The population and reach of Fulton County senior citizens is expanding, so a proposed renewal levy totaling 1.7 mills on November’s ballot is vital to their health and well-being, said the director of the county’s Senior Center in Wauseon.
“We’ve had a lot of growth in our services, and there is an increase in the senior population,” Sheri Rychener said.
The county will ask voters to renew the center’s five-year, 1.6-mill operating levy with an 0.1-mill increase. The $1,556,405 it would generate annually would cover the cost of operations, meals, transportation, activities, housekeeping, and information and referral assistance for the main Wauseon location and its satellite locations in Archbold, Fayette, Swanton, and Delta.
The levy, in fact, maintains the bulk of the senior citizen services budget in the county. The largest percentage goes toward the seniors’ meal program – about 550 meals a day served at the five senior center locations and home-delivered across 12 meal routes. The meal program eats up about half a mill’s revenue, Rychener said.
“It’s a pretty costly program. For the county, the families have a lot of comfort knowing their loved ones have a meal and we’re going to check on them,” she said.
The senior center locations serve about 3,500 of Fulton County’s senior citizens – about 40% – in some capacity.
“We’d like, of course, to find a way to reach out to all of them,” Rychener said. “We have active seniors, now; we’re trying to bring more of those programs in.”
She said a movement has emerged in which senior citizens want to remain active, so the senior center is trying to accommodate them with related events. “We’ve seen an overall trend in them wanting to experience new things, and to be more involved and active,” she said. “We’re trying to provide a positive place for our whole senior community.”
Failure of the levy would be devastating, Rychener said. “Our whole budget, for the most part, is levy funded.”
The senior center also receives support from donations and a grant through the U.S. Department of Aging.
Historically, the Fulton County Senior Center has had tremendous support from voters, and “I expect that would continue,” Rychener said. “I think they recognize that seniors are important, and they want them to be taken care of.”
Ruthann Vereecke, 78, attends the Wauseon location daily. She partakes in numerous activities there, but especially the tai chi and Golden Drummers exercise classes.
“I’m a widow, and this is really a second home for me, a second family,” Vereecke said. “They do such a wonderful job keeping us busy, keeping us safe, and it’s a very nice facility.”
Fulton County Commissioner Jeff Rupp said with the influx of Baby Boomers becoming senior citizens “it’s important for us as citizens to take care of our senior population. One of the ways we can do that is with the activities offered at the senior center.”
Rupp said many of the county’s seniors rely on the center for meals and social interaction. “The Fulton County Senior Center is a great way to offer programming and services and meals to seniors that may not have another avenue to get those things,” he said.
Rychener added, “The center has just had an overall positive impact on these seniors. To see their quality of life improve has been a tremendous opportunity.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.