SENIORS: AGE-FRIENDLY AMBASSADORS

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By Selma M. Jackson

My mother and my grandmother both lived to be 94 years old. The year before my mother died I asked myself how did I want to enjoy my golden years. If I wanted to be around as long as they were and what would I do for the next 30+ years? How would I live in my autumn season?

This is a new column for seniors: discovery, news, information and a place to share!

I have always been involved in my community wherever I find myself: my church, my job, my residence and my interests. I heard of the Age-Friendly Neighborhood initiative (AFN) and discovered that my neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant has been an AFN since 2009!

What is an AFN and what does it mean for you and me? An AFN is a community that makes sure services are inclusive of older adults. This includes affordable housing, retail stores that price and display items for elders, provide affordable cultural events, keep seniors informed of services, and have opportunities for older adults to enjoy walking, swimming and other forms of exercise.

Each AFN works with the local Council member and has an Advisory Committee made up of community stakeholders from the local Business Improvement District, nonprofit organizations, city officials and others representing cultural, educational and religious institutions. The Advisory Committee is tasked with implementing a Neighborhood Action Plan and recruiting Age-Friendly Ambassadors to help spread the word and help do the work.

So you can imagine I was excited to find out that Council member Robert Cornegy’s office was recruiting AGE-FRIENDLY AMBASSADORS to volunteer on the following four subcommittees:

Retail: this committee is developing a guide for older adults informing them of discounts, special services and age-friendly environments in retail stores–like not having to bend down to the bottom shelf for what you want.

Benefits: this committee hosts events at churches and senior centers informing the community of available services for older adults, including SCRIE, SNAP, health care and other services.

Social Inclusion/Events: this committee plans events for older adults to have a good time. We recently hosted a Red and White Ball for Valentine’s Day and are responsible for the Senior Swim Days at Kosciuszko Pool. Have an idea for fun, let us know.

Fostering Academic and Cultural Excellence: this committee volunteers once a month during school hours at our adopted school PS 308 to read to elementary school children primarily in grades K-3. Along with the Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant and the Links, we enjoy our intergenerational reading program at four schools throughout the district and have up to 20 volunteers! We also assist with school Science and Book Fairs. It’s an opportunity to nurture and be involved in the growth of our young children.

Besides the above committees, we also help out with Council District 36 Participatory Budgeting voting, senior crawl and housing ideas for older adults like home sharing and this September we will host Active Aging Week, a weeklong campaign that celebrates the positive aspects of aging today.

But it’s not all work, we have fun while we work and we have just plain fun! Last week, we hosted an afternoon of cultural enrichment at Weeksville Heritage Center called “Tea with Tia”, curated by President and Executive Director Tia Powell Harris. We experienced the new addition at Weeksville: one of the houses provides information on tablets about the lives of Weeksville residents and you can listen to stories. We ended with an intergenerational afternoon tea and sweets with Mrs. Harris and the youth from MY BASE (Motivated Youth Building All Self-Empowerment), a community organization for youth 18-25 years. It was enjoyable and a wonderful time to discuss our shared history with the younger generation.

Want to get involved? We meet the second Tuesday from 4-6pm at Quincy Senior Residence, 625 Quincy St. Join us! For more information about AFN Ambassadors contact: Andrea Green, AFN Program Associate at (718) 919-2100 or call the Council Member’s office at (718) 919-0740.