By Carol Seeger
A letter to the Porch Press editor from Ms. Flossie Mae Grier, which appeared in the October issue of the paper, has made a few of us pause and take notice of our senior neighbors. The demographics of our neighborhoods are changing more drastically than ever, but on every street and in nearly every block, there are wizened witnesses to our rapid-fire growth. “Folks are in an awful hurry,” said one of my own senior neighbors. “In my day, people visited over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, and we looked in on one another. These families,” she gestured around her with a wave, “they run in and out like their house is on fire, not a ‘How do you do?’ for anybody ‘cept whoever they are talking to on the phone.”
There are some valuable senior services in our neighborhood. Both Grant Park and East Atlanta have programs that assist elder and disabled seniors with emergency home repairs. St. Paul United Methodist Church hosts The Golden Age Center which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays for fellowship and a meal. On a larger scale, the United Way, the Salvation Army, and the local chapters of The Council on Aging provide low-income seniors with services. But the big question is, how accessible are they?
Phone numbers for both the Fulton and Dekalb offices of The Council on Aging were disconnected when this writer attempted to call them. United Way and Salvation Army programs are fraught with stipulations, restrictions and, perhaps the greatest impediment, inaccessibility. Like many other services, applicants must have transportation to access assistance. Many of our senior neighbors do not drive or own a car. The daunting task of navigating MARTA makes a trip to Kroger an all day and exhausting necessity. A trip downtown to an unfamiliar address seems overwhelming and often impossible.
Limited utility assistance is also available, again with steep restrictions, from both Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light. How do our senior neighbors find out what programs or services are available and how do they decipher what they are eligible for? Again, there is the accessibility issue. Most services are reachable on the Internet, but a great number of our seniors do not have the equipment or computer savvy to search out programs that would ease their burdens. The Council on Aging has senior advocates, but again, contacting them by email, then going to a service center presents hurdles that are often too difficult to breach.
Providing assistance to those in need is not a new concern. Bureaucracy and budget cuts have limited government sponsored programs. Corporate and nonprofit efforts have their challenges too, but perhaps the greatest loss on a grand scale is a lack of compassion and empathy for the individuals who need these services, neighbors who need a ride to a food pantry, struggling homeowners who could use a knowledgeable advocate to wade through a sea of paperwork, or lonely grandparents who miss the days when “folks visited over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.”
The distribution and readership of this publication is a relatively small geographic location. By virtue of the fact that our homes, businesses, and community resources are close together, we are a close community in so many ways. The perceived lines that divide us, whether they be age, race, economic status, or a strip of pavement for cars to pass through, should not divide us as neighbors. Whether you are one of our valued senior neighbors or you moved into the area within the last few years, be a good neighbor. Reach out, knock on doors, exchange phone numbers, and find common ground. It is incumbent upon all of us to make our geographic location a community. The investment we make in our homes doesn’t stop at writing a check for the mortgage or having our roof replaced. It extends into becoming personally involved and engaged in the community around us.
Some of the Senior Resources Available to the Southeast Atlanta Area include:
- The Golden Age Center at St. Paul United Methodist Church meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00am to 2:00pm. A meal and activities, which include enrichment programs, arm chair exercise, local field trips, shopping, and bingo are offered. 501 Grant Street. Limited transportation services available. Call Director Becky Wellman at 404- 688-7501 for more information.
- Branan Towers offers a monthly Bingo night to residents and other seniors. 1200 Glenwood Road, 404- 622-5471.
Emergency Home Repairs:
- East Atlanta Neighbor in Need. Contact either Nancy Carpenter at 404-376-7381 or Marc Takacs at 404-538-6849.
- Grant Park Good Neighbor Program. Contact St. Paul United Methodist Church at 404-688-7501.
- Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church, 1879 Glenwood Avenue, 404-377-0561. 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month for Seniors. An application is required and can be filled out at the church office. Coordinators: Mother Bessie Gearing & Sister Dora Acholes.
- First Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, 816 Maynard Terrace, 404-627-4967. Hours: 10:00am to 12:00pm. Please call first.
- Clifton United Methodist Church, 2918 Clifton Church Road (Gresham Park area), 404-241-3388. Serves residents in Zip Code 30316 on the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 11:00am to 12:30pm. Proof of income required. Please call before you go to confirm hours as they may change.
- Meals on Wheels Atlanta, 404-351-3889.
- Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light senior customers may receive a $14 discount on monthly electric and gas service. Call Georgia Power and your natural gas provider to see if you are eligible. Age and income restrictions apply.
- The Heating Energy Assistance Team (HEAT) program is administered by the Department of Human Resources to provide low income residents with utilities assistance. Call 404-656-6696 to apply.
- Project SHARE is administered by The Salvation Army and is available statewide. Call 800-25SHARE to get more information.
- The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority offers grants to low income seniors to weatherize their homes. Call 404-656-3826 to apply.
- Atlanta Regional Commission Area Agency on Aging, serving Dekalb and Fulton Seniors, 40 Courtland Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, 800-676-2433 or 404-463-3333, Fax: 404-463-3264, Email: email@example.com, Web: agewiseconnection.com.
- Lifeline and “Internet Essentials” from Comcast may have discounts on phone services and internet connections respectively but confirmation of this information was unavailable at the time of publication.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of resources available on a Federal, state, or local level. United Way, Medicare, and the City of Atlanta Citizen’s Advocate (Stephanie Ramage, 404- 852-5657) are valuable resources for information and referrals.