Center Celebrates 40 Years
The Ridgewood Older Adult Center (ROAC), located next to the Ridgewood Presbyterian Church, has provided socialization and educational services for the last four decades to the senior-age population of surrounding communities and beyond.
Executive Director Jackie Eradiri has held that position at the center since June 2006 and worked in the organization for 16 years. The center is a non-profit senior center that provides programs and services to seniors.
She holds a graduate degree in gerontology and from an early age knew she wanted to work with seniors.
“I knew I wanted to work with seniors,” Eradiri said. “That’s the population I wanted to work with.”
Eradiri credits her bond with seniors to her grandparents. “I always had a great relationship with my grandparents,” she said.
Anyone in the neighborhood is welcome to come and enjoy the center. Lunch is provided at 12 p.m. sharp for $1.50 and prospective members must be 60 years or older and reside within the confines of Queens Community Board 5. There is no cost associated with the membership.
Members of ROAC receive a discount at the local YMCA located on Catalpa Avenue in Ridgewood.
Vital services include hot lunch provided monday-friday to 65-115 seniors, delivered “meals on heels” for home-bound seniors and socialization activities throughout the week.
The center has a full kitchen, computer room, pool table, 55 inch movie screen for movies and provides educational experiences on topics relevant to senior citizens like fire safety, home care and fall prevention.
Seniors also can enjoy movement activities like Tai Chi, yoga and “sweatin’ to the oldies” with Richard Simmons, which Eradiri says, the seniors really enjoy.
For Eradiri, the center can feel a bit like high school, with clients discussing local issues or whispering quitely about gossip within. She knows being around other people is very important for seniors, and emphasized that talking and socializing are paramount for older people looking to live healthy lives.
“The main focus of the senior center is on socialization,” Eradiri said.
Major funding is provided by the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA).
Additional Funding for the center is provided by local business, civic groups, schools and churches throughout Queens.
“We have money earmarked from DFTA,” Eradiri said. “Additional funding comes from our beloved politicians. We have money earmarked for us from (State Sen. Joseph) Addabbo, (Assemblyman Mike) Miller and (Assemblywoman) Cathy Nolan.”
The center also operates a food pantry on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 am to 12:30 p.m.
Regarding the demand for services Eradiri said, “There’s a huge need. She added that although Ridgewood has two senior centers, there is still a need because “This area has so many seniors.”
Eradiri supervises a nine person staff, with four full-time employees to run the entire center and its programs. She also relies on idle high school volunteers to deliver meals in the summer.
Aside from programs the center offers, Eradiri is also the case manager for ROAC.
“If someone comes in for social services I deal with them. I also do entitlements and benefits,” Eradiri said during a conversation in her office.
“And if I have to refer them somewhere else I do that too. I wear many hats,” she said.
The proof of this was truly evident on a recent Friday afternoon as staff and seniors knocked on her door to ask her questions or say hello.
As the executive director for the center, Eradiri is responsible to DFTA to show that programs are meeting educational purposes, something which can be a bit frustrating as she explained.
“Funding is now tied to exercise and education,” she said. This can lead to reduction of popular activities that don’t fit nicely into either category, like bingo, which members love.
Because of the bingo quota, for example, she is only allowed to hold the popular game 15 times a year, which in Eradiri’s opinion is “ridiculous.”
Eradiri, orignally from Brooklyn commutes everyday from Long Island to her job and “wants to just have more services, more activities at the center.”
As her focus remains on socialization, she said, that on her wish list would be a “larger venue to expand the social aspects of aging,” and added, “to me the most important thing here is that we have a place for members and anyone (seniors) really to socialize.”