Lauren Reichelt addresses the Rio Arriba County Commission while introducing the Senior Advisory Council members. Photo by Robert A. Naranjo with the Valley Daily Post
County Senior Advisory Committee: Steering Own Governance
By Robert Naranjo
They were there to lend support to Reichelt for Action Item #2.,“Requests and Approvals,” under a., “Permission to Request a Waiver from the Aging and Long Term Services Department to Adjust Senior Food Services” which specifically requested that seniors in the county raising grandchildren as their own, and take them to the senior centers, that they could get discount or free lunch.
Reichelt said that “…60 percent of the children in the county are being raised by grandparents. The combination of Reichelt and the three senior executive commitee members, (Secretary Rosina Martinez could not attend), were convincing enough that the commission approved the request.
Commission Chairman, Alex Naranjo, asked Reichelt and the three Senior Advisory Council members why there are excellent senior centers in the county but, for example, he said, “Alcalde has two or three seniors having lunch” and the building is not being used to its potential.
Reichelt gave Chairman Naranjo the same explanation she gave a reporter when asked why County senior centers are not as busy as they once were and usage has dropped off. Reichelt, contacted at the County Annex, said, Part of the concern is that there has been a drop off in particiation, in usage by seniors of the Senior Centers.The county manager directed Reichelt to find out why the county’s seniors were not using the Centers. Reichelt compiled a survey but she said a survey, “…wasn’t the right vehicle.
So, Reichelt changed direction towards a Senior Advisory Council and it worked.It’s a no brainer that seniors should be involved in their own governance, just like anybody else,” she said. She added, that every Center has a senior on the Advisory Committee and the last meeting had 20 in attendance, and now seniors have direct input into what they want at their Center.
As to the question as to why the drop off, Reichelt responded, “We’ve opened more Centers with the same amount of funding.” She said there are now nine Centers throughout the County She added that with limited staff, there are less activities planned for the seniors, however more staffing and funding from other sources is in the works for the Senior Centers.
But Reichelt emphasized that these sources, including the current funding from the Area Agency on Aging (AAA), require an active senior council and seniors in general in the community. The funding agencies want to meet counties half way, so volunteers from the community are a good way to demonstrate that Senior Centers are securing assistance in the form of volunteers for planning activities, assisting seniors, and other things inherent to a Center.
“It’s a good idea,” to have seniors be a integral part of the governance of the County’s Senior Centers. The Senior Advisory Committee is in place with Valdez, Garcia, Martinez and Duran making up the executive committee and members from every Center. Now a volunteer or two for every Center is beneficial, ultimately, to the seniors themselves.
Contact Reichelt at 753-3143 or talk to the staff at the senior Center in your community about volunteering. Seniors are a wealth of knowledge and information.All have interesting stories to tell, the main one is the secret to their longetivity.
Remember always to respect and help seniors as much as you can, because some day, we too, will be.