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Is new senior center an improvement?

November 22, 2008

To the editor:

I read with interest that some of the senior citizens in Hagerstown will now have space to meet, socialize, eat and have some activities geared to their interests.

I hate to mention this, but many seniors previously had access to much of this same kind of program, with transportation to the facility as well.

I am speaking of the Alexander House and the vans made available through the Commission on Aging.

Since the current commission executive director, with the approval of the board of directors, made a move to "better digs" (at a much higher cost) with the help of thousands of dollars from our County Commissioners, it seems we are back to square one regarding the people for whom all this is supposed to make for a better situation.

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Hagerstown is the only town/city in Washington County without a senior center. The annual rent for the Girls Inc. facility could have gone toward a permanent place for our elders to enjoy. I personally know that some of the folks, in wheelchairs, who looked forward to going to lunch everyday and socializing with their peers (actually their only opportunity to socialize).

After the move and the closing-down of the facility used in the Alexander House, they had to utilize the services of Meals on Wheels, which is a great organization providing a much-needed service when there is no other option to ensure nutritious meals.

Consequently, these folks ate alone behind their doors. Several of these people visibly deteriorated, health-wise, and have since passed.

As we know, the social interaction of older people, particularly those who live alone, is very important to their physical and mental well-being. The reason these folks could not continue to participate in the program is that the vans are no longer available to transport, most notably handicapped, seniors to the Franklin Street facility.

This is an improvement? For whom? It seems that those who gave most of their lives working hard and diligently, providing for themselves and their families, are being pushed further back each day regarding their acceptance and importance.

A lot of us still stand strong and are intent on bringing things like this to the attention of other who care - perhaps even those who can bring about change.

Another example of this type of attitude that seems to prevail among the "elite" is the funding for Holly Place.

Gaming Commission chair Penny Pittman seems to feel that sports are the end-all, be-all to ensure character and skills. We put our money where our mouth is but, what about old people?

Madame chairperson is headed in that direction every day, as we all are. I certainly believe that some of these decisions regarding allocations should have more input from the public sector. After all, where did the money originally come from that is in these coffers to be distributed? Think about it.

I have recently been made aware of another program available to seniors who are interested in job-training and part-time employment. The program is available through the State of Maryland and administered by Wendell Greene (DLLR-Washington County, located at 14 N. Potomac St.).

This is a great program offered through the Maryland Department of Aging. It provides an important option/opportunity to interested seniors who meet the program's financial criteria and depend on community job availability.

At this time, the program can only place qualified seniors in jobs available through nonprofit entities.

If the Commission on Aging would allow the program to be part of its offerings, the private sector could participate as well - for the betterment of local businesses in many instances.

This kind of program can enhance a senior's quality of life - a senior who would offer job experience, knowledge, a strong work ethic and dependability. Who is the WCCOA looking out for?

In case you are wondering, yes, I am a senior citizen.

Thank you for thinking about these issues; we need to speak out for those folks who can't, don't know how to go about doing so or who may be intimidated by the people who direct/administer programs on behalf of these agencies which are funded by us all and to whom they should be held accountable.

N. Taylor
Hagerstown

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