SOLON— After proof reading the newspaper last night, it is hard to feel cheery this holiday season. The Area Agency on Aging has cut off funds to our congregate meals site, and the seniors found the proposed replacement meals to be a form of prepackaged pabulum. The administrators at the agency blamed the change on not enough participation and on the sequester.
A group of politicians and community folk put on a telethon that raised some $100,000 for the agency. That money was raised and will be spent outside our community. The Senior Advocates, a local 501 (c) 3 group, along with the Old Gold Dining site council, decided to do something else, and contracted with a local business to furnish meals during 2014. Where the money to pay for it will come from is an open question.
The county board of supervisors provided some money to cover the initial funding gap, but has expressed reluctance to fund a private business providing the meal service going forward. The city also provided some stop-gap money, but after going on a spending spree on Main Street, money is tight for them as well. Undaunted, community advocates will find the money somehow.
Our town has an active ministry of food. In addition to the countless soup suppers, pancake breakfasts, fish fries and church potlucks, the three churches formed a food bank. One of the churches hosts a free community meal on Thanksgiving and Christmas for anyone who comes. Bottom line is seniors will have an opportunity to eat without the federal program. The trouble is, taking care of seniors is only partly about food.
What is more important is that congregate meals are a way for people to break the isolation that so often comes with aging. It is a way for people to be motivated to get out of their pajamas, clean up and do something with others. I’m no expert, but people who are say that is an important part of making seniors feel a part of the community, and maintaining mental health.
The federal sequester isn’t real until we see how it impacts people we know. Our community needs haven’t changed, nor have the people who are trying to meet the special needs of senior citizens. One has to ask about the values of a country where we pay enormous subsidies to businesses, and forsake one of our most vulnerable populations. Our community is working to prevent any of our seniors from being left behind, so government, if you can’t help, please get out of the way.