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TIMESLEDGER | QNS.COM | JAN. 8-JAN. 14, 2021 17
BY SANDRA UNG
As New York’s older population continues
to grow, we must be proactive in
building a city that takes into account
the needs of seniors and their families.
As the daughter and primary caretaker
for my father, who has Parkinson’s
Disease and lives at home, I know the
struggles many working families face
in providing care for their loved ones.
Like my father, most seniors prefer to
age in place.
There are many barriers standing
in the way. A first step is building a
more accessible city by making our
infrastructure inclusive for individuals
who require mobility assistance.
From subway stops that lack elevators
to crosswalks that are piled high with
snow, we must eliminate physical obstacles.
We also need expanded healthcare
services for individuals living at home.
Home health aides can assist people
like my father to live at home with
quality care, but Medicare doesn’t
cover this expense. For working families
like my own, this option is unaffordable.
It instead falls to children or
loved ones to step up to provide assistance,
but we need the wider support of
our society to ensure our elders’ basic
needs are met.
Unpaid care work is particularly
onerous for working families who
must juggle an endless number of tasks
while struggling to pay the bills, and
COVID has only exacerbated the struggle.
This burden has real effects on the
health and job outcomes of caregivers
across the United States, especially
women who perform a disproportionate
amount of care work. 865,000 women
have opted out or left the workforce
compared to 216,000 men just this fall.
New Yorkers paved the way forward
when we passed the Paid Family
Leave Policy, which is funded by deductions
from employee wages. Employers
should embrace PFL given its ability
to improve staff morale and increase
Moving forward, we need to explore
options around increasing the
wage replacement rate, especially for
low-income New Yorkers. Low-income
workers often live paycheck to paycheck
and may be unable to survive
on 67 percent of their wage, which is
the maximum they can get under New
We also need a culture shift. Employer
acceptability continues to be a
major obstacle for employees seeking
to take advantage of family leave. Employers
are prohibited from discriminating
against an employee for requesting
leave. However, many workers are
reluctant to take leave, concerned it
may harm their potential for a promotion
down the line. And while leave for
new parents has become more widely
accepted, we must still work on building
recognition of value for elder care.
Many of us, including myself, live
in multigenerational homes with parents
or grandparents who need assistance.
Whether it’s taking them to the
doctor’s office or helping them apply
for government programs, that time is
valuable. We should embrace building
a more holistic care system that recognizes
the many different forms American
families take. This won’t just help
employees, it will also allow more New
Yorkers to age in place with dignity.
By investing in paid family leave
and increasing employer acceptability,
children and family members can
be freed to provide care for their loved
ones without fearing the loss of economic
security. That is a better and
more just system for all New Yorkers.
Sandra Ung is an attorney, community
advocate and candidate for City
Council in District 20, which includes
Flushing, Mitchell-Linden, Murray Hill,
Queensboro Hill, Auburndale and parts
of Fresh Meadows.
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