Hudson seniors lobby for 2011 program funds

HUDSON — City Hall was full of senior citizens Monday night. They came to a meeting of the Committee for Youth and Aging to protest the lack of funding for their programs, even as plans for a new senior center to be built as addition to the Youth Center move forward, with completion now set for July.

A discussion of 17 different programs for youth ranging from basketball, which enrolls over 140 children on 14 different teams, to a snow board and ski program at Catamount, to cooking classes, and a circus skills class preceded a public hearing on senior aerobics and senior yoga classes that serve around 25 people per week.

“We’re losing all our health programs at the end of the year,” said Hudson Alderwoman Sarah Sterling, who sits on the committee, in reference to the exercise classes. “How can we maintain this program? We have many seniors and it’s a growing population. Exercise programs save money in the long run because they help people maintain their health.”

A petition presented to the committee signed by 75 people that urged the Common Council to allocate funds to continue the program in 2011 was accompanied by a statement about the health benefits for seniors who participate in regular yoga and aerobics, including better balance, stronger bones, relief from arthritis symptoms, improved immune response, and an enhanced sense of well being.

The program would require $16,000 to continue it for all of next year, said Hudson Youth Director Trudy Beicht, who manages the facility on Union Street where the classes are taught.

Barbara Van Allen said she felt great as a result of her participation in the classes and asked why the Hudson River Bank and Trust Foundation quit funding the program. From a $500,000 grant, only $5,000 remains for next year’s senior program, and most of the money was designated for youth programs.

“That’s not our money,” said Common Council President Don Moore. “That’s their decision, not ours.”

“I too think it’s a disgrace that the city for a number of years has ignored seniors,” said Hudson Alderwoman Ellen Thurston, who attended the meeting. She said there were a number of ways to make up the shortfall, including charging a small fee to class participants, and seeking funds from the Health Care Consortium, the Department of Aging, and insurance companies.

Margie Cunningham asked why the seniors couldn’t have an additional day to use the space even if they only used it for socializing.

Mr. Moore suggested that a group of volunteers get together to plan the program and apply for grants. He offered to speak with Hudson’s grant consultants to seek information about this. Ideally the program would have four or five different funding sources, he said. Several volunteered to come to a meeting to work on a seniors program.

“This is really important to a lot of people,” said one resident.

“We need to look at this. Hundreds of thousands of dollars for youth and only $5,000 for seniors doesn’t look right,” said Victor Mendolia, chairman of the Hudson Democratic Committee. “Our population is aging. We need to support them.”

“We’d like to have assurance that immediate funding can be found within the next few weeks,” said Elsa Leviseur.

Next year’s city budget allocates $99,868 for youth programs supplemented by extra funding from grants. “Adult recreation” is slated to receive $5,000.

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