2000-11-29 / Seniors

Clinton Unveils New Programs To Get Fruits, Veggies To Seniors

As part of the festivities marking President Bill Clinton’s last Thanksgiving Day in office, the chief executive announced a modest new program designed to help seniors get more fresh fruit and vegetables, both of which will be paid for by the federal government.

To do this, the president would establish a $10 million grant program for states to give coupons to low-income seniors to shop for fresh produce at farmers’ markets. Seniors would be eligible for one $20 coupon a year, in addition to whatever else might be available from their state governments.

The president also announced two other programs to help put food on the tables of those who don’t have the means to buy these products. Under one program, the government will purchase $200 million more in food commodities to go to food banks (which assist the needy), senior feeding programs and soup kitchens. Under the other, $2.4 million in grants would be authorized to build community gardens and to train school children in gardening, nutrition and food preparation.

MORE SENIORS TO GET TAX CUT: More senior citizen homeowners will be eligible for some property tax savings under a bill passed by the City Council last week. The bill adds $1,000 to the annual income required to qualify for the program under the Senior Citizens Homeowner Exemption Program (SCHE). The president income caps are $19,500 to receive the maximum 50 percent exemption on real estate taxes and $27,900 to receive the minimum five percent exemption. Raising those income limits by $1,000 brings into the program many taxpayers not formerly eligible.

Properties included for coverage are one, two and three-family homes, co-ops, and condos.

City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D–Astoria), was the sponsor of the bill. Councilmember Julia Harrison (D–Flushing), chairperson of the Committee on Aging and a co-sponsor, said the bill would help those already enrolled in the SCHE program as well as newly eligible homeowners.

FLU VACCINE ‘LOANS’: If you haven’t received your flu shot because your doctor or senior center didn’t receive the vaccine yet, don’t give up hope. Health officials say the vaccine, delayed for a variety of reasons, will eventually be delivered and the shots will be given.

To overcome the supply shortage, city Department of Health officials last week tried to "borrow" some vaccine from private corporations so it could get some of the precious medicine to nursing homes and senior centers where seniors in high-risk groups have been patiently waiting for it.

The Health Department is still requesting supplies of the vaccine from manufacturers. "We’re expecting to be in much better shape in a week or two," department spokesperson Sandra Mullin said. "If there’s one silver lining to the vaccine delays, its that it has made more people aware of the protective benefits of the vaccine."

OTHER FLU NEWS: While not being able to get the flu shot has many seniors concerned, there was some good news on the flu front last week. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that taking the prescription flu therapy Tamiflu not only treats influenza, but a pill a day during an outbreak can help prevent the illness. But, the FDA cautioned, don’t skip the flu shot and just rely on Tamiflu. Vaccination said an FDA official, is still the primary preventive measure against the flu.

HIP PROTECTORS EFFECTIVE: A study done on wearing hip protectors to prevent fractures shows the devices are very effective.

In the study done in Finland, hip protectors (hard-shelled pads), were given to 653 elderly patients while another 1,148 acted as a control group. The ages of those in the study ranged from 75 to 87.

At the end of the two-year study, four of the 653 wearing the pads had broken their hips, although a total of 1,034 in both groups suffered falls. In comparison, there were 67 breaks among the 1,148 patients in the control group, 370 of whom took falls.

Commenting on the Finnish study, Dr. Robert D’Ambrosia, a surgeon at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, stated: "This Finnish study really shows that it makes a difference. If you can prevent one of these fractures from occurring, it’s a lot better than trying to fix it afterward."

An estimated 250,000 people break their hips every year in the United States and it’s predicted that this number will increase to 650,000 by mid-century. About 10 different hip protectors are on the market.

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