September 7, 2018 – The Roy Wilkins Gym was packed with local senior citizens who arrived by the bus-load, eager to learn about the series of programs that would be tailored to them.
New York State Senators James Sanders and Leroy Comrie launched the 16th Annual Senior Appreciation Month in Jamaica, NY on Friday afternoon. It started as a weekly event series before including programming across the month of September.
The highly-anticipated celebration has unified many of the city, state, and federal representatives around the service of the senior citizens in the community, who are a strong voting bloc in Southeast Queens. Nearly half (45 percent) of the electorate in the 2016 election was 50 or older, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
Though many were not up for re-election, each of the representatives urged seniors to vote in the upcoming primaries, scheduled for next Thursday, September 13th. Councilman I. Daneek Miller reminded the crowd that “all elections have consequences” and that “we have demonstrated time and time-again that we value the tradition and the sacrifice of voting, but it’s not enough.”
Diane Lake has lived in Cambria Heights since 1975 and remains active in her community. She noted that while seniors have traditionally been the largest voting group in the Southeast Queens area, they have had difficulty encouraging younger people to participate in the process as well.
“Coming from an old person like me means nothing to them, but when they see a young person at their age, then they say, ‘you know what, if he can do it, maybe I should be doing it too’.”
At the end of the program, seniors embraced their peers and approached representatives with further questions, but many came up to thank Margaret Denson, a co-founder who announced that she would no longer be organizing Senior Appreciation Month.
She assured them that she will still be involved in the process, but that she wanted to give others an opportunity to practice civic engagement. “I want to turn it over to the young people.”
Upcoming events include a screening of ‘Black Panther’ on September 8th, the Annual Senior Breakfast on September 12th, Line Dancing on September 21st, and more throughout the month. For more information about scheduled events, contact either Senator Comrie’s office at (718) 765-6359 or Senator Sander’s office at (718) 523-3069.