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Senior Center Seeks Budget Relief Amid Steady Growth

Center a "victim of its own success," strained in areas ranging from programs to meals to staff and seeking budget relief.

The Lynnfield Senior Center is admittedly a victim of its own success, and is looking to the FY13 budget to bring some relief. Giving the Council on Aging's budget presentation at this week's selectmen's meeting, Senior Center Director Linda Naccara said that this is "definitely the biggest budget in my history that we have requested."

However, she proceeded to lay out a number of areas where the center is in need of resources and additional staff hours. One request is for the activities director and receptionist positions to go from 25 to 30 hours per week. "The jobs really cannot be done anymore with those hours," said Naccara, adding that despite steady growth in recent years, the Lynnfield Senior Center manages to do a lot with fewer resources than those in neighboring towns.

Naccara also emphasized that while the senior center has enjoyed considerable growth in recent years, it is now operating at its capacity in areas like meals and activities, to name a few. In fact, a sizeable percentage of Lynnfield's population is in the senior demographic, and this is consistent with an overall national trend as the Baby Boom generation retires. She also pointed out that by 2050, 10% of the U.S. population may be aged 90 or above, and 60% of the population could be over age 65.

With just one full-time cook working in the kitchen, as well as some volunteers, the senior center still has a well-deserved reputation for a delicious breakfast and other quality meals. In fact, Naccara noted that for many seniors who come to the center on any given day, that lunch could be their primary or only meal of the day - but there are also some days when people have to be turned away. The town currently provides a $2 per meal subsidy for 80 meals per week, but the center now serves closer to 200 per week, she added.

The center also currently offers 16 activities, and does not have the space or resources to offer any new ones without deleting a current one.

Some staff members are even routinely using their own vehicles for senior center tasks, which is why a $1,400 increase for travel expenses is among the budget requests. The lone capital budget request is a $73,000 van, with the current one having apparently been driven about to the end of its life span.

Like most similar places, the senior center accepts state funds and as a result is required to serve anybody - not just Lynnfield residents. Of course, Lynnfield seniors routinely use the centers of other surrounding towns, and, as Naccara noted, "It's a good thing for the senior population to have choices." Plus, she added, "we have the best meals statewide."

Another significant request in the Council on Aging budget would see the meal program increased from $8,320 last year to $20,800 in FY13. Overall, the requested FY 2013 budget was $282,742.11, compared to $248,250 last year.

For their part, selectmen were unable to make any promises in light of the current fiscal climate, but they did have only praise for the center and indicated that they hoped to be able to meet its requests.

"It's a great resource for the town," said Selectman Bob MacKendrick. "We look favorably upon your request but that doesn't mean we are going to approve it."

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