The Citymeals Blog

Food for Though
Cozette, an Asian-American senior citizen and Citymeals on Wheels recipient.

Women Aging in New York City

Each March, Women’s History Month is an opportunity for Citymeals to look at our meal recipients' fascinating lives. As we honor them, we also recognize the challenges women face as they age: a lifetime of inequities, including limited opportunity, lower salaries, and caregiving responsibilities, means older women often have saved less and face higher rates of poverty than men. They’re also living longer, often well into their nineties — and are more likely to live alone.

The women Citymeals serves face particular challenges in this city, from being able to afford housing to rapid gentrification and navigating life with chronic health issues. They face most of these challenges with limited support. Citymeals provides a lifeline that helps our neighbors cope with the challenges of growing older in the city.

Cozette has lived in SoHo for 70 years, first with her late husband Irving and now alone. The neighborhood has changed around her, from an industrial area to an upscale destination. Once a busy career woman, climbing stairs and other daily tasks are now taxing for the 93-year-old.

For decades, Cozette walked to work, where she did the daily layout for The Journal of Commerce. Over the decades, textile warehouses and printing plants have been replaced with art galleries, boutiques and high-end apartments. "Now it's been cleaned up for luxury living," Cozette says. Though, Cozette can’t imagine living anywhere else. The neighbors and storekeepers who recognize her always give her a nod or say hello.

Elizabeth, an older African-American woman in a blue shirt and a portable oxygen machine, sits on her living room couch.

Elizabeth loved her home in Flatbush, but when the apartment stairs became too challenging to manage with COPD, she had to say goodbye to her community. After 42 years, Elizabeth moved into the only place that was both accessible and affordable for her — senior housing in Fort Greene.

As co-pays for pulmonary rehab became too expensive, Elizabeth considered taking short walks instead, but her new neighborhood is full of hills. And relying on oxygen means every excursion is on a timer. It makes it almost impossible to go out and shop for groceries, let alone carry them back home with her. Once, Elizabeth loved cooking her signature dish — eggplant creole — but now, even “stirring a pot is too much,” she says.

Francine, an elegant older Caucasian woman sitting on her couch.

At 82 years old, Francine doesn’t want to leave the Manhattan apartment building she’s called home for the last five decades. But as rent has steadily increased, Francine has moved three times to different units in the building, each time downgrading to a smaller, more affordable place. As a young woman, she loved her career spent working in the garment industry, but says she regrets not saving more money and buying an apartment when she could.

When her health issues became too severe, Francine was forced to retire early. Today, Social Security doesn't go far enough. She spends $160 on just one of her medications. Struggling with Guillain-Barré syndrome and relying on a walker, Francine is apprehensive about the future. Most of her friends have moved out of the city, but she wants to stay in familiar surroundings where she feels safe and comfortable.

Citymeals helps Francine — and so many like her — do exactly that. While she, Elizabeth, and Cozette are all incredible, resilient women, no one can survive without the support of their community, especially as they age. The meals that Citymeals delivers allow them to live out this chapter of their lives with a greater sense of security and hope for the days ahead.

Food For Thought