Anger and resentment over the planned reorganization of the Ashland Senior Center continue to simmer in the community, even as the city's parks and recreation director insists the changes mean more, not fewer, services to seniors.
Both sides have a point.
Seniors who have been using the center on Homes Avenue are legitimately saddened by the dismissal of longtime Senior Center Director Chris Dodson, and the loss of volunteers who resigned in solidarity is being felt. While reasons for the staff change aren't clear, it is clear a great deal of institutional memory went out the door.
Parks and Recreation Director Michael Black insists the center's core programs are not being moved. He says the goal is to expand program offerings to other locations while maintaining the existing ones in place.
City officials did not make enough of an effort to alert seniors to the changes ahead of time, leading to anger and mistrust that still festers. For their part, seniors have dismissed assurances from Black that their cherished social service programs would be protected.
The Ashland Senior Program Advisory Committee holds its first meeting today. Regular meetings will continue for the next three to five months, including two meetings designed to gather public input. According to the agenda, today's meeting will not include public input, although the public may attend.
Both sides must work together, not as adversaries, to make the senior center all it can be, and ensure the community's elder residents continue to have their needs met.