The raucous party filled the 13th floor penthouse with loud, pulsing music and spirited dancing. Hands were in the air, bodies moving, beats pounding, jubilant voices raised. It wasn’t a teenage post-midnight rave, however. The time was 10 a.m. and all the participants were aged or infirm.
The occasion was National Wear Red Day on Feb. 5 and the location was the Theresa V. Ferraro Senior Housing building at 6201 Grand Ave. “Today is a day we remember that women should take care of their heart,” said Victoria Calero, social worker at Rise and Shine Adult Medical Day Care Center, who sponsored of the event with the participation and support of the North Bergen Housing Authority.
“We’re moms, we’re daughters, we’re workers, we’re everything, so it gets stressful sometimes,” she said. “And we don’t always take care of ourselves.”
February, the month of Valentines Day, is National Heart Month, and the first Friday of February is National Wear Red Day for Women. The American Heart Association (AHA) created National Wear Red Day as part of Go Red for Women, a campaign to raise awareness of heart and health issues.
“We’re moms, we’re daughters, we’re workers, we’re everything, so it gets stressful sometimes.” –Victoria Calero
Dancing for health
“My parents didn’t let me dance,” said Evangelista Estevez, a native of Santiago in the Dominican Republic. In fact, her parents used to hit her when she disobeyed. She started dancing after she got married. And at age 83 (more or less), she hasn’t stopped.
Dressed fashionably as always, in a scarf and hat and wearing lipstick, Estevez was enjoying the event with her friends and staff from Rise and Shine.
“After a certain age your movement starts to get limited,” said Ivan Perez, who led the spirited dancing to vibrant Latin tunes. A personal trainer in North Bergen and Guttenberg, he has been conducting Zumba classes weekly at Rise and Shine for about six months. “I try to just make them move. Older people have a tendency to fall. Their legs are not strong. Their body is not stable. Once they fall, it’s almost impossible to recover. The calcification of their bones is so great.”
Zumba, exercise, and tai chi all strengthen muscles and aid with balance. “Tai chi gives them the stability they need,” said Perez. “I think they also identify with this music, with what they did a long time ago.”
Social, spiritual, emotional support
“I invited the community today so some of these people come from other senior buildings,” said Rise and Shine Administrator Lourdes Ruiz. Refreshments were served to attendees and donations were accepted for the AHA, with all funds matched by Rise and Shine.
In addition to the dancing, speakers provided information to the attendees, including foot and ankle specialist Stacey Iles, who talked about circulation, and Dr. Ronald Weiss, who spoke about nutrition and eating healthy.
Weiss served for six years as the attending emergency room physician at the General Hospital Center of Passaic and at the UCLA Olive View Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif. He served as the medical director for both the Guttenberg and North Bergen Boards of Education.
Currently Weiss has a medical practice in Morris County, where he lives on a farm and raises his own food. He is one of five founders and co-owners of Rise and Shine and its companion facility, Casa Manito in West New York.
The two centers provide adult day care services to seniors and some younger individuals with medical conditions. Nurses provide medical oversight while social workers assist with the needs of daily living.
“The Hispanic community is very traditional and tends to live in extended families within the same household,” said Weiss. Adult day care “allows respite to middle-aged children who still take care of their elderly, infirm parents. Because otherwise it’s difficult for them to work and to tend to other things like their own children.”
“We provide them with a positive environment, not only health-wise but also socially, spiritually, emotionally, the support that they need,” said Ruiz. “We provide transportation and pick them up. We provide them with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We take them to trips every day. As a group we go shopping. We take them to doctor appointments individually.”
Every month Rise and Shine holds classes on a different topic like diabetes or Alzheimer’s, with February always dedicated to the heart. “We have different vendors, different activities,” said Ruiz. “I really try to organize and coordinate as much education and information as possible to members and family members. I think that’s the only way that we are able to decrease death from falls, heart problems, and disease.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guttenberg goes red
Guttenberg celebrated National Wear Red Day on Friday, Feb. 5 with a “Heart Disease Awareness and Prevention” event in Town Hall. Residents were invited to come for free screenings and handouts.
“‘Go Red for Women’ is the American Heart Association’s program to educate women on the importance of eating healthy, controlling risks for heart attack and stroke, and being aware of the different signs and symptoms of heart attacks,” said Bridget Hogan, public health coordinator for North Hudson Community Action Corporation (NHCAC).
Representatives from the township and NHCAC handed out literature on heart health and risks.
“We’re testing blood pressure to screen for hypertension,” said Hogan. “We’re taking screenings for cholesterol. And we’re doing education on heart-healthy eating.”
Guttenberg Assistant Administrator Marisol Martinez coordinated the event, arranging for informational displays, pamphlets, refreshments, and giveaways including sun screen and skin moisturizer.
“It’s important to reach out to the community,” she said. “Not only women, but everyone should get checked and make sure they’re eating healthy.”
Both men and women stopped by for blood pressure and cholesterol screenings and to pick up information.
Mattie Stays has been a crossing guard in Guttenberg for 13 years on the same corner, 69th Street and Hudson Avenue. Although she had gone to the doctor just one day earlier, she visited Town Hall on Feb. 5 check out what was going on. Was she looking for anything in particular?
“Just some good news,” she said.