Seniors pack hall for help on how to stay in New Jersey

Photo by Liv Meier
A room at The Westwood in Garwood was filled to capacity by seniors seeking advice on how to cope with the high cost of living in New Jersey.

GARWOOD, NJ — Seventy-year-old Edna McClure lost her job of almost 30 years in 2015, and since then has been considering relocating to a more affordable state, specifically Delaware.

“I’d have to leave my family and church, which would be very difficult,” she said in a recent interview with LocalSource. “Delaware is not that far away but it would still put two hours between me and my family.
“I want to be able to live comfortably and not worry about money or taxes,” McClure added, saying that she could do so in Delaware.

She was one of hundreds of seniors who were part of a standing-room-only crowd at The Westwood in Garwood for “Staying in New Jersey: How to Make Your Money Last!” presented by the Union County Senior Citizen Council on April 30.
The main reason McLure has stayed in Kenilworth is her family — her son, daughter and four grandchildren. Like most, family members are important to McClure so she is torn between being close to them and having a house.

“Why can’t we come up with a plan for seniors in New Jersey to help them stay in the area? It makes no sense,” she told LocalSource at the event.
The event, co-sponsored by Union County, included a panel of six speakers who offered advice on topics such as budgeting, downsizing a home and employment.

Union County Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jane Kowalski said there has been a more than 20 percent increase in the number of Union County citizens age 65 and older in the last 12 years.

“We know that seniors are a vital part of Union County,” she said. “And even though the taxes are high in New Jersey, the amount of people over 65 staying has increased. … and we’re expecting that number to go up in another several years.”
Elton Armady, director of the American Job Center and a featured speaker at the event, gave advice about how to land part-time and full-time positions after retirement.

The American Job Center has locations in Elizabeth and Plainfield, and provides job training and employment-related services for residents of all ages, such as assistance with resumes and the interview process.

“At this point in a lot of your lives, you can be living off of savings and Social Security which is very limiting,” he said. “Older workers who lose their jobs find it tougher to get back into a comparable job and the American Job Center can help with that.”
Sean Stodart, a financial planner with Allied Wealth Planners, told seniors that the key to making their money last is budgeting.
“We need to make sure that we don’t outlive our assets and that starts with budgeting,” he said.

Stodart said that it’s important for seniors to assess their financial situation in order to ascertain which of their expenses are mandatory and which are variable, and could be decreased.

“It doesn’t happen overnight but creating a budget can help a lot of difficult situations,” he said.
At the event, attendees were offered a free continental breakfast, and various businesses had information tables set up prior to the lectures. Information about everything from senior citizen driving courses to Medicare was available, and free, onsite medical screenings were also offered.

Information for caretakers of aging parents was also available, including personalized assisted living and in-home safety technology known as Caregiver Smart Solutions.

The technology implements a network of sensors around a residence and sends immediate updates to a family member when the sensors detect movement.

It’s a less invasive way of monitoring seniors, according to David Siroty, chief marketing officer for the company.
“Many people struggle with their parents getting older and stress about them not having care 24 hours a day,” Siroty told LocalSource. “Getting updates from these sensors put them at ease.”
The Senior Citizens Council is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1972 and is dedicated to “improving our lives as we grow older,” according to its website.