Senior centers facing loss of services
by Bradley Hartsell
If the shutdown of the federal government continues, many of Coweta County’s seniors will be affected.
The Newnan Tommy Thompson and Grantville senior centers are facing severe cutbacks and shutdowns as conditions in Washington continue to deteriorate.
The Georgia Department of Human Services, Aging Division, notified all regional directors of Three Rivers Regional Commission that, starting on Oct. 14, there only will be enough funding for 30 days of services. If the government resumes before then, the centers will carry on normally.
However, 30 days is only part of the issue. Transportation money is running out and all transportation may be suspended as early as this week and almost certainly by next week, with only a 48-hour notice beforehand.
The Tommy Thompson Senior Center on Hospital Road is particularly in a troubling position. Unlike Grantville, most of the Thompson Center seniors are transported by van. Thompson Center Director Ida Johnson says 36 seniors depend on the transportation services every day and another 33 rely on home-delivered meals. If transportation is suspended, the Thompson Center will be in jeopardy and many seniors will be left to fend for themselves.
“Some have family support, but some don’t,” said Johnson. “I’m hoping and praying it will get resolved. This is our seniors’ home away from home. For a lot them, it’s the only outlet they have.”
Johnson says, in some cases, family members of seniors have given up on them. Without the center, it’s quite possible some seniors might go without food or socialization for an indefinite period of time.
The Thompson Center is also a wellness center. So, in addition to hot, nutritious meals and activities, regular wellness checks will not be available to seniors, putting their immediate and long-term health at risk.
The Southern Crescent Area Agency on Aging is drafting a letter to be issued to the 14 senior centers in their region and then given to the seniors to inform them of a possible shutdown. Joy Shirley, director of Southern Crescent, is aware of the negativity the letters will generate, but hopes that seniors understand it’s in their best interest to be informed of the possibility.
“Hopefully, everything will be resolved within 30 days,” says Shirley.
Thompson Center seniors are already voicing their opinions.
With a mix of anger, confusion and hurt, 23 letters on Monday were faxed to the office of U.S. Representative Lynn Westmoreland. R-Ga. Third District. Juanita Lankford’s letter said, in part, “We want you to keep our center open and let us keep coming. Sooner or later, you will be an old man, and if you don’t have a center to go to, you will just waste away.”
Rosetta Jones, Willena Florence and Sadie Miller sat in the lobby of the Thompson Center Tuesday discussing how the government shutdown could impact their lives.
“They need to remember who they’re representing,” said Florence, who’s 92 years old and is well-known in the center. “They’re being selfish, while we’re suffering.”
Florence said she worked for 50 years and raised five kids. She said she’s even had to work for more than 24 hours at time just to provide for her family. To her, she and others like her have paid their dues. “I don’t owe them anything. They owe me.”
Jones interjected, “They treat us like second-class citizens.” Miller added, “Tell [the government] not to get poor and old. Don’t vote for any of them next time around.”
Most of the letters sincerely ask Westmoreland to “please” do what he can to keep their centers open and active. For many, it’s their time of the day to be active and keep their minds busy.
Most of Johnson’s clients are in their late 70s and 80s and lack much of their own resources to make it through a possible shutdown.
If the government resolves its issues within the next few days, this will pass as just an unfortunate scare. But the deeper the government shutdown goes, the risks to the livelihood of many Coweta seniors become more and more pressing.