In the News
SACRAMENTO SENIORS GET HELP MAKING ENDS MEETby Cynthia Hubert on 11/24/2008
When you live in California on less than $900 per month, you learn to pinch pennies.
Retiree and Social Security recipient Madeline Coren, 64, has done so for years. But in the current economy, buying food and paying the bills has become an even bigger challenge.
That is why Coren and more than 100 others found themselves Friday at Oak Park Community Center, where two dozen social services agencies came together to help older people navigate hard times. In response to urgent phone calls from senior citizens, the agencies offered free warm winter clothing, wheelchair adjustments, legal and housing help, and information about everything from predatory lending to fraud prevention.
"All of us were getting calls from seniors telling us that they are desperate," said Christine Wallace of the Volunteer Center of Sacramento, one of the sponsors of the "Senior Connect" event. "We said, 'Let's stop talking about it and start doing something.' "
Coren, a cane in her right hand, talked to counselors about her Medi-Cal and Social Security benefits, among other things, and gathered information about services for seniors in her neighborhood.
"I got great input from every single table here," she said.
Mildred Tutt, 81, was thrilled to get her hair styled for free by students from MTI College.
"They pampered me," Tutt said, adding that she usually does her hair at home, with the help of a granddaughter.
"I've had to cut back on a whole lot of things. I've changed the way I shop, and I look for bargains. So something like this is wonderful."
Florine Washington, 93, tested out an electric scooter, "in case I ever need one," she said. "I'm trying to hold onto my walking, but I thought this would be a good time to find out if a chair would work for me."
Washington lives comfortably in an assisted-living center, she said, but she trolled the room nonetheless, picking up information for seniors who are less fortunate.
Robert Denton, 75, is one of those people. Denton has been living in his van with his two dogs since becoming homeless last year after losing his job, he said, and was looking for information about affordable housing.
"I go to food banks. I have a stove and an icebox in my van, and it's a camper van, so I do all right," he said. "But it would be nice to have something a little more permanent."
Clifford Smith, 60, has been living in shelters and on the streets, and was looking for heavier clothing to get through the winter.
"I want to go to chef's school at some point, but I'm toughing it out right now," he said. He picked out a couple of pairs of jeans, a flannel shirt, a sweater and a jacket. As he pulled one pair of pants from a shelf, a sprinkling of change fell out.
"It's a few pennies, anyway," he said with a smile. "I guess it's my lucky day."
At 56, Joseph Toro was one of the younger clients on the premises. Toro, who has battled serious health problems in recent years, lives on Social Security benefits and is staying with relatives.
Sporting a shiny bald scalp, Toro took advantage of an offer by the MTI students for a scalp and hand massage.
He sat down, draped in a black Paul Mitchell cape, and gave himself over to two young female stylists. One began rubbing his head with a product that smelled like lemon, and another massaged cream into his right hand.
"How are you doing today?" one of the stylists asked him.
"Not so good a while ago," he answered. "But now, I'm doing great."