January 19, 2006

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Concord Publisher's Note: Back to work
by Dan Szczesny

This is the story of a decent, well-meaning organization that exists because of government apathy and poor planning.

The agency in question is the new AARP office on Main Street, ironically right across from the State House. I say ironically because the reason the satellite office has taken up residence in Concord is due, in part, to the inability of our state and local governments to provide affordable housing as well as affordable heating and energy costs to its seniors.

Here’s how the vicious circle works. Concord, like so many other emerging cities, is seeing a boom in development. Unfortunately, that development consists primarily of sprawl-like McMansions with ridiculous footprints, and Boston-market price tags. This trend drives prices up from rent, to insurance, to heating and energy — with no relief by way of mixed use or variety development to alleviate some of the burden. As a result, Concord’s approximately 5,000 seniors can’t afford in some cases to even live in the same homes they have been living in all their lives. And they can’t afford to downsize, which would open up the market to first-time home buyers, because even the smallest new developments are out of reach for their budget.

Add a recent Concord 100 percent reevaluation to the mix (the first in nearly a decade) which has driven up taxes, and it’s a real crisis. So what do seniors do? They have to work.

That’s where Mary McCaffrey and the AARP come in. Since they arrived in mid-December, McCaffrey has placed about 10 seniors in part-time positions, many of them at the Concord Hospital. It’s a good deal for a business willing to use the experience and skills offered by long-time Concord residents. Plus, the AARP pays the workers and pays for workers’ compensation as well. So, essentially, Concord Hospital is getting a volunteer work force that’s qualified, mature, trained and eager to work.

But the 10 seniors already placed are a fraction of the number McCaffrey wants and needs to find work for. Part of the issue is awareness. The AARP office is new and still developing a reputation. Part of the reason is pride. Many seniors would rather enjoy their golden years and not have to pick between prescriptions and paying the rent, and rightfully so. Part of the reason is lack of knowledge from potential businesses who may need volunteers.

So, here’s the deal: first of all, the AARP office is located at 118 North Main Street. Mary’s phone number is 224-6095. Give her a call. It’s a worthy organization trying to make the best of a lousy situation.

Ideally, though, wouldn’t it be great if seniors weren’t forced to find work? Since it’s the state and city’s fault that so many seniors are forced to find work in order to even live in Concord, shouldn’t the state and city be the ones that step up to hire their own citizens? Think of the how many state buildings and agencies are in Concord that could be made more efficient with that qualified a work force. And City Hall could certainly use some sense and maturity roaming the halls. Let’s give back to those who have given so much.

Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com