Darrell Berkheimer: Where’s that seniors center support? | TheUnion.com

Darrell Berkheimer: Where’s that seniors center support?

It’s been a year since the purchase of a seniors center property was arranged in Grass Valley, but it’s still not open for senior activities. So the big question is: Why not?

Last June we were told that if all goes well, it will be operating by the end of the year. Now, however, it’s even questionable if daily meals, bingo and dancing will be offered by the end of this year.

Sure, a lot of the blame can be shoved onto the COVID-19 pandemic that prompted the sheltering-in-place lockdown and social distancing. But lack of community support would be the main reason if it’s not operating by the end of this year.

It should not be necessary for to me report how badly an operating seniors center is needed in this community, where one of every three residents is age 60 or older. That’s more than 30,000 residents in Nevada County.

But it appears there is a need to remind the leaders in this community how cash support for a local center right now will save on many more expensive services later, especially because our aging population is experiencing soaring numbers of those 80 and older.

Center activities can:

— Save on health care costs caused by senior hunger and poor nutrition.

— Offer mobility classes that reduce hospital visits caused by falls, the No. 1 reason older adults go to the hospital.

— Provide social events and peer caring that reduce depression, cognitive decline and mental illness expenses.

— Present education on such issues as fire prevention.

— Prevent elder abuse, which reduces police, legal and court costs.

— Provide for seniors and youth to connect, which benefits both age groups.

— Help older adults remain independent in their homes longer, reducing family, housing and other social service expenses.

To guide the center in its operations, Janeth Marroletti, executive director of Gold County Senior Services, reported she is seeking more local folks to serve on the center’s board of directors, now down to four members.

Marroletti said the No. 1 priority for board members is a passion for guiding the agency in its support of seniors in this community. She added the board also could use expertise in the financial, marketing and medical professions, with experience in non-profit operations a plus. Whoever is interested may apply through the Gold Country Senior Services website.

The center’s immediate financial need is $200,000 to purchase kitchen equipment for the center’s operation at 231 Colfax Ave., previously occupied by the Summer Thyme Bakery and Deli. That figure does not include the cost of shipping and installation, Marroletti said.

A committee is meeting to design a coffee shop operation to assist in financing center services. The committee is looking at both outside and inside seating with about 10 tables of different sizes. A current discussion involves decisions on menu items.

What amazes me is how little support Nevada County and our twin cities are providing the agency, especially the county. Other than occasional state and federal grants, the bulk of financing for senior centers throughout our nation comes from the counties and cities where they operate.

But not here. Here that support is negligible.

Senior centers in the smaller communities of northern California receive substantial financial support from their cities and counties. So local officials here need to step up to the batter’s plate to provide the center with some extra-base hits and an occasional home run.

Marroletti noted the center here will be serving about 80 percent of Nevada County, including all but the Truckee area.

Meanwhile, the state recently completed an aging master plan to meet the growing need. And now counties are expected to do the same.

This county also has some wealthy retirees who could establish a legacy with a major donation to the senior center. After all, those of us who are getting so close to that 80 mark have no idea how soon we might need some of the center’s outreach services.

A year ago, I remarked how flabbergasted I was when I came here and learned that this community did not have a senior center. Now I’m wondering how long that astonishment will last.

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has eight books available through Amazon. His sixth, “Essays from The Golden Throne,” includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com.

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