Expanding Role for Seniors

It’s good news that the Londonderry School District will be working with the Town’s Senior Affairs Department to offer programs for the growing senior population in the area.

School District Superintendent Nate Greenberg told the School Board last week that he wants to bring the over-55 community into the schools for programs catering to their interests. He cited examples of a Technology Fair, with students teaching their elders how to better use their electronic devices, and free passes to school events for the elders.

And opening the high school on weekend mornings would give seniors a place to get exercise in a warm and safe environment.

Acknowledging that schools are the major factor in residents’ ever-increasing, high tax bills, Greenberg said the collaboration would give the School District a way to provide services to seniors and increase their involvement in the schools, long after their children have aged out of the education system.

The initiative puts the schools in a role that enhances their place in the community, expanding on the traditional focus on educating K-12 students. And it incorporates a place for seniors who may have a skill to offer with a way to share their knowledge with the younger generations.

School districts have a wealth of real estate, and opening the schools on weekends for senior activities is a great way to blend both school district and Senior Affairs offerings while making use of otherwise idle buildings. While voters approved significant work on the Senior Center at the polls in March, this blending of services wouldn’t involve spending money on facilities but would make use of what is already in place – and is likely to include many active retirees who don’t have an interest in traditional senior programs.

And while using a school classroom or gym in this way wouldn’t alter the high cost of education in town, it underscores the willingness of the School District to involve more of the Town’s residents in its activities.

With the recognition that the taxpayers’ pockets are not bottomless and that new construction is not always the answer, this potential collaboration is a step in the right direction, with varied entities within a community finding ways to work together. Many towns already have senior dinners or senior dances that bring elders into the schools, but this is a substantive expansion of that effort, likely to attract a broader population.

And it can both save money and bring the growing population of seniors back into the greater community – a healthy endeavor for all involved.