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Not Too Young or Too Old to Benefit from a Senior Center

April 1, 2018

While the main membership of most senior centers is sixty and over, today’s senior centers offer programs for all ages. From intergenerational programing to dementia awareness and other educational initiatives, kids to centenarians can enjoy what their local senior center has to offer.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), senior centers are recognized as a community focal point. The average age of participants is seventy-five years of age. Senior centers offer a wide variety of programs and services, including meal and nutrition programs; information and assistance; health, fitness, and wellness programs; transportation services; social and recreational activities; educational and arts programs; and intergenerational programs.

“People are very surprised how many different things we have going on,” said Thomas F. Clasby, Jr., Director of the Kennedy Center in Quincy. Located at 400 East Squantum Street in Quincy, the Kennedy Center shares a building with the City of Quincy Council on Aging and Health Departments. Members range in age from sixty to over one hundred years. The center includes a library and a coffee shop.

Some of the services at the Kennedy Center include health screenings, piano lessons, exercise classes, quilting, ballroom dance lessons, blood pressure clinics, computer classes, sing-alongs, chess and chess lessons, and even pickle ball. “That [pickle ball] is huge, especially in the southern states,” said Klasby. “It’s a game similar to ping pong except it’s played on a court.”

Some upcoming special events at the Kennedy Center include a ladies’ luncheon in May; a trip to New York city in June; and a ferry voyage to Nantucket in July.

Intergenerational Programs

The mission of most senior centers is to provide helpful resources, services and programming for older adults. However, senior centers serve the entire community by providing information on aging, supporting family caregivers, training community leaders, and conducting programming that brings the generations together.

“Our center is exclusively for seniors. However, we do a number of intergenerational things,” said Clasby.

During school vacation week, the Kennedy Center will be offering an intergenerational program called “Eyes on Owls”. Seniors have the opportunity to bring their grandchildren, nieces and nephews to an interactive presentation with live owls brought in by Mark and Marcia Wilson.

The Whipple Senior Center in Weymouth also brings in animal programs for intergenerational audiences including Eyes on Owls and a hands-on reptile show called Joe’s Crazy Critters. And the pool room at the Whipple Senior Center in Weymouth hosts practice games for the Weymouth Teen Center. Pool games between the seniors and teens were organized to provide extra practice for the teen pool league to hone their skills in order to compete in tournaments across the state. “The kids are so respectful to our seniors and enjoy the fun and games,” said Karen Johnston, Director of Elder Services. “But the seniors don’t just let them win.”

In May, the Kennedy Center will sponsor the 36th annual senior Olympics, which is staffed by student volunteers. The games are open to men and woman fifty-five and older. Competitions are judged by age categories in five-year increments: 55 to 59; 60 to 64; 65 to 69, and up. The games are spread throughout the City of Quincy. Venues include the Kennedy Center for the Pickleball Tournament; Olindy’s Lanes for billiards; Torre Dei Passeri Club for Bocce Ball; the Lincoln Hancock Community School Pool for swimming; and Faxon Field Track for track and field events, among others.

The popular annual program brings together senior citizens and local high school and college students who help to run the events. Director Clasby said the seniors and students get to know one another very well. Many of the students volunteer in high school and then come back over the summers to volunteer as college students.

Another connection between the Kennedy Center and students is a senior field trip to North Quincy High School for a luncheon gathering with the students. The focus is often on civics and history. The younger generation is able to hear about historical events, such as the Vietnam War or the Civil Rights Movement, from primary sources.

Educational Initiatives

The Kennedy Center has been participating in an important dementia awareness initiative that helps to educate seniors, first responders and caregivers about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. The center sponsored programs to educate first responders, such as fire, police and ambulance personnel, as well as municipal employees who interact with the public, such as the clerk’s office and the senior center staff. Participants learned first-hand what it might feel like to have dementia. They were trained to spot signs of dementia and learned who to call for help.

The Kennedy Center and the Alzheimer’s Association are offering a program called Taking Action: Living Well with Mild Memory Loss. Taking Action is a free five-week series designed for families impacted by mild memory loss. It combines support groups and educational programming to educate and connect people living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias and their care partners, to one another, and to helpful resources.

The Anne M. Scully Senior Center in Hull will offer a free seminar on Tick Protection in May. The guest lecturer, Blake Dinius, is an Entomologist-Extension Educator and representative of the County of Plymouth. According to the town website, tick disease in Plymouth County is dangerously high, even in the coastal communities. Participants can bring back the vital information to their families and help educate their kids and grandkids.

Senior centers are hubs of activity offering fitness classes, hot meals, fun trips, health information and much more for seniors. But they also provide fun and education for community members of all ages.

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