Snyder's Sandwich: Seniors Get Shortchanged

Mark SnyderGENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Mark Snyder

Currently, 27 percent of the population of the Town of Sandwich is 60 years of age or older. It is projected, based on numbers from the census, that 45 percent of our population will be age 60 or older by the year 2023. 

In 2014, out of a budget of $65,189,254, the Sandwich Council on Aging gets $191,191. So, for 27 percent of the population, less than one-third of 1 percent is set aside to serve just the senior citizens of Sandwich. 

That, my readers, is a disgrace.

The council on aging in Fiscal Year 2013 responded to 25,921 telephone calls. In FY12, it was 22,382 calls. The thin staff could not possibly handle those kinds of numbers. Add to that 16,321 seniors who actually participated in classes, seminars, socials, day trips, luncheons, transportation, shopping trips, legal and medical appointments, tax preparation, health screenings, support groups, and wellness programs in 2013. This requires a ton of help. That help was provided by 93 volunteers, who worked 7,586 hours, valued at $159,306, for the Town of Sandwich in 2013.
Sandwich COA director Janet Timmons, who was appointed to her position in 1992, is proud of what she is able to squeeze from her budget. The COA runs out of the facility at 270 Quaker Meetinghouse Road in East Sandwich.

Ms. Timmons told Snyder’s Sandwich that she was finally able to get a part-time driver for one of her two vans. Volunteers were trained to drive the vans, and are able to work up to $750 off their property taxes. 

“Volunteers can drive the handicapped bus. They get the same training and certification as our paid driver. It’s provided by Cape Cod Regional Transit,” Ms. Timmons said.

Ms. Timmons said the COA has become a “human services” entity.

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“We have a good working relationship with other social agencies. Our outreach program can provide mortgage assistance, and we try to prevent homelessness. We coordinate the Global Oil donations for the Town of Sandwich residents, and can assist those who need help filling their oil tanks. Sometimes, we can help find financial assistance for families, even those under 60.”

Friends of the Sandwich Council on Aging is a nonprofit which raises funds to supplement the COA budget. In the past three years, they have raised about $15,000.  More is needed. So, anyone with expertise in fundraising or an interest in helping the COA is invited to join the group. In addition, volunteers are always needed. The next meeting of the Friends of the COA is Friday, March 7, at 10:30 AM at the Human Services Building at 270 Quaker Meetinghouse Road.

If you’d like to make a contribution to the building fund (to try to help develop adequate space and/or furnishings for seniors—and the fast-growing number of baby boomers becoming seniors) send a tax-deductable contribution to: Friends of Sandwich Council on Aging Building Fund, Box 107, Sandwich, MA 02563. 

They already have a conceptual rendering of the building and the space design from the feasibility study done in 2006. At that time, they withdrew plans to seek an override, due to the financial conditions. Now they need our support.

Another possibility was suggested by selectmen chairman Jim Pierce. He said at a recent board of selectmen meeting that “attention needs to be paid to seniors, their growing numbers, and expanding needs. A senior center at the Wing School could serve the town well.” Ms. Timmons said that was “not out of the ballpark. The Wing School could work if the renovation plans were put together by someone familiar with senior design. There would need to be enough dedicated space. But, I’m not opposed to repurposing the infrastructure.”

Meanwhile there is a ton going on at the COA. There are fitness and wellness programs that include cardio fitness, Zumba Gold, walking groups, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, massage, line dance, fusion fitness, reiki, and Wii bowling and golfing. March programs include oral health screenings by Cape Cod Community College;  current events discussion groups, mystery book club meetings, solo dining (Tuesday, March 11, at 1 PM at Canterbury Café on Cotuit Road. A great way to meet new people! Call 508-888-4737 to reserve your spot.); van trip to USS Constitution; St. Patrick’s Day luncheon; and even a free antique appraisal from Henry Callan on Wednesday, April 2.

There are educational opportunities like learning about life after stroke, Alzheimer’s, tax preparation, SSDI and SSI help; and so much more. You can get a free monthly newsletter that lists everything. It can be mailed to you, or sent via e-mail. Call Jan at 508-888-4737 and ask for yours.

While seniors get less than one-third of one percent of the budget, school-age children are currently receiving 70 percent of the revenue that comes into the Town of Sandwich in their budget. And, just a reminder—all of us will become seniors at one point. Some sooner than others.

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