This is what 70 years of entitlements has wrought: Senior citizens making demands that their children and grandchildren can’t afford. Our city of Salem is in the midst of a very large budget deficit. That means that many projects are on hold, including a long-planned new senior center, but now the Archdiocese of Boston-connected Planning Office of Urban Affairs plans to include a community center in a residential complex being built on the site of the former St. Joseph’s parish.
But that’s not good enough for the senior citizens. They want a senior center just for their use; they don’t want to have to share it. Plus the St. Joseph’s site sits on the edge of The Point, an immigrant neighborhood, and they complain of potential crime. Keep in mind that there is already a senior center, which is smaller than the proposed center with fewer parking spaces. The new location would set aside 47 parking spots just for seniors.
“I’ve talked to some people, and they said that when they put it over there they won’t go,” said Frank Clocher, chairman of the Salem Council on Aging. “Use of the community life center as both a senior center and community center with children’s programming may be incompatible,” the council wrote in a July letter to Driscoll.
Fine, if they don’t want to use it, they don’t have to. Everybody else in the city is in favor of the plan, so why should they cater to a few selfish seniors? Because of the enormous political clout wielded by seniors, that’s why. They get out to vote in greater percentages than any other demographic and the political machine in Salem has encouraged that by putting the ward voting precinct right inside the local senior housing center. Hope that doesn’t backfire on the mayor.
Plus I’m sitting here asking myself why are we building a senior center in the first place? What is the overwhelming need for a government run senior center? There was a time when families took care of their parents as they aged. Folks of a certain age may remember watching “The Waltons” on TV and seeing the grandparents play an important role in the family, helping the household and being taken care of in the meantime. But in the 21st century, we’re too busy and too mobile. All the kids are working, the grandkids are in day care, they live halfway across the country, and they assume that Social Security and Medicare and other government aid is taking care of the grandparents. Is it any wonder the seniors demand more and more?
I hope the city refuses to budge and goes ahead with the community center already planned. (Not that I think the government should be setting up community centers either; there was also a time when churches were the community centers. Now we create artificial government-sponsored communities.)