Richard C. Yourga: Amherst senior citizens deserve better

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Stay at home, mask up, vaccinate, get boosted; these are requests that seniors have dutifully followed for the past two years. Seniors demonstrated perseverance in the face of social isolation, which was especially crippling for those who live alone.

Now with cases on the decline, the Amherst Senior Center is again able to offer a variety of in-person activities. However, there is a feeling among seniors that the space they’re being welcomed back into isn’t the same as the one they left.

Demands upon the Bangs Center are great. Ensuring program space for the over 5,200 seniors who call Amherst home can be a challenge. A challenge compounded by deficient kitchen space, rooms devoid of natural light, and a lack of transportation for those with mobility difficulties.

Of the over 7,000 square feet of building space at the Bangs Center, only 29% is dedicated solely to senior services. Perhaps you’ve seen the signs proclaiming “I Am Herst.” Indeed, we are. Many seniors are proud to call Amherst home for its flourishing arts and cultural spaces, focus on education, commitment to social justice, and idyllic landscapes.

However, for many seniors that sentiment can feel more like “I Am Hurt.” Hurt by a budget that allocates only $45.50 per senior, a fraction of what other local towns provide. Hurt by a lack of funding to support vital services. Hurt by inadequate program space.

All this while our neighbors construct beautiful new senior centers. Amherst can do better. The purpose of the programs and services at the Amherst Senior Center is to enhance dignity, support independence, maintain health and strength, and promote the involvement of older adults in the community.

These goals cannot be met with inadequate space, limited staff and an inadequate budget. Has the Senior Center impacted your life? Have you been helped by one of the staff, had a positive experience at a class or program? Have you felt frustrated by some of the challenges we’ve outlined?

We urge seniors to speak up! Share your Amherst Senior Center stories with the Town. Only with your support can change occur.

Dick Yourga


The writer is the president of the Friends of the Amherst Senior Center. Other members to sign this letter include Mary Elmer, Norma Hallock, Mary Hough, Rosemary Kofler, John Magarian, Barbara Slovin, Dennis Vandal and Kay Weinberg.