Serving more than 400 seniors daily, the center coordinates multilingual, interactive and educational workshops with the goal to create awareness of what to do when unexpected disaster strikes.
Selfhelp also developed a strong relationship with the local 109th Precinct and FDNY, which conduct regular safety presentations and drills at the center.
During the summers, the senior center acts as one of the city’s activated cooling centers, keeping the community comfortable and protected from heat emergencies.
Last week, NYC Emergency Management (NYEM), along with the city’s Department for the Aging (DFTA), presented Selfhelp director Mayer Waxman with this year’s Senior Center of the Year Award.
The seventh-annual award recognizes a senior center in the five boroughs making an exceptional commitment to emergency preparedness.
“We are honored and privileged to be here today to give this award, because this facility means so much to this community and to the city itself,” said NYEM first deputy commissioner Andrew D’Amora to a packed audience at the Selfhelp Center on Kissena Boulevard.
Each year, NYEM and DFTA visit senior centers across the city directing emergency preparedness presentations for older adults. D’Amora says the levels of interest and dedication for the topic at Selfhelp, from seniors as well as staff, was impressive.
The Selfhelp team aided seniors in downloading the Ready NYC emergency plan app to their technology, in addition to displaying NYEM hurricane preparedness videos on the monitor in the center’s lobby.
They also distributed the program’s safety information through an email network of more than 200 members.
More than emergency planning, Selfhelp provides an array of services and activities for the community’s aging population. Among them are art, music, dance and fitness classes, as well as citizenship preparation and health management programs.
“It’s really Jane Qiu who runs this incredibly successful center and makes it the great place it is for you, and also makes it the safe and ready place that it is,” said Waxman, giving credit to Selfhelp’s program director.
In an increasingly fast-paced society that glorifies youth, centers like Selfhelp are a crucial component of neighborhood life. They can become a second home for seniors - a place where they can visit friends, share warm meals, stay active and feel safe.
“During emergencies our one concern is the safety of older adults,” said DFTA assistant commissioner of Community Services Louella Byers.
“About 30,000 New Yorkers visit older centers each day, and it takes a lot of hard work to make sure that they are prepared,” she added. “We cannot do it alone. As a city, we are stronger when we work together and support each other during emergencies and everyday.”
The center’s seniors closed out the presentation by showing off their dance and musical skills, performing several traditional routines including fan dancing, tai chi and Mongolian dance.