By John Anderson
Auburn’s elder affairs fall under the domain of the Council on Aging (COA) and Marie Sullivan, Executive Director of Elder Affairs. Both are appointed by Town Manager Julie Jacobson.
Director Sullivan gave a presentation to the Board of Selectmen on Monday evening that opened many eyes. Her intent was to let people know what is going on at the Lorraine Gleick Nordgren Senior Center and hopefully attract more seniors, but she accomplished so much more.
For a better understanding, here are some facts about the senior center:
In FY14, Elder Affairs is approved for $122,942 in funding from the town (about .22% of Auburn’s $54 million budget). $111,152 is for salaries, and $11,790 is for operating expenses. In addition, capital improvements will be made at the Senior Center in the amount of $32,500. Other funds will be borrowed to install a generator for the building and to update the media room. A FY14 State Grant of $31,896 funds many other expenses of the center including outreach services.
Ms. Sullivan introduced many other senior center facts with a PowerPoint presentation that surprised many in the audience. From 10/1/12 to 9/30/12, 10,106 lunches were served at the senior center and another 19,997 were delivered through the Meals On Wheels program. The nutrition program and its single full-time employee are funded outside the Auburn budget, and the COA suggests a $2.00 donation per meal. The actual cost is closer to $7. Volunteers in the kitchen and dining room keep the costs down.
The success of the Senior Center hinges on volunteers. Since July 1st, 54 volunteers have contributed over 4,000 hours. This does not include the Meals On Wheels drivers or members of the Friends of Auburn Senior Center Association (FASCA). Volunteers range in age from 55 to over 90. Ms. Sullivan stated, “Seniors are happier and healthier when they’re socially connected.”
The WRTA made 6,039 passenger trips in FY13 for Auburn seniors, and since July 1st, 9,059 seniors have signed in for COA programs and events. Much of the program direction has been towards “closing the digital divide” for seniors with topics like using new cell phones or working with an iPad. FASCA also has regular events for seniors.
Since July 1st, about 55% of active seniors are between 60 and 79 years old while 37% were over 80 years. In a statistical anomaly for senior centers, Auburn has a large male participation of 29.6%. Most centers have a much lower percentage for men.
Seniors in our society are a special group that has earned the right for continued support. The seniors in Auburn have continued to show their unselfish volunteerism and all pay taxes through their residences. With grants often in jeopardy and with the town budget process getting started, maybe Auburn can do a little better than .22 percent.