April 2014 Grants Newsletter | Cover Story
Young in Spirit
The Elderly, by the Numbers
Elderly residents in New York City: 1 million
Projected population by 2030: 1.4 million
City seniors living in poverty: 19 percent
City seniors who are not disabled: 80 percent
In 1976, Katherine Park learned the meaning of loneliness. The 76-year-old socialite and philanthropist lost her husband, Sam. She stopped traveling and going out, and later confessed to a friend she felt “all alone in the world.”
But Park wasn’t alone. All around her Upper East Side neighborhood—indeed, all around the City—elderly women and men struggled with similar feelings. When she died in 1981, her will established the Katherine A. Park Fund for the Elderly at The Trust to help senior citizens with mobility, health care, financial problems, loneliness, and depression. If the City’s million residents older than 65 seceded and formed their own city, it would be the ninth largest in the country.
Thanks in part to The Trust, the City is viewing this population as a tremendous resource. Two federal safety nets, Social Security and Medicare, provide basic income and medical benefits, but one-fifth of the City’s seniors still live in poverty—mainly because they’re struggling to cover the high cost of health care. Most are not disabled, which means they can actively contribute to their neighborhoods, says Len McNally, The Trust’s program director for health and people with special needs.
“In every borough, you notice that elders run the community gardens and the food pantry because they have the time,” McNally says. “They’re very rooted in their communities and tend to stay local.”
The Trust is distributing $460,000 among several nonprofits to help make a better life for the City’s elderly. A grant of $150,000
to the Aging in New York Fund
will enable several senior centers in poor neighborhoods to improve access to nutritious food. In addition, senior centers will update recreation programs to entice the next generation of seniors, who aren’t content with bingo. By 2030, these Boomer seniors are expected to outnumber the population of youth in the City. This will be a common trend in many developed nations.
Nearly half of The Trust’s budget for programs to assist the elderly comes from the Park fund, because Katherine Park foresaw a need to befriend people just like her. The programs it inspires can ease the isolation among the elderly, while encouraging them to help their neighbors.
Additional Grants for the Elderly
- Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City, $100,000, to help blind and visually impaired elders manage money and live independently.
- The New York City Elder Abuse Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, $60,000, to train staff of the Adult Protective Services to identify signs of elder abuse in those at risk of harm because of physical or mental impairment.
- Medicare Rights Center, $150,000, to advocate for chronically ill seniors who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. New York is one of 15 states to receive a federal waiver for a pilot project to combine both programs into a single plan.
Above: Group Fitness instructor Miki Henkin leads a Silver Sneakers class at Center @ Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. Cover: 90-year-old Harry Miller and Wonci Yee, tap dancing in Leah Breier’s class at Center @ Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. Photos by Ari Mintz / The Trust