Serving a diverse aging population

IMG_3704In order to improve immigrant seniors’ access to New York City’s senior services, Met Council’s Communication Manger, Rena Resnick testified in front of the Committees on Aging and Immigrations.

Rena began her testimony applauding the City Council for its expansion of its Age Friendly Initiative, as well as for improving access to senior centers and encouraging the development of more quality, senior housing accommodations.

Since Met Council’s inception, caring for senior immigrants has been core to Met Council’s mission.  Many of our clients work their entire lives, but when they become too frail to work, their lack of a deep and wide enough safety net makes it difficult for them to remain safely in the homes that they love.

To address these needs, just this month, Met Council created its first geriatric services manager to coordinate all our services offered to seniors to ensure that they are the most effective, efficient and compassionate.

To ensure that this vulnerable population is served with dignity and is educated on all services they are entailed to, we work diligently in our outreach efforts.


During a time when tailored outreach is increasingly relying on social media and email, we have found that reaching the senior immigrant population requires a different approach.


In order connect with senior immigrants and help inform and enroll them into available benefits, we have utilized a few simple, but critical tools, including: traveling to the neighborhoods where seniors live, creating initial pre-screening questions in clients’ native languages, utilizing volunteers and creating comprehensive follow up plans.


Below, are three programs we have successfully promoted to the senior immigrant population.


  • Project Metropair – City Council-Funded free home repair services for seniors

Our free handyman service, Project Metropair, funded through the generosity of the City Council, fixes minor home repairs enabling frail seniors to age safely in place.  To reach seniors in Flatbush and in Shorefront, we deployed volunteers to pre-screen seniors. During the fall, Met Council distributes more than 300,000 pounds of kosher food. Unfortunately, the need is so great that in many communities, there are lines of people waiting for food.


While on line, our volunteers asked the seniors the three pre-screening questions. Many of these volunteers did not speak Russian, but because our questions were typed in Russian, we were able to communicate with the seniors. This outreach tool successfully informed seniors of a service and collected important information to follow up with eligible clients to schedule visits from our handymen.


  • SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

Many seniors do not know that they are eligible for SNAP.  In Boro Park, one of our clients owned a butcher shop. Every Friday, he saved some meat to provide for the poor so that they too could honor the Sabbath.  Ironically, now that he has retired, he found that he could no longer afford kosher protein.  His case worker informed him of the benefits of SNAP and immediately enrolled him.  But many more senior immigrants do not have the fortitude to meet with social workers and learn about these programs.


To reach the other senior immigrants, Met Council has developed a pre-screening Smartphone application — an App.  Our SNAP specialists and volunteers are deployed to Greenmarkets around the City, including: in the Bronx, Boro Park, Union Square and Downtown Brooklyn. We are able to pre-screen on the spot, and we can direct eligible seniors to one of our local councils. Through this aggressive outreach, we have been able to enroll more than 11,000 families, many of which included seniors.


  • SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption)

This summer, when the City Council and Administration increased the income qualification for SCRIE, Met Council held four SCRIE Enroll-a-Thons during the month of August in order to assist clients enroll into the program and avoid future rent increases. Many of these clients were newly eligible for the benefit.  We held these events at our senior affordable housing buildings in Manhattan. In coordination with the City’s Department of Finance, our housing site staff and volunteers we were able to enroll 70 seniors into the program by bringing the application to them and by creating a document checklist in both English and Russian.


In conclusion, Met Council could not continue providing critical social services to thousands of needy New Yorkers each year without the vital partnership of New York City Council. We deeply value your leadership and partnership and look forward to working together to help the needy throughout the New York area.


Thank you.  To view the testimony, please visit


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