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Valley Senior Centers Address Big Challenges

Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” While the renowned architect’s statement is one many seniors may agree with, and younger generations may find encouraging, few would deny that the golden years are also challenging.

In recognition of National Healthy Aging Month (September), we asked a few of the Desert Healthcare District’s community partners that serve Coachella Valley seniors to share their insights into the major issues seniors face today. They identified a variety, but two consistently topped their lists.

Lack of finances.  People are “outliving their savings,” said Daniel Coover, program director at Joslyn Senior Center in Palm Desert. He said awareness around financial struggles surfaced about eight years ago when staff overheard seniors in the lobby talking about the difficulty of making ends meet. For some, it was a tough choice between buying food and paying for their medical prescriptions, he added.

“The biggest misconception about being a senior in the Coachella Valley is wealth — that everyone in Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage is of means,” Coover said.

The Joslyn Senior Center addressed the financial gap in a few ways, notably by distributing food twice a month to those in need through the center pantry. Another was offering a 10-session Aging Mastery Program to its members. The program includes financial management among its core topics, as well as community engagement, medication management, dating and others.

Members at Desert Hot Springs Senior Center grapple with similar financial challenges. “Most of these seniors have limited incomes and they’re not able to keep up with just the everyday costs of living,” said Melanie Lyons, director at the Desert Hot Springs Senior Center. “They come here and they have lunch. Anything that’s free, as far as our classes, they’re the most popular.”

Lack of transportation.  Getting around — whether it’s to and from medical appointments, markets or senior centers — is another obstacle for mature valley residents. It’s “a big one for people who are of a certain age and don’t drive or have decided to not drive anymore for safety reasons,” Coover explained.

Public transportation isn’t always a viable option for seniors either, particularly those with physical limitations who require door-to-door delivery. 

“Everything is so spread out in the desert,” Lyons said. “They can ride the bus, but the multiple bus stops are so hot in the summer. I can imagine it’s exhausting.”

The transportation challenge is compounded when factoring in costs, according to Suzanne Spencer of Mizell Senior Center in Palm Springs. “When I did the math, even the 50 percent that the senior would have to pay to go three miles was absurd.” Spencer is the director of the Falls Prevention Program which helped secure a 50 percent discount on taxi fares for participating seniors.

To help overcome challenges, seniors are encouraged to contact their local senior center and learn of the many free and discounted programs offered.

Learn more about the Desert Healthcare District at www.dhcd.org.

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