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Patti Rasmussen: ‘Let no (Senior Center) call go unanswered’

Posted: February 20, 2011 9:55 p.m.
Updated: February 20, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

There is a saying at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center: “Let no call go unanswered.”

For more than 30 years, the Committee on Aging has been operating the Senior Center with that goal in mind.

Times are tough, though, and changes may have to be made.

For most of us, the idea of a senior center is a comforting notion: a nice place for the elderly to gather, break bread and maybe play a game of pool.

We probably think they get some help when needed. We’ve all heard about Meals on Wheels, and we might even know about the Handworker Program that fixes steps and revamps showers.

We really don’t think about our seniors much except to know our parents are doing fine, the neighbors seem to get out and about, and that one teacher has been at the elementary school forever and she’s great.

Not that we’re not generous. We give to the programs and support the fundraisers. Many of us remember all the great wine events at Le Chene, and if you haven’t been to a Celebrity Waiter dinner you have missed out on some fun times.

We may even volunteer to deliver meals to the homebound and enjoy fixing Thanksgiving dinners at the center.
Government officials are generous, too. If it weren’t for the county of Los Angeles, we wouldn’t even have the Senior Center building. The city of Santa Clarita supports seniors by providing transportation to congregate meals and organizing a few recreational programs.

But when it comes to the elderly, we are not overly concerned until it hits us in the face.

Mom can’t remember where she lives; Dad can’t drive the car anymore. We watch our neighbor use her walker to get out to the mailbox and we grow concerned when we haven’t seen her in a while.

That’s when many of us turn to the Senior Center for help. I know that’s what I did.

My own mom was an active 80-year-old, working every day at Lee’s Hallmark, bowling twice a week, golfing Chica with some girlfriends and, of course, the monthly trips to Vegas.

She would live forever, I thought.

But, of course, that wasn’t the case, and when she got sick and needed help, she was lucky to have nine children come to her aid.

But we needed more. We needed to wade through the paperwork, find doctors, and get some help so she could stay in her home. And we turned to the Senior Center.

It’s funny what you learn when seeking help for yourself.

The Senior Center is so much more than a lunch program, which was my only connection to the place every time I drove down Market Street from my home in Happy Valley.

Cars jam the parking lot and overflow onto the streets at lunchtime. Buses come in and out as they drop off seniors from the surrounding care facilities, and caregivers walk their clients in for a meal and a little R&R.

More than 700 meals are prepared at the center every day, with about half delivered by volunteers to a senior’s home.

But if you happen to visit the center after lunch you’ll see something different. Groups of seniors can be found playing bridge, experimenting with watercolors and, yes, playing games of pool.

That’s what you see. What you don’t see is the workers who have a backlog of homes to repair, social workers who do not have enough time in the day to visit the elderly, or the volunteer who phones a list of individuals every morning just to check on them and say hello.

There’s John, who assists the visually impaired with equipment to help them navigate their day, or Robin as she bobs in and out organizing recreation and volunteers.

There are seminars on health-related issues and grief support groups that help some through the tough times of losing a spouse of many years.

There’s Gladys, who is a lifesaver for caregivers as she watches over her clients who suffer from a variety of aliments.

She is there to help those care for their loved ones in a day-care environment.

You have Zee, who coordinates the more than 84,000 meals per year coming from the center, and Frank and his crew visiting homes and building ramps for wheelchairs and emergency grab bars in showers.

And you have volunteers — from high school students to seniors themselves — ready to deliver a hot meal, entertain during the lunch hour, and even play Santa when needed.

You really don’t notice the two “temporary” trailers housing the administration offices or the Support Services Department.

You don’t see Internet servers lining the bathroom floor or cracking asphalt in the parking area. You don’t see an aging building that is literally bursting at the seams.

You don’t see any of that because the Senior Center is a happy place and one that is preparing itself for the biggest generation ever to receive AARP cards — the baby boomers.

There are many challenges facing the Senior Center. The Home Delivered Meals Program faces a deficit every year because the number of elderly needing this service increases as the funds decrease.

The Committee on Aging and the Senior Foundation are looking for ways to address this issue — from writing additional grants, to raising prices (currently consisting of a $2.50 donation), to cutting out a route (which is highly undesirable).

There are things we can do now to help those who help our seniors. You can call Foundation Executive Director Kathy Crone at (661) 259-9444 or log onto scvscfoundation.org and support this organization.

Come to the Celebrity Waiter event on Feb. 26 at the Valencia Hyatt and learn more about this organization while enjoying a great time with your friends.

Making it to your golden years should be just that — golden. Help the Senior Center let no call go unanswered.

Patti Rasmussen is a Newhall resident, and was the previous president of the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Foundation. Her column reflects her own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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