Commission Maps Senior Needs

By Mike Morris December 15, 2008 12:26

What are the three most important issues facing Tuolumne County seniors?

Access to affordable medical care, good public transportation and affordable housing, including assisted-living facilities. That’s according to a “grassroots survey” conducted by the recently revamped Tuolumne County Commission on Aging.

The survey, completed by about 300 seniors between January and June, also revealed that:

  • 64 percent of those surveyed have never visited a county senior center
  • 33 percent travel outside of Tuolumne County once a month or more for medical appointments
  • 13 percent feel isolated from the community

The survey is just one of the many ways that the commission, a volunteer panel appointed by the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, is aiming to improve the quality of life for area seniors.

The commission, which advises the board of supervisors on senior-related issues countywide, is using its ambitious survey to help map future plans. The survey was already the basis for November’s successful Senior Summit, which featured a variety of speakers and discussions on senior issues.

“Right now we want to develop strategy and build a community that works together,” says commission member Judy Finley. “Our hope is that as we work together we can obtain grant funding to help resolve some of the issues, like seniors in need of transportation and housing.”

Finley, a retired corporate travel marketing manager who is now president of the nonprofit Senior Resource Service, joined the commission in February 2006. At that time, she says, the panel lacked structure and direction.

“We definitely have had resurgence, a revitalization of the commission,” notes Finley, 64. “We’ve been reaching out to the public to get them involved and have them realize they can make a difference.”

Members of the panel include Sharon Beuttler, Nick Cretan, Marge Depew,

Judy Finley, Roberta Goodwin, Jim Grinnell, Jerry Kahl, Bill Loring,

Carleton Penwell, Wayne Phillips, and Donna Sundstrand.

The commission has 20 seats in all, and would welcome new members willing to advocate for local seniors, says Chairman Nick Cretan, 73, of Columbia.

Cretan, who is a director of the corporation that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic, says commissioners are trying to recruit “business types,” including retired professionals with experience in senior issues, and others interested in serving the senior community.

Given the large number of seniors in the county, the commission’s work is vital in planning future senior services, Cretan says, adding, “We just want to be more pro-active instead of just commenting on things that have already happened.”

Veteran commissioner Marge Depew, 70, joined the commission 12 years ago after retiring as a psychiatric technician and moving back to the Sonora area. The commission has constantly evolved, she notes, but faces new challenges in the year ahead due to sharp budget cuts in senior services.

“There simply is not enough funding for the senior services that are going to be needed,” says Depew, citing transportation and in-home services as among key local needs. “Those of us involved in senior planning are all going to have to work together and pull together in order to provide services for the seniors who so desperately need them.”

Cretan, Finley and Depew urge area seniors to consider joining the panel. While there are no age requirements, a majority of the members must be 60 or older. Commissioners encourage potential applicants to attend at least three meetings before completing the necessary application paperwork.

The commission meets at 1:30 pm on the second Monday of each month, at the Tuolumne County Senior Center, 540 Greenley Rd., Sonora. Meeting agendas are posted online and on the Tuolumne County Library bulletin board.

Learn more by going to the commission’s Web page, accessed through the county’s Web site, www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov/. Click on “all commissions and committees,” then Commission on Aging. This routes viewers to the commission’s page, and its links to various senior resources.

© 2008, Friends and Neighbors Magazine

By Mike Morris December 15, 2008 12:26
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