Members of the Los Gatos Community and Senior Services Commission are launching a campaign to bring more attention to the wide array of free and low-cost services that are available to the town’s aging population, which is currently pegged at about 5,000.
The effort is being led by commission chairman Tom Picraux and his wife, Danice, who is also a commissioner.
“As people get older their support systems shrink,” Danice said. “Their spouses die or their children move away, so they need accessible support. Food, clothing and shelter always come first, but social interaction is vital because when conversations happen information is transferred and people begin to realize how to deal with their problems.”
To that end, Tom said there’s a need for a “senior resources hub.”
LGS Recreation’s 55 Plus Program tries to fill that role through its office at the Adult Recreation Center at 208 E. Main St. The office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
“We have senior peer advocates who come to the recreation center three times a week to help connect people with resources, such as free legal assistance for simple wills,” Tom said.
There’s also health insurance counseling, free hearing aid screenings and a Smart Driver program.
“Another example is the police department’s welfare check program,” Tom said. “They have volunteers who will call you every morning to make sure seniors living alone are OK. If there isn’t an answer they’ll send someone out to check on you.”
The town recently conducted a senior needs assessment that showed there’s a need in Los Gatos for case management support. As a result, more help is on the way.
“This fall, West Valley Community Services will be coming to town with a van that provides support to people in need,” Danice said. “Maybe they’re about to be evicted, have a medical emergency, can’t clean their house or don’t have enough food.”
There’s apparently no shortage of food for seniors, thanks in part to the Live Oak Senior Nutrition and Service Center that’s headquartered at the Los Gatos United Methodist Church, 111 Church St.
Live Oak provides healthy, balanced lunches at the church at noon on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Wednesday lunch is at noon at the Adult Recreation Center.
Lunches are free, but those who can afford it are asked to donate $3 for meals that might include roast turkey with gravy, baked salmon with dill and lemon or spinach lasagne.
“We offer a choice of four daily entrees, including a hot meal, a salad with meat, a vegetable salad and a meat sandwich,” Live Oak’s executive director Mary Alden Goulart said. “We can feed 35 people a day, but we’re well below that, so we feel like we need to re-introduce ourselves to the community.”
Alden Goulart thinks there are a number of reasons why Live Oak’s numbers have dropped.
“There’s natural attrition because people pass away or move away,” she said. “But there also seems to be a stigma attached to coming here. This isn’t necessarily a place you come because you don’t have enough food, this is for anybody 60 or older who’s tired of cooking, shopping and cleaning up, and for people who want to share food, friendship and fun.”
She said, too, that people suffering from “social malnutrition” are especially welcome.
“Many people don’t like to eat alone,” Alden Goulart said. “Seniors who don’t have someone to eat with often don’t eat well nor do they eat enough. So, being alone and isolated impacts their health.”
In addition to meals, Live Oak guests can play bingo before lunch on Thursdays and participate in gentle chair yoga on Fridays. “The programs are free,” Alden Goulart said.
She added that volunteers who are interested in helping at Live Oak are always needed.
Tom Picraux is also looking for a few volunteers to join the community and senior services commission. There is one vacancy now, with a second vacancy expected by year’s end.
“We want the commission to be more active in the community and we need people who are dedicated to Los Gatos,” Tom said. “We think we can do more.”
The town council appoints commission members and is expected to call for applications this fall.
Visit losgatosca.gov and click on “Living in Los Gatos,” then click “Senior Services” for a list of programs available to Los Gatos seniors. Contact the 55 Plus Program by calling 408.354.1514 or visit lgsrecreation.org. More information about the Live Oak Senior Nutrition and Service Center is at lgumc.org/live-oak-senior-nutrition-center or call 408.354.0707.