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Unsung Assets: Local Senior Centers and Senior Citizens

Suzanne Szempruch

Every community has assets that are sometimes overlooked or under-appreciated. WYSO Community Voices producer, Ashley Appleman, considers two of Yellow Springs, Ohio’s greatest assets: its Senior Center and its senior citizens.

Last May nearly 40 Yellow Springs Senior Center members practiced a Flash Mob dance to celebrate National Senior Health & Fitness Day. Their engagement with the Center is high; it provides programs and services that help to keep this community vital.

“I think it helps me through the day that I stay involved. I cannot see that I would sit at home all day long. I just feel the need to go out and not be by myself," says Andree Bognar, 84. She has been active at the Senior Center for 10 years.

“I go about every day. I participate in many of the activities and I also volunteer. I participate in Chi Gong, the meals that they have, chair volleyball that we do, and I volunteer like for doing the mailing of the newsletter, sometimes working at the front desk.”

Mary Morgan also relies on activities at the Senior Center. She is 88 years old and has a strict fitness regimen to both recover from and prevent a serious illness. She calls it, “body maintenance.” It includes walking, exercise, and activities at the Center – like Chair Volleyball.

“You realize at the end of about 40 minutes you’re glad that game is ending!" says Morgan. "It is considerable exercise. But above all, it is my laughing time, twice a week. Almost every stroke of the ball brings a laugh. We have a lot of repartee that goes on during the game. And that is my laughter prescription for the week.”

We've got to make sure that every senior that we know and every member that we have has a purpose to get up in the morning, because that's going to give them that longevity.

The Senior Center’s Executive Director, Karen Wolford, understands the importance of these services in local senior’s lives.

“We’ve got to make sure that every senior that we know and every member that we have has a purpose to get up in the morning, because that’s going to give them that longevity," says Wolford. "And if we can give that through the activities that we provide to seniors, through giving them home assistance, providing them transportation when they cannot drive, then we’ve done what we need to do to continue to give them purpose."

It’s reciprocal. The Center relies on its member volunteers to provide these services almost every day of the week.

“All of our groups are led by volunteers. And so whatever we can do to get a volunteer involved and to get them to be in charge of a group, because it gives our seniors the purpose that they’re looking for. We wouldn’t be able to function without the volunteers,” says Wolford

Although these opportunities to volunteer exist within the community, 84 year-old Helen Eier says local seniors are assets and have what it takes to do even more.

“We find our way into many kinds of activities, but I’m not sure that the younger population-the working population-appreciates what all could be done. One of the things that really concerns me is being assigned to chores instead of recognizing that we bring a lot of different kinds of experience, that we bring knowledge and ability to do more than simply help out now and then. We can also initiate and do much of the organization and take responsibility for many kinds of activities. Some of us who have made it this far have some responsibility to see if we can help folks realize there’s a whole lot beyond. And, it’s different. And, it’s different.”

For more information on the Yellow Springs Senior Center visit: www.seniorcitizenscenter.org