Protecting elders’ rights

Jack Kupferman during a UN Economic meeting

Jack Kupferman ’77 (middle) during a meeting of the U.N. Economic and Social Council

Jack Kupferman ’77

Fresh off a win at the National Aerobics Championship, Jack Kupferman ’77 first appeared in the Scene in 2001. We checked in with him recently to find that, in the past 14 years, he’s continued to be a champion — for issues related to elders. It’s a lifelong dedication for the attorney who is employed by the New York City Department for the Aging.

As a kid, Kupferman was surrounded by older adults. His parents ran a rest home in Rockland County, N.Y.; he and his family lived in the back. “They were like my grandparents,” he said, remembering one gentleman who would bounce him on his wooden knee, and a former female singer who instructed him on piano. As a teenager, Kupferman drove his friends around in a Chevy Suburban emblazoned with “Garnerville Home for Adults.”

At Colgate, while a member of the Washington, D.C., Study Group, he interned with the Administration on Aging. Kupferman then went on to Brooklyn Law School and now fondly recalls “the most significant gift he received for graduation”: a hand-painted card signed by all of the rest home residents.

Kupferman’s law career has mainly focused on the aging, including serving as counsel for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program. What he finds most satisfying, though, is his volunteerism for the Gray Panthers, a national elder rights organization. Kupferman is president of their NYC Network and a representative to the United Nations.

He’s particularly proud of their efforts to ensure that the needs of older persons are included in the upcoming U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Recently adopted by all countries, these constitute the blueprint for the world’s progress for the next 15 years. The concerns of older persons include addressing poverty, lifelong learning, and health care. “This is beyond huge,” Kupferman emphasized.

For the past few years, he’s recruited Colgate students to intern with him at the Gray Panthers New York City chapter. “Most students haven’t been exposed to these issues,” he said. “Their minds have been opened on many levels.” This summer, for the first time, his five interns — three from Colgate — jointly wrote a statement that was presented by Florence Shen ’18 to the United Nations Open Ended Working Group on Aging. “Around the room, the diplomats were quite riveted by the statement,” he said. “I was like the proud uncle.”

So, as Kupferman works toward bettering the lives of elders, he’s bringing young people along for the ride. And we’re rooting for him as he continues his journey.

— Aleta Mayne