Friday, March 26, 2010

Jeopardy and the Senior Center

Here's My Answer:
You know who might be using a Senior Center in 10, 20, 30 years? The residents of the over 300 cities and towns in Massachusetts whose elected leaders have actually paid more than lip service to seniors and have built a Senior Center.

Here's the Question:

Here's My Followup Question:
Who's going to be using schools, libraries, roads, sidewalks, police, fire in 10, 20, 30 years?

Perhaps we'll be educating students over Google Fiber, reading books on our 'smart phones', commuting via individual hovercraft to avoid broken streets and sidewalks, with privatized security in a fireproof home.


Ari Herzog said...

Moot argument, Councilor.

Schools, libraries, roads, sidewalks, and public safety services exist in every urban community today. They also benefit every community member. Senior centers don't exist everywhere and only benefit one segment of the population.

When the initial designs were shared by the senior center building committee at a public hearing in the library, I argued for a community center instead, to be inclusive of the entire community -- no different than the roads and sidewalks we drive and walk on.

Building a senior center tomorrow is reactive to the past, not proactive to the future.

Such are the sentiments of the community, inclusive of seniors, I'd spoken to about the issues.

I look forward to you commenting my way on the next issue. ;)

Gillian Swart said...

You go, Ed!

Anonymous said...

I think I need to make an appointment with a psychiatrist: I actually find myself agreeing with Ari.

What's needed is a Citizens' Center that functions as a Senior Center, a public space for the public to use (charity events, flea markets/bake sales, elder services, potential shelter in case of power outages, political debates) rather than a structure/location dedicated solely to the elderly.

Ed, think 'inclusive'.

- The Carrot

Ed Cameron said...

Carrot, I fact, let's call it the Center at Cushing Park.

Here's what we have now:
* a cracked parking lot at Cushing Park
* a cracked basketball court
* a decently equipped and popular playground
* Council on Aging activities in multiple, beggged/borrowed/rented sites.

Where I'd like to see us go:
* a relandscaped and improved Cushing Park which retains snow parking
* a Center which focuses on Seniors service needs and would also host the City's Veterans agent, and would be inclusive of the things you mention, my dear Carrot, for "the public to use (charity events, flea markets/bake sales, elder services, potential shelter in case of power outages, political debates)"
* a Center which enhances (not overwhelms) the neighbhorhood
* a Center which connects to the school system and offer opportunities for intergenerational support-- high school students teaching and being taught by seniors.

Many seniors-not all-are dealing with isolating circumstances: children have moved away, a City that keeps raising their property taxes, health and nutrition challenges, fixed income.

The purpose of a Center (call it a Center, call it a Senior Center, call it a Community Center, call it a Citizens Center)is to provide a vehicle for the services which connect us.

Carrot beware, I may be able to track down your identity since you demonstrate familiarity with Haverhill's Citizen's Center.


Ari Herzog said...


The purpose of a to provide a vehicle for the services which connect us.

This is precisely why Cushing Park is a bad location. So is the Towle area, ditto the Port Healthcare site, and even Titcomb Street.

If you want to site this building where it is near services, none of those sites apply.

When I spoke to seniors at the Steam Mill, they overwhelmingly argued for such a site to be near Port Plaza because they already go there for food, exercise, and shopping trips -- and it is on the MVRTA route, and it's easy to park there.

If you have a site that is inclusive of all community needs, all the more reason to have it by Port Plaza. Sure, it's not downtown but why must everything be downtown? Moreover, other than the library and some churches, what services are actually provided downtown?

Ed Cameron said...

The services would be provided in the center.

A key difference between Cushing Park and the Towle, Port Rehab, Port Plaza, Fitness Factory/Towle is that the City owns Cushing Park. If you want to site it at one of these locations, acquisition costs will have to be factored in.

In terms of what those services are, I regurgitate from my blog a couple of summers ago:

A Senior Center as a Vehicle for Services

As Roseann Robillard, the head of the City's Council on Aging, has said, there are two types of services/programs needed now. She and her staff do the best they can but space and money have been the major constraints. I would argue that, while money will always be an issue for the Council on Aging as it is for other City departments, the Council can act to address the space constraint.

Life Maintenance services include nutrition, housing, health care, transportation, insurance help, tax help, and information/referral. These services will continue to be needed during the next 20 years by those aging among us. Sometimes these services are delivered in program space, sometimes they are delivered in the person's home.

Life Enrichment programs include support groups, volunteer opportunities, foreign language classes, dance, choral groups, theater trips, computer classes. These activities enhance the lives of elders by providing stimulation and socialization - important to reduce loneliness, prevent depression, and keep elders engaged in the community.

According to the U.S. Administration on Aging,

Literally thousands of senior centers are operating in the United States. A vital link in the service delivery network which older persons may avail themselves of, senior centers are functioning as meal sites, screening clinics, recreational centers, social service agency branch offices, mental health counseling clinics, older worker employment agencies, volunteer coordinating centers, and community meeting halls. The significance of senior centers cannot be underestimated for they provide a sense of belonging, offer the opportunity to meet old acquaintances and make new friends, and encourage individuals to pursue activities of personal interest and involvement in the community.

As to the future, we can anticipate similar types of needs. It will be very important, as with other City services, to be innovative.

This from a New York Times article on March 25, 2008:

Experts predict that baby boomers will not walk in the door of outdated centers, which are often in church basements, reminiscent of high school cafeterias before the advent of food courts, with few activities besides bingo and transportation to the mall.
"If they don't innovate," said John A. Krout, director of the gerontology institute at Ithaca College, "they will die."
Fierce competition for the older-American market has inspired a search for new models and an emerging consensus about the elements the senior center of the 21st century should include.
Among them are fitness activities, chronic-disease management, fall prevention and other aspects of healthy aging; continuing education both practical and intellectual; volunteer and work opportunities for those not ready for retirement; a handsome environment that accommodates the physical limits of age without looking institutional; and some programs aimed to the "young old," those from 55 to 65, to begin changing their negative view of senior centers.

Anonymous said...


In my opinion the ONLY thing Cushing Park has in its favor is that we already own it. That's a pretty big point in its favor, but if we build it there, will they come?

Port Plaza's not a bad location IF there's an available space. It's certainly more convenient with the bonus that its NOT on the waterfront or in downtown (cuts costs, allows the city to collect property taxes from a site at those locations, etc, etc).

Once again Ari's correct in my opinion. If he keeps it up I might have to start calling him Councilor Herzog.

(As for the Haverhill Citizens' Center...I have business interests as well as relatives in Haverhill. Then again, I also have business interests in Gloucester, personal business in Manchester-By-The-Sea, a penchant for near-sighted polo, and can show familiarity with nuclear weapon design. Large numbers of tourists and residents in Newburyport have witnessed my yachting adventures, and I have frequently been mistaken as a homeless person on the weekends due to my habit of dressing down.

(Getting warmer? Here's a clue that should sweeten the pot substantially: you and I, Ed, have spent time together...and I don't mean sharing a checkout line at the grocery store.)

- The Carrot

Ari Herzog said...

Carrot: Would you agree that it is not necessary the City own such a site? If the sole argument to use Cushing Park is because the city owns it, that's a poor argument.

Ed: The way I see it, there are two separate actions to do:

1. Consolidate existing COA services under one roof.

2. Provide a space for community elders to congregate.

The first action would need to be city-funded, with assistance from other sources (such as how youth and library services operate); but why is there an assumption the second action would need to also be city-funded?

Look at the funding sources of centers. Not all centers are equal.

What if the YWCA steps up and offers such space? Or what if New England Development offers to construct such a site? Has anyone asked either?

Also, let's not forget virtual options that take advantage of broadband, such as connecting homebound seniors to outside services.

If you agree both numbered actions above are necessary, then wouldn't you also agree both needn't occur under the same roof?

Anonymous said...


Is it necessary for the city to own the site? No. Is it desirable? That depends on where the site is; taking the long view it would be smarter to NOT use a site that would generate substantial property/business taxes.

If the projected revenues for a potential site exceed the potential costs for a center located there, then that site isn't one that should be used. That's the metric that I'd suggest be used once the general area is agreed upon.

From a monetary standpoint Cushing Park is ideal, but nobody likes the location. Most of the potential locations are commercial real estate, which means the city takes a beating on lost revenue from that parcel as well as pays through the nose to purchase which point you're looking at leases, landlords, potential relocation at the end of the lease, etc.

For the record I am against the whole idea as I don't think the city can really afford to do this at this time.

The YWCA might be a decent partner for something like this; New England Development would want something in return, even if it didn't appear that way initially. The only deal I'd make would be asking New England Development to (drum roll) donate the Fitness Factory/Gabriels building in exchange for a tax break on another piece of NEDs properties that would be equal, over thirty years, to the assessed value of the property. Relatively decent location, parking (more if the garage is built) and what my project manager would call a 'good space'.

- The Carrot

Ed Cameron said...

Okay Carrot, let's play 21 questions, except neither of us has time for all 21. I have several people in mind and I promise not to divulge your identity even if I get it; your anonymity on the commenting boards (Daily News, blogs, etc) does keep the focus on your logic.

1) Are you bigger than a breadbox?
2) Red Sox? a)who cares b)fan c)fanatic
3) Ever study physics post high-school?
4) Dem, Republican or Unenrolled?
5) Newburyport registered voter?
6) Are you Larry Mcavitt?

Thank you sir/madam.

Anonymous said...

1) I am larger than life (and a breadbox).

2) Yes. Wade Boggs' #1 fan for his record on AND off the field. I once ran into Wade when he was wearing a racoon fur August, when it was about 90 degrees.

3) Define 'study'. Formal courses involving math? Two, but my real forte in physics is in practical applications...most of which involved the large-scale release of nuclear energy as applied to the problem of wide-area urban renewal.

4) Former Republican, since reformed.

5) Oh yes. Non-voters have no right to complain.

6) Them's fightin' words. I respect Larry's stance on the waterfront, but I do not respect his decision not to seek psychiatric assistance.

Ari Herzog said...

Once you mentioned "nuclear weapon design," I figured you're one of two people.

Ed Cameron said...

Former Republican?

I guess this rules out Frank Cousins.