My Turn: Time to do right by seniors

The South County Senior Center has a space in the Pope John Paul II Center behind the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church on Sugarloaf Street in South Deerfield.

The South County Senior Center has a space in the Pope John Paul II Center behind the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church on Sugarloaf Street in South Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By MARYANN SADOSKI and NANCY STAHELEK

Published: 04-03-2024 4:31 PM

It is time for the elders of the South County Senior Center to be acknowledged and be provided with a space to meet their needs for health and community involvement. Every time there has been a movement to acquire a site, it has gotten sidetracked because of some other town project.

Beginning in 1979, the South County Senior Center in South Deerfield had a permanent home in the former American Legion building, aka the Frontier Senior Center, aka the 1888 Building. This building, after an inspection was conducted, was closed in March 2020 due to black mold, asbestos, bat infestations, and antiquated kitchen and bathroom facilities.

From this point on, the South County Senior Center members became “homeless.” Our temporary home became tents and church centers. A need for a permanent site continues to be a major issue. Three local towns have always shared expenses for the Senior Center based on population. Currently 25% of Whately’s population is 60 years of age or over, 20% of Sunderland’s population is 60 years of age or over, and Deerfield leads with 53% of its population being 60 years of age or over. This number will increase in the next five years.

The South County Senior Center has been located at Pope John Paul Center in Deerfield and at 22 Amherst Road in Sunderland for two years. $1,200 is paid monthly to the Pope John Paul Center and $1,845 is paid monthly to Delta Sand and Gravel of Sunderland to occupy these two facilities. Pope John Paul Center is open on a part-time basis and the Sunderland office is open full time. Our lease at both places expires at the end of May.

With our current director, Jennifer Remillard, and her staff, positive changes have taken place. Under her leadership, membership at the center has significantly increased for both women and men. The center provides a place where elders can congregate to socialize, whether it be just having coffee with friends, exercising, or playing games. On occasion we even offer hot meals which are sometimes prepared by our very own director.

Our Enhanced Fitness Program is filled to capacity here in Deerfield and Whately, both with a waiting list. Our Cadence Yoga Balance in Motion and Chair Yoga classes offered in Sunderland are also filled to capacity with a waiting list.

With our increased membership and participation in the center’s events, we need more space as well as a place we can call home. We have been housed at the Pope John Paul Center for two years and we are most thankful for Father Dave Aufiero welcoming us there. The time has now come again where the Senior Center is searching for a permanent location that can accommodate our current needs and be flexible enough to accommodate future programs.

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It is the responsibility of the town governments to seriously consider a permanent solution to this perennial problem. The members of the South County Senior Center look forward to engaging in positive dialogue with the towns and finding mutually beneficial ways in which to support the many elders who call this area home.”

Maryann Sadoski lives in South Deerfield and Nancy Stahelek lives in Sunderland.