During her more than four decades at Fort Greene Council Inc., Claudette Macey has redefined what it means to be a senior in Brooklyn.
As the executive director for the last 13 years, she has overseen programs that go far beyond the typical mundane offerings — such as sewing and bingo — including the country’s first senior steel drum band and classes on using cellphones and computers.
“I firmly believe that the senior center is not to be called a senior center where people get old and sit and knit and rock in a rocking chair,” she said. “We are very innovative now and all of our centers are innovative. It’s more like a club for people over 60.”
Under her reign, Fort Greene Council Inc. has expanded dramatically, boasting programs for people over 60 years old in 13 senior centers across the borough. When her oldsters aren’t busy learning how to use Facebook or conversing with each other over brunch, some play in Blenman Steel Sounds — a rocking steel drum ensemble that plays jazz and calypso, which Macey started with a skeptical instructor from Trinidad.
“He had never taught seniors before,” she said. “I remember him laughing at me and saying seniors can never learn to play steel drums.”
Macey, a Crown Heights resident, said she’s determined to help seniors who may have given up their golden years to help their families, even organizing cruise trips for her charges.
And her hard work has caught the attention of colleagues, who testified that this Woman of Distinction has dedicated her life to help others.
“She’s always thinking of the seniors first, thinks of the ways we can help seniors become the best they can be and improve their quality of life,” said Jacqueline Saddler, who works with Macey at Fort Greene Council Inc. “She really has changed the lives of many individuals.”
But Macey said showing up to work each day stopped being just a job a long time ago, and is instead another chance to help others.
“It gives us joy, it gives me strength to know that I can help serve the needs of the community,” she said. “I’ve been in this profession so long that I don’t consider this a job for me.”
A senior herself, Macey is looking forward to one day enjoying her own programs, explaining that part of her drive to carve out a special part of senior living comes from motivation to give her peers opportunities to experience things that she would also want to experience.
“When my time comes and I’m ready to stop working and visit the centers, I want the center staff to look at me as a person and an individual,” she said. “I want to experience all of the positive things they have to offer for my age group.”
Fort Greene Council Inc.
CLAIM TO FAME: Advocating for seniors and children.
FAVORITE BROOKLYN PLACE: I like the entirety of Brooklyn, the diversity of Brooklyn. Everywhere I go I can see a different neighborhood.
WOMAN I ADMIRE: Grace Agard-Herwood. She was the first executive director of Fort Greene Council Inc. She actually was one of the people to really bring this agency to fruition and served seniors from the time she was in college until her death.
MOTTO: To inspire, enlighten, and encourage all people that I come in contact with.