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Prime Time: Volunteers advocate for older residents in Saratoga Springs

Friday, February 10, 2012
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A push-button handicap door makes for easier access to the post office on the corner of Broadway and Church Street in Saratoga Springs.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
A push-button handicap door makes for easier access to the post office on the corner of Broadway and Church Street in Saratoga Springs.

— A volunteer committee has been quietly doing things to improve the lives of senior citizens in Saratoga Springs at no cost to the taxpayers.

The latest project the Mayor’s Seniors Advisory Committee completed was getting a push-button door added to the handicapped access entry to the Post Office at Broadway and Church Street.

“We poke around a little bit and find out about something that is not working,” said Cliff Ammon, a past chairman of the advisory committee.

In the case of the push-button door — an automatic door that opens when a large, aluminum button is pushed — it was committee member Ed Grocki who got the ball rolling.

Grocki, who lives in the Embury Apartments in Saratoga Springs, uses a motorized wheel chair to get around town. He found it very difficult to open the Post Office’s Church Street door after coming up a ramp to the door, Ammon said.

The committee, through a letter from city Mayor Scott Johnson, brought the problem to the attention of local Postmaster Daniel Riley.

It took some time but the automatic door was installed and even more recently a “handicapped only” parking place was created at the rear of the Post Office not far from the handicapped ramp.

Mary Zlotnick, an employee of the city Accounts Department and current committee chairwoman, said the roughly 20 members of the advisory committee are all volunteers.

The committee was created five years ago during the tenure of Mayor Valerie Keehn. At present, Deputy Mayor Shauna Sutton attends the committee’s monthly meetings as liaison to the mayor’s office.

Over the past year the committee, which is an advocacy group for older city residents, worked to have a bus stop shelter built along Route 50 (Ballston Avenue) in front of the Price Chopper plaza in the city.

The committee also held six informational meetings at various locations of the city in 2011.

“We hosted professionals from CDTA (Capital District Transportation Authority), Office for the Aging, Saratoga Arts, the Legal Aid Society and more to be available for brief panel discussions and to answer questions from seniors,” Zlotnick said.

The committee has conducted surveys of senior residents on such topics as the “walkability” in various parts of downtown.

“Whatever is good for the seniors, is good for everybody,” Zlotnick said, referring to sidewalk and crosswalk safety improvements.

“People come to us with a gripe or a complaint,” said past chairman Ammon.

He said, for example, residents of the Raymond Watkins Apartments on Union Street complained about problems with the sidewalk and this issue was addressed.

Ammon said there are many, many private and public agencies that can help seniors. The problem is that many senior citizens don’t know about these agencies.

The Mayor’s Seniors Advisory Committee tries to make the city’s senior citizens aware of the help they can receive. Ammon said people can have their questions answered by calling the new 211 phone number.

The social services hotline is operated through the United Way and serves 12 counties in the region, including Saratoga County.

“Anybody looking for help can call that number,” Ammon said.

Zlotnik said one of the issues the advisory committee is working on is making sure that seniors have a safe environment to return to after being discharged from the hospital. A representative of Saratoga Hospital was invited to a recent committee meeting to discuss the procedures the hospital has in place and any improvements that could be made.

The committee meets at noon on the first Monday of every month at the Saratoga Springs Senior Center, 5 William St.

 
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