By Bob Weaver

Senior services are becoming more important to Calhoun's aging population, according to Mike Ritchie, Director of the Calhoun County Committee on Aging. Ritchie has been at the task for three and one-half years, and most observers believe he has done an admirable job.

Ritchie said the center provides needed services, but "Sometimes it is just filling in the gaps that are important."

Like getting volunteers to provide a helping hand to caregivers, giving them a break for a few hours or one day out of the house. "We are continuing to develop a seniors helping seniors program, and we always need more volunteers." he said.

"We need volunteers of any age to provide escort and assistance to seniors who have appointments or need to conduct business," usually to physician's offices in Parkersburg or Charleston, or help in filling out forms.

Ritchie (pictured left) said the actual transportation is generally not a problem, it is the "helping hand" that is important.

"This kind of respite care adds much to the quality of life of our seniors, who do an admirable job taking care of themselves, their spouses or other family members."

The CCCOA operates a higher level of care, known as a Community Care Program, where a paid worker goes to the household of a senior and gives them assistance. This allows the senior to live independently for a longer time. The clients for this level of care must be Medicaid eligible.

While Ritchie gave a lot of credit for improved services to the staff and board of directors, he said it is important to have a vision for the future. "Doing things for our older population has been personally important to me," he said. "Moving ahead and filling the gaps is my vision, and I think the vision of our supporters."

The center's biggest vision is building a new senior center in southern Calhoun. "We've been operating a program in the Minnora Community Center for some time, and the services have been well-received," he said, but the agency is moving on putting the finances together for a new building at Minnora.

The new West Fork Center will include a large activity and dining area, an exercise and handicraft room, kitchen, plus an office, rest rooms and showers. The facility will be rented out for community and family events, much like the Grantsville center.

"We would like to get the project underway this year," he said. "I've wanted to do this since my first day on the job. I'm looking forward to the ribbon cutting."

Another vision shared by Ritchie is the creation of an indoor pool, exercise and health center for the county. We've been discussing the vision with several groups and organizations. "This facility would contribute immensely to the health, recreation and well-being of young and old alike," Ritchie said.

The idea is becoming more valid with the aging of the county's only public swimming pool at Grantsville.

"I know the county struggles with economic problems, but we owe it to ourselves to improve our quality of life, and make it a good place to live."