Radio Free Loretto

May 12-18
VOL 124 NO. 18
Radio Free Loretto
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Loretto sparks Older Americans Month with national broadcast recording.

Loretto kicked off Older Americans Month by hosting an historic airing of nationally syndicated program “Prime Time Radio” Tuesday, May 4 at Drumlin’s in Jamesville.

Loretto is a network of organizations in Central New York which are dedicated to the care of older people. It is the largest care provider for older people in upstate New York.

“It’s Older American Month and it’s a celebration of the elders we serve in the community,” said Penny Abulencia, director of Program of All Who Care for the Elderly (PACE). “In many ways people don’t know or understand what Loretto does until they have a parent or someone they love who needs services. Loretto provides a great array of services to the elders who live in our community….There are just a wide variety of programs available.”

The program featured host Mike Cuthbert and panelists from Loretto and its attendant programs, including Loretto president James Introne and Abulencia as well as Msgr. Charles Fahey, a professor at Fordham University.

The event was the brainchild WRVO 89.9, according to the station’s general manager John Krauss.

The recording at Loretto was the first time Prime Time Radio had been recorded outside of the studio in front of a large audience, according to Cuthbert.

“WRVO was the first station that asked. They thought it might be a good idea. They asked and we said, ‘Sure, why not?’ As you can see there’s very little problem,” Cuthbert said.

“At a brainstorm session we thought let’s try ‘Prime Time Radio’ because we knew we had people like Loretto and the other services that are offered in all the counties that are in our area. So we asked them and they said, ‘Well we’ve never done it before, but why not?’ And we went from there,” Krauss said.

“Prime Time Radio” is a one-hour weekly interview program that deals with the interests and concerns of Americans 40 and above, according to www.aarp.org/radio. The website also notes that some 100 stations nationwide host the program.

Cuthbert has spent 40 years in the radio broadcasting industry. His career began in Beloit, Wis., until he moved to Washington, D.C. where he helped develop WGMS into one of the nation’s top classical music stations. Since then he has been employed at WRKO in Boston, WCKY in Cincinnati and WAMU in Washington.

According to estimates from the staff on hand, the live broadcast drew roughly 250 attendees from throughout Central New York.

While Krauss had expected approximately 200 attendees when he and his staff first generated the idea, only 90 had made reservations as late as Friday, April 29. Going into Tuesday, he was uncertain what kind of a turnout there would be.

“I’m not sure what drew people in. I think it’s a combination of let’s say folks in the audience dealing with frail parents, not sure who to turn to,” Abulencia said.

The first phase of the program featured interviews with Introne and Abulencia and covered specific issues facing older people and how Loretto deals with those issues. Cuthbert said he believes the strategies employed at Loretto can be utilized elsewhere.

“I hope that what it does for Loretto is to allow people across our audience at least to write to them and to contact them to see how they do it,” Cuthbert said. “Because Jim Introne and his whole group are obviously patient centered rather than institution centered. They may be a national model for non-profit corporations. They’re very aware that at some point they become the corporation, they become the enemy. But he is very aware of that role and he tries to avoid being seen in that role by providing services the way that he does. Penny, as a part of Loretto, is a wonderful spokesperson for them.”

The second phase featured Msgr. Fahey and targeted broader issues facing older people.

Msgr. Fahey drew applause on several occasions as he called for “some kind of national healthcare,” and when he noted that “our political situation is a mess in Washington.”

After the interviews, Cuthbert moderated a panel discussion between his guests and those in the audience. A number of attendees, both middle aged and older, took the opportunity to raise questions with the interviewees. Cuthbert knew the event had been a success based on the response in the question and answer session.

“I think the key was when my producer came up and said ‘You know we can’t cut these Q&A’s, they’re too good; let’s do it on the website.’ I was very pleased with the interviews. I thought the panelists were responsive and obviously the audience was very keyed in because I could hear their reactions because it’s a very serious topic,” Cuthbert said.

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