A Westchester senior asked Circling the News, “Why are the seniors not taken care of?”
In Los Angeles, one in four people are identified as a “senior” citizen (60+). According to an 2016 Empower La study “Purposeful Aging,” (https://empowerla.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Purposeful-Aging-6222016b.pdf), the City has 1,889,056 seniors. The study states that age-friendly environments allow people to stay active and connected.
The Department of Rec and Parks, operates 29 senior centers, two of which are on the Westside (Westchester and Felicia Mahood Center. The Venice Senior Center is shuttered.).
But, only 16 are open. Many used to have a lunch program. Now only three have a “grab and go.”
Three years ago, the Westchester Center was a vibrant hangout for seniors, but then the homeless, many of whom were mentally ill or strung out on drugs were allowed to take over Westchester Park.
One transient has junk and trash stretched across three handicapped parking areas.
“I don’t understand why they can’t clean it up,” a Westchester resident told CTN.
CTN contacted Rec and Parks, and spokesperson Rose Watson said, “The handicapped parking lot is available to seniors. The lot is managed by the Department of General Services. We’ll reach out to them and make them aware that a homeless encampment is keeping seniors from being able to park in the handicapped spots.”
This editor grew familiar with senior centers while visiting my late mother-in-law in Valentine, Nebraska. The center provided a nutritious hot lunch for $2.50, and then served as a gathering place for people to talk or play cards after eating. The social aspect was important, because many of the seniors no longer had family living nearby.
The hot lunch served, for many, was the main meal of the day – and maybe the only meal. My mother-in-law would eat oatmeal for breakfast, then the hot lunch and perhaps an apple for dinner. She, like many seniors, no longer had the desire or need to fix the “family” dinner or to do a big grocery shopping.
The Westchester Senior Center used to operate the same way, and according to one resident between 75 to 80 people were fed daily.
“Mornings were busy, there were always between 25 to 50 people,” the resident said, noting that “A lot of people came and had doughnuts and bagels. There was a group of men, eight or nine, that were here and would have coffee and sit and chat.”
The resident explained “It was a lovely place, warm and welcoming. When there were sponsored day trips, such as a bus going to casino, you might get 90 people going.”
Lunch was described as “A lot of people really looked forward to it. It was a happy place.”
Another resident said “We used to have events that 65 to 80 people attended; and the Rotary luncheon at Christmas had 100 people. “We would have a lot of fun. People would just drop in, but that’s not happening now.”
What changed? The homeless were given priority.
“It’s such a shame. There’s a homeless person who has a dog that’s bitten some people,” a resident said.
“Give us our senior center back,” another Westchester resident said. “How do you let 10 people hold the library and the center hostage?”
Yet, another said, “We all feel uncomfortable just to go there. The parking lot doesn’t look safe and the people hanging around it are frightening.”
The residents told CTN that they called 311 and Bonin’s office, but nothing has changed. “I see all sorts of concerns about nursing homes and kids, but what about seniors?” that resident asked.
Another resident summed up the situation: “It’s about safety, it’s about common sense. It’s time to give our senior centers back to the seniors.”
(Editor’s note: It seems that the City’s seniors have largely been neglected. CTN asked how many senior centers had WIFI or computer help, which has now become vital. Watson is checking. CTN also feels that there should also be a senior center—or place for seniors to receive hot lunches in