Things are not what they seem at this Bensonhurst senior center

When Bensonhurst seniors Elizabeth and Dennis Carbone tried to join a local organization they thought was a senior center, they found out the hard way that not every self-proclaimed senior center is really what it seems.

The Carbones live one and a half blocks away from Sunny Day Social Adult Day Care, located at 6218 20th Avenue. Although they are recipients of Medicare and Medicaid, on June 26, a person working at the location informed them that in order to join the center, they had to purchase another type of long-term care service, such as Center Light, Elder Serve, Health First, or Senior Health Partner.

These services require a home health aide, which the Carbones said they do not need.

“We just want to eat there for lunch a couple of times a week,” said Carbone, who is 65. Her husband is almost 70. “We are in a tight situation and have food insecurity. My husband would also like to use their pool table and I would like to ride their exercise bike.”

The Carbones were picketing in front of the center on August 20 when this paper spoke to the husband of an employee, named Victor, who refused to give his last name. He said that the center is a privately run business.

“They have to join long-term care. Medicaid bills one of these and then pays us,” Victor explained. “Who is going to pay us? We are not a non-profit, but a private business. We are not a charity. They don’t seem to understand that this is a business.”

According to the New York City Department for the Aging, the center is not on its list of locations certified by the city. Calls to the New York State Office for the Aging were not returned as this paper went to press.

Although she was not able to comment specifically on this center, Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSCS) told this paper that there are two kinds of adult day care programs.

One is the local neighborhood senior center that anyone over the age of 60 can attend. You just give a donation, that’s not income but age-based.

The other type is an adult day care center – the kind which the Carbones are trying to join – which is not technically a senior center. The programs tend to be very small and cater to those with specific issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, hence this specific center’s requirement for a home health aide. Individuals must qualify for these programs.

But, Sackman added, “We have been hearing around the city of Medicaid-funded adult day programs popping up that we are concerned are not providing appropriate service. We want to ensure that Medicaid dollars are used to the fullest to support seniors that would truly benefit from adult day care. That’s what this money is needed for.”

Sackman added that she has heard that these types of centers have been opening especially in ethnic communities and suggested that the Carbones join a public senior center. The closest one to their home would be the House of Jacob Senior Center, at 62nd Street and 23rd Avenue, a half mile away.

But Elizabeth Carbone contended that the business is still being discriminatory, since it is predominantly Asian and they are not. “We are some of the most non-bigoted, non-xenophobic people you will ever meet, but what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong,” she said.

But Victor said that there are many non-Asians who use the center. “We accept everyone,” he said.

Sackman said that she is not sure what agency would be responsible for investigating a situation such as this. “It’s unclear how to connect all the dots on this right now,” she concluded.

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