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What Do Park City's Seniors Want? It's Simple: To Be Heard

KPCW Radio

The Park City Senior Center is slated to close with the construction of the Woodside Park Phase II housing development, temporarily displacing the seniors who utilize the center for socializing and other activities. But as the status of a permanent center remains uncertain, seniors are thinking past the walls of a twice-weekly gathering space. 

Cheryl Soshnik, a board member at the Park City Senior Center, says Park City-area seniors care about a lot of things. But she says seniors’ issues have been put on the backburner.

“No matter if they're looking for housing, or if they're looking for a place to go to play cards and have lunch twice a week with their friends, or if they're just looking for social networks and things to do," Soshnik said, "the thing that I really feel about so many of them is that they're feeling that they're not being heard, and that they don't have a voice, and that people are doing things to them--like taking away where they can have games and lunch twice a week--and that they really don't have any recourse.”

University of Utah gerontologist Anne Asman works with the Summit County Aging Alliance, a task force through the county’s mental wellness alliance. She says there’s a lot of variety within Summit County’s aging population—some seniors need more care, while others are so active, they don’t even consider themselves seniors. Asman says an ideal, senior-supportive community would be educated about the scope of aging; have social and physical engagement resources; and a senior campus that addresses a range of needs, from independent to assisted living, to nursing care.

“So it would be really an integrated, truly integrated, community," Asman said. "I think that all it takes is money--I mean, it's really not that big a deal. It just takes money.”

As the Park City Council liaison to the senior center, Councilmember Nann Worel she’s heard about the need for a continuum care living facility from a lot of seniors. She says there have been efforts to develop a senior campus, but, like Asman alluded to, there’s a resource problem. Worel says a developer would need about five acres of land to build, and that’s not possible within city limits.

“Unfortunately, it's just finding a location and making sure, from the private developer’s standpoint, that it’s going to pencil out," Worel said. "And that the units aren't going to be so expensive, or the care there isn't going to be so expensive that no one's going to be able to afford to be able to go there.”

Recently, seniors have been speaking up about their desire to be heard, through letters-to-the-editor, at Summit County Council and Park City Council meetings and at a Park City Council candidate forum. They’ve stressed the role for a continuum care facility or senior campus in supporting Park City seniors. Soshnik says such a resource would keep locals in the community they want to live in.

“We really need to have one of those graduated facilities in Park City, so that the people who are aging in Park City can stay here, if they want," Soshnik said. "Instead of you can't maintain your home anymore, you can’t maintain your apartment anymore--down to Salt Lake with you.”

When the senior center closes for construction on the Woodside Park Phase II housing development, likely this spring, members will temporarily relocate their activities to the Christian Center of Park City.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.
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