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Sunday Seniors: Sununu helps honor Grafton County Senior Citizens Council

  • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, left, speaks with Verna Dunn, 99, of Enfield, N.H., on Sept. 16, 2019, in Lebanon, N.H., before Sununu presented a proclamation at the Upper Valley Senior Center honoring the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council during September's National Senior Center Month. Dunn said she is a regular at both the Upper Valley and Mascoma senior centers and enjoys coming to see her friends. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Calendar Editor
Saturday, September 21, 2019

Shortly after Jackie LeBlanc retired, she became a regular at the Upper Valley Senior Center in downtown Lebanon.

“My pet peeve is people who turn 65 and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to senior centers. That’s for old people,’ ” LeBlanc, of Lebanon, told me while waiting for lunch to be served at the center last Monday.

In the four years since, she’s become greatly involved as a volunteer by signing people in for lunch, calling bingo and serving on the advisory committee.

“If I’m going to join, I’m sort of going to go all in,” said LeBlanc, 76. “This is really good for me. I have a good circle of friends here.”

Gov. Chris Sununu stopped by the Upper Valley Senior Center on Monday during lunch to honor Grafton County Senior Citizens Council for the eight senior centers it oversees.

The senior centers, the governor said, are an “integral part of aging well and are key in ensuring communities provide support for older adults.”

They also play a role in combating the issues that senior citizens face today, my lunch companions told me, and provide assistance for senior citizens in the Upper Valley who face food insecurity, lack of transportation and social isolation.

“This is one of the best there is,” said Marion Stearns, of Lebanon.

In addition to volunteering at the center, Stearns, 73, is a regular at the Sequence game table.

She said that one of the biggest issues facing seniors is concern over having enough money to live on, and the senior center helps people by giving them free food to take home.

“Every day, the lives of older individuals in our community are changed for the better due to our senior centers,” Kathleen Vasconcelos, executive director of the council, said in her introduction to Sununu, who was honoring the nonprofit with a commendation for National Senior Center Month.

The first question came from a senior who asked if people should be afraid of senior centers closing.

“My goodness, no,” Sununu replied, citing New Hampshire’s strong economy. “You shouldn’t worry about the centers closing.”

LeBlanc asked about insurance companies that require volunteer drivers to sign up for additional coverage in order to transport people to medical appointments.

“What happens is it costs them a lot of money or it prevents people from wanting to be part of that program,” Sununu said, adding that the state is looking into solutions, including subsidies. “The government can take on some of that risk. ... By doing that you help more people step up and become part of that system.”

In addition to senior centers assisting older adults, the organizations also help adults with aging parents, said Connie LeBlanc, of Lebanon. She used to take her mother to the senior center before attending herself.

“They know that their parents have (a place) where they can make friends,” said LeBlanc, 71. “She was happy when she came here.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.