Thursday, September 18, 2008

Movers shaking up Moraga

MORAGA — The way George Fisher sees it, Moraga presents both a ripe field for new Movers members, and a place where seniors need to push for some needed changes.

"There are more than 5,300 people in Lamorinda who are over 60 years old," said Fisher, president of the Moraga Movers seniors group. He bases the numbers on data found on the census/demographics Web site, which also indicates almost a third of Moraga's population is 50 or older.

"We expect to be 'movers' in the community; we plan to be a voice for our age group," he said.

Movers treasurer Bob Foxall said they must continue the transition from social club to advocacy group that accelerated about two years ago.

"Nobody seems to move away from Moraga — they just stay here and die," said Foxall said, only partly joking. "We're not fanatical, 1960s change activists, but we do need someone to speak for the seniors. Otherwise, we'll go quietly unnoticed."

To that end, the Movers group plans to ask the Town Council to sponsor a needs assessment study for local seniors. They will suggest the plan be paid for with fee income from the large Palos Colorados housing development, which the Movers' 12-member board approved in December.

Some of those needs, said Movers member Julie Fisher (George's wife), include the lack of a Moraga senior center, improving local transportation for seniors and creating more senior Advertisementhousing — a chronic problem in many East Bay communities.

"Moraga is one of the few communities in this area that doesn't have its own senior center," she said.

Moraga Town Councilman Ken Chew, who has been working with Movers' members on establishing a seniors' commission in Moraga, said a seniors' advocacy group becomes more important as the community literally gets older.

"I think seniors have received very little attention from past councils, and it's a fact Moraga's population is aging," said Chew. "The city needs to support them."

The seniors' commission, Chew said, would function as a "communication channel" between Moraga seniors and their city government, an advisory group to the council.

The group formed in 1975 with 23 members as the Moraga Hacienda Seniors, named for the place where it met. The group became a nonprofit in 1980, and there were already more than 200 members.

Though in large measure a social group, the Movers increasingly sought to educate seniors on relevant community and lifestyle issues, bringing in guest speakers and teachers to monthly meetings and other social events.

The turning point was in 2006, Fisher said, when the Moraga Hacienda Seniors started a closer working relationship with the Moraga Parks and Recreation Department to help better address local seniors' needs and attract new members. The name changed at that point, too.

Since then, the push for increased senior services has accelerated, Fisher said. Group membership, which was as high as 500 in the late 1990s, had dropped to 200 by 2006, with few new members replacing those who had moved or died. Since that low point, increased community visibility has helped bring membership back up to about 350.

A continued upswing in membership is key, Foxall said, to making the needed changes happen.

"The folks who started this were, literally, a different generation," he said. "There are more of us now, and more of us to watch out for."

  • N.L. papermill to cut 171 jobs, minister says
  • Moraga opponent targets mayor’s resume
  • Local organizations, agencies rally against budget cuts