It isn’t every day you see a senior adult holding up a sign that reads DON’T TAKE OUR LUNCH MONEY!
But with the mayor proposing $25 million in budget cuts to NYC Aging, a group of older adults, advocates, and elected officials gathered at Bronx Borough Hall to lobby against the cuts and propose more investment instead.
Data from the Furman Center shows that in Community Districts 1 and 2 (Mott Haven, Melrose, Port Morris, and Hunts Point, and Longwood), adults 65 and over make up only about 10% of the population, but approximately 40% of that age group is living in poverty.
Borough President Vanessa Gibson voiced strong support for a budget that better cares for seniors, noting, “Any proposed budget must be a reflection of our values.”
She expressed concern about $7 million in proposed cuts to senior centers and $5 million in cuts to delivered meals, and called for better pay for those who take care of seniors, from aides to lunch room staff. “They don’t get the pay that they deserve,” she said, adding that many workers are women of color.
Gibson also mentioned the much-neglected technological needs of older adults. During the pandemic, she said, too many “did not have digital equity and tech access to reach out to loved ones and family members,” which made the isolation even worse.
Councilwoman Althea Stevens (D-16) attended to show her support. As a member of the Committee on Aging, Stevens mentioned her bill in the council that calls for requiring human service providers to pay their employees at least the prevailing wage.
She said to the crowd, “How do we ensure that you’re aging with dignity? That you are given the things you deserve? That you don’t have to stand in line to beg for things you’re owed?”
A few older adults took the opportunity to speak up about how much they rely on city services in their daily lives and how potential cuts would harm them.
Bernadine Harding said that the programming at the Lafayette Morrison NORC Center “gives me something to do during the day — that’s very helpful for seniors’ mental health. Instead of being isolated in your house all day, you can go out, you can socialize.”
And she added, “Where else are you gonna go in New York City to get a hot, nutritious meal for $2?”
The event, which organizers said will become annual, coincided with efforts to get out a borough-wide survey for adults 65 and older in the Bronx.
The survey reads, “We want to hear from each of you about how well the borough is meeting your needs and suggest ways that the Bronx can better support older adults and people of all ages.”
The survey questions cover topics such as city resources, health, employment, housing, technology, and transportation. Residents can receive a paper copy of the survey by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (212) 822-7207.
In addition, this interactive map by the New York Academy of Medicine can help residents locate resources (older adult centers, congregate lunches, elder justice services, etc.) throughout the city.