2002-01-16 / Seniors

Senior Spotlight

By John Toscano


Mendez Santiago Succeeds Stupp As DFTA Head

After eight years at the helm of the city Department for the Aging, Herbert W. Stupp has been succeeded by Edwin Mendez–Santiago, who was appointed to the post by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mendez–Santiago, a professional in the social services and senior services fields, comes to his new position after a long association with the Spanish Speaking Elderly Council (RAICES), of which he was executive director.

The SSEC was formed in 1978 by retired Hispanic senior citizens who saw the need for an organization which would provide services for, educate and organize the Latino, minority and low-income aged in Brooklyn.

In 1985, it created RAICES, ("roots" in Spanish), a model program on how to reach and serve minority populations. A main focus has been reaching out to the isolated, hard to reach, inner city and impoverished elderly.

SSEC currently operates 12 programs, mostly in Brooklyn, but two of its senior centers are in Queens: the RAICES Corona Senior Center, 102-47 43rd Ave., and the RAICES Astoria Senior Center at 24-54 31st Rd.

Mendez–Santiago, whose expertise and leadership in the field is widely recognized, has at various times been sought by the Administration on Aging, the National Institute On Aging, and the city and state Departments for the Aging.

He is a frequent lecturer and serves as the Brooklyn representative on the city Health and Hospitals Corporation board of directors. He was appointed as a delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Aging by Congressmember Nydia Velazquez.

Stupp leaves DFTA with an enviable record. Serving under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for two terms, the Bayside resident lists among his achievements the creation of the nation’s first state-of-the-art computer-based benefits screening program, called UNI-FORM. By next year, seniors or their families will be able to check their eligibility for as many as 18 benefits via the Internet.

Stupp also launched 11 new social adult day services programs for the physically frail and for seniors with cognitive problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Under his aegis, 28 programs were begun in as many Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities under the NORC program. The program establishes social services and aged programs in apartment buildings and complexes where residents have lived for long periods of time and are now part of the senior community.

Stupp also established the Grandparent Resource Center for grandparents who unexpectedly find themselves raising grandchildren and need assistance and services in their new parenting role.

Also during Stupp’s tenure, nine new senior centers—five opened, four initiated—are earmarked for underserved city neighborhoods, and 250 others were renovated or relocated.

In a parting statement, he pointed out that until September 11, the DFTA city budget had grown by over 100 percent during Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s two terms.

"It has been a wonderful privilege for me to serve with many dedicated individuals at DFTA and in the non-profit agencies we fund," Stupp said. "They are committed to constantly improving services to this city’s seniors."

SEEKS OLD CELL PHONES: Old and used cell phones might save a senior citizen’s life under a plan announced last week by Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn).

Weiner is calling for his constituents, and anyone else for that matter, to donate old cell phones so that the devices can be refurbished and then programmed with ‘911’ emergency hotline access and given to seniors throughout Queens and Brooklyn for emergency use.

Weiner said his plan calls for him to work with an organization called "Phones for Life" to implement the plan. Phones for Life, a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Dee L’Archeveque, will take the donated cell phones and program them with the ‘911’emergency access.

The converted phones would then be made available, Weiner said, to various senior citizen centers throughout Brooklyn and Queens. The phones would go out on a priority basis, with severity of medical condition, age and degree of disability the first conditions to be considered.

"The simple task of donating a used cell phone can save a senior’s life," Weiner said.

Used phones should be brought or be mailed to Weiner’s Brooklyn district office located at 1901 Emmons Ave., Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11235. The Queens portion of Weiner’s district includes Forest Hills, Rego Park, Glendale and Middle Village.

For information, call (718) 334-9001.

VOL PROGRAM: Volunteers to assist visually impaired seniors in their everyday activities are being sought by the city Department for the Aging Volunteer Support Project. Volunteers usually spend two to five hours a week in the program, according to the DFTA. They help with such tasks as shopping and visits to the Post Office or beauty salon and accompany seniors on doctor visits or for a day at a senior center.

Volunteers meet with clients on a one-to-one basis in every borough, either at the client’s home or by telephone. Most of those served live alone or are homebound and in great need of social support. Age eligibility for participation in the program ranges from high school to 80 years. For more information, call the Intergenerational Programs unit of the DFTA at (212) 442-3158 during business hours, or log on to www.nyc.gov/aging.

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