EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 20, 2014

Senior centers offer more than bingo

Elder Q&A
Rosanne DiStefano

---- — Q: My mother recently relocated to be closer to me after my father passed away last year. She is having trouble meeting people in her own age group. I suggested she start going to the senior center which is located not far from her apartment. She thinks the only thing they do is play bingo. Do you know what programs they offer so I can convince her to try it out?

A: While bingo may still be a big draw for many of the senior centers it hardly defines their mission to meet the needs of a very diverse population of older adults. Today they offer a broad spectrum of services and programs for older adults living in the community. On any given day you could walk in to one of the centers and observe individuals in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s engaged in activities.

The centers are going to vary somewhat depending on the size of the facility and funding available. Typically you would find exercise programs offered on a regular basis, some even have fully equipped work out rooms with trainers that help each elder to develop fitness goals. The exercise programs range from moderate to more advanced. Over the last few years several centers have started line dancing and Zumba groups along with yoga lessons.

Meal programs are an important focus. This goes beyond the obvious intent of meeting nutritional needs but helps to fill the socialization void for many individuals. In some instances the food is brought in from the local nutrition program, other center have their own kitchens and cooks who provide meals five times a week.

The centers make every attempt to keep their participants engaged in the community through volunteer programs. If someone wants to get involved and has a particular skill or interest the staff will assist in finding the right match. One director stated “younger retirees have a lot of active years left and want to fill their time in a meaningful way”. The opportunities for volunteering are endless.

Life long learning is an interest for many of today’s aging population. Centers often bring in professionals to conduct seminars regarding reverse mortgages, health insurance updates, advance directives, and healthy aging. Staff encourage participants to request any topics that might hold their interest. Information technology assistance has been a frequent request over the past few years as more older adults want to increase their ability and comfort level in access the Internet and using high tech gadgets.

Support groups (low vision, caregiver), quilting/knitting classes, painting classes, and bridge lessons may also be available at the centers. In many towns the centers are a full service agency and provide a linkage to other resources when the need exceeds their scope of services. All the senior centers in the Merrimack Valley work closely with Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley (the Area Agency on Aging of the Merrimack Valley) to provide the most comprehensive services to older adults living in the area. Sincere appreciation is extended to Laura Dillingham-Mailman-Director of the Merrimac Senior Center, Roseann Robillard-Director of the Newburyport Senior Center and Corinne LaCharite-Director of the Methuen Senior Center for the information they provided.

Do you have a question? Call 1-800-892-0890. We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc.