Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Step Up Your Game by Widening Your Social Circle

By Marie Bradby

Are you retired and spending your days watching TV or surfing the internet? Studies show that isolation can lead to loneliness, depression, and physical health problems. One way to increase your social circle and stay active is to participate at one of Louisville’s senior community centers that offers social, nutritional, fitness, recreational, and educational activities for active older adults.

Life-Changing Experiences

Participants blossom when they attend the Arthur S. Kling Center, a senior center in Old Louisville, which serves people ages 55 and up. “It’s amazing to see someone come in for the first time, and then six months later, they are a different person,” says Peggy Owens, manager of the center. Peggy says the center averages about 70 visitors a day, with many coming two to five days a week.

“Their attitude changes, the way they carry themselves changes,” Peggy says. “They get their sense of pride back.

“They hear we serve a hot lunch and that brings them in,” she says. “A lot of them can’t or don’t cook anymore,” she says.

“Once they get here, they see everything else that’s offered — that there is life after retirement. We have speakers talk to them about nutrition and how to prepare small meals at home. We offer activities, arts and crafts, exercise classes, and bingo — which they truly love.

“The Kling Center gives them a reason to get up out of their apartments and be involved in something. They don’t want to be home alone. They love the socialization. They worry about each other. They are like a huge family.”

Stanley Baker, 72, a retiree from Phillip Morris, started coming to the Kling Center nearly five years ago. “I got to see a lot of people that I knew in the past and met a lot of new people,” Stanley says. “I’ve run into people that I haven’t seen in 30 years.”

Stanley comes to the center nearly every day. He shoots pool, plays checkers and cards, and participates in other activities. “I’d probably be sitting at home and eating all day, and playing with my TV remote.

“This is a pretty cool place,” Stanley says. “You come in and have fun and socialize. You do things you wouldn’t normally do sitting at home. If you want to be healthy and have a healthy mind, this is the place. You can’t come in here and say there’s nothing to do. There’s nothing to do because you didn’t want to do anything.

“If you don’t make an effort to do something, you will be the same person.”

Meeting People Where They Are

If you are homebound, there are programs that bring socialization to you.

“Besides the ElderServe Senior Center on 28th Street, we have two programs that aim to help,” says Sarah Irvin, manager of volunteer services at ElderServe.

TeleCare, Sarah says, is a program where “participants receive a phone call from a volunteer every day, Monday through Friday. They have a conversation: ‘How is your day going?’ They have that personal connection with someone every day. A lot of the volunteers who make the calls are seniors themselves. It gives them a sense of purpose.”

Secondly, the Friendly Visitor Program pairs a senior participant with a volunteer who has similar interests. They meet at least twice a month for home visits as well as outings.

“It might be going to lunch, or visiting a museum, or going to the park,” Sarah says. “You see the same person every month.”

Photo by Melissa Donald 

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