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War on elder poverty! Struggling seniors focus of Bed-Stuy panel discussion - Brooklyn Paper
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War on elder poverty! Struggling seniors focus of Bed-Stuy panel discussion

“The cry of the baby was heard across the land” almost nine months to the day after World War II ended — resulting in a massive generation of baby boomers now aging past 65 at a rate of 250,000 a month. And facts show many of them struggle to make ends meet.

“The percentage of seniors living in poverty is staggering,” New York City Department for the Aging Commissioner Donna Corrado told CityLimits magazine in June. “Too many older New Yorkers make difficult choices about purchasing food, medicine, and paying their rent.”

More than 25 million Americans aged 60-plus live at or below the federal poverty level of $29,425 per year for a single person (or $11,770 for a single senior), but Supplemental Security Income provides just $433 each month for the average elder and may be the individual’s only source of income, according to the National Council on Aging.

Retirement security was a major topic at last year’s once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging, but many seniors don’t realize Federal help is available, according to a civic activist at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, which will hold a panel discussion called “New York Seniors and the Rising Food Insecurity Crisis” at Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza on Feb. 23.

“We want to educate them about the possibility of supplementing their income with government subsidies, so they get to keep more dollars in their pockets,” said Blaine Arthur, program manager of social services.

The symposium, which is aimed at seniors whose annual pre-tax income is $23,544, is the result of a partnership between the New York City Department for the Aging and the Aging in New York Fund. Jennifer Goodstein, the President and Publisher of Community News Group — the owner of this publication — will be a guest speaker along with: Caryn Resnick, Deputy Commissioner for the New York City Department for the Aging; Lisa A. Boyd, Chief Operating Officer of the Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation; Terry Kaelber, Director of Community Engagement Projects at United Neighborhood Houses of New York; Maggie Meehan, Associate Director of Nutrition Education at City Harvest; and Jose Luis Sanchez, Program Manager at Citymeals-on-Wheels.

Workers will pre-screen seniors for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps). The allowance — based on certain financial factors and immigrant status — has been a lifeline for poor Americans for 40 years as the first line of defense against hunger and a powerful tool for improving nutrition among low-income people. Benefits come to the household via electronic debit Electronic Benefit Transfer cards that recipients can use to buy food at more than 246,000 approved retail stores nationwide.

Gotham’s graying

The golden years of New Yorkers could be tarnished ones:

• More foreign-born seniors live here than in any other American city — with one out of every 10 older immigrants in the country calling the Big Apple home, according to the Center for an Urban Future.

• The city’s 60-plus community will equal Chicago’s current population by 2020, increasing the odds that more seniors will struggle to put food on the table and pay their bills, Mayor DeBlasio informed an astonished American Association of Retired Persons forum in December.

Bridging the gap

The first national food stamp program was instituted in 1939 after the Great Depression. Its chief architects were Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace and Milo Perkins, the program’s first administrator.

“We got a picture of a gorge with farm surpluses on one cliff and under-nourished city folks with outstretched hands on the other,” Perkins famously said. “Then we set out to find a practical way to build a bridge across that chasm.”

Panel discussion “New York City Seniors and the Rising Food Insecurity Crisis” at Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza [1368 Fulton St. between New York and Brooklyn avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant, (212) 602–4460] on Feb. 23 at 3 pm. RSVP by Feb. 20; https://nycseniorsfoodinsecurity.eventbrite.com.

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