Tech-savy affordable residence opens for seniors in Flushing

By Alex Robinson

A pioneering affordable housing residence with 92 units for seniors officially opened its doors in Flushing this week.

Apartments in the 14-story building, at 137-39 45th Ave., built with the independence of seniors in mind, have all been equipped with a virtual senior center program, which allows bedridden residents to participate in the residence’s activities remotely through the Internet.

“The entire spine of the building was built with connecting seniors in mind,” said Stuart Kaplan, the CEO of Selfhelp Community Services, a nonprofit that operates the building and eight other affordable senior residences in Queens and Long Island.

The system links immobile residents to activities that are going on in the building’s social center and broadcasts the absent participant’s image and voice so that those at the meeting can see and hear them.

“Advanced age and limited income should not constrain the quality of life,” said Gary Rodney, the president of the city’s Housing Development Corporation. “Selfhelp understands this and they have put a lot of thought and care into the design and function of this building. The community it fosters reaches beyond these walls.”

The system also allows residents to take classes, travel virtually to cultural institutions and even visit with friends and family.

Activity daily living monitors and roll-in showers were installed in all of the units, said Kaplan, who also touted the green infrastructure in the building, such as its energy-efficient lighting systems.

The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, an affordable primary care provider which has facilities in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Flushing, is currently building a new center on the same site as the residence in conjunction with Selfhelp.

Roughly 80 percent of the building’s units are for seniors earning less than $23,240 a year, which is 60 percent of the area’s median income, or $26,560 for households of two. The remaining units were reserved for those earning less than 40 percent of the median income, which is $34,860 for individuals and $39,840 for a household of two.

“As one of our most vulnerable populations, senior citizens are often faced with living on a fixed income while expenses like housing medical care and other necessities continue to increase,” said Vicki Been, commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development. “Selfhelp has been a valued partner in delivering high-quality housing that provides access to a continuum of services that allow their tenants to age with dignity.”

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobi‌[email protected]‌cnglo‌cal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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