Tag Archive | "senior citizens"

Skepticism over East Tremont Initiative to Fight Crime with Whistles

East Tremont residents have been worrying about the rising crime rates in their neighborhood, but they’re not too thrilled about a new plan for fighting the bad guys: whistles.

On July 27 on the steps of Borough Hall, community board leaders and elected officials — surrounded by cameras and expectant seniors — proudly launched their latest proposal: “Senior Citizens Whistle Blowers Public Safety Initiative.” The program aims to distribute whistles that elderly citizens will blow if they are in danger.

The first set of emerald-colored safety whistles were paid for by the medical group Healthfirst. (JUANITA CEBALLOS/The Bronx Ink)

The medical group Healthfirst paid for the first set of emerald-colored safety whistles that showcase their logo on the strap and the whistle. According to Laura Vialva, Healthfirst public relations manager, “roughly 11,000 whistles have been distributed.” Each whistle cost the company 95 cents.

But residents like Rebecca Alexander, 67, a long-term East Tremont resident, are skeptical. “Are they planning to solve the issues we have with a bunch of whistles?” said Alexander.  “It´s just a waste of time and money. Senior citizens will probably leave the whistles at home when they go out.”

That attitude isn’t the only problem. Yolanda Negron, director of social services at Casella Plaza, a housing facility that is home to over 1,000 seniors, is still waiting for the whistles that Healthfirst promised would give to the senior facility. “We gave them advertisement in exchange for 20 whistles,” said Negron. “It’s not my job to chase them and beg for the whistles they promised. If you start something, you have to finish it.”

When asked about Negrons’ complain, Laura Vialva said that there “has been a delay in the delivery of the whistles.” She said that instead of sending the whistles to directly the senior centers, Healthfirst sends them to the Community Boards. “If they don’t receive the whistles they can contact us or Ivine Galarza, Community Board 6 District Manager,” said Vialva.

Residents like Grayling McGinner, 56, say there wasn’t much publicity for the initiative. “I have not heard anything about it,” she said. “And now that I know, I can say that it has no sense. How are senior citizens supposed to blow a whistle if many of them have asthma and other respiratory diseases?”

Larcenia Walton, Bronx Borough senior services director, said community awareness is critical. “Kids play with whistles all the time,” she said. “If residents don’t associate the sound of a whistle with a senior in danger, this program is simply not going to work.

East Tremont retirees like Grover Fuller, 64, a member of Tremont Community Garden, is suspicious of the Community Board’s motives. “Initiatives of this kind are merely distractions from what is really going on,” he said. “It is just politics, nobody really wants to tackle the problems.”

Hellen Leda, director of Mt. Carmel Senior Citizens Center, agrees with Fuller. “It can be a good initiative as long as it is not a political strategy,” said Leda. “At this stage of the year,  you have to be really skeptical about politicians.”

Ivine Galarza, said that the raising crime rates numbers led her to launch the initiative. “I came up with this program because of all the crime that has been taking place in our community, particularly in the areas surrounding senior citizen buildings,” said Galarza.

Neither Galarza nor officers in the 48th Precinct have heard of a case where a whistle was used by a senior citizen to prevent a crime.

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, East BronxComments (0)

Diaz to hold Bronx rally in support of senior centers

Some older Bronx residents have a lot to lose if an April 1 state budget goes through with $27 million in cuts to elder services.  Sen. Ruben Diaz is expected to hold a rally today at 11 a.m. on the steps of Bronx Borough Hall to protest the proposed closures. The Wall Street Journal calls Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal “the steepest cut to the facilities in New York City history”. Citywide, 105 of  256 senior centers could have their funding cut this year. Reports suggest centers could start closing by July.

NY1.com lists the Bronx senior centers in danger of closing:

Arturo Schomberg Senior Center

CCBA Betances Senior Center

City Island Senior Center

East Concourse Senior Center

Einstein Senior Center

JASA Throgs Neck Senior Center

Kips Bay Castle Hill Senior Center

Mechler Hall Senior Center

Marble Hill Senior Center


Mitchell Houses

Parkside Senior Center

Pio Mendez

PSS-Davidson Senior Center

Rain Boston Secor Senior Center

Rain College Avenue Senior Center

Rain East Tremont Senior Center

Rain Gunhill Senior Center

Rain Nereid

Sister Annunciata Bethel Senior Center

Thomas L. Guess Commun

Posted in NewswireComments (0)

For Seniors, Snow Means Skipping “Chicken Day”

For Seniors, Snow Means Skipping “Chicken Day”

The snow day is over in the Bronx, but what’s left of it is still complicating the lives of borough residents.

Alice Morris, the coordinator of the Parkchester food pantry operated by H.O.M.E.E. Clinic, a nonprofit that helps the mentally ill, said turnout was a lot lower today because of the weather.

“It would be ludicrous to expect it to be the same,” she said.

Most of the food pantry’s guests are seniors from the area, Morris said, and added that the snowy streets made it difficult for them to get to there. Eighteen people showed up today, compared with the usual 50.

We try to put enough food in the bags to feed the recipients for two to three days, she said. Those who couldn’t make it to the pantry missed some tangerines and a recipe on “spinach and tangerine salad,” that Morris had written and included in the package.

Those who made it to the senior center on “chicken day” were cheerful despite the weather. Photo by Elif Ince

At a senior clinic around the corner, the Regional Aid for Interim Needs (RAIN) East Tremont, turnout was down by almost half, said Shirley Martinez, the program director.

“On chicken day, we usually have up to 60 people,” she said.

Today, the number was in the low 30s.

Martinez said the clinic had been told to prepare extra meals for seniors to take home, in case they would not be able to leave their houses the following day. Martinez said the city could do a better job of cleaning the curbs. For seniors, “getting over the piles of snow is the problem,” she said.

Estella Douglas, a volunteer, is responsible for preparing the juice and dessert. Photo by Elif Ince

Every Tuesday, St. Peter’s Episcopalian Church in Westchester Village opens its soup kitchen to the neighborhood.

Today, the small kitchen in the basement was in a state of emergency because Marge, the cook, whom the Rev. Joade Daver-Cardasis described as a “stalwart,” was not present.

“She got here, but her feet were wet and her pants were soaked, so she turned and left,” Daver-Cardasis said. “She’s usually cooking up a storm.”

Thankfully, a nearby diner donated some food and, with the help of some extra volunteers, the kitchen was up and running by 12:30 p.m.

Daver-Cardasis said attendance was down by at least 25 percent because of the weather, and added that the weather made things difficult for people.

Not everyone agreed.

“We’ve had snow in New York before this,” said a senior who wished to remain anonymous. “Everybody makes a mountain out of a molehill.”

Nevertheless, she thought there was room for improvement. “They’re not shoveling at the corners, so you basically have to swim,” she said, adding, “And those motorists! They never slow down for people. We get drowned!”

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, East Bronx, FoodComments (0)

Fresh as a Daisy

By Leslie Minora

Daisy and Montefiore Hospital cardiac rehabilitation staff members show off her carefully recorded exercise plan.

Daisy and Montefiore Hospital cardiac rehabilitation staff members show off her carefully recorded exercise plan. Photo by Leslie Minora

It is usually a cause for concern when a 99-year-old woman arrives at the hospital, but this was not the case on Nov. 23 in the cardiac rehabilitation center of Montefiore Hospital in the southeast Bronx.

The hospital’s doctors and staff threw a birthday celebration for Daisy McFadden in the rehabilitation exercise room, where she has worked out three times per week since her bypass surgery 11 years ago. Her actual birthday was the following day.

“We only do this for the best,” said April Vail, who has been the manager of rehabilitation for 12 years. “Everybody loves her.”

“I come to exercise; that’s number one,” said McFadden, who was a nurse for 34 years. But she had a few other secrets to pass on. “I eat five vegetables every day, three fruits, and I steam them,” she said. The Bronx elder, who wore a turquoise jacket with tangerine accents and a matching scarf, was very proud of her health regimen.

“You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of other people,” she said.

Her bypass surgeon and rehabilitation team stood around her as her friends and the hospital staff sang “Happy Birthday.” McFadden blew out all of the candles with a deep breath and a swift puff. “It was all that exercise,” she said.

“I’m just full of happiness,” she said beaming as she mingled with about 15 party guests. She was on her feet for most of the afternoon without a cane or walker and appeared energetic as she entertained the constant stream of people wishing her a happy birthday and asking her secrets to great skin, endless energy, and a long life.

The youthful senior goes to bed at 9 p.m. and wakes up at 5 a.m. “Yes, and I get fully dressed,” she said. McFadden orders her clothing from the Bloomingdales, Talbots, and Nordstrom catalogs. Bloomingdales petite sizes fit well, she said, because the arms of regular sizes are too long for McFadden, who is built small with tiny wrists. She enjoys getting dressed, and said aging hasn’t slowed down the process, except for those occasions when she must replace the tiny batteries of her two hearing aids.

McFadden is lucky to be alive and in good health, said Dr. Lari Attai, who performed her triple bypass surgery 11 years ago. “Without surgery, she would have gone on to have a heart attack,” he said. Attai, 77, who has been with the hospital for 52 years, stopped performing surgery last year, and now teaches at the hospital. “You look terrific,” he told McFadden, whom he calls a “young lady.”

When McFadden was an even younger lady, she used to attend local social events and dance with her husband, a New York Police Department officer, whom she married in 1934. “We had a good life together, wonderful life together…over 50 years,” she said. Her husband died in 1985.

Another painful loss struck McFadden three years ago, when her only son, a Massachusetts radiologist named Samuel after her husband, also died four months after doctors diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer. “I miss him so,” McFadden said. “He was great.” His photo sits prominently on a side table in her living room, across from the front door, next to the couch. “It upsets me to talk about him,” she said. McFadden has two grandsons and two great-grandsons, who all live out of town.

McFadden was not only a nurse by profession, but a nurse by vocation to her family and friends. “I guess I was chosen to be a caregiver,” she said. “I’d do it all over again.”

An award from New York University’s nursing school hangs on her living room wall, honoring her for her career in nursing during which she spent 34 years working for the Bureau of Public Health. She is the only living graduate of her class.

Now, McFadden has so many people who care for her.  A week and a half after her party, the cluster of mylar balloons in her living room have deflated slightly, but four bouquets of flowers are still bright and perky. The table next to the big beige couch with its dark sturdy wooden legs is too crowded with family photos to fit any cards, but McFadden neatly lined up about 20 birthday well-wishes on several other tables throughout the spacious room, decorated with an upholstered chair donned with a lace doily and a stone corner fireplace.

The number of cards and flowers is surprising for a woman who has outlived her family and friends, but not if you know McFadden.

She lives by this advice and repeats it over and over to young people: “You collect friends a generation behind you and a generation behind them.” That’s right, two generations of friends, she says, because when people become too old to drive, so are their peers.

McFadden doesn’t drive, but that certainly doesn’t limit her activities. Since her retirement in 1972, she has been on the move more than most people a third her age. She retired early, at 62, because she wanted to travel. She went on island cruises with her husband;  visited Hawaii with her church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and traveled extensively with the American Nurses Association, visiting India, Tokyo, Singapore, and Moscow. After retirement, she was very active in the Retired Senior and Volunteer Program, RSVP. Through this, she started the 60 Plus Food and Fun Club at her church. And to work off the food and fun, in the 1970s, she began the 60 Plus Swingers, an exercise and dance program. The dance group still exists though she said, “Many of the ones who started have passed on.” The Swingers perform at nursing homes, senior centers, and schools. Once, during a performance at Lehman College, one student yelled, “You go, grandma!” “That’s right. We are pretty hot,” she said, laughing.

The 60 Plus Swingers meetings are still part of McFadden’s routine, though she no longer can dance. Her knees have been hurting recently. “Of course, I’m the oldest one,” she said, adding that now she is the DJ. The Swingers dance to music from both records and CDs. “We’re up to date,” she said.

In addition to her church group, McFadden is a member of the 47th Precinct Council, the East 222nd Street Block Association, and a social club called “The Girlfriends” that began over 80 years ago. She is active in the alumni associations of both schools she attended, the Harlem Hospital Center School of Nursing, and New York University, where she earned her bachelors and masters degrees in nursing from 1951-1955 at a time when the school only cost $13 per credit. One birthday floral arrangement on her table is from the dean of the nursing program.

In the little spare time that McFadden has with all of her exercise and community involvement, she teaches a fitness class once a week at a local senior center as part of New York City’s Stay Well program. McFadden focuses on fitness as well as practical safety advice like turning on the light to go to the bathroom during the night to prevent falls.

“She’s been a positive role model to all of us,” said Jacqueline Sams, 74, whose mother went to nursing school with McFadden. Sams, who lives about five blocks from McFadden in Williamsbridge, calls her upbeat attitude “catchy.” Because of McFadden’s influence, Sams no longer eats red meat, and now says “74” proudly when asked her age.

McFadden is certainly not shy about her own age. She feels “blessed” to have lived such a long life, and her well-being has become her full-time job. Exercise at Montefiore, teaching at the senior center, grocery shopping, and cooking take up most of the day. But, she said, “there’s such a thing as necessary luxury.” For her, that means making time to get her hair and nails done twice a month at her favorite salon on West 57th Street in Manhattan.

Access-A-Ride drives McFadden to the salon, and she takes the express bus back to Williamsbridge, where she has lived in her tidy home since 1938. “Everyone knows me on the block,” she said. Her home, one of five houses in 1938 on the now-crowded block, is set back from East 222nd Street. Gray stone arches around the front door and white planters holding pink blossoms sit on either side of the front stoop. It looks like something from the set of a Hansel and Gretel performance. The brick facade, significantly less worn than the siding covering most of the block’s houses, is perfectly in place without any moss, dirt or visible signs of age.

Perhaps it’s something in the air.

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx NeighborhoodsComments (2)