ELIZABETH, NJ – A panel of experts in the transportation, safety, and nutrition fields presented at Senior Safety Day that took place in the Trinitas Core Building and was hosted by Lifelong Elizabeth, a program of Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey, Dec. 6.

Louis Hoffman of NJTIP @ Rutgers (The New Jersey Travel Independence Program) a part of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, began by quoting that 21 percent of those over 65 don’t drive. Of that number, 50 percent stay at home three times more than those who drive. NJTIP@ Rutgers, which was created to increase the independence and self-sufficiency of older adults and others, seeks to empower them to use the public transit system safely and independently.    

NJ Transit buses, Hoffman said, have some unique features such as a lift that makes getting on the bus easier. The buses also can “kneel,” that is they can lean toward the rider so they can easily board. Riders can ask the driver for these accommodations.

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NJ Transit also offers Access Link, an ADA paratransit, for people who can’t walk to bus stops. It is a curb to curb service that riders must first apply for eligibility. For more information, residents can call 1-800-955-2321. Another option is EZ Ride TMA, which use a network of volunteer riders to transport seniors and disabled residents who cannot access public transportation. Interested riders can call 973-061-6941 for more information.

Although Elizabeth Police Officer Brian Clancy of the Traffic Division reported that the city’s initiation of the Street Smart program has reduced pedestrian deaths, it is still a problem. “Lots of people are hit crossing the street,” he warned. He distributed reflective wristbands and medallions that drivers can see. Among the officer’s safety tips, he reported that dark clothes are harder to see in the early morning and late afternoon. Pedestrians need to pay attention when crossing the street. “Heads up, phones down,” he said was the rule. “Phones are a tremendous help, but they are also a tremendous distraction.”

On the city side, Officer Clancy reported that they are re-engineering intersections, using longer times on the crossing lights so pedestrians have enough time to cross the street.

Finally, the officer warned against phone scams. “Never give credit card or bank numbers out over the phone.” Some scams, he said, present themselves as collecting for police or firefighter charities. “Police never ask for money through the phone.” He suggested asking the caller to send information. “I wouldn’t give anything over the phone.”   

Throw out leftovers after four days, advised Corey Wu-Jung, RDN, of Shaping Elizabeth. That was just one of her warnings. Here are some more food safety tips:

Use separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables and always wash them in hot, soapy water.

Beef and eggs should be cooked to 160 degrees. Hot foods can be put in the refrigerator in a low container so they will cool faster. Refrigerators should be kept at less than 40 degree, and freezers at 0 degrees.

Food should be kept out two hours or less in hot weather. “When in doubt, toss it out,” she said.

Shaping Elizabeth is supported by grants from Elizabethtown Healthy Community and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and facilitated through Gateway Family YMCA. Shaping Elizabeth is available to conduct nutrition workshops for business and community groups. They can be reached at 908-349-9622.

Dawn Malakuskie, RN, of Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey, spoke about the dangers of falling, declaring, “Falls is the major cause of death.” Areas of danger are when descending stairs, transferring off chairs, and bending down to pick up things. She warned to be careful on ice and snow and hard slippery surfaces. She advised the audience to install bath mats and grab bars in the shower and hand rails on the stairs.

Scatter rugs are hazardous, she said, and always wear non-skid shoes. She also warned against wearing lose sleeves when cooking because they can catch fire, and that fire extinguisher should be kept away from the stove, so as to be accessible if there is a fire.

The mission of Lifelong Elizabeth – Age Friendly City Program is to develop a livable city for all, including those aged 55+. It is collaboration between Jewish Family Service of Central NJ,  Rutgers University Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy; City of Elizabeth; Division of Aging; Trinitas Regional Medical Center; Holy Redeemer Homecare and the Gateway YMCA. For more information, contact Jill Dispenza at jdispenza@jfscentralnj.org, 908-352-8375.