No parent wants to die before their child. But when you are 90 and your 60-year-old son dies, the emotional bruise is accompanied by practical worries. It means you are alone to deal with problems like getting in and out of the shower, of bedbugs. Say you get an exterminator to come and deal with the bugs. Are you strong enough at 90 to move the furniture around so the spraying works? Who helps you? Who notices when something is wrong and you don’t leave your apartment for days?
These were among the worries that a small army of senior citizens brought to their City Councilmembers on Wednesday during the annual Advocacy Day organized by the Council of Senior Centers and Services. One day before Mayor de Blasio is to present his first executive budget, the seniors Came bearing several demands. They want better funding for senior meal services, and the reversal of cuts to adult daycare for people suffering from dementia. They want the city to take elder abuse more seriously.
Near the top of the list is more money for the city’s NORCs, or naturally occurring retirement communities. These are buildings, complexes or neighborhoods where the concentration of seniors is so great the city provides services like health classes, assistance getting government benefits and volunteers who check in on people. There are currently 28 NORCs around the city but the mayor’s preliminary budget only provided funding for 25 of them. The other three could cease operations on July 1 if $1 million isn’t added to the budget of the Department for the Aging.
At a meeting with Queens Councilmember Daniel Dromm, Edgar O. Llanos, 64, said exercise classes offered by his NORC were one of the reasons he dropped 70 pounds since retiring. NORCs also were a front-line defense against elder abuse, he said, because staff was trained to look for signs that someone is being mistreated.
Dromm’s mother lives in a NORC, and he says it was essential to her recovery from a serious injury. The NORC got safety bars into her bathroom, helped with social services and arranging a visiting nurse and helped the family protect her assets.
One of the three NORCs in danger sits in Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s district. “Ultimately, that will help us in getting the NORCs funded,” Dromm told the visiting seniors. He said Mark-Viverito has been receptive to calls for restoration. Amid a $73 billion budget, $1 million is not much, Dromm added. “But what we get for that little bit of money is so important.”