EDITORIAL: A Place for the Third Act of Life
A friend and neighbor is 65. His mother is 88. Both are retired and both are senior citizens. But, the needs, concerns and outlooks of these two seniors are very different. How can we design senior citizen programs to bridge such a wide divide?
Despite the Council On Aging and the Senior Center Building Committee focusing on a single facility in West Groton, it appears that many younger Groton Seniors aren’t so interested. They want something different. They want social gathering places where learning, commercial activity, and non-profit charitable initiatives are part of the mix. They want opportunities to learn, to contribute to their government and local political issues. They want to avoid generational segregation.
The people making Prescott Community Center work are seniors. Freed from the strictures of work schedules, with their children living independent lives, they are making a space, an organization for active learners, for contributors to Groton’s future. They are creating an environment for their third act of life, a place to interact with the whole community.
They don’t want to ‘retire from the world’ into generational enclaves, they don’t want to be passive recipients of programs designed by others. They want to create programs for themselves, their peers, and other community members. They want to continue contributing, renewing and sustaining Groton, as they have for years.
Perhaps the greatest contribution these seniors can make is to create this open community-gathering place, a modern-day version of the public square. As our country accelerates toward greater economic, cultural and generational segregation, the need for public interaction between all groups is crucial to strengthening open dialog and undersatnding.
Creating shared public space within Prescott Community Center, a non-commercial gathering space, a place where every citizen is free to show up, to interact with fellow citizens without the requirement to spend a dime, is imperative to strengthening our town democracy, even our national democracy.
Without doubt, there is also a need for Senior Center space in West Groton too. But, instead of a single centralized facility in West Groton, the Groton Senior Center program could have two poles: one at Prescott Community Center for active seniors, and another at a renovated building, or a significantly scaled back new building in West Groton.
With a presence and program offerings in both places, Senior Center staff could become acquainted with younger seniors and be actively involved in the community being created at Prescott Community Center. As seniors age, the staff could identify those needing more help, directing them to available services or transitioning them to the West Groton facility, if appropriate.
Groton is a great town partly because we have been unafraid to take a contraty path for resolving town problems. Town residents with imagination have had the vision to propose and try different ideas. We invested heavily in conservation land when others didn’t, we created a very robust library program when others didn’t, we supported a great municipal light department when others didn’t.
The things we have chosen to do differently define us. The Council on Aging and Prescott Community Center should collaborate to work out the best and most cost-effective programs for seniors of a wide range of ages. Taking a different path for Senior Center programs is what’s needed now.