Letter: Senior program in a ‘death spiral’

Editor, The Spotlight:

The Niskayuna Senior Program is on a death spiral toward its demise. The Center’s new management has been ineffective in promoting a more vibrant program, including expected “outreach efforts” (as was the Town’s initial justification to support new changes in staffing). In fact, there is no excuse for their inability to maintain the level of services and programs of the previous staff.

For the past six months, daily activities at the Center have decreased which impact attendance at the center and the number of seniors who take the bus, all of which are at an all-time low. Activities at the Center mainly involve a few tables of cards and occasional bingo. Some seniors sometimes fall asleep in chairs. On very cold days, many seniors wear their coats inside because of excuses by the staff that “nothing can be done to raise the heat.” The once robust and popular field trips have virtually fallen by the wayside, many canceled due to poor (or no) planning or a lack of interest.

Lunches now being served could be contributing to the decline in attendance. The night before each luncheon, the off-site cook prepares meals at the Center or at her home. The next day, these meals are reheated from the refrigerator and served by seniors to the group.

Telephone calls to the Center often go unanswered even if the staff is there. This is particularly discouraging since the town just installed a new and expensive phone system despite the old system was very sufficient.

As the Senior Center bus driver for the past 3½ years, I recently resigned due in part to the disheartening decline of the Center and overall Senior Program, as I witnessed on a daily basis. I have grown to know and love many of these seniors. It saddens me to see Town officials transform a vibrant and active center into an ineptly managed and divisive one by replacing a successful, long-term, harmonious staff with new inexperienced political “friends” at higher salaries, fewer hours and responsibilities, with a lower quality of services. It’s unfortunate how our Town diverts so much attention to recreation and youth programs, while ignoring our senior program. Unlike Niskayuna, I see neighboring communities working hard to provide and support active and growing senior centers for their elderly residents, many who have paid and continue to pay their taxes.

I don’t think the Town of Niskayuna gives a hoot about our seniors!

Don Marcello


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