My best friend for years was my grandma Kate. She was my closest neighbor, we both loved books, 50’s music, and she almost always covered for me with my parents; all key ingredients in a best friend. Didn’t matter that she was 50 years older than me; age ain’t nothing but a number when it comes to friendship and a shared love of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.
I’ve always had an affinity for the elder generation. As a baby, my daycare was attached to a senior center, and the daycare would let us go over and hang out with the seniors, which gave us a lot of cuddle time, and them some baby time. It always seemed like my favorite people were usually 40 to 60 years older than me, because they had great stories (and y’all know I love a good story), and they were at the age where they had decided to be as sassy as they ever wanted to be, which matched my kid-sass level perfectly.
I have talked a lot in this column that we don’t have enough in our community for the younger generation, but I’ve never talked about how lucky we are to have so many resources for our seniors. My grandma utilized our three centers a lot (she especially loved the water aerobics at the indoor pool!), because even though she had a big family, she realized the importance of seniors spending time with other seniors, doing the activities they like to do, and at a price they could afford on a set income.
Not a lot of communities have the kind of amenities for seniors that we do, and it’s a luxury that we are taking for granted. Lets face it, JCO: our population is only getting older, their incomes are not growing, and as more and more of the younger generation moves away, they’re left to take care of themselves. It’s easy to tell yourself “My family will never leave me,” or “I’ll always have enough money to cover every meal,” but those things can always happen, and if you live in a community without a senior safety net, you risk falling through the cracks.
An organization like the Jackson County Commission on Aging helps fill in those gaps. It’s not just about doing Meals on Wheels or providing transportation to appointments (all of which they do!): its about giving seniors a place of their own. When I think back now, especially after I left for college, my retired grandma missed a lot of social stimulation, especially the kind that comes with working. She missed seeing people, talking over issues, being with people who were going through the same things she was (and she probably missed telling people what to do; once a principal, always a principal).
But because we have community centers for our seniors, with programming and meals, our seniors don’t have to be alone. They can meet, eat, attend education programs, play games, and get the much-needed socialization that’s so important, especially for staying mentally healthy. Our three centers in Ripley, Ravenswood, and Sandyville give them a place just to be, and that’s something that’s as important for the younger generation as it is for the oldest one. We have the opportunity to help make sure those buildings are open, are safe, and stay available for our seniors by voting for their levy this year.
Look, we all hate taxes. We all hate paying taxes as much as we all love complaining about taxes. But there’s a big difference between paying taxes so someone gets a nicer WV-government issued car and paying taxes that benefit not only a current group of people, but a future one as well. Levy money stays right here in the county, for the very purpose we vote for. Voting for levies is why we have nice things: nice schools, good ambulance services, great 911 responses, wonderful libraries. Our history of voting for levies is what set us apart and makes us the envy of other counties, because in counties were levies for public services don’t pass, there’s a marked difference in the quality of life.
You might not think you’ll ever get any use out of a senior center now, but you don’t know what the future holds in thirty years. Just like your home, if you don’t take care of the maintenance needed now, the money you’ll spend if you wait too long will far outweigh the cost now. If the centers aren’t maintained, they’ll be shut down in time, and it’s a lot easier to maintain an existing structure than it is to try and fund a new one once an old one has been gotten rid of. The senior centers are a haven for our seniors, and a resource for everyone who needs an inexpensive place to hold a gathering, so supporting them isn’t just helping one group of JCO citizens: it’s helping everyone.
So take the opportunity this year to vote FOR the Jackson County Commission on Aging levy, because you’ll not only be keeping our current crop of seniors happy, you’ll be helping secure our senior centers for your future use. Let’s take care of the maintenance needed on our senior centers now, so our greatest generation always have a place to call their own, and a place to celebrate all their Senior Years.