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Yearlong assessment leads to recommendations to improve lives of senior residents

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published October 8, 2019

FERNDALE — Ferndale is looking to improve the lives of its senior population after reaching out to residents to hear about what they need and want from their city.

It was at the Sept. 23 City Council meeting that Ferndale was recognized as a Community for a Lifetime, a program operated through the Aging and Adult Services Agency in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Along with that designation, a yearlong assessment of senior services and seniors’ feelings about living in Ferndale was presented. Input was gathered from the city’s seniors, the FernCare Free Clinic, Ferndale staff, council members, and the Police and Fire departments.

One of the volunteer coordinators, Kathleen LaTosch, said some of the things that seniors love about Ferndale are safety, diversity and the parks.

On what can be improved, LaTosch stated that seniors want to be more involved in the city; to have a program created that details trustworthy resources they can call for home repairs or yard upkeep; to have better senior programs at the Kulick Community Center; and to have better snow removal in the downtown area.

“They know we have city ordinances about snow removal and the downtown streets, but they don’t think it’s enforced well, because it’s slippery and they’re worried about falling when they go out,” she said.

More accessible and affordable parking also were cited as needs by Ferndale seniors.

“Many said they would love to shop more at Ferndale establishments but simply can’t use the parking app,” LaTosch said. “It’s prohibitive because of mobility issues or the meters; they don’t have the change, and so they just don’t want to deal with it, so they don’t shop here. They go somewhere where they can park close.”

Through the surveys and interviews conducted, the assessment yielded some short- and mid-range recommendations that Ferndale can work on to help seniors.

This includes reviewing and revising educational programs available to seniors; enforcing city code requirements for business owners to remove snow on downtown sidewalks; introducing larger print on bus transit schedules; sending direct mail information to seniors at least once per year; including a page on the city’s website with senior services; and compiling a list of affordable and reliable home and yard maintenance services.

“The purpose was to just make Ferndale even more inclusive than it is already, to kind of include the seniors,” City Councilwoman Raylon Leaks-May said. “It’s a group that’s kind of been left out.”

Leaks-May — who also served on the volunteer committee to gather information — said the city is working to offer a $10-a-year parking pass to seniors, which was another recommendation from the assessment, and to compile the guide for home and yard maintenance services.

“In addition, we’re going to connect with the parks and rec director, (LaReina Wheeler), because it looks like seniors want some more enrichment activities available,” Leaks-May said. “That’s kind of on hold, because we don’t know the status of what’s going to happen with the Kulick Center as of yet, but that’s something that’s on the radar.”