Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Contemplating the Senior Center

Tonight, the Common Council will vote on a resolution to give $100,000 to the Galvan Foundation for the senior center. Daniel Kent and Rick Scalera, both representing the Galvan Foundation, would have people believe that without this money the space for the senior center in the armory will not be completed. It's hard to imagine, since Galvan rejected the $400,000 in CDBG funds the City brought as its dowry to this union, that getting $100,000 from HCDPA, which would bankrupt the agency, or from the City, which can ill afford it, is the essential condition for completing the senior center. There seems to be something else afoot here. That something is hinted at in Scalera's comments quoted in the Register-Star: "As of now, the city of Hudson has failed to show any commitment, financial or otherwise, to their senior citizens. . . . The city hasn't committed a dime to its seniors." The demand for $100,000 seems a ham-fisted way of correcting that. 

The City does need to make a commitment to the senior center if it is to be anything more than a handful of people playing bingo and a handful of people doing yoga--which is pretty much what it is now. Simply having a new and different setting isn't going to change that. What will change it is hiring staff with appropriate training and expertise who can plan and implement an engaging program to meet the needs of all seniors in our diverse community. City treasurer Heather Campbell made this point at the informal Council meeting last week, after asserting that there was nothing in the memorandum of understanding between the City and Galvan that compelled the City to hand over $100,000: the City needs the $100,000 for programming and staff. 

The sine qua non of a good senior center is not a building. It is good programming. A building is nice, but a good program can exist without a dedicated building. Hannah Williamson demonstrated this back in 2004 when she started a program for seniors called Sun Catchers. The group, independent of any kind of municipal sanction or support, used the basement of the First Presbyterian Church as its gathering place and provided a variety of experiences that attracted a variety of people--everything from learning about services for seniors to advocating for better sidewalks to sharing life stories to hearing artists talk about their work to enjoying evenings of sit-down (as opposed to stand-up) comedy. Tragically, Sun Catchers did not survive Williamson's diagnosis of cancer and eventual death in 2006, but what she initiated and achieved should be a lesson in what is necessary for a good senior center.


  1. Susan Troy submitted this comment:

    I had hoped that the Commissioner of Aging would have provided some relevant history to the on-going conversation regarding Hudson's Senior Center.
    Since that has not happened, allow me to provide this very relevant information:

    Post Crosswinds construction, there was considerable interest by many parties, including the then-Mayor, the Commissioner of Aging, and the Seniors who were using the Community Room(s) at Crosswinds on a monthly basis, for the developer to build a Senior Center about the same size as Crosswind's Community Building. (The Community Building housed the Management Office, the Custodian's Office, and the various Community Rooms, including a full kitchen.)

    And it wasn't just interest; there was solid support for a Senior Center to be built by that developer, who, by then, had not only been thoroughly vetted by the entire community, but had proven his commitment to Hudson, when he went forward with Crosswinds even after being denied a PILOT. Many developers would have either walked away, sued the City, or found another way to be generally difficult and disagreeable. But this developer wasn't interested in pay-to-play schemes, or revenge; he simply wanted to build exceptional Workforce Housing.

    There were initials meetings and many conversations about particulars, and then. . . just nothing.
    The meetings and conversations were put on indefinite hold, and certainly not by the developer, with absolutely no explanation provided.

    So actually, a Senior Center, a well done Senior Center, could have been built in the late 2000s, and all of the hoopla about the Senior Center being temporarily, unhappily, housed at the Boys and Girls Club could have been avoided, along with all the rest of the political drama, AND the disappointment among Hudson's Seniors.

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