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New City Hall project: discounts for seniors Drive to sign up stores goes forward

The graying of Buffalo is spurring City Hall to revive a senior citizen discount card program that has been languishing for years.

More than 130 businesses have already agreed to provide participants discounts ranging from 10 percent to over 50 percent on a smorgasbord of goods and services. What's more, the new initiative will be expanded to include people as young as 55.

"We're anticipating a groundswell of interest once we do our aggressive marketing campaign," said Tanya Perrin-Johnson, commissioner of community services and recreational programming.

The goal, she said, is to sign up at least 10,000 people for the free program. Billboards will be pop up soon in all parts of the city. Outreach efforts will be launched at the Broadway Market. Senior citizen centers, churches and other community groups will be contacted to help spread the word.

About 61,000 city residents are 55 or older, said Douglas R. Ruffin, Buffalo's director of senior services. He said recruiters have been contacting merchants throughout the city to sign them up. The results have been impressive, Ruffin said -- and the drive continues.

"We have jusCt about everything you can name: restaurants, barbershops, cleaners, auto repair shops. We even have sporting goods stores," he said.

A directory will be compiled listing all participating merchants. The names of the businesses will be released at an upcoming news conference.

The city has offered senior discount cards for about 30 years, but officials said the program has become virtually extinct. As of last year, there were only 182 cards being used, and fewer than 10 businesses were offering discounts, Perrin-Johnson said. Mayor Byron W. Brown discussed the initiative with some advisers Friday.

"It's an effort to give additional resources to citizens so that they can find more enjoyment in their senior years," Brown said after a meeting of CitiStat, Buffalo's accountability panel.

The effort is expected to cost the city up to $25,000 to administer the program and do outreach. Expenses would increase substantially if the city were to offer a photo identification card. Officials said they've concluded the program can be effective without including a photo ID component.

Erie County has long offered a Senior Services Complimentary Card to elderly residents, which includes photo identification. The county's Web site lists nine participating businesses, including the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which offers discounted Metro Bus and Rail fares to participants. Buffalo's discount card would only be offered to city residents, although city officials said it's possible the two local governments could collaborate on the effort at some point.

For more information on the city's new card, people can call the Office of Senior Services at 851-4141.


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