Senior citizens upset over recreation registration changes

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer
NAPLES — More than a half-dozen senior citizens brought forward to their local elected officials complaints about online registrations for the Naples Recreation Department’s programs.
Most residents said the change that upset them most was being required to register solely by using a computer. Not everyone owns a computer, and some senior citizens don’t understand how to navigate through the website.
The town of Naples online registration information does include a sentence inviting people to call or stop by the Town Office if they need assistance.
Some people were disappointed in the $2 fee attached to the registration process for all programs. That bump in price made it slightly more costly for Naples residents versus Casco residents who sign up for the very same program.
Another issue expressed by residents was the financial safety of punching in their credit card numbers to pay for programs. The worry was whether or not that information was secure.
Since Oct. 1 of this year, the Naples Recreation Department has offered online registration for its programs, starting with the Youth Football League. During this two-month period, some seniors have signed up for exercise classes held at the town gymnasium.
But, things came to a head at the end of November — the registration deadline for the seniors’ bus trip to Portland to shop at the Maine Mall and see a presentation of The Magic of Christmas.
Longtime Naples resident Marian Merrill said she hadn’t really counted on becoming the spokesperson for senior citizens who were not pleased with the change.
“I felt bad because I was the only one complaining,” Merrill told the Naples Board of Selectmen on Monday.
She said many of her contemporaries do not own a reliable computer and others were stumped by the online registration.
While registering online might work well for young parents with smart phones, it can be frustrating for the older generation, Merrill said.
“We need to be treated more like seniors, and not hodge podged together with the rest of the population,” Merrill said.
Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said that the town staff has been willing to accommodate the needs of the seniors by helping people with the online registration process. Also, those residents can choose to write a check or pay cash instead of using a credit card.
But, it will be difficult to waive the $2 fee since it is the cost of the software program the town is using for its online registration.
“The town uses it to manage all the recreational programs. It is a useful tool to cut back on staff time,” Paraschak said.
“It tracks how many people have registered and shuts off sign ups” once a program is full, he said.
“It costs a little bit for the town to use it,” he said.
Selectman Rick Paraschak said that so far online registration has been very successful for sports offerings like basketball and football. Compared to how sports sign ups were conducted in the past, online registration has been convenient for most residents, he said.
“We had one heck of a time with registrations. (Naples Recreation Director) Harvey (Price) would sit in the office night after night, waiting for people to come in to do the paperwork,” he said.
“Even though it is a $2 fee, a young parent with a smart phone — those people are very willing,” Rick Paraschak said.
“They don’t have to leave the house. They could do it at midnight,” he said.
“Ninety percent of this is working,” he said.
Selectman Robert Caron II agreed that registering online was a time-saver for most residents, particularly parents of athletes.
He said there was an opportunity “to get feedback, to get the kinks out.”
One lady in the audience said that because her computer is down half the time, she would like to get a mailer about upcoming senior programs.
Ephrem Paraschak said that courtesy would continue.
“For the next year or two, the seniors will receive postcards about programs,” he said.

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