Danville Express

Newsfront - January 19, 2007

Town holding workshops to understand senior priorities

by Natalie O'Neill

Seniors with something to get off their chests will have a chance to vocalize their needs Wednesday at the Danville Town Meeting Hall.

The town is taking its first public steps in an effort to understand the age group by putting on a workshop to gather feedback on facilities, programs, services and activities for Danville seniors.

The workshops will be held from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Jan. 24 and will include a group discussion and hands-on exercises to gather information. Residents of Danville who are 45 and older are invited to attend.

"It will be very interactive. We're hoping to identify high priority issues," said Marcia Somers, assistant town manager.

The sessions will be run by the town and BW Research Partnership, a research information firm that will use the senior dialogue to frame a phone survey that will be conducted in Danville. The survey will then be used by the town to learn how to accommodate seniors more effectively.

"We want seniors to be involved and to feel like they have a voice," said Chris Panton, 70, who is a member of the newly formed Danville Senior Alliance.

Topics to be discussed include how programs should be run and organized.

"How they are set up is vitally important," Panton said.

In November a group of seniors confronted the Town Council, stating there is a need for a senior center to facilitate programs and activities for the aging population of Danville.

Town staff says a facility is feasible but information is needed on how the center would function. This can be determined by understanding what types of recreation seniors prefer, Somers said.

In part, this is what researchers hope to gather from the meeting. And seniors say they hope the community workshop will be productive.

"I hope something comes of it, that it isn't just a gripe session," Panton said. "When you get old, a lot of times you're crotchety."

Another need seniors expressed in past weeks was a desire for excellent staff personnel to work with them. Some said that the people who work with them are even more important than getting a senior center.

"(Staff) needs to have empathy for seniors and to really like them as a group and as individuals," Panton said. He added that creativity and interpersonal skills are also essential for the position.

Since the group of seniors confronted the Town Council, the town has addressed the issue head on. Staff members have begun working with vocal senior groups to determine what's lacking in the town's approach to senior activities.

Thus far, Panton, who is acting as a liaison between the Danville Senior Alliance and the steering committee, said experience working with the town has been "amazingly good and very cooperative."

"Obviously it's an important segment of the community," Somers said.

BW Research Partnership was chosen by members of the town staff and seniors working with them because of its experience surveying similar locations and age groups, Somers said.

The town currently offers day trips, bridge club, bocce ball and senior info sessions. But some seniors still feel that participating in adult recreation programs and church activities are their only recreation options. They say town-sponsored activities for the elderly are lacking.

Residents over 55 made up about 21 percent of the population in Danville, according to the 2000 census, and senior population is expected to grow dramatically over the next 10 years, as baby boomers become seniors.

Two sessions will be held to give older people who work or have daytime commitments a chance to participate in the evening session.

For more information, contact recreation services manager Michelle Lacy at 314- 3377.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com


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