Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center
New York, NY

The setting

The apartment buildings known as Amsterdam Houses, Amsterdam Addition and Lincoln Amsterdam House are just steps away from the cultural oasis of Lincoln Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. But this housing is a world apart.

More than eight hundred people age 60 and older live in 13 high rises and a small, moderate-income cooperative apartment house nearby. Most residents are African-American or Latino, almost two-thirds are poor, and more than 90% have lived there for at least 30 years. In recent years, many of them have shaped, and been shaped by the NORC program of Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center. The NORC program offers service, support, and camaraderie in an environment that thrives on senior empowerment.

Soon after the first New York City funds for NORC programs became available in 2000, Lincoln Square launched its program with a grant of $187,000. The New York City Housing Authority, which manages the city’s vast public housing program, became its housing partner. Roosevelt Hospital signed on as the health care partner for the new NORC program.

Current program

Today, with a budget of about $700,000, a comprehensive package of health care, social services, and recreation is available. In 2007, about 57% of the NORC program funding came from city and state sources, with additional resources from private foundations, modest membership fees, and the community at large. “Lots of seniors had been on their own until we could finally find out what they need, discover what is available, and bring it all together,” says Stephanie Pinder, executive director of the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center. “We are putting a lasting infrastructure into place.”

Health care is a central component of this program. In partnership with Roosevelt, a full-time nurse is stationed at the center five days a week to monitor the health status of participants and to provide screenings, health education, and referrals. That nurse is also notified when a resident visits Roosevelt’s Emergency Department and a system is in place to provide follow-up care.

Also through the NORC program:

  • Case management is available to the homebound elderly.
  • Staff has identified sources to provide seniors 24-hour-a-day access to primary care.
  • Depression screening is a routine part of the intake process at the neighborhood center.
  • Social workers provide guidance on entitlements.
  • Yoga, aerobics, and dance classes are available, as are shopping and entertainment excursions, out-of-town trips, health fairs, and flu shots.

Partners -- from the American Bible Society to the New York City Police Department, the Community Food Bank to the Westside Crime Prevention Program -- help stretch resources in every direction. Musicians from Julliard School of Music, the neighbor across the street, entertain at the center and swim classes are offered at nearby John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

More than just services

But the extensive package of services is only the beginning. At meetings of Lincoln’s Square Neighborhood Center’s top management, the conversation is not so much about providing services but about building bridges. The project goal, as stated in a report to funders, remains broad: “To make the concept of an elder-friendly community -- a community in which seniors are enabled, educated, and empowered – a reality.”

“What we are really about is creating a community that can sustain seniors,” explains Ms. Pinder. “Residents have come to believe that this is a community that works for them. There is a sense that we are all in this together.” Continued ...

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