Promoting safe and healthy aging
By Marcia Epstein

It’s heartening that society is beginning to focus on the needs of the elderly, and especially wonderful that many New York City organizations are working hard to make sure we seniors have a safe, productive and happy life.

I’d like to tell you about an organization called Health Advocates for Older People (HAFOP). HAFOP promotes safe and healthy aging through programs that facilitate independent living, physical well-being and greater social interaction. HAFOP was founded in 1985 by a coalition of individuals and non-profit agencies to support healthy aging. In 2003, the Healthy Aging Program was developed to promote this goal through wellness programs and home safety assessments. This initiative encourages physical and mental health through exercise classes, health seminars and other support programs such as art workshops, health seminars and book discussions so that the elderly can remain involved in the world and independent.

Activities are free and offered 52 weeks a year around the city. One major focus is fall prevention through home safety. They also have forums on such subjects as adapting the home for independent living. HAFOP has an equipment recycling program where slightly used equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers are donated and given to people in need at no cost. There are other services such as escorting seniors to appointments and friendly visiting.

HAFOP’s Healthy Aging Program helps seniors manage tasks of daily living and follow goals that promote the ability to stay in one’s own home as long as possible. Their Home Safety Assessments provide visits to ensure that the environment is safe and easy to negotiate. Wellness classes focus on arthritis exercise, Tai-chi, chair yoga, the Alexander technique and Reiki. HAFOP holds weekly health seminars given by various organizations in conjunction with Mt. Sinai Hospital, Brooklyn Center for Aging and others. There are also travelogues, movies, holiday luncheons ballroom dancing, and other activities. The Healthy Aging Program provides materials to help plan for crises.

This year, HAFOP has conducted more than 100 free home safety visits and assessments to help elders live in a safe environment. Volunteers do much for the organization, including escorting seniors to doctors’ appointments and grocery shopping, and handling clerical duties. HAFOP collaborates with Visiting Nurse Service of New York in Chinatown, the Hartley House in Hell’s Kitchen and the Volunteer Referral Center. Also available is a guide to Senior Housing Opportunities in Manhattan.

Introduced this year is a new and very successful program; weekly harmonica classes to improve lung capacity and breathing. Harmonica therapy is a joyful way to improve one’s lung capacity and is a popular program.

HAFOP’s telephone number is 212-980-1700 and web address is