A tremendous thank you to the Frederick City Parks and Rec Commission for supporting the idea of a senior park. The concept was presented last Tuesday night December 9th to the commission and Deputy Park Director Roelkey Myers.
Following a warm introduction by Dr. John Baker- who recounted his experiences with his own father who battled Alzheimer’s disease- I told my stories about the many seniors I’ve met in Frederick over the last 20 years who could have benefited from an accessible outdoor space.
I shared my evolution as a therapist, and how I was once one of the ill-equipped and short-sighted healthcare providers of the early 1990s, when the healthcare system routinely “warehoused” confused older adults and denied them opportunities for freedom, movement, and exploration. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that I saw a shift in the care of older adults in long term care settings, and came to regard their dignity and independence as the most valuable human rights worth fighting for.
I have learned and evolved so much since then. I now see a burgeoning group of people in desperate need of resources and attention. I see an opportunity for collaboration and teamwork. I see our futures in the patients and families I care for. I also see a place to start.
The healthcare landscape is shifting once again. This time we see delivery care models moving away from acute care hospitals to community based care. During this time of unprecedented growth of the older adult population, we are also experiencing the rise of accountable care organizations, telemedicine, and population health movements aimed at diminishing the burden of chronic disease on the healthcare system.
Is our community ready to handle this?
We need rally public and private support systems to establish the infrastructure necessary to keep seniors healthy and in their homes and community for as long as possible. By empowering present and future seniors to take some accountability for their own health, and by removing barriers to public property specifically designed to enhance the health and wellness of its citizens, I think Frederick has the potential to be the role model for other cities to follow.
Justification for the park is self-evident, as many of the commissioners agreed:
- Seniors are the fastest growing demographic in Frederick. Many cannot access the parks, or if they can, there are limited opportunities for them to participate in traditional park activities.
- The location at Monocacy Village Park already has a youth playground and basketball and tennis courts, which would make the park an integrated, multi-generational gathering place for families.
- The risk of injury is no greater for seniors than for people who use the skate park, or football fields, or bike path. Providing an adapted space for seniors may well reduce these risks as compared to trying to navigate the current park system safely.
- Many caregivers are in need of places to take their physically or cognitively impaired family members; sometimes restaurants, the mall, or other parks are simply out of the question.
- Numerous studies, surveys, and consultants have all advised Frederick government leaders that they need to prepare for the growth of the older adult population.
- Why wouldn’t we do this? The lack of a rational answer is perhaps the most compelling reason of all.
Special thanks to the folks who attended the meeting and showed their support, including Dr. Shahid Rafiq from CNS and the Stroke Center at FMH, Jeff Samuels from Congressman Delaney’s office, Christina Forbes from Daybreak, Cathy Hanson from the Alzheimer’s Association, the Commission on Aging, Barbara Dillon and all the others who showed up and expressed their opinions. Thanks also to the many of you who wrote to Mr. Myers and shared your thoughts.
Tonight we will attend the city budget meeting and express our desire to partner with the city to build the first senior-focused, dementia-friendly public park in Maryland.
Please send your letters and emails of support to Mayor Randy McClement.
101 N. Court St.
Frederick, MD 21701
Show your support for a senior park in Frederick by sending supportive emails to Frederick Mayor Randy McClement – Click here to email him. Follow our progress on The Baker Beacon, The BRG Facebook page or searching #simple4seniors.