2008-12-12 / Editorial/Opinion

Keep Senior Centers Open And Running

If Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Department for the Aging have their way, approximately 85 senior centers will soon close down and many more will be forced to restructure their programs that now serve the needs of seniors. Rockaway, with its plethora of seniors, will be particularly hardhit should the newly-established Request For Proposals (RFP) process be carried to fulfillment. Queens Borough President Helen Marshall says that the RFP is so destructive to seniors that it would "dismantle the entire senior citizen service delivery system in New York City." The new RFP would certainly change all that today's seniors have become accustomed to. For example, the RFP changes the Meals on Wheels program so fundamentally that rather than receiving a hot meal from a service provider each day, seniors would receive several frozen meals once a week. That may be more cost effective, but that visit each day from the provider may well be the only way seniors can have human contact during the day. And, that hot meal may well be the only meal of the day for some seniors, many of whom are incapable of even using an oven or microwave to heat the frozen meal. The RFP would also cut funding for building renovations or long-term equipment purchases, leaving that to the non-profits who run the individual programs, something that would quickly become a major financial burden to small-time providers. It would effectively mandate upgrades in programs without funding those upgrades. In addition, the program eliminates funding for adult day care programs, elder abuse prevention and many other support services now funded through the city agency. All in all, the RFP is bad news for Rockaway's seniors. At the same time, the agency will continue to fund programs that are politically-connected, such as Geraldine Chapey's senior citizen van program that has drawn more than $1,000,000 for her non-profit in the past dozen years. Where is the fairness? We believe that the city should pull back on its RFP and then meet with seniors and their advocates to come up with a plan that will truly service those who need help in their twilight years.

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