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Given the size of their constituency, senior citizens involvement is surprisingly laggard in the Park District of Oak Park. The village’s elder demographic has a handful of programs devoted to them in the park district, but many simply aren’t well attended.

The park district’s newest committee, the Senior Advisory Committee is hoping to address that by reaching out to local seniors, coordinating with other senior groups and creating new and exciting programs.

Meeting for the first time as a formal committee last Tuesday afternoon, the group sat at two pushed-together tables in Longfellow Center’s recreation room and discussed just how to get more people to take part in the park district’s programs.

The park district does have several marquee programs, the most popular being “Drop-In Days” at Longfellow Center, where seniors congregate on Tuesday afternoons to play chess, Scrabble and most popularly, bridge.

Even Drop-In Days’ attendance leaves something to be desired, though, said the park district’s Active Adult program supervisor, Meredith Schwartz.

“We’d like to increase and expand the recreation program opportunities to the point where we can sustain participation levels,” said Schwartz, who’s acting as the park district’s liaison to the Senior Advisory Committee.

The light attendance could be because of a lack of information, or it could be because of the programs the park district offers, Schwartz said. Either way, the best way to increase participation is by increasing communication, she said.

“We have a feeling this it more about the level of knowledge itself,” Schwartz said. “We want to be the bridge between the public and the park district.”

The committee’s newly elected chairwoman, Mary Kay O’Grady, 70, said she’s looking forward to working to change things in seniors’ favor.

“Seniors often just complain, we don’t move and do anything,” O’Grady said. “So often you hear complaints from seniors about this and that and they want everything free, for one reason or another they don’t want to get involved.”

The committee is hoping to change that by reaching out – first, to local senior service providers to figure out how to augment existing programs without duplicating them.

“There’s no sense in duplicating when we can cooperate,” O’Grady said. “We have to figure who is it that we want to serve, and secondly, what do people want.”

They’ve got the data they need to figure out what exactly their constituency does want. At the meeting, members paid rapt attention as Schwartz presented reams of information for them to take in – everything from historical attendance information to community surveys.

Discussing their long-term plans, the meeting was dotted with a sense of black humor as the members debated who should get the longer, 2½-year terms.

“I hope that I’m alive that long,” said member Patricia Poskitt.

“It crossed my mind,” O’Grady replied with a laugh.

CONTACT: bmeyerson@wjinc.com

  Photos by J. GEIL/Staff Photographer

Senior Advisory Committee members

  • Mary Kay O’Grady, chairwoman
  • Rose Hermanns, vice chairwoman
  • Anna Mui, secretary
  • Patricia Poskitt
  • Nancy Holmes
  • Meredith Schwartz, Park District Liaison

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Ben Meyerson

Ben was Wednesday Journal's crime, parks, and River Forest reporter, until he kept bugging us enough to promote him. Now he's managing two of Wednesday Journal's sister papers in the city, Chicago Journal...