Senior Centers suffering money woes

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) --There are over 100 Senior Centers in Region 8. Not care facilities but locations where seniors can continue life. But funding for these centers continues to fall short of needs.

Over 18 percent of America is over the age of 60 and this new census may even run that number higher.

Senior centers fill a need for aging Americans to help them avoid a lonely, solitary existence.

"I'm 85 years old. I'm not interested in games, I'm not interested in dancing. I'm interested in conversation with people my own age."

At the Pocahontas Senior Wellness Center, Hulen Hackworth is having coffee and conversation with his friends. At other tables seniors are competing in a fierce game of dominoes while a little line dancing is going on.

Pretty tame to the video game generation but it serves an important function.

Pocahontas Site Director Nancy Johnston stood in the center of the room as activity swirled around her. "Rather than sit home for these folks and look at 4 walls we offer them the exercise, the socialization, the dominoes, the cards the Karaoke."

A refuge to keep on living as normal a life as possible.

But for years funding for Senior Centers has fallen short of need.

"We have had several even in our own organization that have closed down because the funding wasn't there."

I watched as volunteers and the 2 paid employees prepared meals for home delivery.

A big economic cut at centers is employee and operating hours.

Johnston, "Each of the site managers lost an hour per day. Each of the drivers lost an hour per day. But it's still better than losing services to our senior citizens."

Hackworth, "Everything that's done in here except for 2 or 3 people is done voluntarily."

Fund raising is a constant thing in Pocahontas, using book sales even bidding out completed mounted crossword puzzles to raise cash. Cans asking for donations to pay for meals and transportation sit on a shelf. Also cookbooks are for sale.

And this is a nationwide problem not just in Arkansas. With the first round of stimulus money came out the Pocahontas senior programs used up it's small share in 3 months for food delivery.

The Federal government and the state and all the other organizations are giving them money to feed the senior citizens but the biggest problem is that they haven't had an increase in funds for Senior Programs in 14 years.

Along with electricity and other expenses, the turnip has really been squeezed for the last drop.

Mr. Hackworth says it's time for America to step up and recognize the value of its senior population. Citizens need to ask the question.

"What can we do to help you people? You people have helped us for all these years. What can we do now to help you people?"

What can you do? Donate your money or your time, when was the last time you really talked to a person over the age of 90? It can be fascinating.

A good way to start is to call the Northeast Arkansas Area Agency on Aging and see what they need.

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