By Bryan Boyhan
What are some of the biggest challenges seniors on the East End face today?
Well, isolation is one. If family members move away and friends die, there is frequently no one for many of the seniors out here. Also, finances is a big concern. Many of our seniors find themselves house rich but cash poor. Transportation is also an issue, since many seniors no longer drive and it’s difficult for them to get to stores to do their shopping. The other I’d say is health. As they become ill, many find they need services in the home. The problem is that some just don’t want to ask for help.
Is socialization a big problem?
As I’ve said before, I don’t see people here dying of starvation. In general it’s lack of socialization we need to address. One of the services we offer is transportation to take them where they want to go, whether it’s shopping or to the bank or pharmacy.
We pick people up from as far away as Southampton and Water Mill and bring them right to the senior center on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. We try to get them there in the morning to meet up with their peers. They get a little continental breakfast. And they can stay for lunch, which, at a suggested donation of three dollars, is the best deal in town.
What kind of services can seniors expect there?
Maybe play some Bingo, sometimes we show movies. There’s a Bridge club that comes in and Community Without Walls. Frequently there are morning programs with a guest speaker on a cultural or educational topic. We offer exercises like chair yoga and play a lot of games; exercise your brain kinds of things. We even had a big thing around Mardi Gras.
How did you celebrate Mardi Gras?
We had a little parade and all sorts of facts about Mardi Gras; we had masks and props. And the kitchen made pancakes specially for Fat Tuesday with different sauces and we had a pancake tasting.
When is the center open?
Monday through Friday.
How does the town define a senior for the purposes of offering services?
Anybody age 60 or over is considered eligible for what we offer. Some don’t want to come into the center. Some don’t feel they need it. Until they come in to see what’s available, they close down to it.
How many seniors fitting that category do you estimate live in Southampton Town?
I’d say it’s about 24% of the population, and there are about 50,000 people in the town.
How many people a year do you serve?
We do about 85,000 meals in a year. And providing transportation for people to doctors, physical therapy, shopping and the bank, we probably offer a similar number of rides.
I was surprised to hear about the residential repair program. How does that work?
I have a residential repair man, who has been with us for several years. You have to be over 60 to get the service. For many years I’ve gone into people’s homes and heard them complain about a dripping faucet, or they can’t reach up to change a light bulb. They often can’t afford the fees to get help in; so if it’s something that doesn’t require the skill of a licensed tradesman, we can help. For free. It’s not an emergency service. You call in then you get an appointment.
You mentioned recently that you’d like to see more activity at the center. Why do you think seniors are reluctant to attend?
People have a mindset that it’s only for the poor people, and they don’t need it. Or that it’s only for old people. And I’ll tell you, even those who are 80 might not think they’re old. But you know what, every body can use a little socialization.
Do you see a growing demand for senior services?
Absolutely, it will be a nationwide phenomena. The fastest growing population in America is now 85 and over.
But some people ave trouble getting to the store, I spoke with someone at chirch last week who said shes having trouble getting around. I tiold her to all us we have a service that will take you where you need to go. Shopping , bank
The 60 year old group, I’m taking them for volunteers. That what we we need. Majority of clients ae about 75. But the fastest growing population in the nation is 85 and over.
How many participate in town services in the course of a year (month)?
What is the range of services the town offers to help?
Going to try to get caregivers in there and start a care givers group. Maybe twice a month. And have that person available to seniors at other times.
How can the town attract more to use the space?
We have the Are You OK, where we can give a daily check in call. Need for volunteers.
Can help seniors with pethr services