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Marianne Nicolosi: Elder care expert makes seniors matter

Brooklyn Daily
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Marianne Nicolosi is a chronic originator.

She is a co-founder of the former Park Slope Geriatric Day Center. She created a Downtown outlet for dementia sufferers, after the state stopped defining Alzheimers as a disease and revoked Medicaid reimbursements for day care centers. She helped form the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, the borough’s first facility for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders.

“I like to start organizati­ons,” says Nicolosi, executive director of the Bay Ridge Center, where she oversees nearly 100 seniors who visit every weekday to socialize with peers, eat a hot meal, learn computer skills, make a craft, break an aerobic sweat, take a day trip or participate in another informational or recreational activity.

Since coming to the center three years ago Nicolosi has expanded the brown-bag lunch program for walk-ins, cultivated positive community relations by having local students and members of the Guild for Exceptional Children help prepare lunches and meals on wheels for shut-ins, and repainted the center an energizing sky blue with Habitat for Humanity, among other improvements.

The Woman of Distinction also introduced a creative “valet parking lot” for the shopping carts frail seniors use as their walkers to balance themselves.

“They couldn’t come to the center unless they could bring them, but they were knocking each other down, so we came up with a place to put them,” says Nicolosi.

The perseverance of older adults astonishes her as much now as it did back in the late 1970s when she began her elder-care career in a nursing home, seeing diseased, ailing people take up to 45 minutes just to get out of bed or put on their shoes.

“It took so much effort, yet they would always do it because they demanded every single inch that life would give them,” she says. “Afterwards they were so happy.”

Nicolosi — former director of dementia care professionals at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, and ex-president of the New York State Adult Day Services Association — possesses golden skills, claims the program director of the New York Memory Center.

“I’ve seen Marianne go up to a grieving widow who was remembering her sad loss and redirect her memories into something positive,” says Josephine Brown. “She is ahead of the game and knows the next step without the next step being needed.”

Nicolosi is similarly perceptive on behalf of historically disenfranchised gay seniors, many of whom are still wary of coming out to their neighbors, even in a new dawn of same-sex marriages. She established a socialization program for them at the New York Memory Center, and created the Stonewall Community Development Corporation to help them find affordable housing and inspire developers to devote a portion of new constructions in the city to gay dwellers.

“It would provide a dignified space for older gay people to live in and remain within their community of choice,” says Nicolosi. “People shouldn’t have to give up everything they are familiar with just to be safe.”

OCCUPATION: Executive director.

COMPANY: Bay Ridge Center.

CLAIM TO FAME: Allowing older adults to live safely, happily, and with dignity.

FAVORITE PLACE: Beach.

WOMAN I ADMIRE: My late life partner Mary Ellen McDonnell because she was a woman of great faith, great hope, and endless compassion.

MOTTO: It is what it is.

Updated 12:09 pm, June 11, 2015
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