Reduction in senior center's hours leaves some feeling lonely

February 27, 2011|By DAN DEARTH |
  • From left, Arthur Kriegline, Martha Drennnen, Lillian Kephart, Anna Lee Burker and Janet Filler play cards Wednesday at the Southeastern senior nutrition site in Keedysville.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

KEEDYSVILLE — Senior citizens at the Southeastern senior nutrition site in Keedysville say they’re being put on the shelf by the Washington County Commission on Aging’s recent decision to reduce the center’s operations from five days a week to three.

“We used to come every day. Now we come Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” Anna Lee Burker, 84, said during a recent gathering at the nutrition site. The decision “really upset me,” she said. “I’ve been coming here for 20 1/2 years. You’re just like one big family. You get to know each other.”

Susan MacDonald, executive director of the Washington County Commission on Aging, said last month that in an effort to save money, the senior nutrition site would be closed, and the weekly hours at sites in Keedysville, Smithsburg and Williamsport would be reduced from 20 to 12.

Part of the reason those sites were chosen was because of the low participation rate on the part of senior citizens, MacDonald said.

The move took effect Jan. 28 and is expected to save about $200,000 that will be used to enroll 75 more seniors in the Meals on Wheels program.

The seniors at the Keedysville site said they feel let down because many of them live by themselves and are lonely. Going to the senior site for four hours each day gave them a chance to socialize.

Sharpsburg resident John Sill said he has lived alone since his wife, Patricia, died four years ago.

“I like to come in and visit and socialize with the folks,” Sill said. “It helps drive away the loneliness.”

The nutrition site is at the old Keedysville School on Mount Vernon Drive. In addition to giving the seniors a chance to socialize, the site offers games, exercise classes and a balanced lunch.

Arthur Kreigline, 73, of Boonsboro, said he has frequented the nutrition site for two years.

“This is how I get my exercise,” said Kreigline, who lives alone. “It gets lonely. You’re by yourself and have time to think. When you come here, it’s fine, but when you live alone, it’s different.”

A longtime community volunteer, Kreigline said he likes to donate his time to serve lunch to the older seniors. He also volunteers to clean the site’s bathrooms, halls and kitchen.

“It keeps me busy,” Kreigline said. “It gives me something to do.”

Part of the seniors’ day includes sitting at a round table as they play cards and listen to big-band music. They also work on puzzles as a way to keep their minds sharp.

Anne Wright, 61, said she recently started coming to the senior nutrition site and was disappointed when she learned the hours would be cut.

“I finally got old enough to come and they closed down 40 percent,” she said. “Now I have to sit and mope on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Wright said she believed the participation rate was low because a lot of seniors don’t know the nutrition sites exist.

Martha Drennen, who has managed the Keedysville nutrition site for 15 years, said it hosted as many as 16 regulars at the height of its popularity, but that was when a service was available to shuttle seniors back and forth. Since the shuttle was canceled last month, some of the seniors don’t have transportation.

“It’s just like a family,” she said. “It’s like losing a part of you when they all can’t come.”

Drennen said some of the seniors write letters asking officials to restore the senior sites to their full operating hours. They would go to public meetings, she said, but there’s a transportation issue.

“Everybody’s up in age here,” Drennen said. “That’s the problem.”

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