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Wayne County Seniors hit the road...and the trail

Seniors and seniors from Marywood University pause for a photo while hiking.
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
Seniors citizens and seniors from Marywood University pause for a photo while hiking.

Alongside Prompton Lake, senior citizens from Wayne County traversed rocky trails on Friday morning.

Chipmunks and birds scuttled around hikers.

“Oh, that’s a good one.”

“It sounds like the mourning dove.”

“Guys, you hear the birds?”

“What is that bird? Sounds like a loon!”

“Could be a loony bird!”

Whether that’s the call of a mourning dove or the rare ‘loony bird’ – seniors did not actually see birds flying overhead, but heard Jim VanOrden’s surprisingly accurate bird cries.

The view of Prompton Lake from the Prompton Dam.
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
The view of Prompton Lake from the Prompton Dam.

“Tell me what this is,” asked VanOrden as he cupped his hands to his mouth.

Sound familiar? That’s VanOrden’s impression of a pigeon.

The hike – sponsored by the Wayne County Area Agency on Aging – hosted seniors of all exercise abilities for a nature and picnicking event at Prompton State Park. Agency Director Mary Ursich stressed the importance of involving seniors in community events.

“Y’know, there’s more people aging into [the] over 60 [age group] right now,” Ursich said. “Because of the baby boomer generation that’s becoming 60 and over, we’re seeing a very large growth in the aging population. Each year, the percentage in Wayne County is a little bit higher. So, we’re almost a third of the population right now.”

According to 2020 data from the county’s Agency on Aging, seniors make up just under 33 percent of the population. Today’s numbers are likely higher than that, making preparations for Wayne County’s aging residents vital, said Ursich.

“We do have an event coming up on Sept. 25 for a listening session at 10:30 at our Honesdale Senior Center. So, I’m trying to really invite everyone to come to that,” said Ursich.

That listening event is not just happening in Wayne County, but across the state. Each Agency on Aging must hold listening sessions to create a 10-year Master Plan to update infrastructure and coordinate services for the elderly.

Ursich said that her agency is learning how to adapt to the needs of an aging population through their food truck program, which serves around 400 people every week.

“Sometimes, it’s just a situation where maybe they live alone and they don’t drive and it’s hard for them to shop and stand to cook. It’s really helpful to them. It meets our mission of trying to keep people independent,” said Ursich.

Alongside offering $2.50 or free meals to seniors, Wayne County residents without transportation can enter a shared ride service under the Wayne County Transportation System (WCTS). Seniors ages 60+ can get 85 percent or more of their trip paid for by the Agency on Aging or PennDOT, depending on their age.

While Ursich hopes to improve services for local residents through their listening session at the end of the month, she mentioned some exciting upcoming events.

“We have a big group of people going to Cape Cod, Monday through Friday next week. They’re all really looking forward to – I think they’re going to do some whale watching and exploring in the Cape Cod area,” said Ursich.

Hikers stand by a trail preservation sign before hitting the trail.
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
Hikers stand by a trail preservation sign before hitting the trail.

For more information on upcoming listening sessions in your area, visit your local Agency on Aging.

Isabela Weiss is a storyteller turned reporter from Athens, GA. She is WVIA News's Rural Government Reporter and a Report for America corps member. Weiss lives in Wilkes-Barre with her fabulous cats, Boo and Lorelai.