Category Archives: Seniors

A Caring Community

Why a Senior Center?

“I wake up in the morning knowing that I have somewhere to go. Retired life used to be depressing. Now it’s rich and full.”

“The Caring Community sent a man over to fix my window that wouldn’t open and he replaced a light bulb I couldn’t get to and I didn’t pay a dime.”

“The Caring Community also provides help fixing leaky taps, installing grab bars, insulating windows, and performing the myriad other routine apartment maintenance tasks that older adults typically cannot do alone. Thousands of tasks are performed annually for those in need of a handy, skilled friend to assist around the house.”

“The greatest problems of being homebound involve loneliness and isolation. The Telephone Reassurance program provides much-needed regular contact with a friend.”

“… During these short journeys with our volunteers, friendships are often forged and lively conversation exchanged, providing seniors with both a necessary service and enjoyable experience as beneficial as any medicine that a doctor can provide.”

“There are a lot of places I know that could use a Caring Community like the one that has helped me.”

“The Caring Community has been my home away from home for the last 28 years! Now as I get older, I know they will help me live independently for as long as I want to, and that means so much.”

“And what is a community if not a group of people that look out for one another in their time of need? It is this question that is at the heart of what we, The Caring Community, are all about.”

All these quotations are taken from The Caring Community’s website, thecaringcommunity.org.

And finally: “For many this is as simple as having a place to come and have a cup of coffee in the morning and talk with a friend, rather than isolating oneself at home.” (From a Senior Center in Palms Springs, CA)

Personally, I’d love it if Newburyport, MA had a caring community to be this proud of.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Sticky Dishes

In a large welcoming, bright warm room, company around a morning cup of coffee at a Senior Center.

In conversation it is mentioned that dishes feel smooth, not sticky or gummy as they do in the small two-room apartment.

Heads tilt and brows furrow. Sticky, gummy dishes.

A visit from a friendly face.

The dishes are in the drying rack next to the sink. But they are gummy and sticky with food that is dried on and never been removed.

It is remarked that a generic bar of soap and a washcloth might not work so well, washing dishes.

A light, small bottle of dishwashing liquid and a scrub sponge cut with scissors to comfortably fit a hand, is produced. The liquid is blue. It is alright, it will not leave a blue color, but clean dishes.

Every dish is plunge into warm soapy water and scrubbed with new scrub sponge, rinsed and left to dry. Instructions follow. The dishes are no longer sticky or gummy.

A promise of a follow up visit to check on new dish washing approach. The generic bar of soap and washcloth are left there for familiarity. The new blue dishwashing liquid stands upright by the side of the sink.

A suggestion to wear glasses when washing dishes. Better to see what could be missed.

Relief. The dishes are smooth. Somebody cares.

Probably would not have happened without a sanctuary, where people know the kind of questions to ask, and do not laugh at or ignore, such small issues. A Senior Center.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Numbing Silence

Silence.

Except for the TV. Silence.

On warmer days a walk.

On return, check the answering machine. No calls.

Last sibling, in another state, died.

No one to check in with.

After initial condolences–nothing. No cards, no phone calls.

Pick up the phone, can’t call, not there anymore.

5 degrees out. Two small rooms. Too cold to venture forth.

Later in a big, bright, welcoming, safe space, a timid mention of no calls on the answering machine, or any ringing of the telephone at all. The defining and deafening stillness. The numbing fear that results.

Someone listens and hears about whispers of a chilling emptiness, talks to someone else, and the telephone starts to ring once a day. “Telephone Reassurance” program initiated by a Senior Center.

Something to look forward to.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Spoiled Milk

8:00 o’clock in the evening. Forgotten to eat. Look into the frig. The milk looks odd. Not sure why.

Cream colored clumps at the top of the clear plastic bottle. Don’t know.

2 eggs left. Boiling water, not a good idea. Pot is heavy. Spills and burns.

Too tired to scramble.

Too dark at night, too cold, too difficult to plan ahead. No extra money for a pizza. Box too heavy. Delivery person not like putting it on table. Unhappy, no money for a well deserved tip. What to do with the 7 other pieces?

Cereal. Don’t know about the milk. Water from the tap and Cheerios for dinner.

Losing weight.

In a large brightly lit room, warm faces fuss. Despite a lunch-time meal, look thin.

Correct.

Concern about the odd looking milk. Relief. An explanation. Don’t drink it.

A warm unknown friend comes to look at the refrigerator. Sees it empty.

A plan. A person to help.

Who would know if not for that brightly lit, welcoming, warm place. A Senior Center. Enough time to see the difference, how thin. Someone seems to know what to do.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

A Place to Go

Light bulbs.

No light bulbs.

One more lamp is dark. Confusing. Where to get light bulbs? Who would put the light bulbs in?

Going to a large, open, friendly place. Sitting down and discussing. The subject of the darkness of the small two-room apartment comes up.

Ah, a friend, understands about light bulbs. Someone comes over and discovers the two lamps that are dark, really dark, now that the winter days are short. They know how to screw in light bulbs and suddenly the tiny two rooms are no longer dark and frightening, but light and familiar once more.

Such a small thing, light bulbs, but so important.

And if there was no where to go. To a large welcoming place, filled with voices and familiar faces. Just the TV and two small rooms.

That large welcoming place, a Senior Center. A tonic against fear, loneliness and numbing boredom. Not the same as some small unwelcoming and mostly unused room in a housing facility.

In a country where families are fractured, far away from a family member, who would care, or maybe who could care less. Often there is no family member at all. And life in two small rooms often provides little sense of community, little sense of hope. A sense of abandonment, loneliness and fear.

The days are long. No community center to go to, to share even the slightest and mundane dilemma that rarely anyone would think of. Light bulbs, and what to do when they no longer work.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Tax Relief

Now that I’ve chit chatted about the Republican point of view towards local fiscal woes, George Cushing, the political consultant for the Newburyport Blog felt it was really time to take a look at the Democrat point of view.

Ok, George. Good idea.

And that means taking a look at Governor Deval’s “Partnership Act” (The long version, the “Municipal Partnership Act.”), which I gather is still being “tweaked.” And I gather the Partnership Act is not support by one and all. Gee, what a surprise.

Let’s start with something simple in the proposal:

The Partnership Act would allow cities and towns to adopt a sales tax on meals of up to 2 percent in addition to the 5 percent state tax.

25 percent would go to property tax relief for seniors.

“Local officials, Patrick testify on behalf of partnership act”
mma.org, Tuesday, April 10, 2007

“Patrick described the local option taxes on meals as “purely a local decision.”

“The idea is to trust local communities to make those judgments by themselves according to their own circumstances,” he said.

He cited studies showing that New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle all have higher meals taxes than Boston would if it were able to enact the local option tax.

“In all those places the restaurant business is booming,” Patrick added.

Twenty-five percent of the revenue generated by the local option meals tax and room occupancy tax would be used to reimburse cities and towns for property tax exemptions that senior citizens are eligible for.”

By MMA Associate Editor Mitch Evich

A Republican response to this, aside from the fact that it’s yet one more tax on top of all the other taxes is this:

“Deval’s local tax hike scheme actually gets worse in the details. The reason, friends, is that communities that make the mistake of raising these local taxes only get to keep 75 percent of the hike. The rest goes into (hold your breath) a state fund that would reimburse communities that provide property tax abatements for senior citizens.”
blog.worcestercountyrepublicanclub.com, February 28, 2007

Liberal Democrat that I am, I think 25% towards a property relief for seniors is a good thing. That one really works for me.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Override Politics

My experience is that in politics as an election gets closer, people forget nuance, people forget logical thought process. It almost always comes down to an emotional, two or three sentence, gut level response.

And in politics folks are basically trying to “sell” you their point of view.

Think about something as benign as juice drinks. Do you think about the nuance of why one juice drink might be better than the other? No. You think about which juice drink stinks, and which juice drink will “change your life.” (Slight exaggeration.)

Would political issues be any different? Personally I don’t think so.

Remember that famous political phrase, “It’s the economy stupid.” Another words, vote for the other guy and your future will go down the drain. And it worked.

There are many thoughtful folks on either side of the override issue (the Spring override for the $1.58 Million for the Newburyport Schools) and well thought out reasoning on both sides as to why the override should or should not be voted for.

But I think basically it’s going to come down this:

1) If you vote against the override, you don’t care about the children. It’s for the kids. Our children are our future. You will force young families to leave Newburyport, MA in droves and Newburyport will no longer be a vibrant city.

Or

2) If you vote for the override you will force the elderly and the lower and middle class folks who are just getting by out of their homes and destroy their lives. Newburyport will become a place that only the wealthy can afford.

And both sides would scream that I am absolutely wrong, that I could not possibly be right. But you know in your heart of hearts that I most probably am. (If you haven’t already, keep an eye on those Letters to the Editor. They have and would most likely aim for right for the gut.)

And also, I think it often comes down to which side folks feel has the most integrity. Who do you like? Who do you trust?

Small slips, much less big slips can turn a campaign in a completely different/wrong direction. Once that happens, it’s very hard to recover.

It’s like going to a restaurant. One bad meal, and unless there is incredible loyalty, most folks don’t go back.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Losing Our Town

My Dad is 89, lives on his own in New York City, goes to work everyday and is one smart cookie. He also loves politics. On the political thing, the apple did not fall far from the tree.

I wanted his opinion on the hostility over the whole issue of the override for our Newburyport Schools.

The parent side was easy. The parents care about their children and want them to have a good education. Good schools are a good community investment. (My own feeling too, is the decibel sound may be so loud, at least to my ears, because parents may feel that up to this point, no one has been listening. “Bingo”??)

But how to articulate what the folks against the override feel? And my Dad, smart cookie that he is, had this to say… they feel like the override folks are going to “take over.” They feel like “they are going to lose their town.” A definite “Bingo” in my book.

And yes, I’ve been wandering around town on my walks and talking to folks, and what people say to me boils down to my father’s 2 succinct phrases.

What I hear is that, the folks (for the most part) who are pushing for an override do not have roots here. Their kids may not stay in the system. And they may not stay here at all.

The folks pushing for the override don’t see the big financial picture. All of Newburyport is in a fiscal crisis, just not the schools.

And yes, there are definitely already people on the financial edge, not only “seniors” but folks who moved here in the 70′s and early 80′s and, who in many instances, are not in high paying jobs.

That taxes would become so high, that people not only would want to move, but they might not be able to move, because no one would want to move into a town that would be so unaffordable, especially in an economic downturn.

That a place like Salisbury is becoming the “it” town, because compared to Newburyport, a middle income family could afford to live there.

And that by driving out the people who “made” this town, the soul of the city would be lost.

That for years, the children of the people who live in Newburyport, have not been able to afford to live here, and that trend would only escalate. (One of the things that Gardiner Bacon told me was that he was running for mayor now, because once he goes off to college, he would never be able to afford to live in Newburyport, MA again.)

All of that is of course a much more “tactful” version than what I was actually hearing.

My father, good Liberal Democrat that he is, was all for education, and pointed out that there’s “no free lunch.” His solution, which was very much like the solution by a gentleman in a Letter to the Editor in today’s Newburyport Daily News, was to raise state taxes, and then the state would have enough money to pass onto local cities and towns.

He was not optimistic that we would see any money for our fiscal woes any time soon from the Feds.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Community

I know almost absolutely zip about this, and that’s when I usually get myself into mucho trouble, but for some reason I feel compelled to blog on, even though on this one I’m reasonably clueless.

What caught my eye in yesterday’s Newburyport Daily News, February 21, 2006 was the headline, “Seniors want chairs returned to lobby” on page A3.

I remember that there was an article in the Newburyport Daily News a while back about how the chairs were going to be removed from the lobby of the Sullivan Building on Temple Street (for residents 60 and older). And how other plans were being made.

I remember thinking to myself, “Ooops if it was me, I wouldn’t go there.”

There is a lounge on the 8th floor of the Sullivan building, but it would be my bottom dollar guess that it would be rarely used and that the lobby would be the place to gather, greet and socialize.

If it was me, I wouldn’t be going up to the 8th floor, I would want to go where people come and go. Find out what’s going on. Feel connected to the people in the rest of the building.

I come from New York City, and the analogy that I come up with is people leaning out of their window, watching what’s going on, shouting out to the people down below. Or sitting on the stoop talking to people passing by. An easy, organic, human way to connect to the community. And an escape from and very good tonic for loneliness and isolation.

There are new plans for a smaller room downstairs. But it would be my guess that that might not be used as much as the lobby was. It might not have, what I call the “stoop” feeling. Something informal and community connected.

And even if I did live in the Sullivan Building and thought the new room downstairs would be a good idea, knowing how things work, it might take awhile. And I might feel, that that might not be enough time for me. And I might want those few chairs back down in the lobby too, so that I could feel less desolate and more connected to the world in which I had been apart of and contributed to for so many years.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, George’s Talking Points

George Cushing, of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant for the Newburyport Political Blog, is trying to get my attention again.

What is it this time George?

horiz.george.4.jpg
George Cushing
trying to get my attention again.

George feels that it is questionable whether the “progressives” can get their “act together” so he would like to make some talking points on what he believes municipal policy could be.

Ok, I’ll bite George, but remember you are a FROG.

What in the world do you have in mind?

1) (We’re doing numbers here George? How very organized.) An aggressive planning agenda that addresses zoning changes to protect Newburyport’s neighborhood character and historic assets.

(Good start. But remember George’s last name is “Cushing” and he comes from a pretty swanky address, i.e. Frog Pond on Newburyport’s historic High Street.)

2) George likes these “Buy Local” folks. He would like two see two economic overlays, one for downtown and one for Waterfront West, sighting tons of ordinances that have been drafted across the country. He’d like to see Waterfront West have a square foot limitation for retail space. Apparently there is a correlation, according to the National Trust for Preservation, between retail space and historic preservation. Who knew? Smart Frog.

3) The Industrial Park, rezoned to include office space. George and Mayor John Moak like that one.

4) The capping of the Crow Lane Landfill completed. He thinks Mayor John Moak is doing all that any mayor could do.

5) The Senior Center, would like to see the Cushing Park (same name as George you notice) plan on the November ballot. (George thinks that if a Senior Center is built that there would be room for frogs??)

6) The Central Waterfront, would like to see the people’s wishes observed and have half park and half parking.

(Ok George, what about parking? From an aerial view, the train station has tons of unused parking? George, that’s from 5,000 feet, you really think anyone is going to go for that one? Hasn’t exactly been a popular solution all these years. And you want the City of Newburyport to include a Frog Pond? I don’t think so George, frogs are a zero constituency, no one is going ask the tax payers to pay for a Frog Pond. Come on.)

7) Schools. (Yes, I agree George, what a mess. Money, where are you going to get the money?) George would like the State and the Feds to get their act together and pony up some major bucks, because the tax burden on the average resident is already too high.

8) High Street (Oh, George, is this for me?) The Bike Lanes either finished or removed and the rest of the High Street Master Plan, which was passed by the Newburyport City Council, begin to be enacted — brick sidewalks, textured crosswalks, trees etc. (I like this.) (Apparently this was not for me. Had more to do with his feelings about Frog Pond. George wants the rest of High Street to be as nice as the restoration to the Bartlet Mall.)

9) And a discussion about the ineffectiveness of a 2 year mayoral term. Either a 4 year mayoral term or a city manager form of government. (My, “la de da,” aren’t we really out there on that one?)

Well, I’m impressed. That’s not a bad start considering he’s a FROG, except for the insistence that the tax payers pay for another frog pond and that frogs would get to hang around in a Senior Center. Good grief.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Maybe Some Sanity Settling In

People have said that they are surprised that I am against the elementary school, $30 million dollar, diamond necklace, spending extravaganza.

I guess people figure me for a “tax and spend” liberal democrat.

Not “tax and spend” to the tune of $30 million dollars. Come on. Not when there are LOTS of other alternatives. Think of me as a “practical” liberal democrat.

I was relieved to read in the Newburyport Daily News, December 4, 2006, that at least Mayor John Moak and members of the Newburyport City Council have concerns about the wisdom of a special election for this Spring.

Whew.

However, I would love for Mayor Moak and members of the Newburyport City Council to urge the School Committee to abandon this “ridiculous” plan altogether and come up with something that makes some “practical,” fiscal, common sense. From the article in the Newburyport Daily News, that didn’t sound like that was going to happen (yet.)

$30 million dollars makes $5 million for a Senior Center (Newburyport Daily News, December 4, 2006) look like a proverbial “walk in the park,” a “real deal,” a “downright bargain” if you will. Good grief.

Ok, I know I’m beginning to beat a horse, I don’t know if it’s a “dead horse” yet. But I really, really seem to be worked up about this one.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Railroad Station – Senior Center

It is my opinion that the railroad station is, commercially, a dead dead duck, because it is impossible to get directly from the station to the tracks.

I have always thought that the railroad station could be enlarged where necessary and turned into the senior center. And there would be plenty of parking.

James Charles Roy
Newburyport

Newburyport, Senior Center and Cushing Park

From the emails that I have received it seems that there is already a strong, mounting opposition to having a Senior Center at Cushing Park. (Cushing Park is off Kent Street and is often confused with Cashman Park that is along the waterfront on the North End of the City.)

When people call me about issues that I know nothing about, I try and ask them to educate me. And this was the case when I received phone calls about the Senior Center from “seniors.”

My first question was, why not the YWCA, a community center for all ages (I realize that this is a vast simplification.)

I know in middle age although I enjoy and appreciate “young” people of all different ages around town, actually having them in close proximity for any length of time is a little jarring. Not because I do not like them, I like them a lot, but because basically I am “out of practice” and am no longer “acclimated,” so to speak, to the hustle and bustle of youthful energy. If I feel this way in middle age, I would think that this would increase as I get older. And from what I understand, this is true of many older folks.

My second question was why not the Industrial Park? I like the idea of when I get older of not much traffic and lots of parking and possibly a place for a one level building. Basically, the answer, as I heard it, is that it gets lonely as one gets older and seniors do not want to be isolated from their community.

Actually when I thought about it, I remembered when the library had its temporary setting out in the Industrial Park (thanks to the great generosity of Ed Molin), it felt like I was going out to the middle of nowhere (although that was not the case) and went to the library very infrequently.

Now that the library is downtown, it is one of my favorite places to go, and I go all the time. So I can empathize with how our seniors feel about not wanting a Senior Center in a more isolated area.

This is where I think civics is very, very difficult, because there are legitimate, competing needs among our populace. And I am always impressed when we do find creative solutions or come to difficult compromises, because civics is not easy.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Senior Center

One of the things that has happened being the editor of the Newburyport Political Blog is that all sorts of people call me and email me. It is often folks who feel as if no one is listening to them, and for some reason people feel that they have a chance of being heard by the editor of the Newburyport Political Blog.

And I get calls and emails from “seniors.” And usually those calls just about break my heart. The seniors so desperately want a Senior Center and feel that nobody is listening and nobody cares about what is important to them. That the process has been going on for so long, that the prospect of a Senior Center often seems remote.

I think that the Council on Aging and its director Rosanne Robillard do an unbelievable job. And if I should be lucky to live so long, I sure will need them and I sure would like a Senior Center.

I was heartened that Mayor John Moak is taking a good long look at Cushing Park for a potential site for the Senior Center (Newburyport Daily News, July 6, 2006.) I realize that there is opposition from the neighbors, but I am proud of our Mayor that he is paying attention to what our seniors are saying.

It is my opinion that as a society we so often focus on a “Paris Hilton culture” and the people who serve as the foundation of our society and who have the experience and wisdom we so often need, are dismissed and marginalized instead of being honored and appreciated.

As I understand it, most of our seniors feel that Cushing Park would be a good location for a Senior Center. And whether the site works out or not, I applaud our Mayor for trying.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s note: Cashman Park is along the Waterfront. Cushing Park is off Kent Street.)

More Thoughts on the Waterfront

To respond to Mr. Clarridge’s thoughts on the waterfront I would like to share my elderly opinion. I am circulating a petition to have a Senior Center built on the East N.R.A. lot. The Seniors of this City have been ignored for over 25 years and deserve a small share of our most valuable waterfront. This location would be in walking distance for the Seniors in the James Steam Mill and the Sullivan Bldg. Many other Senior Centers are located in the downtown area, close to Public buildings, Post Office and shopping areas. I believe this idea is a lot better than hot topping the whole area for parking for Special Interest groups.

George Roaf, Newburyport