Guest Opinion: A clarification on the status of the Ashland Senior Program

    As most people who read this will be aware, the Ashland Parks Commission recently voted to begin the process of reorganizing the Ashland Senior Program. As background, the Senior Program has been part of the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission (APRC) since 2007. This means that all of the functions of the program — social, recreational and otherwise — as well as the management and cost for all of those functions, have been paid for with APRC funding for the past 10 years.

    When the decision was made by the commissioners to reorganize, it was interpreted by some as a “sacking” of the Senior Program. That perception could not be farther from the truth. As the director of APRC, I was given clear and decisive instructions to ensure that no element of the core program would be lost, especially those elements benefiting low-income and vulnerable seniors. To emphasize this, I want to point out the following condition of approval for the reorganization of the program:

    “Ensure that throughout the transition, core services are preserved and the center is open and accessible for seniors for scheduled appointments and classes and for drop-in visits.”

    This condition directs me to ensure that core services, including the Food & Friends meals program, social service programs, drop-in visits and any other services that have been carried out to benefit our most vulnerable citizens shall not diminish for any reason. My interpretation dictates that there will be no interruption of these services as a result of funding, staffing woes or any other transitory reason.

    I chose to write this letter now to address some concerns that I have heard from residents who use the program and some who do not. The concerns are centered on the incorrect notion that APRC is closing the current Senior Program and core services in favor of creating a “recreation center” for older adults. While it is true that APRC wishes to increase recreational opportunities for the community at large, it would be contrary to our mission to do so at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens. APRC will continue to ensure that our seniors receive the essential services they have counted on from APRC over the past 10 years.

    While I have the opportunity, I would also like to address a proposal to move the Senior Center to The Grove. I did make that recommendation; however, it is clear to me now that this would not be in the best interests of the senior citizens who use the center now for core services. I will be recommending that the Senior Center and its core services remain at 1699 Homes Ave.

    I hope that the community will recognize that the commissioners of APRC have consistently supported the Ashland Senior Program over the past 10 years and I see no indication that they will not continue to support the program into the future. My interpretation is that the commissioners will not jeopardize services to our community’s most vulnerable citizens for any reason.

    — Michael A. Black is director of the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission.

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