Council Statement: Senior Center Won’t Close; Some Worried About Center’s Focus

Print More

Town of Watertown

Watertown Senior Center

Watertown Senior Center

Town of Watertown

Watertown Senior Center

No one can pin down where it came from, but rumors have flown recently that the Watertown Senior Center would be closing. Town Council President Mark Sideris made it clear Tuesday night that the center will not close.

The Council’s Human Services subcommittee held a meeting in late March to gather information about what people want from the senior center and what qualities they want to see in the new executive director. The meeting ruffled some feathers, however, and some felt that there was an effort to change the mission of the Senior Center.

Tuesday night, the report from the meeting was presented. Afterward, Sideris made a brief statement.

“It is important to stress that Senior Center in the Town of Watertown is not closing,” Sideris said. “(The rumor that it is closing) is something I continue to hear, but it is not true.”

While the meeting was billed as an information gathering event, some felt like they did not get a chance to speak.

“A lot of people from the Council on Aging don’t want to say anything because they feel useless,” said Burt Greenberg, a member of the Council on Aging.

Councilor Tony Palomba, chairman of the Human Services Committee, said after a previous meeting where the issue arose that after the presentations, people were given the chance to speak, but few people did.

Greenberg added that some on the COA no longer trust the Town Council. He and his wife Pat Gold, the chairperson of the COA, said they believe there is an effort by the town to give Watertown for All Ages, an outside group, some control over the Senior Center. He said the group has had other names (such as Watertown Villages), and it has approached the Senior Center seeking to work together multiple times.

“What I heard is they want to change the senior center into a multigenerational center,” Greenberg said.

At the March meeting Jackie Dobson, of Watertown for All Ages, stated that the group is not trying to take over the Senior Center.

Not all members of the Council on Aging shared the negative view. Alice Wadden, a COA member, said the group was hurt about how the meeting in March came about and was run, but she said she feels the Council listened.

“I feel, as far as the board, we want to have things calm, we want to have a new director,” Wadden said.

Hearing Tuesday’s report from the Human Services Committee, Wadden said she believes their concerns were heard.

“(The Human Services subcommittee) listened to us,” Wadden said. “The report was written with respect for seniors, respect for the Council on Aging and respect for the community.”

Results of Focus Groups

At the March meeting, people split into groups, and were asked about what services, programs and activities they would like the Senior Center to provide. The Human Services Committee report (read it here) included their responses, including:

  • service sharing between neighboring communities
  • partnerships with organizations and community resources (HATCH, Boys & Girls Club)
  • expanded transportation and shuttle service upgrades
  • designated parking at the senior center
  • increasing number of volunteers (utilizing high school students)
  • adding support groups, guest speakers
  • lunches with entertainment
  • programs with more opportunities for technology, exercise, art, and music

They also asked about what qualities they would like the next senior center executive director to have. Their answers included:

  • experience with fundraising, grant writing and marketing
  • ability to collaborate with the community (town departments and organizations)
  • experience with diversity
  • experience mobilizing volunteers
  • track record of managing programs
  • knowledgeable about State regulations
  • background in gerontology and advocacy
Search for a Director

The next senior center director will have big shoes to fill. Caryl Fox retired in March after nearly 30 years working with the elderly in Watertown. The Senior Center was built under her leadership.

Former Town Councilor Marilyn Pettito Devaney said she would like the next director to have the same demeanor and credentials as Fox.

Wadden said Fox listened to everyone’s concerns, and she was well liked and trusted.

The search for an executive director has started. The job description was posted in February.

One thought on “Council Statement: Senior Center Won’t Close; Some Worried About Center’s Focus

  1. If the next director carries on as did the last, many of us will be forced to continue to use the Newton and Belmont Senior Centers. Several times I went to the Watertown center… but the Nursing home atmosphere was so disturbing that I stopped going. I may be old, but I’m not “Watertown old”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *