Is your town responsive to the needs of the growing senior population? Almost all of the public speakers, seven of them, at Teaneck’s Budget Meeting on March 7 addressed that concern. In the midst of police, fire and a few other departments under review, it was the Recreation Department’s management of senior services which drew the ire of residents. In spite of their meagre requests they received only a lukewarm response from their mayor.
Teaneck population like much of America reflects an increasingly higher median age. Just between 2000 and 2017 people 55 years of age and older increased from 24.3% in 2000 to 25.9% in 2017. Conversely the population under 5 years of age decreased from 6.4% in 2000 to 5.5% in 2017. With a population in 2017 of 40,977 there are 11,906 people over 55 years of age in the township.
“Good & Welfare” (when people address the council)
- Jane Erwin, Senior Citizens Advisory Board member, stated, “Over 900 seniors attend classes at the Senior Center and their numbers are increasing dramatically. We need a second full-time professional staff member. Neighboring towns with much smaller enrollments have two or three full-time people. There is precedent for this as there were two such Teaneck employees when the enrollment was only 500. It was then reduced to one person. Our Teaneck residents are aging in place and anticipate you will provide a high level of interest and financial support.”
- Roosevelt Sliss seconded what Erwin said, and added, “We don’t want to be ignored.” He was particularly worried about Phelps Park.
- Micki Shalan was concerned that the Senior Center in the Rodda Building has been closed between Feb 22 to March 18 with nine or more weeks of breaks during each year. For seniors these are weeks without exercise classes, lunches, and companionship. The center is their lifeline.
Because of poor/delayed maintenance of the Rodda Building used by the seniors, there has been severe roof leaking this winter which required repairs. (See foto above by an intrepid senior). This necessitated closing the Senior Center room for part of February through March. However, the Senior Center with only one professional is routinely closed nine or more weeks each year. A second professional could assure full year-round service and better coordinate the many activities of the group.
Indeed, had the center been open during this period, more seniors would have learned that the recreation budget was scheduled for last night, and more seniors would likely have come.
Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin’s response to the seniors’ concerns was lukewarm. He said the addition of a full-time staff member has to be balanced against other budgetary needs. He made no assurance that a full-time professional would be added. Perhaps, his attitude toward senior citizens in 2010 when he was a councilman has not changed. At that time he directly blamed baby boomers “for all the problems, every single one,” as seen on YouTube here.
As a partial contrast, Teaneck historically has done a good job of increasing walkability in the township – important for seniors. Nonetheless, it has done very little in the past 12 years.
More seniors and others should join with the Senior Citizens Advisory Board to advocate for greater support. Flex our muscles and demand better.
The Agenda Outline, Packet and video for the budget meeting are here. The next regular Teaneck Council Meeting will be on Mar 12 at 8:00 PM in Council Chambers.