Summit County seniors invited to legislative event
Older adults often feel disconnected from the legislative process and are unsure how to effectively advocate for senior programs and initiatives, especially when they barely consider themselves a senior, according to Heather Nalette, director of Summit County’s senior services.
To help bridge the gap between seniors and their legislative representatives, Summit County’s Senior Services and the Utah Association of Area Agencies on Aging will host the first Utah’s Senior Voice event on Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the Quonset Hut, in Coalville. The morning will include a continental breakfast and information about proposed legislation and senior initiatives. Transportation may also be provided from the county’s three senior centers.
Summit County Council member Tal Adair, State Sen. Allen Christensen, who co-chairs the Social Services Appropriations subcommittee, and Jill Duke, a representative with AARP, Inc., are expected to attend. The following people from Mountainlands Association of Governments are also scheduled to attend: Andrew Jackson, executive director of, Scott McBeth, director of senior services, and Heidi DeMarco, senior services deputy director.
Cheryl Soshnik, who lives in Park City, said she has only recently started to think of herself as an aging adult. When Soshnik joined the Park City Senior Citizens, she said she began to realize that there were other people who were going to be confronting the same issues.
“I think about all of these things that are happening with Park City and the lower Park Avenue redevelopment and what is going to happen with the senior new center and where it is going to be,” Soshnik said. “Housing is an awfully important thing and being a person who has owned my own house in Old Town since 1986, I recognize that it is changing and so am I.
“In anticipation of becoming more of a senior in the future, I am going to start advocating for seniors now,” Soshnik said. “I looked at that and immediately said, ‘yes I do want to go to that because I’ve never gotten involved in the process as a younger person.’”
The event is intended to replace the “Senior Day at the Legislature,” which connected seniors with their representatives on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City. However, the event was not well attended, according to Nalette.
“I think attendance declined a lot because they couldn’t really hear what was being said,” Nalette said. “When it was first starting, they would come to the seniors and they would speak with them and really get some face-to-face time with them. But during the last few years, that wasn’t the case. They weren’t getting the chance to really talk to them and voice their concerns.
“This year, we wanted to try something new,” she said. “We wanted to bring the representatives to the local seniors with events in Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties so they can share what their concerns are with them directly.”
Last month, the Agencies on Aging distributed surveys to senior citizen centers throughout the state to discern what the important issues are to seniors, McBeth said. Approximately 1,536 responded statewide.
“A lot of times we are preaching at seniors, but with the survey we wanted to ask what their concerns are and it’s no surprise what their answers were either,” McBeth said. “The No. 1 concern is they want to stay at home. The second is their health and the third is water.
“These are seniors that are not homebound and are still active and is exactly what the purpose of our agencies are trying to do. We are trying to help them stay at home and be independent,” he said, referring to the state agencies that provide programs for aging adults such as Meals on Wheels.
During the Senior Voice event, McBeth is expected to discuss the Area Agencies on Aging’s funding requests for 2018, including ongoing support for the alternatives and ombudsman programs.
“We are bringing the show out on the road and doing it very early before the legislative session because we want the seniors to be aware of how to advocate and contact their legislators to keep the programs they like us to have,” McBeth said.
The Utah’s Senior Voice event will be on Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the Quonset Hut, located at 210 East Park Road, in Coalville. Seniors are encouraged to RSVP to the event with their Senior Center director before Monday, Oct. 17.
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The Coalville native doesn’t see any major roadblocks for this year’s fair, though presenting in front of the County Council is a little nerve wracking.