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It should come as no surprise that Florida has the highest percentage of senior citizens in the nation with 19 percent of our population being over the age of 65. Here in Collier County, approximately 37 percent of our population is over 65. All told we have 5.2 million seniors, age 60 plus, living in the Sunshine State.

While we know that many of our local senior citizens are what we’d call “well healed,” there are others who are barely getting by. In fact, about seven percent of our local seniors are living below poverty level ($11,800 in annual income) and in need some sort of assistance.

Be comforted to know there’s a nonprofit organization in place to address the multitude of needs of senior citizens. Collier Senior Resources (CSR) exists to improve the quality of life for our seniors.

CSR, which has been with us since 2010, opened the doors of its Golden Gate Senior Center in 2014 in a building on Coronado Parkway that used to house the old Golden Gate Library. The center, which originally had 40 members, now has 1,300 members. As many as 60 to 80 of them per day participate in classes, programs and support groups as they build life-long friendships in what’s described by CSR Board Chairman Jim Barton as “a wonderful bright and exciting place to take part in activities. Seniors come to enjoy everything from the fellowship or a free hot lunch to a great game of dominos,” he adds.

Then there’s a daily coffee bar and weekly food pantry, plus basic health screenings, balance testing and fall prevention lectures, dance and exercise classes, cards and games like Mahjong, crafts and other life-enhancing programs for seniors such as art and music therapy and Zumba classes.

Golden Gate Senior Center Director Tatiana Fortune explains that “the center offers seniors the chance to learn new skills, develop relationships, share stories, be a part of a community and just feel included. And I’m humbled to be a part of such a remarkable charity that is so diverse, welcoming and caring,” she shares.

CSR’s Direct Assistance Program for Needy Seniors was launched a year ago. “No one should have to choose between taking their medication and paying for food or rent,” laments Fortune. “But that’s the dilemma some seniors are facing each day. This program compliments our wide-range of free services, filling in the gap for those most at-risk by providing one-time financial support to meet the most basic of human needs which can include medical prescriptions and eye glasses, utility shut-off notices, rent or mortgage payments, gas cards or additional items on a case-by-case basis,” she adds.

CSR also offers an Online Resource Directory which serves as a link to up to date information on much needed services and programs for seniors. Fortune states that “we receive many inquiries from loved ones located outside of our area seeking help for elderly relatives residing in Collier County. We answer their questions and connect them to our various community partners who will better assist them.”

This Wednesday, March 27, was celebrated statewide as Florida Senior Day. The 19th annual event honored the many contributions of Florida seniors, highlighted key issues facing them, and advocated for seniors’ needs.

But Fortune stresses that “for those of us here at CSR, every day is senior day as we seek new solutions to challenges facing seniors and their caregivers.”

If you’d like to learn more about those challenges and the services CSR offers our senior community, visit www.collierseniorresources.org. There you’ll also find ways to support their work as a volunteer or donor.

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Joe Landon is a communications consultant having retired as executive director of communications for the Collier County School District. Send suggestions for future columns to JoeLandon@Outlook.com.

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