If older New Yorkers missed out on festivities leading up to National Senior Citizens Day this past Sunday, Aug. 21, September is Senior Center Month. But NYC Department of Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez says elders can be acknowledged no matter the occasion.
“This country has been built by older adults,” she said. “We think about all of the major incidents and the major investments, whether it’s been a war, whether it’s been industry, or whether it has been the transition of industry. Older adults have always been at the forefront of that.”
They’re also the most civically-engaged. Cortés-Vázquez mentions earlier this summer, two-thirds of city voters were over the age of 50. And occasions like National Senior Citizens Day and Senior Center Month help remind politicians of eldery contributions to the city.
This past Wednesday, State Sen. Cordell Cleare hosted a National Senior Citizens Day in Harlem event outside the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building amidst her reelection campaign. She recommended elders to check their unclaimed funds with the Office of the New York State Comptroller.
“I didn’t even know I had money that the state was holding for me,” said Cleare. “Sometimes, it’s money you forgot about—it’s an old bank account. It might be a relative who passed away. And there’s money just sitting there, and they’re holding onto it until you claim it.”
Upcoming will be events for Senior Center Month, which celebrates, well, senior centers. In Harlem, the ARC A. Philip Randolph Senior Center will host a music and arts expo on Sept. 30. In Washington Heights, Riverstone Senior Life Services will send off summer with a luau on Sept. 23. And the Department of Aging will recognize older adult centers on Sept. 29 at a Gracie Mansion event.
New Yorkers over the age of 65 make up 14.9% of the city’s population, according to 2021 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. And the “Big Apple” is making efforts to accommodate the aging population—back in 2010, it was a founding member of the WHO’s Global Network of Age-friendly Cities. Despite New York City’s inclusion of older residents, the frenetic pace can cause issues, especially with more foot traffic. Seniors make up over 45% of the city’s pedestrian fatalities according to the Department of Transportation.
But Cortés-Vázquez wants everyone to save their pity for older New Yorkers. New York City’s famed tap water might not be a fountain of youth, but today’s elders are more active than ever.
“They’re a vibrant population,” she said. “This is not your grandfather’s aging…alright, your great-grandfather’s because your grandpa’s probably spry and active.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w