September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Title:With city officials cutting budget, who will care for the elders? Senior citizen community organizations explain difficulties fo
Publication:Sing Tao Daily
Blurb:Members of the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York and the Coalition Against Hunger gathered at the City Hall Senior Center to discuss the effects of city budget cuts on senior citizens. They urged everyone to respect and to take care of the elderly.
Body:On May 17, members of the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York and the Coalition Against Hunger gathered at the City Hall Senior Center to discuss the effects of city budget cuts on senior citizens. They urged everyone to respect and to take care of the elderly.
According to the most recent U.S. Census, there are 1.3 million people over the age of 60 living in New York City, and this number keeps growing. The biggest increase18.7 percent over the last ten yearswas among those who are more than 85 years old.
In addition, the number of seniors living in poverty in New York is double that of other cities. Approximately 20 percent of elderly here live below the poverty line. About 47 percent of the elderly population is minority; a larger percentage of minority seniors live in poverty. About 40 percent of Asian American seniors live below the poverty line.
Most seniors, and especially poor seniors, rely on community centers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed budget cuts will hurt the already under-funded senior community centers. Bloombergs proposed $36 million in cuts will force 15 community centers to close permanently, and cancel four community centers that were to open in the near future. The price of subsidized nutritious meals now provided to senior citizens will be increased, and all take-home meals for the weekends will be cancelled. Service centers anticipate layoffs; the subsequent understaffing will affect everyday operations.
At the gathering on May 17th, the NYC Senior Citizen Community Center's Public Policy Supervisor, Bobbie Sackman, displayed strong disapproval of Mayor Bloombergs claim that cutting back on senior citizen service centers will not affect their everyday lives.
Mayor Bloomberg believes that with the closing of some service centers, senior citizens should still be able to find other venues to socialize, which is impossible, Sackman said. She explained that most elders 70-80 years old are physically unable to walk very far to a service center. In addition, some seniors are often comfortable with the surroundings and atmosphere of their centers, and will be unwilling move to new ones.
This is especially common in minority communities. Some service centers are targeted at minorities, so they are able to communicate with them in languages they can understand and methods are comfortable with.
The Hamilton Madison House/City Hall Senior Center is one of these centers. Founded in 1951, 90 percent of its members are of Chinese descent. These seniors gather daily to socialize and play mahjong. According to Isabel Ching, the director of this center, the city budget cuts are forcing cutbacks in staff and operations, including English and Citizenship classes.
This was a very difficult decision for us; the elder citizens and our staff are both very sad, she said. Of the four service centers that were in the works and are now cancelled, two were to have been built in Brooklyns Chinese communities.
Joel Berg, executive director of the Coalition Against Hunger, cited survey data proving that the number of elderly and minorities living below the poverty line has increased substantially in New York City, especially after the September 11th tragedy.
The citys budget cuts will force the cancellation of a meal service provided by his group. Currently, the meal service is available in all five boroughs; some are targeted at senior citizens. Budget cuts usually affects the ones who are the weakest most. Elders really need our help, Berg said.