As the senior citizen population continues to grow and more baby boomers reach retirement age, the services provided by such organizations as RSS-Riverdale Senior Services are even more vital.
And that’s why the City Council and Mayor Eric Adams have to continue funding such centers and services at higher levels. The proposed cuts included in the preliminary fiscal 2024 budget would have reduced the funds needed for home-delivered meals to seniors.
But seniors came out by the hundreds — many from Riverdale — to protest in front of City Hall in May to make their case. The council listened as $7 million in funds for senior meals provided by the city’s aging department was restored.
The $107 billion city budget now includes $2.5 million for senior center meals, and $4.5 million for home-delivered meals.
Councilman Justin Brannan, chair of the council’s finance committee, was proud of what the council achieved in its negotiations with the mayor.
“We knew there was no reason for cuts with a scythe,” he said. “Instead, we fought hard for thoughtful, surgical investments, and focused our priorities where they mattered most.
“This council fought and won critical investments and restorations for our community schools, libraries and our seniors.”
While that victory for senior centers is notable, the question many are asking is, “Is it enough?” And the answer is a resounding “No.” The centers themselves are fighting to stay alive and avoid consolidation.
Bob Stein, a member of the RSS social action committee, says his center and many throughout the city are worried about not having enough funding to continue many of their programs.
For instance, Riverdale offers its adult program for memory loss, which just reopened in 2022. It focuses on caring for seniors with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease. The center also has a technology center that helps seniors learn how to troubleshoot computer-related issues, shopping online, using social media, and even how to choose the right computer.
The Riverdale center is involved with the NW Bronx Healthy Communities Project, which provides access to educational workshops and services on chronic disease management and nutrition literacy. Its goal is to empower older adults in the community to take control of their health and improve health outcomes.
RSS works with Marble Hill Senior Center, St. Stephens United Methodist Church, Kingsbridge Heights Community Center and Schervier Apartments to provide in-person programs.
Stein is worried senior centers are not funded at the proper levels.
“The budget cuts could result in the closure or consolidation of older adult centers,” he wrote. “Further, just to maintain existing services, the city needs to add $60 million to an already strained system.”
The mayor and City Council have to take the next step for our seniors. Make the funding for the aging department a higher priority before the lack of services becomes a full blown-out crisis like that of the asylum seekers.
As Stein said, “this is a callous disregard of the city’s 1.8 million older adults who make up more than 20 percent of the city’s population.”
And don’t forget — they actually show up to vote.