By Jody Steinberg

Tax programs for seniors and “going green” took a back seat to the real question on seniors’ minds during DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon’s recent visit to the North DeKalb Senior Center in their temporary home at Senior Connections.

“When will we get our own center? Will it be in our lifetime?” seniors asked, turning the conversation from green initiatives to county planning. Though they eagerly proposed having a green festival for the whole community and inviting vendors to educate them on ways to save energy and water, their main concern was a new home that would allow their program to grow.

DeKalb County has five senior centers, where residents over 60 can come for daily activities, learning and lunch. The North DeKalb center lost its building on Johnson Ferry almost two years ago, when the DeKalb County Housing Authority repurposed the land to build new senior housing.

Gannon assured residents that funding exists for their new center and a site will be announced soon. However, it might look more like a community center, she added, alluding to the Atlanta Regional Commission’s livable communities initiatives, which includes more efficient use of land and space. Currently, planners are vetting sites and developing a plan for a center that might be shared outside of senior center hours by youth programs, community groups or other programs. It will also be centrally located, she added, moving the conversation back to the green initiatives.

“Transportation is the No. 1 issue as people age,” Gannon said, indicating that the new center will be near a transportation hub like the Chamblee MARTA station. “The newly-established Green Commission is trying to increase public awareness about “everything sustainable.” This would include building a senior center that depends on less parking and more ride sharing.

“All the statistics tell us that [building green] costs a little more up front but you save so much down the line.”

In spite of their interest in continuing the conversation, seniors cut the meeting short to rush off to a Line Dancing class, inviting Gannon to join them. Unfortunately, other commitments required her to skip the class – this time.

Prior to meeting with her constituents, Gannon spent an hour in the kitchen helping staff prepare meals on wheels. Senior Connections provides a variety of services to Dekalb County seniors remaining in their homes, including preparing and delivering about 2000 meals a day, as well as home repair, in-home care and live enrichment, which includes recreational programs at five DeKalb senior centers.