Commentary: Park is no place for the elderly

Regarding the Huntington Beach Senior Center and the ongoing discussions about whether to build new or renovate the current facility, I would like to add my 2 cents, for whatever it's worth. I've been a resident in H.B. since 1969 and have seen what "progress" has done to our city.

The proposed new site at Central Park, from my senior viewpoint, is the worst place to build the new center. The Central Park location is in a very dense traffic area, often with lots of children and teenagers skateboarding, throwing Frisbees and playing ball, often times carelessly, without regard for or notice of passersby.

Add the additional traffic around our library and nearby parks, and dogs that often are not leashed before being let out of the car, and you have the reasons behind numerous close calls, not only to me but to other seniors. Dogs have jumped out of the open doors of their owners' cars and set off running after strangers (to the tune of "Oh, don't be afraid ... my dog is friendly"). All these venues bring more cars to this area.

Additionally, seniors have to generally take precautions for our own personal safely. We have to walk carefully, watching our steps, and should not be distracted by so much activity. Children should not have to worry about an elderly person sharing space with them when they're active and happily at play, and seniors shouldn't have to worry while they're going about their daily routines either.

Recently a senior friend was walking with another friend and a stray ball got away from some children. The ball hit my friend from behind and knocked him to the ground, and he ended up with a broken hip. There was no intent on the part of the children to hurt anyone — they were just playing. By the same measure, my friend was just walking to his car — the parking lot was adjacent to the playground and the accident just happened.

Multiply that scenario should dozens of seniors be drawn to the area. They would be walking and driving around an already very busy area, populated with active joggers, dogs and their owners, and young people driving or being driven, along with the usual high volume of cross traffic heading north and south on Goldenwest Street, which has a high speed limit.

The current Senior Center is in a quiet neighborhood — not much traffic with a low speed limit and plenty of safe areas to walk. The center is easily and safely accessible by foot or by car or bike. Parking is easy and the terrain is flat.

Renovating this building seems the most practical from a financial and safety standpoint. The current building has served our senior community faithfully for many decades. While it is an aging building, many homes in H.B. are aging too but we don't bulldoze them. We put new roofs on, repave cracked driveways and walkways, plaster cracked walls, repair rotting wood, repaint, replumb, update old fixtures and replace worn out carpets. We add another level.

We take something that has stood the test of time, in a good and safe area, and update it to serve our current needs. This is what I believe is the best solution for continuing to serve our senior community, of which I'm proud to be a part.

SHELLY STONE is a Huntington Beach resident.

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