Senior Living: Making progress on issues; more to be done

Good news — senior initiatives set in motion earlier this year are progressing. Here’s an update.

The new senior web pages instituted by the city had more than 3,000 hits the first three months they were up and running! In addition, the volunteers at the Rubin Community Center had numerous phone calls and drop-in inquiries from seniors.

It was interesting to see what generated the most interest. We were not surprised to see that most of the hits and inquiries were related to housing, transportation, legal and food.

We were pleased to find out that the city will partner with us on the print version of the website, and possibly take care of the entire process. We need to identify what information we want in the print version. There won’t be enough room for everything, so let us know what information would be most important to you.

The biggest project we face is obtaining approval to establish a senior commission. We want to thank Councilmen Steve Chirico, Robert Fieseler, Paul Hinterlong and David Wentz for meeting with us at various times and providing practical input, recommendations and support.

You probably saw Susan Frick Carlman’s column a few weeks ago reporting that the subject of senior services was brought up at a recent council meeting. The council requested that staff research, with stakeholders, whether the city had the resources needed.

Naperville is home to almost 15,000 residents older than 64. If you include those older than 54, the number rises to almost 28,000. That is almost 20 percent of our population.

Naperville recently has been cited by national publications as a good place for seniors to retire. Receiving this recognition implies that Naperville has the resources to provide for the unique needs of this population. Naperville should be in a position to support independent living, enhance health and well being, educate and contribute to the feeling of self-worth and community belonging for seniors.

We are not aware of any dedicated city resources to address the needs of its senior population. Yes, we have recently revised the senior pages of the website, and in cooperation with the Park District, we now have a senior help desk and dedicated phone line at the Rubin Community Center, but this just scratches the surface of what Naperville has the ability to do.

Significant needs include housing and transportation, but there are others. It’s interesting that many residents recognize that the senior housing issue is serious, but frequently, plans for senior housing are lobbied against by residents who would be living near the seniors. Most recently one of the reasons cited was that they would not have much cash to spend in the neighborhood!

What is needed is a group of individuals from a variety of government and nonprofit organizations who will identify senior issues, work together to research the options available, determine the feasibility of each and in general be a voice in the community to advocate for seniors.

Given the wide spectrum senior needs, we need a group of mission-minded individuals who will employ a collaborative effort of the many resource providers to reach meaningful solutions.

Let’s hear from you! It’s important that you voice your opinion. We would be happy to meet with small groups to further discuss what matters most to you.

Karen Courney has lived in Naperville since 1970. Contact her at sunseniorliving@gmail.com.

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