First Annual Bronx Aging Advocacy Day Held

OLDER BRONXITES AND allies gather on the steps of Bronx Borough Hall on May 1, 2023, to call for the restoration of cuts in the City budget to fund various services and programs for seniors.
Photo by Ariel Pacheco

Amid proposed budget cuts, the first annual Bronx Aging Advocacy Day was held on May 1 on the steps of Bronx Borough Hall as elected officials, advocates, community organizations and seniors gathered to help fight for the protection of equitable services for the elderly population.

Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed City budget for fiscal year 2024 was set to see reduced city funding for many programs that provide essential services to the elderly, including cuts to older adult centers and home-delivered meals. The City Council’s budget response called for increased funding for these programs, however, along with calls to provide holiday and weekend meals for seniors. The deadline to implement the City’s budget is July 1.

“We are standing here today to advocate for a budget that does not cut our services, but adds to our services,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson. “Sadly, we are seeing proposed cuts. We are seeing $7 million cuts in older adult centers, $5 million cuts in cuts for home delivered meals, and the elimination of $1 million of a one-time reimbursement for home-delivered meals just in this adopted budget alone.”

Gibson called on Adams and City Hall officials to “stand with our seniors” in maintaining funds for these programs. Among the changes Gibson said she wished to see in a revised budget were better pay for human service workers.  “We are also calling for pay parity for human service workers who have been in the trenches,” said the borough president. “Human service workers are valuable parts of our infrastructure, and they don’t get the pay that they deserve.”

BRONX BOROUGH PRESIDENT Vanessa Gibson speaks to those gathered during a rally at Bronx Borough Hall on May 1, 2023, to call for the restoration of cuts in the City budget to fund various services and programs for seniors, as District 16 City Councilwoman Althea Stevens and others look on.
Photo by Ariel Pacheco

Gibson also noted that many older adults struggle with a gap in their digital knowledge and that the pandemic left that portion of the population disconnected from families and friends. “During the pandemic many of us were disconnected,” she said. “We did not have the digital equity and the tech access to reach out. The programs we are talking about have proven successful; they make a difference.”

Meanwhile, District 16 City Councilwoman Althea Stevens, who represents the neighborhoods of Claremont, Concourse, Concourse Village, Highbridge, Morris Heights, Mount Eden, and Morrisania, was also in attendance. Stevens spoke on her prevailing wage bill, which she said would establish prevailing wage requirements for city-contracted human service workers.

“That’s something that’s not talked about,” Stevens said. “How are we ensuring that you’re able to age with dignity and that you are getting the things that you deserve?”

Several older adults in attendance were later given the opportunity to share their personal experiences of using City services and raised concerns about how potential cuts would alter their respective lifestyles.

In reference to the various services which she said are so appreciated by Bronx seniors, Bernadine Harding of the Lafayette Morrison NORC Center, said, “They have a wonderful arts and crafts programs for us. It gives me something to do during the day and that’s very helpful for senior citizens’ mental health.” She added, “And the lunch is out of this world!”

SHOPP Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Elder Justice Program is presenting a series of Understanding Elder Abuse workshops through June 28. 
Flier courtesy of

The New York Academy of Medicine Center for Healthy Aging (NYAM) conducts research programs and policy initiatives to ensure that everyone has access to good health care. NYAM recently launched the “Aging Well in the Bronx survey” in an effort to use the findings to make The Bronx a better place to grow older.

The director of NYAM’s Center for Healthy Aging, Elana Keiffer, said they’ve conducted similar surveys in both Brooklyn and Manhattan and have used the data collected to help make recommendations to improve the quality of life for seniors.

NYAM has also created an interactive map to help senior citizens locate human resource services and support in every borough. Meanwhile, residents can click here to complete the survey online. It is available in several languages including Spanish, Bengali, Italian, Russian, and Chinese.

Elected officials, community organizations, and seniors gather on the steps of Bronx Borough Hall on May 1, 2023, to call for the restoration of cuts in the City budget to fund various services and programs for seniors.
Photo by Ariel Pacheco

May is officially known as Older Americans Month, with this year’s theme being “Aging Unbound.” U.S. Census data from 2022 estimated that 14 percent of The Bronx’s population are 65 years and older.

Norwood News has contacted both the mayor’s office and NYC Department of Ageing for comment on the proposed cuts to senior services. Gregory Rose, deputy director for press and public information for the department, responded, saying, ““This administration is committed to older New Yorkers, ensuring we are a model age-inclusive city. While this has been a tough budget process for everyone, [we were] able to secure 4 percent in savings by realizing unspent resources from a variety of programs we offer. This will allow us to continue key services to help residents in every borough age in place.”

A similar response from received from the mayor’s office from Jonah Allon, deputy press secretary for the Office of the Mayor, who said, “Uplifting and supporting our city’s growing older adult population is a key priority for this administration. In the Executive Budget, nearly every agency had to achieve savings in response to fiscal and economic conditions, including a projected $4.3 billion in migrant costs by next year, the need to fund labor contracts with the city’s workforce, and slowing growth in tax revenue.”

Allon added, “All of the savings the Department for the Aging achieved in this round were due to underspending and do not affect services at the department. Our goal is to ensure we can serve as many older adults as possible, primarily those who need these services the most.”

SHOPP Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Elder Justice Program is presenting a series of Understanding Elder Abuse workshops through June 28. See attached flier above for more information.

If you are an older New Yorker feeling lonely or isolated, NYC Aging can connect you with a friendly volunteer to talk with over the phone or video chat as part of its Friendly Voices Program for Seniors. Call (212)-Ageing-NYC (212) 244 -6469 and ask about the Friendly Voices Program.

Meanwhile, for New Yorkers 60 years old and over, a Seniors Fitness program offers free twice weekly pickleball, tennis, yoga, and fitness walking classes across all five boroughs since April 2023. Participants of all levels are welcome to come out, have fun, and socialize. Visit https://cityparksfoundation.org/ or call (212) 360-1399 for more information.

On Tuesday, May 23 at 5 p.m., Montefiore Rehab Specialists are hosting a “Walk with a Doc”event at Williamsbridge Oval Recreation Center at 3225 Reservoir Oval East, Bronx, 10467, where specialists from the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine will gather with local residents and walk for one hour. They will cover around 2-3 miles, and participants are encouraged to go at their own pace. New research shows that walking 8,000 steps once or twice a week may help you live longer.

BRONXWORKS AND TWIN Parks West Older Adult Center, 355 East 183rd Street, Bronx, NY 10458, invites residents to come join some fun classes Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Flier courtesy of BronxWorks & partners

Other benefits include lower risk of heart disease and improved brain health. Walk with a Doc is a free exercise event that has been taking place since 2015. It allows the community to come together to exercise, connect and practice wellness, along with medical professionals. Montefiore specialists also participant in the physical activity and answer health and wellness questions from the group. More information is available here.

BronxWorks and Twin Parks West Older Adult Center, 355 East 183rd Street, Bronx, NY 10458, invites residents to come join some fun classes Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. See attached flier below for details.

*Síle Moloney contributed to this story. 

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