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South Asian Seniors are Focus of Photo Series Highlighting City's Elders

By Katie Honan | February 2, 2016 10:49am
 Seniors at India Home in Queens are featured in the Department for the Aging's
Seniors at India Home in Queens are featured in the Department for the Aging's "Stylin Seniors" series.
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Richard Henry/Department for the Aging

QUEENS — At one of the borough's three outposts of India Home, a center for South Asian seniors, Jagdish Narula, 81, loves doing yoga and singing traditional Hindu songs. 

Ilaben Butala, 69, goes there to dance. And Nirmula Hansoty, 65, enjoys "playing jokes" on friends when she visits.

All three were featured in the latest edition of the New York City Department for the Aging's "Stylin' Seniors" series, which highlights senior centers across the city.

Meera Venugopal, who works in communications and development at India Home, was a fan of the series — which is posted on DFTA's Facebook page — and invited the agency to meet seniors who use the home's Queens locations. 

DFTA started the photo series to showcase the main senior centers it supports, often focusing on immigrant communities.

It embraces the city's diversity with its programming, making sure it provides "equitable access and service provision to older persons of every ethnic, racial, religious and cultural demographic," according to its policy statement.

India Home first opened in 2008 to serve the city's growing population of South Asian seniors, according to its website.

Its founder, Dr. Vasundhara Kalasapudi, thought of her father, who had dementia and couldn't be left alone. She also found the city lacked proper services for older people like her dad, especially in Queens, which has the highest population of South Asian residents.

The center has grown to include locations at the Sunnyside Community Center, the Queens Community House in Kew Gardens and the Jamaica Muslim Center.

Most of the attendees travel from Jamaica, Jackson Heights, Flushing, Astoria and Bellerose to enjoy cultural programming, meals catered to their diets and conversations in their languages, Venugopal said.

Ten seniors volunteered to take part in the photo series, some dressing in traditional clothing. India Home provided a makeup artist and DFTA's photographer, Richard Henry, took photos. 

Participants shared their immigration stories and what they liked best about India Home. 

Butala, who came to the United States from Gujarath, India, in 1980, worked for years at a drugstore at JFK Airport, she told the photographer. Now that she's retired, India Home is "like a home away from home." 

"I love the people and have made lots of friends," she said. "I like the cultural activities, the dancing and the singing.”