Senior citizens are living longer, more fuller lives than ever before-- particularly in New York, where the senior population is growing fast and will continue to accelerate in the coming years.
In response, New York City has launched Age-Friendly New York, a program to begin accommodating the needs of this swelling population.
In Bed-Stuy the older population is especially active, taking a lead role on the community boards, block associations and countless civic organizations.
For this reason, The Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford Stuyvesant (CIBS), in cooperation with the New York Academy of Medicine and Local Initiatives Support Corporation, has launched the Aging Improvement District (AID), a pilot program that aims to build an atmosphere in Bed-Stuy that supports the needs of the elderly.
“We were really interested in partnering with the City on this because of the number of seniors in the neighborhood and because of the way the neighborhood is so deeply connected to that population,” said Melissa Lee, managing director for CIBS.
Bed-Stuy will be the third neighborhood to participate in AID (the other two are in East Harlem and the Upper West Side), and the first in Brooklyn.
Through a private grant from the Fan Fox and Leslie R Samuels Foundation, CIBS has started convening a series of roundtables or “community conversations” with older residents to identify service gaps and develop fitting solutions.
“We’re trying to meet with as many seniors as possible,” said Lee. “Already, we’ve gathered seniors from churches, senior centers, community boards, wherever we could.
“Our goal is to have 15 roundtables, and capture their response of why they live here, what are their experiences, what are the positives, negatives, what services are working and what are not.”
At each roundtable, seniors are asked a series of about 50 questions, polled on what they feel the neighborhood should look like to improve their own quality of life. CIBS will cull their responses together into a district plan that outlines recommendations for short- and long-term projects.
Early Findings: There are a high number of food-insecure older adults in Bed-Stuy; many of whom struggle with a combination of food access (proximity and transit route to grocers), affordability (cost of food and ability to pay); adequacy (access to fresh foods) and appropriateness (meeting nutritional requirements based on health needs).
CIBS is planning another month of roundtables before completing the district plan which it will unveil at a launch event in April.
“This is an important opportunity for the neighborhood to create a place that is age-friendly, not just for seniors but for all of us who will get there on day,” said Lee. “We want our seniors to remain in the neighborhood, participate in the neighborhood and continue to thrive in the neighborhood.”
To participate in an upcoming roundtable and/or to join the AID mailing list, contact Aysu Kirac at 206-841-4640 or email her at email@example.com.