Commission on Aging to focus on housing, transportation, sites for activities

January 05, 1994|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,Contributing Writer

Affordable housing, better transportation and more sites for senior citizen activities are among the priorities this year for the 12-member Howard County Commission on Aging.

"We are the conscience or advocates," said Richard Kirchner, a 68-year-old Columbia resident and chairman of the commission, which holds its first meeting of the year Jan. 24 at Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia.

A former deputy director of the state's Office on Aging, Mr. Kirchner has been on the commission since 1991, pushing senior citizen issues with County Executive Charles I. Ecker, County Council members and the Office on Aging.

"Primarily, we are trying to work behind the scenes and deal with people who are doing the decision-making," Mr. Kirchner said.

Members of the commission, which was established in 1969 and meets monthly, are appointed for five years by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council. At least seven members must be 55 years of age or older.

The current membership includes a gerontologist, social worker, nurse, librarian, homemaker and two doctors.

"The commission is the Office on Aging's advisory board," said Vivian Reid, director of the county's Office on Aging. "They make surveys, talk to seniors and are active in various legislation."

In addition, the commission advises the Office on Aging about programs and the budget and helps set goals for the office.

Among the commission's top priorities this year is development of additional senior mini-site centers, which are due to open in August or September in East Columbia, Savage and Elkridge.

Mini-sites consist of space in existing public buildings, such as libraries, specifically reserved for senior activities. They differ from full-service senior centers, such as Florence Bain, used exclusively for seniors.

Other issues include county-wide transportation for older adults, affordable housing and legislation that promotes the quality of life for seniors.

The commission's agenda reflects the interests and concerns of representatives from Columbia, Ellicott City, Savage-Laurel, Highland-Dayton, Elkridge and western Howard County, all of which are represented by at least one member.

Johanna Baldwin, 78, a Glenwood resident who has been on the commission for three years, sees a need in western Howard County for transportation, and for an additional nutrition site to provide balanced meals to seniors.

There now are nine nutrition sites scattered throughout the county, one of which -- the Glenelg United Methodist Church -- is located in western Howard County.

Another commission member, Roberta Davis, a 67-year-old Ellicott City resident and retired nurse, is serving her third year on the commission.

Mrs. Davis said that Ellicott City, second only to Columbia in the number of senior citizens in the county, needs a senior center with a full-time staff and more services. She also cites a need for more extensive senior citizen transportation, currently offered only at Florence Bain.

Transportation and additional senior centers also are among the concerns of Jesselyn Johl, 64, who has been on the commission since May of 1991. The Columbia resident has been an active participant and volunteer at Florence Bain since it opened 10 years ago.

"Transportation is a key to getting seniors out of their abodes and into the centers where there are events and many things that they can participate in," she said.

And Jessica Rowe, a 37-year-old social worker and commission vice chairwoman, who has been a member since October 1990, cited the importance of educating people about the commission itself.

"We have wondered how aware people have been about the commission," said Mrs. Rowe. "We are making sure that people know that we are an advisory body who can be approached with questions and concerns. People can call any of us."

Further information about the commission's activities is available by calling members at the following numbers:

Richard Kirchner, 995-0125; Jessica Rowe, 740-2858; Johanna Baldwin, 489-4592; Daniel Cashman, 997-7156; Dr. Carole Cox, 465-1399; Roberta Davis, 465-2894; Charles Greenslit, 461-1979; Margaret Harless, 442-2114; Jesselyn Johl, 730-6788; Dr. Richard Kolodrubetz, 997-7000; Freeman Sands, 461-2732; and William Walker, 596-2953.

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