Tag Archives: Seniors

New Single Stop pilot program helps seniors sign up for benefits

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

The seniors at the Peter Cardella Senior Citizen Center in Ridgewood can now receive help signing up for important benefit programs through a new pilot initiative called the Single Stop Program.

It aims to expand seniors’ access to and enrollment in benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE), Extra Help, Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) and more.

“It really is a good thing,” said Barbara Toscano, executive director for the Peter Cardella Senior Center. “I think we were picked because this community would have a high level of seniors that would need these programs.”

The Single Stop Program brings in knowledgeable staff members to the senior center once a week who will screen seniors for benefits, help maximize services for individuals, and provide individual assistance in applying for and securing the benefits needed. This is all done through the pilot program’s electronic enrollment system, which will help seniors navigate the many potential assistance opportunities.

“A person can come in to the senior center and want food stamps, and it goes through their computer system,” Toscano said. “It really is wonderful because a lot of times when you have all these forms and paperwork to fill out, it can take over a month and a half sometimes to enroll…the Single Stop Program is working really well here. It runs until November, but they might come back and do it again.”

Single Stop Program staff members will be able to provide follow-up services from their Single Stop sites where seniors can obtain additional services and follow up on issues related to their benefits applications and cases.

“It’s a really nice program. It’s really helpful for the seniors,” Toscano said. “We do all this here at the Peter Cardella Center, but it takes a long time. This gets back to them really quick. Food stamps are so important, especially for seniors. It’s really good for them. We are trying to get a lot of people enrolled and are trying to bring a lot of these benefits to the seniors here.”


Ridgewood seniors dance with SPARC

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy Hillary Ramos

Seniors at the Ridgewood Older Adult Center (ROAC) are getting a chance to bust a move thanks to the Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) program.

SPARC is a community arts engagement program that places artists at senior centers across the five boroughs. The program was created as a collaboration of the city Department of Cultural Affairs, the Department for the Aging and five of the city’s local arts councils.

The SPARC aims to positively impact seniors’ quality of life through direct engagement in arts and cultural activities; to reinvigorate neighborhood senior centers, such as ROAC, as vital community spaces through arts and cultural programming; and to increase the opportunities for arts residencies and workspaces for artists.

ROAC’s executive director Jackie Eradiri applied to be a part of the SPARC program through the Queens Council on the Arts, and in February, the professional dancers and choreographers, Hillary Ramos and Henry Holmes, came to the center to bring the art of dance to the Ridgewood seniors.

“It’s something different,” Eradiri said of the program. “It is something that I don’t have at the center.”

Seniors can participate in the program, which runs through June and takes place at ROAC three times a week, or they are free to just sit back and watch.

“We are passionate about working with non-dancers and sharing that joy and empathy you get when you watch people dance and when you, yourself, are dancing,” Ramos said.

“There are plenty of hurdles of ‘I’m too old to dance’ or ‘I can’t do that,’” she added. “We are trying to break down the intimidation of dance for the seniors and show the health, psychological and social benefits of dance.”

Ramos explained how they use different forms of dance to engage all the seniors in the center. The more active seniors can get up and dance, while those who may not be able to move as well can participate in limited mobility and chair-based movements to get them involved.

“There are so many ways to get them to move,” Ramos said. “We are trying to show that dance is the merengue, the cha-cha and the waltz, but it is also sitting in a chair and moving your body with gestures and arm movements. That is also dance. Those things do matter.”

“We are using dance and making it applicable to their realities,” she continued. “We have hybrid classes depending on who we have, who is here and what they can do. We try to show that dance is social and artistic.”

Joe Renz, affectionately referred to as “rubber legs” by his dancing partners, is one of ROAC’s most loyal dancers and really enjoys the chance to get up and move around.

“I think [Ramos] is putting everything out there,” he said. “I’ve gotten something out of it. It has helped me fine-tune some things.”

Another ROAC dance participant, Barbara Kovacich, said she takes pleasure in the social aspect of the program.

“I just like to enjoy the company,” she said. “It brings me closer with the people at the center.”


At Whitestone bowling alley, senior league flourishes

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

These seniors defy the bingo-playing stereotype of old age.

Every week a group of spunky seniors gets together to gripe about what’s ailing them, talk trash among friends and hurl bowling balls down the lanes.

“It used to be about girls but now it’s about medicine,”  John Murphy, 76, said about the banter among bowlers. He’s been part of what’s become a senior bowling league in Whitestone for a period of time that he doesn’t care to remember. “This is a great thing we have going here. It gives us something to do.”

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, around 40 to 60  men and women haul their bowling balls to Whitestone Lanes, where they put their money where their mouths are and compete against each other in pairs.

“It can get pretty crazy in here,” Murphy said before being yelled at by his partner for not plugging his score into the booth. “I’m being interviewed here. Can’t you see that? I don’t have time for you.”

The league has no official name but wagers are taken seriously and there’s a minimum of $2 to enter any game. Depending on how many people join that day, winners can gain as much as $400. And despite their age, many of the players come close to rolling a perfect 300.

The bowlers are all from around the area, and the only requirement to join the league is being in one’s golden years. The league has been around for almost two decades and with the neighborhood’s high population of senior citizens — 25 percent of people in the area are above 60, according to census data — there are always new recruits coming in.

“We do this 365 [days] a year,” Murphy said. “We’re here three times a week. Summer. Winter. It doesn’t matter.”


Korean seniors and Flushing McDonald’s owner reach peace

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A group of Korean seniors and the owner of an embattled Flushing McDonald’s have come to a truce, Assemblymember Ron Kim announced Monday.

The feud between the two parties was a “cultural miscommunication,” said Kim, the state’s first Korean-American elected official.

It began when a cluster of about 20 seniors made the corner eatery on Parsons and Northern Blvds. their favorite hangout, taking up seats for about eight hours every day, The Korea Times and New York Times first reported.

The extended stays have kept others from patronizing the McDonald’s, franchisee Jack Bert said.

“I’m sure you can imagine any business would find this situation to be difficult,” he said in a statement.

As part of the compromise, Bert agreed to hire Korean-speaking staff members and extend the 20-minute sitting limit to one hour, except from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“I’ve been proud to serve this community for nearly 20 years, and my restaurant has been happy to welcome these customers for years,” Bert said.

“I was confident that once we were able to sit together and talk, we would come to a positive resolution that would create an environment where all customers who wish to enjoy this restaurant would have the ability to do so.”

The seniors agreed to abide by the new sitting hours and be transported by the Korean Community Services to meet at local senior centers during the fast-food restaurant’s busy hours.

The dispute, at its peak, led to four police interventions since November, according to the Times.

David Choe, 76, one of the group’s regulars, told The Courier he was insulted to be asked to leave.

“This is my town,” he said. “I’m happy people are taking us seriously now. Before, nobody really cared about this matter.”

It even sparked a boycott last week amongst a trio of Korean activists. Outraged, they called for a worldwide boycott of McDonald’s throughout February.

“Senior citizens have been working hard their whole lives. They should be respected,” said Christine Colligan, co-chair of the Korean American Parents Association of Greater New York, who led the protest. “This is the core of Koreatown. I cannot believe this is happening here.”

Kim said the culture clash also stemmed from a lack of resources for seniors.

“What we’ve done over the last few days is make sure both parties understand where each other is coming from and have some compassion,” he said. “This was a small business owner trying to survive and a small group of seniors trying to find a social space.”

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said the compromise represents Flushing’s tradition of respect.

“It goes back hundreds of years,” she said. “It’s a peaceful community, and it’s going to continue to be a peaceful community.”



Queens students bridge the generation gap using makeovers

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of GlamourGals and by William Mebane

Using makeup and nail polish, hundreds of Queens teens are bridging the gap between two generations.

Nearly 185 high school students in the borough have joined in a nonprofit’s cause to provide friendship and free makeovers to women living in senior homes.

The after-school leadership program, GlamourGals Foundation, Inc., has spread to 83 chapters in the country, including seven high schools in Queens.

“We’re bringing together two fragile populations,” said Kavita Mehra, vice president of GlamourGals. “Our volunteers come back to us and constantly share what they’ve learned from the seniors and their experiences.

We’re building compassionate, young leaders who are making a positive difference in their community.”

The teens visit local nursing homes and senior centers at least once a month for community service credit, Mehra said. They give hand massages, file down and paint nails, and apply foundation, blush and lipstick using clean, hypoallergenic materials supplied by the organization.

“What young woman doesn’t love nail polish and what older woman doesn’t love to be pampered? It’s a great way to start a conversation,” Mehra said. “It’s something about the human touch that can break immediate barriers.”

Eghosa Asemota, 19, a former Queens chapter president, said the program transformed her life after a traumatic car accident left a scar on her face.

“Before I joined GlamourGals, I was a quiet girl. I walked with my head down,” said the Ozone Park resident. “The more I visited nursing homes, the bolder I got. I was able to build that confidence again.”

Asemota, now a sophomore at Adelphi University, led the chapter at Thomas A. Edison High School, which boasts nearly 100 volunteers, in her senior year. The seniors, she said, became her own family.

“My grandparents live in Nigeria. I don’t necessarily get to speak with them a lot. Having these elderly women filled the void of a special grandmother,” she said. “I was able to give them a purpose, and they gave me a purpose.”

GlamourGals was established 13 years ago. Since then, its programs have spread to the Academy of American Studies, Thomas A. Edison, Townsend Harris, Robert F. Kennedy, Forest Hills, Flushing, and Cardozo high schools in Queens.

The organization also awards a select group of volunteers yearly with $1,000 scholarships and paid fellowships.

“We help them develop their fullest potential, and for the elderly, we demonstrate that they are not forgotten,” Mehra said.



Medicare, money at center of 6th Congressional District mudslinging

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Traditional Medicare could be endangered if the power to decide the fate of the major, federal insurance program falls into the wrong party’s hands, according to a Democratic congressional hopeful.

“Republican plans for Medicare would end guaranteed benefits for our seniors and destroy the traditional Medicare option,” said Assemblymember Grace Meng, who hopes to secure a House seat in November.

The candidate was joined by former Congressmember Liz Holtzman to outline the “stark differences” between the two parties over handling Medicare, during an October 9 press conference outside the Bayside Senior Center.

“Seniors are rightly worried these days about important programs like Medicare being harmed by the misguided policies of the Tea Party Republicans in Washington, D.C.,” said Holtzman, who served in Congress from 1973 to 1981.

Meanwhile, Meng is being taken to task by her Republican rival, Councilmember Dan Halloran, for “ducking” two forums in the last week after having agreed earlier this year to face off with him in a series of five debates. In three out of four candidate nights, Halloran’s camp said the councilmember debated against “an empty chair.”

Halloran said he was “eager to publicly discuss” a recently published New York Post report, which said the councilmember is allegedly being investigated by the Albany district attorney for being over two years behind in filing campaign finance reports for his 2009 City Council run.

According to the Post, Halloran has missed five filing deadlines and owes the state $3,243 in fines and growing interest.

But Halloran’s camp said a State Board of Elections spokesperson was misquoted in the story, having never said the agency was contacted by the district attorney regarding Halloran’s filings.

Halloran had previously condemned Meng for failing to file her personal financial disclosures in May.

Helping Seniors Drive Safer, Longer

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

(Family Features) Since January 2011, nearly 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, joining the fastest growing age group in the nation. According to a recent American Automobile Association (AAA) survey of that booming population, nearly half of seniors worry about losing their freedom and mobility when the time comes for them to transition from driver to passenger.

From understanding how vision changes affect one’s ability to drive at night, to researching the effects certain medications can have on one’s driving ability, it’s important to get the facts about driving for seniors. Use these tips from AAA to ensure you and your family members are driving safely:

Evaluate your driving.

It’s important to take time to consider one’s driving “health” and habits. For instance, when was the last time you had an eye exam? You can take a Driver 65 Plus self-assessment at www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com to get a clear picture of just how good your driving skills really are, and get suggestions for improvement.

Be aware of how aging affects driving habits.

Seniors may not notice the gradual ways that age can impact their driving ability. For instance, by age 60, your eyes need three times the amount of light to see properly as they do for people 20 years-old, which means it’s more difficult to see at night. Likewise, one-third of Americans suffer from hearing loss by age 65, which means senior drivers may be unable to hear high-pitched noises such as emergency response vehicles.

Reaction times can be slower for seniors as well. But preventative measures can go a long way:

• Seniors should increase the distance between their car and the car in front of them, to allow more time to react to sudden braking.

• Eliminating distractions in the vehicle and avoiding heavy traffic can also help seniors identify emergency sirens.

Find the right fit.

Many seniors may not realize that their car may not be optimally adjusted to fit them. For example, sitting too close to the steering wheel can injury, should the airbag deploy during a collision.

• Make sure you have at least 10 to 12 inches between your chest and the steering wheel.

• When seated properly, you should be able to see the ground in front of your car within 12 to 15 feet and 1 1/2 car widths left and right.

Talk with your doctor and pharmacist.

Ensure that the medications you take — both prescription and over-the-counter — will not impair your ability to drive safely. In addition, make sure all your medications go through one pharmacy, so the pharmacists on staff can better assess any potential drug interactions.

To help older drivers and their families deal with driving and mobility challenges related to aging, AAA has launched a new website (www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com) to make a comprehensive suite of tools and resources available at the click of a button. From an Ask-the-Expert feature to Roadwise Review — an online screening tool that measures functional abilities linked to crash risk — and more, all of the features are free to site visitors. The site also offers links and resources to help families find other means of transportation when their loved one is no longer able to drive safely.


Affordable housing for seniors

| tcimino@queenscourier.com

Some seniors may soon have an affordable place to call home.

Officials from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the MET Council celebrated the opening of Council Towers VI in Pomonok.

Located at 71st Avenue between Kissena and Parsons boulevards, the building is the sixth in a series of completed senior housing buildings designed to serve as supportive affordable housing for New York City residents 62 years of age and older.

Council Towers VI was developed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan (NHMP), a multibillion dollar initiative to finance 165,000 units of affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers by the close of the 2014 fiscal year. To date, the plan has funded the creation or preservation of over 129,200 units of affordable housing across the five boroughs, with 12,500 of those units in Queens.

“HUD has no higher mission than improving people’s lives and strengthening communities, and this wonderful senior development does just that,” said Mirza Orriols, deputy regional administrator. “The latest statistics indicate that one in five New York City residents live in poverty, many of whom, unfortunately, are the elderly living on meager pensions or income.”

Council Towers VI is an eight-story building with 77 one-bedroom rental units and one unit reserved for an on-site superintendent. Twenty-five percent of the units have a preference for existing NYCHA tenants. All units have a senior preference for tenants age 62 and older. The units will be available to tenants earning no more than 50 percent Area Median Income (AMI) or $28,650 for an individual. The tenants’ rent will be set at 30 percent household income.

Residents of Council Towers VI have access to a variety of on-site services. Management staff will provide case management, benefits and entitlements advice and advocacy, as well as on-site education and recreational activities. An experienced social worker will serve as a support service coordinator. Staff will be equipped to refer tenants to off-site licensed health care agencies to provide home care, adult daycare, hospital services, medical education and nursing home options. Additional on-site services include Meals-On-Wheels, housekeeping assistance, counseling and recreational trips. Through the New York State Department of Transportation, Met Council provides transportation for the elderly to essential appointments and recreational outings.


Rockaway Boulevard Senior Center celebrates 41 years

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan Seniors celebrated the center’s 41st anniversary by dancing and sharing their memories.

The Rockaway Boulevard Senior Center — the home away from home for close to 200 of its members — blew out its 41st birthday candle on Thursday, October 13.

Located in South Ozone Park, the center first opened in October 1970. Since then, it has achieved national accreditation status from the National Institute of Senior Centers and has become “the place to be” for hundreds of seniors in the community.

“This anniversary means so much to me,” said member Leonie Alert. “I have been here for 17 years and I’m so glad that we have happy times here all the time.”

Alert, 75, teaches two dance classes during the week. She also heads the center’s dance group, the Rockaway Revue, which performed several dances during the three-day long celebration.

“I just want everyone to keep having fun even if they don’t know how to dance,” she said.

Seniors and center officials found a way to enjoy the anniversary despite the threats they face from city budget cuts.

“Senior centers are up on the chopping block,” said Beverly Collier, executive director of Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults (JSPOA), under whose auspices the Rockaway Boulevard Senior Center operates. “If these places no longer existed, people would be at home, and the isolation could breed a whole other set of problems that are not evident right now because they’re here, and they’re out and about.”

Collier said JSPOA originally ran six centers — now cut down to three.

“This anniversary means being part of an organization that has had its roots here in Queens and has been serving seniors for a very long time,” she said. “I’m looking forward to another 41 years.”

The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It offers daily breakfast and lunch, along with an array of activities, including arts and crafts, sign language, billiards, computer training, tai chi, line, African and interpretive dance.

Nelli Hayes started coming to the center close to 35 years ago. The 99-year-old member said her earliest memory of the center is first coming in with her sister.

“I’m not well and my back is giving me a lot of problems, but I have been coming here and I’ve made up my mind to keep coming,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of people here.”