, Salem, MA


February 13, 2013

Letter: Let's not botch this again

To the editor:

What follows is an open letter to the Salem City Council:

Since reading the recent article in The Salem News on the new senior center, I feel compelled to speak. The moment to finally end a journey of botched attempts and finally do something about our senior center is at hand.

I pondered this over this past weekend. I decided to try to enlighten the council again as to the history of the journey taken up to today, which has brought us to nowhere.

In the early ’90s, while getting my master’s degree in gerontology at UMass Lowell, we had to submit a research project evaluating what was offered to our elders within our community. After interviewing both the director of the senior center and the executive director of North Shore Elder Services, I was struck by my findings. At that time, I wrote a proposal to look further into the needs for our seniors. I gave this proposal to Dan Geary, Mayor Neil Harrington’s assistant at that time. I believe around $10,000 was allocated to do this study of elder services within Salem. Paul Lanzikos, the current executive director at North Shore Elder Services, did the study. One of his strongest findings was about the disrepair and inadequacy of the current senior center.

After graduating from UMass, I worked in a primary care medical practice as a gerontological nurse practitioner. Many of my patients were from Salem, and most were seniors. When encouraged to go to the Council on Aging, they often said it was rundown and not a place they wanted to go. Many actually went over to Peabody or Marblehead, as they found it “nicer.” I was at that time a member of the Board of Trustees at the COA. It saddened me that our senior center was not looked at as a viable option for seniors. The staff worked hard to do their best with less. Yet many seniors continued to stay away or go to another senior center.

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