Since the coronavirus pandemic gripped the state of Maryland in March 2020, it’s negatively affected some senior citizens’ mental health by isolating themselves from family and friends.
Some Prince George’s County residents such as Wayman Savoy enjoyed some fresh air and lunch Tuesday outside the county’s Department of Family Services headquarters in Camp Springs.
Savoy, a 75-year-old retired federal government employee who resides down the street from the building, received pamphlets and other information on home safety, how to manage blood pressure, myths and facts about domestic violence and upcoming senior programs.
“I needed this,” he said. “The pandemic kept a lot of folks inside, except for stuff like doctor appointments and going to the [grocery] store. It’s a nice, sunny day to be outside and get some information like this.”
With more than 230 people who registered to attend, Tuesday’s “Age My Way” information fair signified as one of the first major senior events in the county in a few years. It also sought to honor them during Older Americans Month.
More than two dozen regional, county and nonprofit organizations set up tables near the senior activity center situated in the back of family services building.
Prince George’s residents 65 and older accounted for nearly 14% of the population, according to 2020 census data. The percentage in the state of Maryland stood at nearly 16%.
One of those Marylanders, Helene Williams, could be one of the oldest at 104 years old.
Williams, who resides at the Council House senior apartments in Suitland, was pleasantly surprised to see dozens of people outside Tuesday.
“I rode over here and didn’t know this was going on. I’m glad I came,” said the native of neighboring Washington, D.C., born in March 1918 and the mother of four daughters born in 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1944. Her oldest and youngest daughters are still alive and reside in the county.
Williams said her aunt and uncle, who helped raise her while her mom worked, told her that her birthday was March 18.
“When I became of age and starting to search myself, I found out years later I was born on March 9,” she said. “I’m a Pisces through and through and having fun, fun, fun.”
Although the seniors said they enjoy residing in the county, some also expressed some challenges.
The top concern: affordable housing.
Shirley Gatling owns a house in Brandywine where her daughter and two children also reside.
“Apartments are $2,000 a month to rent. You need to earn a high [wage] to afford that,” said Gatling, 65, a retired payroll technician. “It’s so expensive here, so what do the children do? Stay at home.”
Gatling’s younger sister, Nancy Tucker, said her son owns half the property where they live in Upper Marlboro.
“If he wasn’t him living there, I could not afford it,” said Tucker, a director of administration services for a nonprofit organization.
Seniors who are retired and want to keep busy can sign up to become foster grandparents to work with special needs children in schools and special centers.
The program managed by the county’s aging and disabilities services division in family services offers a few requirements and responsibilities, such as:
- Must be 55 years or older.
- Pass a criminal background check.
- Work 15 hours per week.
Ruby McCombs and Phyllis Johnson participate in the program working with elementary students.
“The main thing about this program is you have to love working with children,” said Johnson, a retired employee with the Capitol Police known as “Grandma Johnson” by the children. “It’s a rewarding program. It’s about grooming young minds early.”
For more information on various senior programming, call the county’s Department of Family Services at 301-265-8401.