Espaillat Hosts Seniors Unity Day

Rep. Adriano Espaillat standing with some of his constituents. Photo by William Engel
Rep. Adriano Espaillat standing with some of his constituents. Photo by William Engel

Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-Washington Heights, Sugar Hill) is continuing his multiple-year effort to empower one of his district’s most valuable – and vulnerable – demographics.

The representative hosted a public outdoor festival last Friday in honor of “Seniors Unity Day”, a holiday he conceived to celebrate the contributions of seniors in New York’s 13th Congressional District. The festival took place at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park, where seniors could take part in Zumba classes, participate in raffles, enjoy a hot lunch, and receive free information about health care. Among the electeds in attendance were New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer (D), Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa (D-Upper Manhattan), and of course, Espaillat himself. 

“Seniors play a tremendous role in our community, and I have long advocated for programs such as the ARC Fort Washington Senior Center due to the vital role these facilities play in our community and their impact on the livelihoods of seniors within my district who rely on community programs and services for their daily meals, activities and other essential services,” said Espaillat. 

The event began with a health seminar, during which representatives from the Harlem Hospital provided the seniors with general advice about how to take care of themselves. Naturally, most of the seminar revolved around health issues that disproportionately affect the elderly, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. 

“Those of you who have diabetes, there are certain numbers you should be able to say,” said Dr. Ronald Cobbs, a primary care doctor and endocrinologist at Harlem Hospital. “Do you know what your bad cholesterol is? Do you know what your blood pressure is?”

“How many of you suffer from diabetes?” asks Dr. Cobbs. Most of the crowd raises their hand. Photo by William Engel.

Cobbs went on to explain that heightened cholesterol and blood pressure levels, particularly in diabetes patients, can trigger heart attacks and strokes.

“You’ve gotta take care of yourself,” said Cobbs. “If you don’t take care of yourself, diabetes is a silent killer. I’ve seen some diabetics get gangrene. If you’re diabetic, you have to be on guard. You are the one taking care of yourself. You can’t miss meals, you can’t neglect your medication, you have to go to your doctor, and if your doctor can’t take your cholesterol down, you can be referred to me.”

The seminar was followed by a Q&A session with the audience, allowing the seniors to ask specific questions about their own health. After that, the seniors were invited up on stage for an impromptu dance contest, and the rest of the event was dedicated entirely to leisure.

Aneiry Batista, Adriano Espaillat’s Chief of Staff, said that this year’s Seniors Unity Day is part of an initiative that Espaillat started over a decade ago. Espaillat, she said, started hosting annual “Seniors Day” festivals in the mid-2000s as an assemblyman.

“Back in the Assembly, it was easy for him to do,” said Batista. “But then we had to do it senior center by senior center, because it was getting very costly. Now in Congress, we cannot do it by ourselves, so we’re hosting the event in collaboration with Carmen De La Rosa. But this is an initiative that he started, over fourteen years ago.”

Upon arriving at the park, Adriano Espaillat got on stage to reiterate the purpose behind the event – namely, to show his appreciation for the contributions of his district’s elderly population.

“You’ve got all the wisdom in the world to give us, and we want you to be successful, we want you to be healthy, and we want you to continue to enlighten us with all your experience and wisdom. And thank you for the love that you give us.”

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