By Aidan Johnson
With ongoing concerns about young adults leaving Long Island, other age demographics may be looking for the escape hatch.
Adults aged 60 and over, who account for roughly 20% of Suffolk County’s population according to a 2022 report from the Suffolk County Office for the Aging, have been feeling the impact of Long Island’s high prices as well.
Eric Stutz, a real estate broker based out of Baldwin who specializes in seniors and estates, said he sees Long Island as below average in being a senior-friendly place.
“I see a lot of my clients are heading to the Southeast, between North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida,” he said in a phone interview. “That seems to be the majority.”
Recently, a pair of Stutz’s clients had to choose between staying on Long Island with two of their children or moving to North Carolina, where their daughter lived.
“It was a tough decision, it took a couple of years,” Stutz said. “But their main reason for moving to North Carolina … was the cost of living on Long Island.”
JoAnn Kullack, the chair of Long Island’s chapter of the Retired Public Employees Association, sees many other senior citizens having to choose between living on Long Island or finding somewhere more affordable.
“Most seniors that I know do complain about the cost of living,” she said.
Kullack believes that one of the big draws of staying on the Island for seniors is the abundance of medical care. Big university hospitals, such as Stony Brook, and the closeness of Manhattan hospitals and specialists offer valid incentives for seniors to want to stay.
‘Most seniors that I know do complain about the cost of living.’
— JoAnn Kullack
“A lot of people that I know want to stay here on Long Island,” due to access to premium health care services, Kullack said. “They don’t wish to leave.”
Kullack suggested lowering the utility rates could offer much-needed relief to Long Island’s senior citizens. While some programs are available that can assist, she added the qualifications are often unrealistic.
“A lot of people don’t qualify,” the RPEA chair said. “If you have two people in the household, you have to be [only earning] $30,000. How can you live here on that?”
“You’re taking into consideration paying taxes, paying for utilities, and even if you have no mortgage on your home, you still have to have enough money for food,” she added.
Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) views Long Island as a challenging place to live, especially for those who do not make a lot of money.
“We need to address the high tax rate on Long Island,” she said in a phone interview. “We need to do a better job of taking care of our seniors and veterans. So many of our seniors are house rich and cash poor.”
Long Island can also be tough to navigate for seniors who cannot drive, as there is a lack of adequate public transportation.
“I know myself and my husband do a fair amount of taking our moms to doctor appointments and shopping,” Bonner said, adding, “Transportation services are cut when budgets are tight — bus routes are removed.”
Brookhaven does have programs aimed at helping seniors who may have trouble with transportation, Bonner explained. Still, the town does seek to assist its aging population where it can.
“We have our senior clubs, our senior transportation, nutrition at our senior centers and Meals on Wheels. We do our part.”
Bonner added that she wants to see seniors be able to “age in place,” where they want to be, instead of being pushed out.
“That’s what we need because if we can provide resources for our seniors to age in a place where they are most comfortable — in their home. It is more affordable that way than building large-scale senior complexes,” the councilwoman said.