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Jon Kaiman Brings “Project Independence” to PW

Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead town supervisor, spoke at the Port Washington Senior Citizens Center on Friday, Dec. 18 to announce the kick-off of “Project Independence” in Port Washington. The program is designed to help senior citizens who want to “age in place,” and stay in their own homes for as long as possible. “People pay a lot of taxes to live here,” said Kaiman, “and (while) we’re not a retirement community, we want to enable people to be independent as long as possible. And there are lots of services and programs out there to help seniors – but how do you get access?”

Modeled on programs already begun in New Hyde Park and Great Neck, Port’s program will be accessed locally by dialing the town’s 311 operators and asking for Project Independence. “We have trained the operators to answer some questions directly,” said Evelyn Roth, commissioner of North Hempstead’s newly-created Department of Services for the Aging. “If they can’t, they will send the call to someone who can get back to you.”

Although the project is intended to help Port’s senior citizens, defined as those age 60 and above, anyone can call, including relatives, caregivers, or just concerned neighbors.

Help can range from assistance in filling out Medicaid forms, to getting a pothole filled, to finding out about other programs, such as Meals on Wheels.

As part of the plan, the town has contracted with Delux Taxi to transport seniors, free of charge, to do local grocery shopping between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. In the future, Kaiman hopes to expand that service to elsewhere in Nassau County, and for medical visits.

A nurse and a social worker will also be available at the Port Washington Senior Citizens Center, at 80 Manorhaven Boulevard, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The project is looking to add providers of classes and activities.

In future, the town may offer some kind of “handyman” assistance, as well, or at least a roster of approved referrals.

A key component of the plan will be an advisory committee of local residents, meeting monthly to provide ongoing guidance. The committee’s first meeting will be at the Senior Center on Friday, Jan. 22 at 11 a.m. Anyone interested in joining, or with any other question, is encouraged to call 311, or 869-6311. Operators are on duty Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and 10 to 6 on Saturday.

Fred Pollack, town councilman, emphasized the importance of “talking (about the project) to your friends and neighbors, so that they’ll do the same, (because) we’re trying to reach the people who aren’t in this room, and aren’t involved…yet.”

Funding for the program was obtained via a $300,000 grant from the federal Administration on Aging, part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).