Commentary: Active park is perfect place for seniors

In her letter , "Park is no Place for the Elderly," (Commentary, March 21) Shelly Stone describes seniors who must step carefully, should not be distracted by activity, or share a space with children, teens, joggers, dogs or dog owners.

Ms. Stone believes that seniors would be better off separated from others in a quiet neighborhood. Besides herself, who are the seniors that Ms. Stone is describing? It certainly does not describe me or any of my fellow seniors who range in age from 50 to 89.

We embrace interaction with all age groups as we keep active in the community and enjoy life. Membership in AARP begins at 50. Social Security benefits start at 62. Mick Jagger will be 70 this year! Mick Jagger is certainly safe sharing a space with children, teens, joggers, dogs and their owners.

The participants at Rodgers Seniors Center play ball (pickleball), walk to the Pier and back, and surf. They engage with children and teens in activities ranging from restoring the Bolsa Chica Wetlands to computers. Older adults in the community volunteer with Shipley Nature Center, the Huntington Beach Community Garden, the Friends of Dog Beach, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), and the Police Department RSVP program fingerprinting children and visiting schools, to name just a few. To me this doesn't sound like a group of people who are unable to manage traffic or Frisbees.

The very people Ms. Stone wants to segregate are the ones who bring so much life and vitality to our city. Look at the list of board members of our city's philanthropic groups and you will see a great majority of seniors who are engaged in the betterment of our wonderful city. How can you suggest we deny a much needed modern senior center to a population that built and sustains Huntington Beach?

In addition, younger people will benefit from being around these vital elders and learn that attitudes about aging such as Ms. Stone professes are simply myths that need to be dispelled. I might add it is not healthy for seniors to isolate themselves as this can lead to depression and loneliness.

Renovating the current facility is neither the most practical nor financial solution as Ms. Stone suggests. The current building cannot be brought up to ADA standards. It has outdated plumbing and wiring that cannot be brought up to code.

Rebuilding on the current site has been studied numerous times and has been determined to be prohibitively expensive. With the current sites' space restrictions, a multi-story facility with underground parking would be necessary in order to meet the needs of the senior community.

When Huntington Beach residents compare our senior center to other senior centers in Orange County, we are embarrassed at how little value is placed on our older population, which is growing annually. We should all be clamoring to have our 2006 vote honored and build a modern facility in the park and make it a wonderful addition to Central Park, where all residents are free to gather.

CANDACE BARTSCH is a Huntington Beach resident.

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