HACE is Celebrating its 85th Anniversary

Senior Activities

Support

It is due to HACE’s unmatched commitment to care and quality of life for the residents at the housing authority that earns remarks from seniors such as,

“The Elizabeth Housing Authority, to me, is the number one housing authority. I’m proud of being part of the Elizabeth Housing Authority, I’m proud of all of the staff in the Elizabeth Housing Authority, and my residents, because we do have great residents that live in public housing.” – Wynona Ancrum, Chairwoman and Resident Commissioner of the HACE Board of Commissioners.

HACE’s Age-Friendly Initiatives & Partnerships

“Latin Rhythms - Elevating Health through Dance” 2024 AARP Community Challenge Grant Proposal in Partnership with Kean University

Grant awardees will be notified in May 2024

HACE partnered with Kean University to submit a grant application for the 2024 AARP Community Challenge Grant. These grants are intended to fund quick action projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages. RITMOS LATINO is a culturally responsive dance program aimed to engage residents (age 50 and over) in health management, improve health literacy through social connections, and combat social isolation. The proposed 12-week educational and experiential program would weave the benefits of participation in a 1-hour session of Latin dances, including salsa, merengue, bachata, and cumbia. Each week’s dance experience would include education on specific health benefits, such as vitals monitoring, balance training, core and strength training, memory and attention skills, the importance of hydration, and the fostering of self-esteem through sharing individual cultural nuances.

“We are excited to apply and hopefully receive this grant as we cannot overstate the needs of older adults, particularly the challenges, they face accessing health resources and combatting social isolation. We hope that this program will positively impact the lives of our residents,” said Cathy Hart. 

Intergenerational Air Quality Initiatives funded by Grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF)

“Addressing Ambient Air Pollution at the Housing Authority City of Elizabeth. An Urban Housing Authority Demonstration Project.” in Partnership with Rutgers University, HACE, and Groundwork Elizabeth

Funded by a $500,000 EPA grant as part of Inflation Reduction Act funding
From October 2023 through October 2026

Particulate matter (PM) is a major health problem with greater severity in low-income, racially/ethnically diverse communities, especially in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Home to two of the United States’ busiest ports (Newark and Port Newark + Elizabeth Marine Terminal and intersected by the NJ Turnpike) HACE, in partnership with residents, local environmental organization Groundwork Elizabeth, and academic partner Rutgers will install, monitor, and report on an ambient air monitoring network across all HACE properties and in select Section 8 voucher residences. Initially to be led by a local environmental nonprofit with a focus on air quality, oversite of the Ambient Air Monitoring Network will transition to a newly created Environmental Justice Coordinator at HACE in partnership with the Mayor’s Youth Council and the HACE HEAT program (HACE Environmental Adventure Team). Rutgers will work with residents to collect data. After analysis data will be transmitted to HACE digital billboards/dashboard (Community Knowledge Boards to be seen by residents and participants. Additional community engagement efforts are planned including community meetings, an advertising/public awareness campaign, and an emergency notification system.

“Smart Kids and Cool Seniors” in Partnership with Rutgers University, HACE, and Groundwork Elizabeth

Funded by a $1 million National Science Foundation Grant and complemented by a previously awarded $500,000 NSF grant
From October 2023 through September 2024

On March 6, 2024, Deputy Executive Director Cathy Hart and Director of Staff Operations Michael Buckley participated in a panel discussion about the Smart Kids, Cool Seniors initiative, as part of Rutgers’ CEED 6th Annual Environmental Health and Justice Summit. This project, funded by the National Science Foundation and in partnership with Groundwork Elizabeth and the community of Elizabeth, NJ, seeks to protect seniors during life-threatening summer heatwaves, while taking into account poor outdoor and indoor air quality. It also supports community efforts for kids by providing STEM education opportunities.

This project is funded with support from the National Science Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as part of the Civic Innovation Challenge. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Both projects are being worked on simultaneously and demonstrate HACE’s efforts to address the health concerns of residents by identifying issues and giving individuals resources to rely upon to make improvements.

Kean University Annual Senior Prom

HACE senior residents have taken advantage of Kean University’s Older Adult Prom in years past. This year, Kean’s Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) Older Adult Prom was held on Friday, April 5, 2024, in the graduate student lounge on Kean University’s East Campus from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

 

“Resilience through Relationships and Recipes” - Intergenerational Program Offered by Kean University

From September 20, 2023, through April 30, 2024, HACE seniors participated in an intergenerational program offered by Kean University’s Occupational Therapy Department called Resilience through Relationships and Recipes on Wednesdays from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. HACE seniors are brought to Kean’s OT clinic and campus for weekly training and events provided by occupational therapy interns with oversight from licensed practitioners for a period of 25 weeks. The wellness program incorporates cooking activities as well as education on health literacy, joint protection, assistive device training, food preparation, and healthy meal planning, and seniors are afforded positive health impacts of social participation. Seniors share family recipes and stories that will ultimately be included in a community cookbook. Three of the four total community meal events, where program participants serve community members, took place in November, December, and March, with the final community meal event on April 10, 2023, at HACE.

Microforests at Senior Complexes

In September 2023, The Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth and Groundwork Elizabeth were joined by local and national leaders for the microforest kick-off celebration at HACE’s Kennedy Arms Apartments. The project was made possible in partnership with The City of Elizabeth, Kean University, and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and financed as part of a $367,000 Climate Preparedness Land Restoration Grant from Groundwork USA. HACE is one of the few housing authorities across the nation that can boast two microforests, and both are located at senior complexes.

“Walk, Share, and Thrive” - Walking Art Trail as Part of AARP Community Challenge Grant in Partnership with Kean University

In 2023, Kean’s Department of Occupational Therapy students created a walking trail at the Mravlag Manor housing complex featuring banners that tell intergenerational stories of the community’s residents with a goal to build community after COVID-19 and combat social isolation. Footprints and games were painted around the facility to walk along the path of the banners and liven the atmosphere. This initiative was supported by an AARP Community Challenge grant.

“Thriving in a Virtual World 2021: Bridging the Health Equity and Digital Divide using Technology and Storytelling 2021” Intergenerational Technology Education as Part of an AARP Grant in Partnership with Kean University

From October 2021 to May 2022, Kean’s Department of Occupational Therapy faculty and students worked with seniors in Elizabeth, collecting their stories and providing training in the use of technology. The coronavirus pandemic revealed tremendous inequalities and tremendous loss of peers, family, and participation in valued activities for older adults. The project was a joint venture of HACE and Kean University which provided new and innovative programming to increase health and quality of life for residents through creation of vibrant, intergenerational interaction/storytelling and technology education and use. Thriving in a Virtual World 2021 targeted multiple goals with a focus on diversity and inclusion; bridging the digital divide by decreasing barriers and increasing equity and access. College students, under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist, ran technology classes to help older adults use tablets for social participation, healthcare management, and storytelling; the training facilitated health literacy and supported competency to access healthcare, transportation, shopping, and to decrease social isolation through social interaction and connection. The technology education programming assisted seniors in developing skills to access a local healthcare patient portal and patient navigator to help seniors get access to medical services and advice. The intergenerational programming design increases the respect the students have for older adults while allowing the adults to mentor students, all while including the older adults in social settings. Thriving in a Virtual World 2021 allowed older adults to increase access to healthcare, facilitate the creation of wellness plans right in the clients’ homes, and has the potential to be an important community health intervention in other communities.

COVID-19 Education, Testing, and Vaccine Access for Seniors

Throughout the pandemic, HACE residents were kept informed and provided access to testing and vaccines once available, resulting in successfully vaccinating HACE’s senior resident population. HACE went to great lengths to ensure outreach was provided by first identifying the challenges to vaccinating older adults in the city’s public housing buildings and overcoming these challenges through utilizing cross-sector partnerships. Understanding their local population and anticipating a level of reticence from the senior residents, the HACE team utilized an all-hands-on-deck approach in COVID-19 vaccine outreach. HACE assembled a large and diverse team of its own staff to assist onsite, including top administrators, property managers, maintenance staff, and office workers, ensuring enough familiar faces to put residents at ease and enough bilingual interpreters to translate vaccine instructions. In preparation for the planned clinics, HACE staff went door-to-door to assist with registration paperwork and to individually address their concerns and questions which reassured senior residents who were initially hesitant about the vaccine. It was beneficial for residents to interact with staff who were also receiving the vaccine, as HACE staff was eligible for the vaccine under New Jersey’s Healthcare Personnel category. Residents with mobility issues and those uninclined to attend events in the lobby, whether for fear of the virus or other social qualms, were also given the option of in-home vaccine administration. These efforts exemplify the extraordinary level of care HACE promotes.

Rutgers University Students’ Intergenerational Tablet Training for Seniors

To help mitigate the digital divide, HACE has been cognizant of seniors who may not know how to use the internet and mobile devices and has taken steps to assist them with everyday resources available to them. HACE set up a training session for residents at its senior buildings to learn how to use tablets. Over 100 tablets were given to seniors, and college students from Rutgers University showed the senior residents how to use them. 

Additional Services for Seniors

HACE works with the Tenant Associations at the different senior buildings and the management staff in various capacities that include but are not limited to the following: organizing Tenant Association elections, arranging trips, scheduling educational workshops and health screenings, as well as planning recreational and holiday events.

HACE works with seniors who reside in facilities managed or affiliated with the Housing Authority to provide free services such as health education workshops, flu shots, and health & eye screenings. Also, working with Union County’s and The City of Elizabeth’s Offices on Aging, as well as other partners, staff refers interested residents to participate in other classes, offering social, cultural and recreational activities and programs. In addition, the staff is available to assist with information and referrals for services such as transportation to medical facilities, home health aides, durable medical equipment and adult medical day care programs. Finally, assistance is provided to residents in addressing a variety of other financial and personal concerns (i.e. medical bill advocacy, NJ SNAP Re-Certifications, Lifeline Communication Re-Certifications, etc.).

In partnership with Groundwork Elizabeth’s Come Grow With Us! initiative, HACE works during the spring and summer to access services to create and/or support existing vegetable gardens at our public housing and senior sites.