsored by Senior Services of Albany.  It converted an old middle school into  a senior apartment community.   There is another village being developed in the West Hill neighborhood in Albany.

The Capital Area Council of Churches, New York StateWide Senior Action Council and Community Caregivers based in Guilderland are all interested in supporting villages in the region.  Colonie Senior Service Centers is also working on aging in place efforts.

A long established NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) in southwest side of Albany is run by Jewish Family Services and funded by the New York State Office for the Aging.

Community Caregivers currently performs many of the functions of a village in several towns in Albany County.  The organization provides transportation, friendly visits, re-assurance phone calls, chores and educational support meetings.   I am working as a consultant for Community Caregivers and the organization is considering how to it can best support  and be part of the village movement.

Mike Burgess

How They Voted on Physician Assisted Suicide

Here is the vote in the Assembly Health Committee on A.10059 (Paulin) on Monday, May 23, 2016.  This is the first vote on this bill.  13 Democrats voted in favor and 6 against.  5 Republicans voted against and 1 in favor and 1 excused


Abinanti YEA

Braunstein YEA

Cahill NAY

Cymbrowitz NAY

Dinowitz YEA

Duprey YEA

Galef YEA

Garbarino NAY

Goodell NAY

Gottfried YEA

Gunther NAY

Hevesi YEA

Jaffe YEA


Lavine YEA


Mayer NAY


Paulin YEA

Peoples-Stokes NAY


Raia NAY

Rosenthal YEA

Schimminger NAY


Steck  YEA

Titone YEA

Walter NAY

Tally:   14 YEA, 11 NAY, 1 EXCUSED.

Assembly Health Committee Approves Physician Assisted Suicide by 14-11

The Assembly Health Committee approved A10059, to allow aid in dying or physician assisted suicide in a 14-11 vote late Monday afternoon. We are waiting to get an official vote count but it seems that five Democrats may have voted against the bill and one Republican voted in favor with another Republican absent who was opposed. The bill now goes to the Assembly Codes Committee.  It is unknown if the committee will move the bill. this year. The Codes Committee  has been known as  a committee that seeks to review all the law changes that will be required in each bill.  So, that process may take longer that the few weeks left in the session.

Assembly Health Committee to Vote of Physician Assisted Suicide Bill

On Monday, May 23, the Assembly Health Committee has scheduled a vote on the physician assisted suicide bill.   Usually, bill sponsors bring a bill for a vote if they think they have the votes to pass it.  The bill is A10059 and is a new bill combining two previous versions.  Assemblywoman Amy Paulin is the sponsor along with Senator Diane Savino.

Private tallies show the vote to be very close, perhaps within a vote or two.  At least three members of the 26 member committee are considered to be undecided.   At least four Democrats on the committee are known to be opposed with one other feeling that the bill needs more study and review.   One Republican, Janet Duprey,  is a co-sponsor of the bill.  She was recently added to the Health Committee.  Even if the bill passes the committee, it is considered unlikely to be brought to the floor for a vote this year.  Its floor chances are uncertain since many Hispanic and African American legislators are known to be opposed.

Disabled groups and the coalition opposed are upset that the bill is being voted on “off the floor.”  As the session winds down, many of the committees do so, meeting outside the Assembly chamber.  This process though is not as accessible or transparent.  Sometimes   the exact time and place of these meetings are quickly called with little chance for the public to know.   There will likely be a lively debate.

The New York State Catholic Conference, New Yorkers for Constitutional Rights, the New York Hospice and Palliative Care Association, the Medical Society of the State of New York and the several disabled groups including Not Dead Yet are against the bill.  The umbrella coalition opposing the bill is the Patients Rights Action Fund.

I believe the fact that this bill is being brought up so quickly just shows that the coalition support it and the bill sponsors are trying to show some progress in New York, the year after California passed the bill.  They  seem to be  more interested in providing the suicide option than making sure that hospice and palliative care are fully utilized and promoted.

Scientists Keep Pushing to Extend Lifespan by Decades; 116 Year Old Italian Woman Now Oldest and Last Person Born in 1800s

A New York woman, Susannah Jones, died last week at the age of 116.  She was considered to be the oldest person living in the world.  With her passing, a 116 year old woman in Italy is now the oldest person and she is thought to be the last person living who was born in the 19th century in 1899.

If geroscientists succeed, these two women living at their age would be common place sometime in this century.  The New York Times ran another long article  on Tuesday in its occasional series called, “Chasing Immortality.”   The article discussed research by “geroscientists” – those who are studying aging and how to extend lifespan and longevity – that is moving ahead on dogs now following previous studies on mice.  The article noted that Google started a company called Calico in 2013 to defeat aging.  It also noted that “some scientists want the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recognize aging as a disease for which a drug can be marketed which they hope will draw more interest from pharmaceutical firms.”

The FDA recently gave approval for a drug trial for the diabetes drug Metformin to see if it can delay age-related diseases.  The geroscientists believe that if they can focus on genes that cause the body to age and break down rather than just focus on specific diseases like cancer, they can help delay cancer and many other diseases for which aging is the leading risk factor.

Getting research dollars though is a problem in this field.  Many people scoff at extending the lifespan, saying dying is inevitable.  Others are adamantly opposed because of concerns about overpopulation.  Others say it will be difficult to subject people to drug trials if they are not sick but just trying to see if certain drugs make them live longer.  Some of the trials could have negative results for healthy people and they may have their lives cut short if the drug doesn’t work for them.

And then others like Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist don’t consider this research a high priority.  He is quoted saying “It seems pretty egocentric while we still have malaria and TB for rich people to fund things so they can live longer.”

The researchers though believe that humans and animals don’t all have to see their bodies break down and that the issue is about extending life which is already happening anyway with advances in certain drugs right now.   They note that some animals live longer than others and the issue is about finding the biological factors that cause bodies to age.

It will be interesting to watch this unfolds.  It may be too late for many of us before a significant drug is developed that can extend our lives by decades but even advances in some current drugs are keeping people alive who would have died just a decade ago.   The most promising are cancer drugs which use a person’s immune system to fight the   cancer cells.  President Jimmy Carter may be the best known example.  He was diagnosed with a usually terminal type of melanoma cancer.  He was given a drug, keytruda,  that used his immunity that has put his cancer into remission even at his age of 91.  40% of the people taking the drug are still living after three years.

Assembly Passes Bill on Prescription Drug Price Gouging

The State Assembly passed of legislation last week to prohibit medicine price gouging, calling it “an unscrupulous business practice.”  The bill was passed after cases of drug companies buying up old drugs in short supply and dramatically raising prices to the point of making them unaffordable.  There have been news accounts involving vendors that have inflated the price of blood pressure medication from the normal price per dose of $25.90 to $1,200.  Basically, the companies see a business opportunity to hold patients and the health care system hostage and now legislators are responding.

The bill passed 132-8.  The eight Republicans voted against the bill are:  Dipietro, Fitzpatrick, Friend, Katz, Lalor, Lawerence, Nojay, and Claudia Tenney who is running for Congress in Central New York.  Republican Senator Andrew Lanza is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate.

“These falsely inflated medicine prices are crippling the ability of hospitals and health care providers to deliver the quality of care that patients expect and deserve,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “This bill will give the attorney general the authority to crackdown on these abuses and stop these profiteers who are preying on the vulnerability of sick people.”

“Overpriced medicines have been burdening our health care system and hindering the treatment of very ill patients for too long,” said Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, sponsor of the bill. “The bill the Assembly passed will help restore fairness to the pricing of high-demand medicines and discourage nefarious pharmaceutical sales strategies that seek to make big bucks off the lives of sick people who are struggling to regain their health.”

The Assembly’s legislation (A.6731, Crespo) adds medicines, those that are publicly posted as drugs in short supply by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to the list of goods and services that can be subjected to the state’s price gouging laws, and it empowers the state’s Attorney General to prosecute cases involving illegally priced medicines.

This anti-medicine gouging bill also permits the courts to determine when the price for a drug in short supply is unreasonably excessive and establishes the criteria for making such determinations.

Movies and Books About Older Persons Getting Acclaim

There are some prominent movies and books about older people that I thought I’d mention while we are enjoying the weekend.  “Out of Ireland” is a documentary film about 30 centenarians of Irish heritage telling their story on camera.  I saw the trailer for it.  The movie is playing in Albany, Boston and New York, all cities with big Irish American populations.  It is also a DVD which you can order.  Here is a link to the documentary Facebook page


Of course, Maggie Smith is starring The Lady in the Van which has been running in the theaters and is now on pay per view.  And, Sally Fields is starring in a comedy as an older woman in My Name is Doris.

Well known opinion author Michael Kinsley has a book in the top ten of the best sellers list called, Old Age, A Beginner’s Guide which is written for the Baby Boom Generation that is now entering the senior world en masse.  The first Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are turning 70 this year.    It seems not that long ago when they were saying we were turning 50 – but time marches on.

Of course, there are other books on end of life issues which are high on the bestsellers list including When Breath Becomes Air by Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a young doctor who just completed his training and then died at 37 of lung cancer.  And, Being Mortal, by Dr. Atul Gawande at Harvard is a book about the need to provide better quality of life for people with serious and terminal illnesses has been among the top best sellers in the past couple years.


Not in the same league – but, I wrote a book in 2003, Until the Last Breath about my great friend, Rose Kryzak who was the President of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council.    It was about our senior advocacy efforts on prescription drugs, mandatory retirement and senior benefits in New York State and on national issues from 1972-2001.  You can still order it from StateWide or you can email me at mjburgess1002@gmail.com and I will forward it to StateWide.

Michael Burgess

Safe Staffing for Patients and Assisted Suicide Issues Have Busy Week of Lobbying At State Capitol

Tuesday was a crowded day at the State Capitol in Albany.  The annual policemen’s memorial service and parade was held, blocking off streets around the Capitol.  Meanwhile, a large demonstration and rally was hold on the west side of the Capitol to promote mandatory staffing ratios in health care facilities.  A coalition of labor unions and community groups  filled the Convention Center of the Empire State Plaza and then hundreds of people marched out on State Street to the west lawn of the Capitol to support the bill. Some in the group including Sullivan County senior activists  were pushing for the New York universal health care bill sponsored by Assembly Health Chair Richard Gottfried who addressed the rally.

New York StateWide Senior Action Council organized  Grassroots Senior Day in conjunction with the safe staffing rally because it is one of the organization’s legislative priorities again this year. Advocates chanted at the rally that they want a floor vote on the bill which has been gaining momentum and may make it to the floor.   The push for staffing ratios is the result of clear evidence that lower staffing ratios that can be seven or eight nurses per patient lead to medical errors and worse patient care.  Some nursing homes in the state are being bought by in -state private chains that save money by reducing staff.

The New York State Office for the Aging also held its annual Senior Citizens Day ceremonies at the Egg Performing Arts Center at the Empire State Plaza.  Many county aging staff came to Albany with two senior honorees selected in their communities.


Meanwhile, inside the Capitol, advocates and opponents of physician assisted suicide held competing rallies near the legislative chambers.  Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Senator Diane Savino announced they have merged differing bills into one main bill for “aid in dying” as they call it and said they hope for a committee vote.   A large number of disabled advocates along with church representatives pushed back against the bill.  The disabled, many in wheelchairs, came from a number of groups including  independent living centers and Not Dead Yet.  They say that the bill devalues the disabled.    The Assembly Health Committee will be the first battleground for the bill which is not expected to be put on a committee agenda unless there are the votes to pass it.  Committee Chair Richard Gottfried is a co-sponsor.

The vote in the committee would be very close according to private tallies being made.  This issue does not fit into neat partisan patterns as two Republicans, Clifford Crouch and Janet Duprey are co-sponsors of the Paulin bill.    Several Democrats on the committee are co-sponsors of the Paulin bill including Jeff Dinowitz,  Charles Lavine, Phil Steck, Andrew Hevesi and Ed Braunstein.

At the same time, there are leading Democrats strongly opposed including influential Hispanic leader Marcos Crespo (who is not on the committee) and Crystal Peoples-Stokes  who are on the Health Committee.  Other Democrats  on the committee who are neutral  or undecided so far are Kevin Cahill, Shelly Mayer and Ellen Jaffee.   A few other Democrats on the committee  are also considered likely to oppose the bill.

Last week over twenty doctors came to Albany and held a press conference to oppose the bill saying their profession is healing not facilitating suicide.  They said that patients with terminal illness need palliative care.



Do Socially Engaged People Live Longer?

You can read all my blog posts at http://www.generationsofnewyork.com

Michael Burgess

Today is Senior Citizens Day here it New York.  Exemplary seniors active in their communities from every county were honored in Albany.   I have also been thinking a lot recently about Rev. Daniel Berrrigan,  who died recently at age 94. Berrigan was a confrontational Catholic priest who fought for peace and justice, burning selective service records and raiding military facilities in his protests against the Vietnam War.  Do people like him and others who are so publicly engaged and interested in public affairs live longer?

Pete Seeger also lived to 94 and my old friend, Rose Kryzak, the great senior activist here in New York, died four months short of her 100th birthday.   She was still concerned about senior issues and I remember her telling me in her last days she wanted to make sure some petitions were circulated!  And then, we remember Walter Cronkite, Daniel Schorr, Andy Rooney and Mike Wallace who all lived into the 90s.  There were all newspeople curious and interested in the news and public affairs of the world.

Of course, you could never say that being an activist  or a person interested in the news or public affairs means you will live longer.  There are many activists who died at younger ages.   What we do know is that if a person has good genes and can get through to older age without cancer, heart disease or Alzheimers, then he or she has a chance to live to a very old age.   Of course there are many other factors such as 1) being a non smoker, 2) eating a good diet, 3) getting some exercise, 4) having  good bank account to afford good care,  5) being married or having close relationships and 6) having low levels of stress.

7) Of course, advances in health care and better medicines are also a part of this.  Getting cancer and heart screenings, flu and pneumonia shots are also important.  Some of the medicines we have now can control heart disease much better and others can improve chronic conditions.

8) There have been some studies done that also show that some communities of people in certain parts of the world who live a certain lifestyle or eat a certain diet live a long life.

9) Religion can also play a part.  Many nuns living in community also seem to live longer lives. Yes, one’s happiness and beliefs are also a big part of a longer life.

10)  Number ten is enthusiasm for life.  I think it may be among the most important and answer the question I started with about Father Berrigan and the other activists.  I think the older people I have mentioned might all have had good genes to go with a number of the other factors I have cited.   I think their enthusiasm and curiosity about life and affairs of the world are very significant factors in their long lives.  I think it is quite likely that  being enthusiastic, being publicly active and engaged  in social action or being a volunteer is certainly good medicine that can extend your life even further if your genes give you a chance to live to an older age.

107 Year Old Virginia McLaurin Has Trouble Getting Photo ID

cropped-02-22-16-virginia-mclaurin-2.jpgRemember Virginia McLaurin, the 106 year old I wrote about who danced in the White House with President and Mrs. Obama a few months ago?  Well, she  is 107 now and she danced with the Harlem Globetrotters this spring.  Despite all her publicity, she didn’t have a photo ID.  It was stolen and she was not able to get one  in Washington DC without her birth certificate which she didn’t have.  She couldn’t get her birth certificate in South Carolina without a photo ID.  Fortunately, Washington DC’s Mayor helped her by allowing other documents as proof of identity.

“It’s sad to see my mother having to stand in lines, getting tired,” Felipe Cardoso, McLaurin’s son, said before the issue was resolved. “She can’t understand how her picture could be in all those newspapers and all over the Internet, how so many people could recognize her on the street and want to take selfies with her, and she can’t even get a photo ID.”

Washington DC, where she lives does not require a photo ID to vote, but many of the older Americans who have voted in their states for decades without any trouble are being caught in the politically-motivated zeal to restrict voting in some states which have enacted strict voter ID laws.

It is so obvious what is going on here.  Republican governors and legislatures have exaggerated problems of voter fraud so they could have an excuse to restrict voting in ways that would disproportionately effect minorities who usually support Democrats.  Unfortunately, the very elderly have become collateral damage.  They have been honest citizens who always voted and not involved in any fraud.  Since they may not have their birth certificates or easy access to getting a copy if they have moved from where they were born, they have to spend time and money and stand in line to just re-establish their opportunity to vote.

Fortunately, we don’t have those voter ID laws in New York State though there was a voter purge in Brooklyn recently that eliminated over 100,000 voters there before the New York presidential primary last month.  We have such a patchwork of voter laws and enforcement in this country.  It’s a disgrace that politicians seek to restrict the right to vote which is what this country is all about.   We should be expanding that right not restricting it.   This is a perfect example of why advocacy for seniors is so important as they get run over by political acts.