Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Right Choices and the Right Reasons


Although there were plenty of things to do in Columbia/HoCo yesterday, the high point for me was picking up my latest Corinna Chapman mystery at the East Columbia Branch of the Howard County Library. As I arrived a sign caught my eye:

It made me smile, thinking of all the good folks who had advocated for this. It also made me think.

I am now, and have been for some time, in the 50+ category and yet I have never walked through the doors of this friendly-looking center. 

Why not?

Probably because I perceive that it is not for me, or I want to believe I’m “too young” for 50+ center. Is this vanity? Maybe. Is it a lack of understanding of what the Center is all about? 

I took a look at the page on the Howard County website that describes 50+ centers. Here’s a brief look at their offerings:

  • Exercise and fitness classes
  • Educational opportunities
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Congregate meals (lunch)
  • Kindred Spirits Social Club (for people with early stage memory loss)
Some programs are free and some require a fee. Programs are offered both virtually and in person.

For many, aging brings with it increasing isolation and loneliness. That, in combination with health challenges and (often) lower incomes puts people at risk for increasing vulnerability on a number of fronts. What I am seeing here is a multi-faceted approach to meeting the needs of many older community members who are seeking companionship and human interaction. Participation in 50+ programs can be a bridge to addressing those needs. 

I may get up in the morning and feel my age because my hands hurt and I can’t deny anymore that it’s arthritis. But I also wake up in a home with family, enough food to eat, transportation, good medical care, and a network of friends. So perhaps that is why I haven’t quite brought myself to walk through that door at the East Columbia branch.

On the other hand, I’ve spent the last year and a half at home being sick and sedentary. Those 50+ Fitness classes are looking are looking an awful lot like a reasonable way for me to regain some of the resilience and stamina I’ve lost. Who knows?

It seems to me that there’s no right age to go to a 50+ center, but there are plenty of the right reasons. And I’m grateful that Howard County places a priority on folks in the 50+ category. It’s a choice that our County makes, one which is both compassionate and smart. 

Speaking of compassionate and smart, have you read about the new initiative  to support lower income older adults? 

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and officials from several of Howard County’s largest government and nonprofit human service organizations this week launched the County's new Manufactured Homes Owner Assistance Program at the Elkridge Mobile Home Park, an initiative to support lower income older adults with critical food access, housing, technology, and information resources.

The needs that this initiative is addressing go far beyond a need for enrichment and companionship. To be isolated in a trailer park, possibly without access to any transportation, struggling to make ends meet and stay healthy is an existence that is often only one step away from a crisis. 

MHOAP helps families to recover from challenges associated with pandemic economic recovery. In addition to weekly meal distribution access, eligible residents can receive information and resources in obtaining low cost Broadband Internet service; home repair support; home fire prevention planning, training and technologies; and connection to the county’s Maryland Access Point (MAP) team for ongoing support and service coordination.

A tip of the hat to all those who advocated for the new East Columbia Branch 50+ Center, and for those in County Government who work to support services for the most vulnerable, whatever age they may be.

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