Community

New director guides Senior Services

By Kathryn Reyes

News-Times intern

Thirty years of expertise and experience in working with seniors is what Farrell Fleming brings with him as he takes the post as new executive director of the Senior Services of Island County.

Fleming, who officially started full-time duties Jan. 2, spent seven years in Edmonds as executive director of the South County Senior Center. Earlier, he was also executive director of the Stillaguamish Senior Center in Arlington and development director of the Stanwood Community and Senior Center in Stanwood.

The Board of Directors of Senior Services of Island County selected Fleming for the position, which pays $57,500 annually. “He brings a wealth of experience in the management of nonprofit organizations, including strategic planning, grogram development and financial management,” said Betty Ellingwood, president of the board.

Fleming takes over for Margaret Scehovic, who served as interim director since last May.

The appointment is a welcome change for Fleming, who said that Whidbey and Camano Islands are some of his favorite destinations.

“I did a lot of hiking here,” Fleming said. “The opportunity to work in this beautiful island is an appeal and the opportunity to work with the people here is also an appeal.”

While many islanders were reluctant to go back to work right after New Year’s Day, Fleming was eager to start his new job. And while everybody else was busy catching up with work left undone before the holiday break, he sets out to commence several tasks at hand.

Foremost on Fleming’s list of things

to do is looking into potential new sources of funds and grants. He said that he intends to continue the programs that the Senior Services has successfully implemented like the Nutrition Program, Senior Information and Assistance, Adult Day Services, Job Bank and Low Income Housing for Seniors.

However, with limited financial resources, he said that it is important for the agency to figure out how to make ends meet. Fleming said that government money alloted for senior programs is continuously being reduced without consideration of the fact that the population of retirees is growing significantly every year. Even the grants are diminished.

“There is more need now than there was before,” he said, “especially with the boomers (who refuse to think of themselves as seniors) now beginning to retire.”

Anticipating this flood of retirees, Fleming drew out a plan to hold an outreach program, where the younger seniors will be gathered to form a think tank.

“We want to gather a representative of that group and get some ideas from them,” Fleming said. “We want to know what will be of use to them as well as what will be of interest to them.” This will help Senior Services design new programs and modify existing ones in order to better fulfill the needs of our seniors.

Fleming also wants to change people’s conceptions about the senior center environment. He said he wants people to have a fuller image of what a senior center is and he would like to get more people involved in their programs. He added that how society views being a senior ought to be corrected, too.

“There is a stigma attached to becoming a senior and that is why the boomers are hesitant,” he said. “They think that seniors have less to contribute and we need to change that.

“I think that as a culture, this is how we want to do it. We want to enable people to work and live independently as long as they are physically and mentally able to do so.”

At 67, Fleming shared that being a senior himself, he is aware that he is part of the changing times. He said that a long time ago, the classic retirement age was set at 65 because that was people’s life expectancy then. But, since life expectancy is now way past that age, many older people are still very capable of working.

“I’m part of that group that are still able to work,” Fleming declared. “People are expected to retire at this age. But, we want to work and we really don’t know how long we’re going to work. We’re part of that whole change.”

Fleming believes that working for the welfare of Island County’s seniors is an important job. He knows that many older people are often in the dark when it comes to dealing with retirement. And although the Senior Services is there to help, Fleming thinks that it is necessary for older people to be prepared when they get to that point in their lives when they have to retire.

“When people retire, they don’t realize what that time is really meant for,” he said. “And so we want to help them discover what that latter part of life is really about.”

Fleming works out of the Bayview Senior Center on South Whidbey. For information about Senior Services, call 675-0311 on North Whidbey or 321-1600 on South Whidbey.

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