"Brenda Sheffield, 59, and her mother, Lillie Mae Kitt, 95, love playing bridge, listening to music and dancing with friends at the Germantown Community Center.And...
Since summer 2008, the two have taken a free bus twice a week from their doorstep to the center, where they mingle with other seniors and Sheffield sometimes they mingle with other seniors and Sheffield sometimes fits in a workout.
But, as of Friday, Sheffield and Kitt, who live together in Germantown, must find their own ride to the center. No bridge game will be under way when they arrive. And as of Jan. 1, Sheffield must pay an annual fee if she wants to use the workout rooms.
Seniors using county services to stay active and get fit are feeling the burn this year, as the Montgomery County Department of Recreation squeezes older adult programming into a much tighter budget.
The Neighborhood Senior Program has been cut at eight centers, including Germantown. That, in turn, ended the Department of Health and Human Service's bus service that Sheffield and Kitt relied on.
The department also tacked on a $50 fee for its Silver Sneakers program, which previously allowed county residents older than 55 to work out for free in the weight and exercise rooms of recreation, community and senior centers countywide."
"The recreation department's budget was reduced from $30.5 million in fiscal 2010 to $25.9 million this year, according to Judy Stiles, a department spokeswoman.
The department also cut its two senior programming positions. Stiles said that doesn't necessarily mean that those employees lost their job with the department, which cut a total of 38 positions — about 28 percent of the staff.
"We have had to made cuts to every single area of our budget," Stiles said.
The department's senior programming budget for fiscal 2011 is $1.36 million.
Neighborhood Senior Program
The county's Neighborhood Senior Program provided social events, refreshments and field trips in 11 community centers.
About 70 percent of the 470 seniors in the program were registered at the eight centers where it is canceled.
The program was initially slated to be cut from all 11 centers, which would have saved $114,897, according to Jeffrey Bourne, a division chief in the recreation department.
The county will continue it at the three centers that offer a lunch program, Bourne said. Bus service will continue to those locations.
The three programs will cost $23,400, reducing the total saved to $91,497.
Michelle Koski, who runs the Germantown program, said her members cried when they heard it was canceled."