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County Senior Advocates Look to Neighbors for Help

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A lack of public sector dollars led the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services to develop alternative care pilot programs.

At Friday’s county-sponsored “Speak Out” event, seniors expressed fear about public sector cutbacks, while officials showed guarded optimism that neighbors could, once again, fulfill the roles that government no longer can.

Mae Carpenter, Westchester County Commissioner of Senior Programs, said seniors’ needs could be summed up in three words, “transportation, transportation, transportation.”

Alternative programs, like CareCircles, Livable Communities and time-banking are being developed by the DSPS to fulfill their needs.

Livable Communities is a volunteer-based service that provides health and wellness programs, educational and cultural programs and support services such as accessible transportation. CareCircles divides Westchester into nine separate regions in order to develop neighbor relationships to help seniors get to the grocery store, pick up medication and get help with household chores. Finally, time-banking is a volunteer system in which people trade skills for services. Young people can volunteer to shovel driveways in exchange for free tutoring, and these transactions would be logged in a database, or “time bank.”

These efforts could help seniors with another great need, according to Carpenter, which is socialization.

“We’ve got to get back to helping each other out,” Carpenter said, “Now we’re getting people to ask, and they’re surprised at the positive response.”

Christopher Milano, a senior at the “Speak Out” event, said that buses, senior centers and healthcare are important to seniors.

“This country doesn’t take care of seniors the way it should,” Milano said. “They’re not really giving a damn about the senior citizens.”

After county legislators and representatives from state assembly members spoke, a long line of seniors waited their turn at the microphone to blast new healthcare laws or offer ideas to improve services.

“What I’m finding this year is until this day I felt like I was thrown to the curb,” said Margaret Silby, president of Coyne Park Senior Center in Yonkers.

Many seniors also expressed relief that Bernice Spreckman will serve on the Westchester County Council for Seniors and its federal counterpart the Area Agency on Aging Advisor Council.

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