Howard Beach residents of all ages attended a free health and wellness fair hosted by Borough President Melinda Katz this past Sunday at St. Helen’s Father Dooley Hall — the first in a series of such events she is planning across Queens.
The fair, held in conjunction with Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and the insurance providers HealthFirst and MetroPlus, aimed to bring free healthy activities, information and screenings to community residents.
Area businesses and organizations such as the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol, Cross Bay Chemist pharmacy, New York Blood Center, the Bone Marrow Registry and Swim Strong Foundation were on hand with health and safety tips and giveaways. The New York City Office of Emergency Management was also present.
There were yoga and Zumba classes, as well as presentations on understanding stress and hypertension.
Outside, the FDNY set up a simulated smoke house to educate residents about fire safety, and the New York Cosmos held a children’s soccer clinic. There was also an area for residents to receive free massages.
“The borough president wanted to attract everyone from youths until 120-year-olds,” Aaron Cyperstein, Katz’s director of health, human and senior services said.
The fair also highlighted children’s activities, with DJs from Radio Disney, face painting and appearances by costumed characters Woody from “Toy Story” and Optimus Prime from the “Transformers” universe. Senior health and well-being were also major focuses of the fair.
Cyperstein, who gave away sunscreen, insect repellent and mini plastic footballs stamped with the words “The World’s Borough,” said there are close to 400,000 residents aged 60 and over in Queens. He hopes the fairs will bring them the resources they might not otherwise have on hand.
Quentin Tucker, a representative from Long Island-based Age Well New York, which helps seniors, the chronically ill and people with disabilities stay in their homes for as long as possible, manned a booth inside. He spoke with one resident who said both of his parents will soon need care.
“They want to stay here in their communities,” Tucker said. He was able to give the man the information he needed.
A team from Jamaica Hospital was on hand to give free head and neck screenings, concentrating on dental health.
“We’re doing all screenings because we know they don’t seek the care they need, or can’t afford it,” Dr. Deborah Pasquale said.
Mary Alvarez, a resident of Ozone Park, was one of the many residents who asked for an exam. She was attracted to the fair by the free screenings; she left with plans to take swimming lessons. She also got her blood pressure checked — which she found was a little on the high side.
“I’m glad I got it checked,” Alvarez said. “A little simple thing to save your life only takes one checkup.”
She said the experience was less nerve-wracking and costly than going to a doctor’s or dentist’s office.
“They give you so much. I wish they had more of these,” Alvarez added.
The next free health and wellness fair is planned to be in Far Rockaway on Aug. 17.