Seniors Feel Forgotten Since Storm

The toe tapping talents of the ageless Swinging Starlets put just about everybody at a Senior Christmas Party in the Christmas spirit. Mary Morgan was that one exception.

"I haven't been in no Christmas spirit that's for sure," she said. "Christmas this year isn't Christmas to me. It's very sad."

Like so many other seniors at the Woolmarket Community Center party, Katrina pounded away at Morgan's home. And escalating recovery costs have made rebuilding especially difficult for people like Morgan who live on fixed incomes.

"It's been the hardest thing that I ever went through in my life," she said while tears welled up in her eyes.

Mary Smith has heard that statement too many times to count.

"We had some seniors that lost their homes, and they're trying to rebuild. And it's a struggle," the social services agent said.

Smith has a pretty good picture of how senior citizens are coping with the hurricane. Since August, she's been with the Gulf Coast Mental Health Association.

"Some of the seniors here, yes, I think some of them have been forgotten," she said. "And we had a lot of seniors move away."

The Swinging Starlets dance team recently counted its post Katrina losses. Five of their friends left town after the storm, because they couldn't afford to stay here. Instead of sulking about their diminishing numbers, the women who stayed kept dancing. They've helped the over 55 set stand up and say future recovery plans better include seniors.

Aline Taylor is one of the dancers.

"I think we all need to become more vocal and say, hey, look at us. We've contributed all these years to our economy. Don't forget us," the senior said.

Smith is pretty confident senior citizens won't be forgotten.

"Really I think we're coming back," the social services representative said. "We hope that we can get it back together and everyone can get back on their feet and be happy again."

One way to help seniors is to give them more places to socialize. Harrison County supervisor Connie Rockco said grant money will soon be used to repair senior centers in Gulfport, Biloxi, D'Iberville, Long Beach and Lyman.

She said a second grant will double the size of the Woolmarket Community Center. One side will be used by seniors, the other side will host other community events. Rockco said the entire Woolmarket complex will be built sturdy enough to become a shelter, if another storm threatens the coast.