Understanding Senior Citizen Hangouts

Thursday, January 23, 2014

After a conflict between elderly Korean residents in Queens and a local McDonald's where the seniors congregate, Bobbie Sackman, Director of Public Policy at the Council of Senior Centers and Services of NYC, explains the importance of community spaces where seniors can socialize. She is joined by New York State Assembly Member Ron Kim, who talks about the compromise he brokered between the elderly patrons who linger at a Flushing McDonald's and the fast-food restaurant.


Ron Kim and Bobbie Sackman

Comments [29]

So it sounds like the lesson here is, if you are at McDonalds, only drink the coffee. Supersize it, and you're dead before you're old.

Jan. 23 2014 03:10 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@cc, if you get medicaid or medicare, these "adult daycare" folks will find a way to sign you up. They know that taxpayers are paying for it.

Jan. 23 2014 11:02 AM

Adult Day Care are part time either 4 hours morning or 4 hours in the afternoon not all day. Seniors do not just sit there. There are weekly optional scheduled trips for them to be driven to stores for grocery shopping and other stores which the population requests. Many times seniors go to just play dominos with their friends. Some go to play billards, or use the computer, watch movies, watch cable tv or participate in arts and crafts which are usually provided. Many seniors also have an home health aid come to their homes to help them with the activities of daily living such as showering, dressing and general management. The government pays for all.

Jan. 23 2014 10:53 AM
Teal from Brooklyn

Why is no blinker use never enforced???

Jan. 23 2014 10:37 AM
Joe Pearce from Brooklyn

At the McDonald's in Greenpoint, there is an afternoon Kaffee Klatch of Polish women (occasionally, also a man or two). I think they leave the senior citizen's center, go directly to the McDonald's at around 2:30pm and remain there until dinner time say, 6pm, thereby taking many seats in this small facility at the exact time when kids getting out of school, workers eating a late lunch, or just about anybody needing a late afternoon snack or drink are trying to find seats. I am 75 years old, and have a hell of a time finding a seat, most of the time having to sit on a fairly uncomfortable and fixed stool at a high and rounded counter. These are pretty well-dressed people who, I am certain, have nice apartments and other places to go, but McDonald's is where they decide to congregate. This is a small business, the owner of which surely paid hundreds of thousands of bucks, at a minimum, to open the restaurant, and it is totally unfair to him, as well as to other customers (not to mention other seniors who aren't members of the Klatch) to basically rob him blind by having a 3- or 4-hour $1 cup of coffee. I might also mention that Greenpoint has seen over the past two decades the highly unusual bankruptcies and closings on TWO Burger Kings (one of which is now a Starbuck's and located next door to the McDonald's where, possibly because of the prices, seniors don't even think about congregating), both of which became meeting centers not only for senior citizens, but also for many less desirable elements - drinkers, semi-street people of the unclean variety, etc. - all of whom they were apparently unable to get rid of, with the result that other people simply stopped frequenting their restaurants. Although I and others pay attention to the posted sign in McDonald's that asks people to please consume their food and vacate the premises in no more than 30 minutes (and what could you possibly eat at McDonald's that would take more than a half-hour to consume?), these 'homesteaders' pay no attention to it. I don't know what the answer is, but it is certainly never, repeat NEVER, to blame the restaurant owners!

Jan. 23 2014 10:34 AM
Bryan from downtown

I paddled down the Danube 7 - 8 years ago. I met a woman on the journey who was 89 (?) years old. If I recall properly, she had lost her entire family in WWII. After the war she remarried, had another family, another life. Her second husband had died, her children had moved away, and she was in an old people's home, and was wheelchair bound. One day she was taken to a local boathouse, saw a kayak, was intrigued, and so they put her in one. That woman outpaddled my butt every day for a month!

In conjunction with this I would like to point out that all along the length of the Danube are boathouses, mostly community run, non profits.

In Leipzig (yes, I know Leipzig is not on the Danube) I visited a boathouse largely staffed by people we consider disabled, or challenged. I had a great, inexpensive meal there.

It does seem appropriate to add, we have a free boating organization here in NY, The Downtown Boathouse, the future of which is in question, as they must compete with profit-making bidders for the boathouse that was built because of the enthusiasm for boating created by them.

Jan. 23 2014 10:33 AM

Adult Day Care Programs are not just for people for dementia. You can qualify if you have high blood pressure, diabetes for they monitor their medication.
Seniors are reluctant to go but it is up to the suggestion of a physician who will encourage them to participate. I have seen many depressed seniors come reluctantly and overtime their affect and physical state greatly improves.

Jan. 23 2014 10:27 AM
Stuart Pertz

The issue of accessible communal places that serve the public is a major oversight in our urban environments. Yes, the elderly, with more time and perhaps more need are a big part of that, but our ability to make Places is the broader issue.
The plazas and places created over the past few years are a terrific push toward better places for people to be and communicate, Project for Public Places and the work of William H. Whyte a good reference, and a new program for a masters in Urban Placemaking Management, at Pratt Institute a good academic source for a look at the big picture.

Stuart Pertz, FAIA

Jan. 23 2014 10:25 AM
RJ from prospect hts

How does this compare to the young computer folks who hang out in cafes without hassle for hours?

Jan. 23 2014 10:20 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Old people's treatment not a progressive issue? Oh, I think the Gray Panthers ( would have something to say about that!

Jan. 23 2014 10:20 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Those adult "daycare" centers are practically scams with their uncomfortable seating and lack of natural daylight.

What healthy or independent senior citizen wants to sit in a "dentist office" for 8 hours?

Jan. 23 2014 10:20 AM

Read the NYTimes articles... The seniors say they find the senior centers depressing...
One senior (age 89) says, "I hate old people!"

Jan. 23 2014 10:19 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Hey, debilitated or not, the term "day care" for our elders seems highly inappropriate, not to mention uninviting for these survivors. (We WISH we'll last so long...)

Jan. 23 2014 10:19 AM
Doxie from Manhattan

Who want's to be isolated in a "Senior Center" with only others in your age group? We want to be with the rest of society and not be isolated and segregated!

Jan. 23 2014 10:18 AM
Greenwich House from New York

Greenwich House has four Senior Centers located in lower Manhattan offering a range of activities, including belly dancing, foreign languages, politics, art, poetry, chess, an active theater club, and the list goes on. In addition, we offer breakfast and lunch. We have seniors that come from all of the boroughs, so stop by!

Jan. 23 2014 10:17 AM
John A

Good luck, seniors, but watch your manners.
Too much ageism on this comment board - watch out.
I know a senior that lives out of his car, so it's tough all over sometimes.

Jan. 23 2014 10:17 AM
Cory from Manhattan

Whoa -- There are senior discounts??? I'm 66. How about telling us what the senior discounts are. That would be a useful segment.

Jan. 23 2014 10:17 AM
Frederick from Brooklyn

The phenomenon of seniors searching for comfortable, attractive and engaging "third spaces" such as McDonalds or a local cafe --seniors who find senior centers "depressing"-- highlights the need for new ways to think about spaces for seniors in NYC who wish to engage in purposeful activities. An excellent example of such a place is the Senior Planet Exploration Center in Chelsea. This street-level space is the nation's only technology-themed community center in the nation. Free computer and iPad courses and a range of other tech-supported and life-enhancing programming are available. 127 West 25th St. in Manhattan

Jan. 23 2014 10:15 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Oh, boo hoo, lots of us haven't had families and have lived alone for decades. So what? God bless, we live in a time of TV, Netflix, INternet, videogames, et al., so why do people have to go out so much for to annoy younger people? We can stay home and still "see" the world and talk to people. Virtual reality is the only future reality. Soon we'll have robots to help us, to talk to, and maybe even have sex with! I say, people who DON'T need people are the luckiest people in the world :)

Jan. 23 2014 10:15 AM

Why are we not talking about how to make good use out of this idle manpower?

These people could be volunteering at a pediatric cancer center, helping pre-schoolers to speak another language, taking meals to homebound disabled people, etc.

Seems like there is plenty of time for them to have some coffee and still help the world be a better place. Isn't this a missed opportunity to have somce contribution from these people?

Jan. 23 2014 10:15 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Seniors these days. Outta control!

Jan. 23 2014 10:13 AM
Robert from NYC

I am certainly no defender of McDonalds but fact is,it is a business and if they want to stay there they should be spending money. On the other side, I go to the McDonald's in my neighborhood to use the ATM and around 3 pm it's full of school kids of whom maybe 3 out of 10 or more are buying food or drink! So wassup, is it against the seniors or are they just afraid of the kids! LOL, I dunno. But everyone, EVERYONE, should be made aware that McDonald's is a business and as crappy a business it is it's there to make money not be only a social hangout for seniors or kids or anyone else.

Jan. 23 2014 10:10 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

I saw a similar incident at a Mac Donald's in Brooklyn with Elderly men, mostly West Indian hanging out. The manager threatened to call the cops if they didn't leave and also accused them of having more than coffee in their cup.

We need real senior centers for relatively healthy senior citizens to hang out, as opposed to the those scam - medicaid "daycare" centers popping up all over the place.

Mac Donalds, as like any private business, has a right to run their business as they sees fit.

Jan. 23 2014 10:07 AM
carolita from nyc

I totally understand the need to sit in a public space with your coffee and watch the world go by with your friends -- I lived in Paris, and that's a national pastime, not just for the elderly. It's no uncommon to buy one coffee and sit at a table in a café for hours. But there is an etiquette to be observed. There's no reason why the friends shouldn't take a break during the peak hours and go somewhere else, (maybe see one of their housebound friends?), then come back when things are slow again.

Jan. 23 2014 10:07 AM
m wong from nyc

Why are they not going to senior centers, especially in Flushing QNS? I know that in the borough of Manhattan and Brooklyn there's more senior centers than Duane Reades now.

Jan. 23 2014 10:06 AM

Are these old folks sitting around at McD's complaining about the young kids hangin out on the corner causing trouble? pot = kettle. Where are today's role models?

Jan. 23 2014 10:05 AM

These seniors are sitting blocking a dozen or more seats for OVER 12 HOURS AT A TIME, without buying anything, and refusing to relinquish their seats to other people who've just bought food. They even refuse to move their extra stuff from chairs they aren't using. When they were asked to move, they refused and started throwing coffee at people.

If this behavior were being done by teenagers, they would be permanently evicted. And rightly so.

This isn't lack of respect of seniors. This is lack of respect BY seniors.

Jan. 23 2014 10:05 AM
Robert from NYC

LOL. Threw coffee around? Seniors? LOL. Obviously Baby Boomers.

Jan. 23 2014 10:04 AM
Ronald Gross from Long Island

BRAVO!, Sackman and Kim. Here on Long Island, the Greentree Fund has provided support for a program to encourage seniors to socialize through life-affirming conversations, with a focus on ethnic communities including Persian, Chinese, and Russian. Info at

Jan. 23 2014 09:32 AM

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