Marooned in Mukilteo | Guest View

By Terry Preshaw, Senior Advisory Group | Jul 02, 2014
Terry Preshaw

Last month, as I contemplated my pending 60th birthday, I wondered what I had to look forward to as a senior citizen of Mukilteo. Sadly, I discovered the reality is: Not much.

Our local group, Mukilteo Seniors Association, is in essence, homeless. There is no dedicated senior center in Mukilteo.

There is no place for seniors to go during the day to socialize and engage with their peers. There is no place for seniors to routinely access recreational, nutritional, health and social services specifically designed to meet their needs for free. There is no place for seniors to engage as a group with the rest of our community.

Are you getting the picture? There is no place for seniors in our community.

Traditionally, our seniors had a home within our Rosehill Community Center. In the old Rosehill, Mukilteo Seniors self-funded itself by running Second Hand Rose Thrift Shop, and the city provided a room and kitchen facilities for seniors to engage in multiple MSA sponsored activities. It wasn’t much, but it was more than we have now.

I asked my friend Mona Howell, president of Mukilteo Seniors, what I can expect as a Mukilteo senior, and was stunned to learn that the highlight of my senior existence in Mukilteo will be to gather with my peers at the new Rosehill once a month and listen to a speaker while eating a lunch graciously donated by Ivars, supplemented by senior-made desserts.

“What happened to the dedicated senior room, no-fee weight room access and special programming that was supposed to be part of the incentive for paying over $18 million for a new Rosehill?” I asked in astonishment.

“Well, there was nothing in writing, and basically we get the Christiansen Room for two hours a month,” replied Mona. “We are not happy about this.”

I investigated a little further and found that Rosehill does provide limited free senior programming: Party Bridge, Mah Jongg and Quilt Making – all for free because each is sponsored by MSA. I wish I could be enthusiastic about this, but I am deadened with disappointment.

It occurred to me that because Mukilteo seniors have been so self-reliant in the past, they have not needed much help from the city or any other government agency. This legacy of self-reliance is most likely why our city has not realized that its dearth of senior facilities and programs is about to reach a critical mass.

According to the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging (W4A), Washington residents age 65 and over, represent 12 percent of the state’s population. In just 10 years, this percentage is projected to increase to 20 percent of the state’s population.

Imagine Mukilteo with one fifth of its population retired and no place to go!

All of our neighboring communities have dedicated senior centers, so why not tell our seniors to go there? you might ask.

Unfortunately, most Mukilteo seniors, especially those who have retired, live on a limited budget. Transportation to and from senior centers outside our city, plus drop in fees, make these alternatives too expensive for seniors marooned in Mukilteo.

I am sad when I think about how lonely and isolated Mukilteo seniors must feel.

I am hopeful that the city of Mukilteo is ready to rectify decades of senior neglect. Mukilteo Seniors has already organized a senior committee to address its future – let’s make it an official city-sponsored committee – “The Senior Advisory Group”. (LOL – do you love the acronym – “SAG”?! I like it because it embraces the reality each one of us will face – if we are lucky!)

The Senior Advisory Group could take both a short view and long view approach to making senior life in Mukilteo better.

For the short term, SAG could consider these suggestions:

• Dedicate the Christiansen Room to the seniors (including storage);

• Create and provide meaningful FREE programming (include weight room); and

• Provide better opportunities for senior community engagement.

For an interim mid-term vision, we might consider:

• Renting space for a small dedicated senior center and space for the Mukilteo Seniors to resurrect the Second Hand Rose Thrift Shop; and

• Provide free focused programming, co-sponsored by the city and MSA.

A Mukilteo tradition, Second Hand Rose Thrift Shop would provide an on-going source of funds and would also provide a needed service to the community, as well as create a means for volunteer seniors to engage with the community at large.

For the long term, my recommendation is to explore whether a full-sized, dedicated senior center is something Mukilteo needs and desires.

A dedicated senior center typically provides a diverse array of recreational, nutritional, health and social service programs. It creates an opportunity for elders to give back to the community, especially when creative programming is designed to keep seniors engaged and healthy.

And an important benefit for Mukilteo – seniors can offer our community hard-bought wisdom in many different forms: think tanks, tutorials, one on one tutoring – lots of ways to engage and transfer valuable knowledge.

When you are on the other side of 60, there is no time for dilly-dallying. I am trusting in our city and citizens to figure this out and have something great in place by the time I am 70!

Mukilteo resident Terry Preshaw is a member of the Mukilteo Seniors Association committee informally referred to as the “Senior Advisory Group.”

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