2018-08-02 / Editorial

Senior center focus should be inclusivity

There is no question the Friends of the Jamestown Seniors and town officials want what’s best for our island’s older residents.

With half the town being at least 50 years old and just about one-fifth of it (about 1,000 people) age 65 or older, there is a large constituency for improved and greater programs for this population.

While the working group of members of the friends’ board and town officials is making progress on the concerns raised by the friends, the focus seems to be misplaced in regard to the big picture.

Since the town became more involved through the auspices of the recreation department a little more than two years ago, there clearly is more structure and a greater number of programs available than before. Don’t forget, this involvement came at the behest of the previous board of the Friends of the Jamestown Seniors and is very welcome by the building’s landlord, the Conanicut Grange.

While we accede some nuanced implications of the new arrangement may have been handled somewhat ham-handedly by the town, there also are positives from the deal, such as the betterment of programming availability.

Those programs in the past year have served about 25 percent of the 65-plus age group in town while about 15 percent of the 50-plus age group have participated in a recreation program. The meal site has served about 100 distinct individuals since the start of 2008, or about 10 percent of senior citizens.

Increasing those numbers should be the focus of any joint effort between the town and friends’ board, not quibbling about the type of flooring or office space use.

Broadening services and reaching out to other groups in town (art associations, the historical society, garden clubs, artistic groups, etc.) to include them in activities at the center would be a great place to start. These groups could provide entertainment, lectures and display their work, which not only would provide another outlet for them but also initiates them into what’s available at the senior center.

Such a holistic approach eventually may lead to a large enough number of residents being served that perhaps senior services could reach a critical mass size to warrant being its own department in town (something on the friends’ wish list). Right now, it’s impractical to have a department whose budget would be about 1 percent of the total municipal outlay for the fiscal year.

Both sides clearly share a mutual objective. How they reach that answer will determine just how beneficial the impact of senior programs will be in town in the years to come.

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