About 30 Prince George's County senior citizen activists confronted Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening in his office yesterday to demand a prompt solution to what they say is a growing incidence of abuse and neglect of the elderly in the county.
Glendening told the representatives of Betterment for United Seniors, an advocacy group, that the county could not now commit itself to allocating the $350,000 they want to convert a vacant school into a housing shelter.
"We get an awful lot of requests [for community development block grant money] and a very few of them have been truthfully without need," Glendening said. "We have got to ascertain . . . that this is the very best way to go about it."
Sue F. Ward, the director of the county's Office on Aging, agreed with the county executive's cautious approach to the proposal, saying in an interview that more "long-range plans" must be worked out before such a project is approved.
But Ralph Pryor and the other senior citizens he brought with him to his meeting with Glendening yesterday made it clear that they interpret the administration's caution as foot-dragging at its worst.
"It seems that whenever elderly people are involved , they're on the tail end," said Pryor, who is a member of the board of BUS. "We're always the last ones to be thought about."
BUS, which conducted a year-long study released late last year on the plight of 36,500 county residents over 65, said in its report that the eight-bed shelter they have proposed is needed to begin lessening the incidence of abuse of the elderly.
Neglect, the survey found, was the most frequently cited type of such abuse, with physical and verbal abuse also being mentioned. Overall, the project research team found, police officers and other caretakers surveyed said that about 5 percent of the elderly population in Prince George's suffers from some type of neglect or abuse.
Establishing a senior abuse shelter, BUS representatives have told officials, would be the first step toward addressing that problem.
But Glendening told the gathering of clearly skeptical senior citizens yesterday that he will wait for the result of a special task force investigation into the issue before deciding whether the proposed cost for a shelter and medical day-care center is worth it.
Ward said that she would favor investigating methods of addressing the problem other than creating a shelter in an institutional setting that potential clients could view as a type of nursing home.
The Camp Springs Elementary School, which has been vacant since 1981, is now partly occupied by a senior activities center. Chief Administrative Officer John Wesley White said that it is for sale as officials continue to consider options for its use.