Lack of awareness, funds, and support for senior citizens in Dallas

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Each year the Senior Affairs Commission proposes recommendations for budget priorities to Dallas City Council however, this is the first time data is included.

“We don't have good data, and we don't have survey work that's been done to assess what do the seniors themselves think are their biggest problems,” Pete Klein said. Klein is the chairman of the Senior Affairs Commission. “We know from the demographics.”

The demographic data included in the recommendations puts numbers to the issue. The goal, Klein said, is to enhance a more suitable quality of life for seniors in Dallas.

"What we're trying to do is to create awareness of what these problems are, how big they are, and really get people focused on the need," Klein said. "And if we can accomplish that, I think that city council will look at it differently than they have in the past."

Karen Llewellyn is 68 years old. She said growing older in Dallas has been alarming.

“It’s almost like we were a forgotten generation,” Llewellyn said.

Each month she lives off $1,000.

“I try to put a little bit of money, you know, like maybe five extra dollars aside,” Llewellyn said.

Klein said she is unfortunately not the only one.

“We have several thousand people who have problems,” Klein said. “We have 30,000 seniors over the age of 60 in the city of Dallas, who are living on less than $1,000 a month. And, you know, anybody that goes to the grocery store can surmise how big a problem that is.”

To make ends meet, Llewellyn earns a small stipend through her volunteer work.

"For seniors who are on a low income, they qualify for our Foster Grandparent Program," Stacey Malcolmson said. Malcolmson is the President and CEO at The Senior Source. "She receives an hourly stipend of $4 an hour. The great thing about that stipend is it doesn't impact the other benefits for which she's eligible. She also receives meal and transportation reimbursement."

Llewellyn volunteers for 20 hours a week for extra cash and an extra boost in her mood.

“I go get my nails done,” Llewellyn said. "Gives me a reason to get up in the morning. A reason to go make somebody else’s day,” Llewellyn said of volunteering.

However, many seniors are unaware programs like these exist in Dallas. Klein wants to help change that and has asked city leaders to prioritize the 142,000 adults ages 65 and up in the upcoming fiscal budget.

“Not only is that the fastest growing segment of our population, it's the only segment of the population where the poverty rate is increasing as opposed to decreasing,” Klein said.

The commission recommends the city hire a consultant to conduct a proper investigation on the needs of seniors and another to strategize new programs and create an easily accessible information hub

“We don’t have a specific dollar amount of requests,” Klein said in an email. “Our task was to identify priorities for funding that the City Manager and City Council should incorporate into their proposed budget. Many of our recommendations will take several years to implement.”

The Senior Affairs Commission has also recommended more funds be allocated to hire additional senior service caseworkers as they expect activity levels within the older population to increase.

“We hope the funding for consulting will allow us to gather information on the big picture and define the needs for future years,” Klein said.

Budget hearings are underway, and it is expected a recommended budget could be presented in August with approval to follow in late September.

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