They say that the way to judge the humanity of a society is to see how it treat its elderly. By this way of measure, the residents of southern Louisiana are real winners. I have lived in several other cities, and the kindness and generosity of people here, as reflected in how senior citizens are treated, is far better than what I have seen elsewhere.

In this day of aging population, every family finds itself with a dilemma: Grandmother cannot stay at home alone all day when the rest of the family is at school and work. She (or he) has trouble feeding herself, and if she falls, there is nobody to rescue her. The solution is to place that loved one into an institution. The family feels guilty, the senior citizen is very sad and taxpayers take a hit for the huge cost of these institutions. This is not what usually happens here.

In Ascension Parish where I live, there is an organization called the Council on Aging, which maintains local senior centers in Gonzales and Donaldsonville. The centers are supported with a tiny portion of our property taxes, but also by local businesses, churches, individuals and federal grants. The senior centers have buses that pick up seniors unable to drive — most all of us in our 70s, 80s or 90s must stop driving — bring them to the senior centers for recreational activities such as pool, bingo and exercise, and then bring them home at the end of the day. Countless seniors and their families are saved the decision to institutionalize because of this program.

COAs here also manage the local Meals on Wheels program bringing nutrition to homebound seniors who would otherwise go hungry. The senior centers do health screening and education through health fairs such as the one scheduled for April 26 at Lamar Dixon Expo Center and at the monthly “Ask The Doctor” programs at the Gonzales Senior Center. The senior centers through the AARP teach senior driver safety classes and LSU extension classes, provide transport to doctors and dentists for seniors who cannot drive, employ social workers to assist with life’s problems, sponsor exercise classes from zumba to tai chi, and they even help complete complicated tax forms and Medicare filings. These valuable services are mostly free to seniors, who are probably the least-prosperous part of our population.

The residents of South Louisiana should be very proud that many of our older people are able to age at home instead of in cold institutions, and the taxpayers here should recognize that in this government/private cooperative, they are saving money, along with doing what is right for our beloved senior family members.

Mark Neckameyer

retired finance executive