Nearly 20 political leaders, academics, and public servants gathered in the Green Lane Academic Building’s conference center in late July for a special roundtable discussion of the retiree crisis in New Jersey.
Dr. Terry Golway, director of the Kean University Center for History, Politics, and Policy, chaired the event, which promises to be the first of many policy-oriented discussions in the building’s spectacular sixth-floor conference center.
With the skyline of New York serving as a backdrop, conference participants sought to identify the issues which are leading tens of thousands of baby boomers to leave New Jersey when they retire. Dr. Claire Mulry, an assistant professor in Kean’s highly competitive Occupational Therapy program, noted that cities and towns need to be senior-friendly in order to keep retirees in the state. “Even little things, like making sure traffic lights are timed so seniors can cross the street, are important,” Dr. Mulry noted.
Joining Dr. Mulry for the two-hour discussion were Mayor Jamel Holley of Roselle (an alumna of the Nathan Weiss Graduate School; Chris Hudak, chair of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders; Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz of Union County; Frank Guzzo, director of human services for Union County; Denise Lowe, supervisor of senior services for Elizabeth; LaGretta Stephens of the Elizabeth Office on Aging; Dr. Christine Ferri and Dr. Christine Gayda of the Stockton Center on Successful Aging; Dr. Bill Rosenblatt, a psychologist and former mayor of Loch Arbour; Brian McGuire of the New Jersey chapter of the AARP; Jeff Allen, CFO of Gold-Mobile Corp., Shane Derris of the Kean Center for History, Politics, and Policy, and Paul Shelly, director of communications and marketing for the New Jersey Association of State College and Universities.
The participants discussed the challenges seniors face in New Jersey, from high taxes to pedestrian-unfriendly municipalities. But there was good news to share as well, from the high quality of health care to creative partnering between service providers and higher education. Dr. Mulry noted that Kean University has a key partnership with the city of Elizabeth in providing services to the city’s senior citizens.
Dr. Golway announced that there will be aggressive follow-up to the issues raised in the conversation. Participants agreed that the roundtable was just the beginning of a critical conversation about New Jersey’s future.
Shane Derris is the Assistant Director of the Kean University Center for History, Politics and Policy.