Over the last year, 200 older adult NYCHA residents have spent time working in their communities to make a difference in the lives of their fellow senior residents. On December 5, 105 of these resident volunteers, known as Senior Champions, were honored for their hard work and dedication.
Launched at the end of 2018, the Senior Champions work with NYCHA and community members on actively engaging other seniors across the city, as well as keeping them informed about the Authority’s programs, issues, and initiatives. Senior Champion Carolyn Weathers from Marlboro Houses defines their role as “striving to bring unity to the community.”
Seniors are one of the largest populations living at NYCHA developments, with 40 percent of households headed by a person age 62 or older. Seniors Champions are organized in 15 different geographical zones citywide to ensure that older adults in each area are reached. These volunteers took on social, health, safety, and educational projects this past year, including hosting tea talks to discuss issues of importance to seniors, learning how to use computers and other technology, and participating in healthy living clubs.
Mary Goodman, 92, is a resident of Manhattanville Houses who enjoys being a Senior Champion representing Zone 12 (Washington Heights, Inwood, and West and Central Harlem). She said the program is great because “A lot of senior citizens still want to be independent, but we also still need help.” Through her participation, she is not only helping her fellow residents but learning new things, too. During a safety presentation her zone helped organize, she and other attendees learned about phone scams targeting the elderly and being careful about the type of information they give out during phone calls.
“It’s been so interesting; with the Senior Champions we are getting a lot of tips and we are being informed about where to get help, which organizations and representatives can help us with social services,” Ms. Goodman said.
Zone 13 in East Harlem helped seniors learn how to pack a go bag and be prepared for emergencies; distributed fresh vegetables to homebound seniors; and held regular healthy eating and living tea talks.
Zone 5, representing the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford Stuyvesant, Williamsburg, and Bushwick, held a healthy eating fair for seniors which reached 83 seniors, with special guest Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. This zone also had the Fire Department visit for a healthy homes workshop, and it has a healthy eating club which meets twice a month to exchange recipes, eating tips, and ideas to gain access to affordable nutritious foods.
“The Senior Champions are smart and brilliant; they bring a lot of wonderful ideas for the next generation and are bringing forth change within their NYCHA developments,” said Nostrand Houses Resident Association President Barbara McFadden.
The December 5 Senior Champions recognition event included guest speaker Charlene Gordon, Public Health Educator at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. It was sponsored by partners WellCare, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Public Health Solutions, Partners Health Plan, NYS Comptroller Office, NYCHA Health Initiatives, NYCHA Family Partnerships, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New Economy, JASA, and CenterLight Health Care. These sponsors also supported Senior Champion projects at NYCHA developments.
Addressing the seniors at the event, Anthony Friedman, Manager in NYCHA’s Resident Engagement Department said: “Thank you for the good work you do to enhance the quality of life in your communities. Today is your day to shine. Some of you will share the projects you have activated since last year’s kickoff. All of you will be recognized for being Senior Champions.”