Here is a link to an article appearing in today's online newspaper "Arlington Voice" where I am quoted as a supporter of a new Arlington Active Adult Center. Unfortunately, the reporter, Zack Maxwell, used our old name (Age Friendly Arlington) instead of Ambassadors For Aging Well. Oh well, that's the way the ball bounces. Click here to read the article http://bit.ly/2gTCYbn .
Here are the actual questions the Zack Maxwell asked me with the answers I provided:
As someone deeply involved in establishing an Adult Activity Center in Arlington, I want to reach out an tap you for your thoughts on the project for a report I’m writing.
1. In your opinion, why does Arlington need a senior activity center? First of all, the demographics of Arlington are changing as shown on the attachment. From 1990-2010, Arlington’s 0-54 year-old population increased 81% over 10 years, but it’s 55+ population increased 270% and this rate is only accelerating for the next 25 years. Also, as the Baby Boomer population is dying off, the Millennials (born between 1984-2004) will be coming into retirement age and Millennials are an even larger cohort of people than Boomers. We all know that the country's population is aging and we need to prepare for that and help seniors remain healthy for as long as possible. Arlington’s two “senior centers” (Eunice and New York) are old buildings which are “okay” if all a senior adult wants to do is play Bingo or other board games, but there isn’t much available for “active seniors.” The New York recreation center is scheduled for demolition and will be reconfigured with a new Library where the “seniors” will have a room at the back (forgive me, but “big deal”…more Bingo). The City of Grand Prairie (with 40% of Arlington’s population) passed a sales tax to build a world-class senior activity center in 2010 called “The Summit.” (A virtual tour is available at http://rtvpix.com/BU-4362-S3J88E-01 ). Many Arlington residents pay non-resident membership fees to belong to The Summit (me, included) and Arlington’s own Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital (THAM) is the primary/key sponsor at The Summit (i.e., THAM’s advertising/promotional dollars are going to the City of Grand Prairie instead of to the City of Arlington). Eunice and New York senior centers are on the east side of town but Arlington’s demographics show that most of the aging population lives in west/northwest Arlington. Seniors prefer warmer water (and “salt water” instead of chlorinated water which is much easier on human skin) and we prefer a more tranquil environment than what you see at the multigenerational centers such as in Grapevine, Irving, Southlake, and North Richland Hills (with lots of splash features for active, screaming kiddos). Arlington should provide a robust environment for seniors to enjoy…these are the same seniors who have lived in Arlington for many years and who have supported (and still do) all kinds of community endeavors, including kids’ sports programs, summer camps, after school programs, etc. Arlington (and its seniors) have spent a lot of money on youth programs over the years. Now it’s time to spend some money and effort on our seniors. Research has shown that isolation and loneliness among seniors cuts 7 years off of their lifespan (equivalent to smoking ½ pack of cigarettes for their entire lives). Keeping seniors healthy, connected, engaged, and able to age at home (where they want to be) for as long as possible saves taxpayers money in the end through (i) avoidance of Medicaid paying for long-term-care facilities and (ii) a healthy senior saves Medicare/Medicaid dollars.
2.What are your thoughts on the proposed Pierce-Burch location? I think the Pierce Burch location is very good. It’s on a major Arlington thoroughfare which is easy to drive to, affords plenty of parking area, and Arlington demographics show that the west/northwest areas of Arlington is where most of its older residents reside. The east side of town will still have the two small senior centers which will remain open to service people on the east side if that’s more convenient and where they want to go. The extra land available for commercial development is a plus.
3.Do you see any drawbacks to a project like this? Of course, it would be nice if it could be delivered without cost to taxpayers (everybody likes freebies) but that’s impossible. Fortunately, the City already owns the 36-acre plot of land which was acquired some years ago for use by the Pierce Burch water treatment plant. It has been determined that the land is not needed for the water plant, and due to its excellent location with lots of trees, I think it will be a beautiful site for a new adult activity center. Therefore, the City doesn’t need to spend money to acquire the land, plus there is room for commercial development around the Center which will afford revenue to offset some of the Operating & Maintenance costs, and sustainability is always a consideration. In addition, seniors will volunteer to help staff the proposed Center; room rentals will bring in $$, but none of these revenue opportunities are considered (to my knowledge) by the City in the expense projections given to the Mayor/Council in order to give a “worst case” scenario on what the proposed center would cost. Transportation is always a problem for people who no longer drive and while getting to the west side of town will be problematic for some seniors who no longer drive, hopefully the Transportation Advisory Committee appointed by Mayor Williams will come up with a few options to solve this problem (report due towards end of 2017).
4.It’s likely Arlington taxpayers will be given the say on a tax increase to pay for this, how would you sell this to those who may not see the need? It’s a quality-of-life issue. While I understand that there is a general desire throughout the country for smaller government and less tax, it takes a village to provide for quality-of-life issues like this (individuals can’t do it on their own). I’m confident that because my home town of Arlington, Texas, is a caring and compassionate place, that they will see the benefit of passing a small ¼ of a penny sales tax increase (which is what Grand Prairie passed, and which will bring Arlington into parity on sales tax rate with most of our neighboring cities) in order to provide this beautiful new proposed center. After all, its senior population has paid taxes for all these years and continues to give back to the community with taxes and also through thousands of hours of volunteer service. I know that Arlington cares about its seniors and will show that when they pass the small sales tax increase on the May 2017 ballot.
I am working to have my report complete by 5 p.m. today, so if you can get back with me prior to that, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!
Zack Maxwell, Publisher
O – 817.376.9683
C – 817.948.0371
Elva Roy is the Founder of the all-volunteer group "Ambassadors For Aging Well" which meets in Arlington, Texas.