As the Sound Shore's elderly population continues to increase, a local organization is aiming to help senior citizens remain in their homes as long as possible. According to the Westchester County Millennium Aging Project, 20 percent of county residents were senior citizens in 2002. By 2020, the number of senior citizens in the county is expected to increase by 37 percent.
Staying Put in Rye and Environs (SPRYE) has received a $10,000 grant from the New York State Department of Aging. The group's founder and Communications Committee Chair Claire Zuckerman said that the money will help with start-up costs.
"The state grant was to cover our setting up expenses, including phones, insurance and 501c3 status," she said.
"Our mission," said SPRYE President Thomas Saunders, "is to provide seniors with the help they need in order to remain independent, in their own homes, for as long as possible."
The issue of aging in place has become increasingly important as baby boomers continue to reach age 60. Along with a larger elderly population comes an increased need for services ranging from home health care to errands and transportation.
"Many small but essential services the aging rely on, like help with shopping and local errands, or transportation to medical appointments accompanied by an advocate, will be among the benefits provided free to members of SPRYE by trained volunteers," the group said in a press release.
SPRYE also plans to maintain a list of recommended service repairmen and provide referrals to home health care service providers for use by members.
Rye Brook Senior Coordinator Elizabeth Rotfeld said that SPRYE's services could provide some relief to the village's senior bus service.
"We have a bus that's only part-time, because that's all our budget will allow," she explained. "We can only bring seniors [to the Senior Center] on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and bring them on trips on Wednesdays. We put everything into those three days. We do have programs on Mondays and Fridays, but it's hard because some seniors can't get there."
The Senior Center at offers lunch, intellectual lectures, as well as art, health and exercise programs to about 25 elderly residents daily, Rotfeld said.
"For us, SPRYE's appointment services would be excellent. It's a service that's so needed, because on some days we just can't accomodate everyone."
Janet O'Neil, Rye City Director of Senior Programs, said that the transportation services she organizes are also currently stretched thin.
"Ours is a time issue," she said, explaining that the bus that brings seniors to doctor's appointments is often so overloaded that the driver only has the time to for one-way trips.
"That's a big inconvenience for a senior, to get a ride to an appointment and not a ride home," said O'Neil.
Saunders said that SPRYE, which is comprised of an all-volunteer membership, aims to offer paid memberships to seniors living in Rye, Rye Brook, Harrison and Port Chester early this summer.
SPRYE credits State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck) with assistance in obtaining the $10,000 grant.
"Especially in these tough economic times, the services provided free of charge by SPRYE can help Rye seniors remain vital, independent members of our community as they age in place," Oppenheimer said. "I'm happy to have played a part in furthering the goals of this wonderful organization."