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SCARC’s Senior Center
A Dynamic Alternative for Seniors with Developmental Disabilities
Active, engaged, enthusiastic – appropriate adjectives to describe the seniors of today. The days of spending one’s later years in a rocking chair on the porch are gone. Seniors with developmental disabilities are no different, and those adjectives certainly apply to the seniors who attend SCARC’s Senior Center. Up to twenty-eight individuals with developmental disabilities, who have reached a point in their life when they wish to “retire” from employment or more intensive day activities, attend the Center each day. The Center is staffed by Direct Support Professionals trained to provide a wide range of supports to specifically meet the needs of seniors with developmental disabilities.
What is most apparent when visiting the Senior Center is that it is the senior’s Center. The seniors decide what kind of activities they want to participate in, design activities to meet their interests, and even teach their fellow seniors. The variety of activities they engage in seems endless.
- Bill used to sing in a choir that now no longer meets. He requested that a choir be started at the Senior Center. Bill recruited singers from among his friends at the Center, selected songs, prepared binders to serve as choir books, and even plays the guitar for the group. Recently they gave their first community performance at a local nursing home.
- Every Friday, Janet, an avid reader, reads to groups of other individuals with developmental disabilities in other programs. She selects a different theme for her Reading Club each month. Janet also leads her peers at the Senior Center in a Yoga class.
- Judith is especially adept at creating lovely pictures utilizing yarn and plastic canvas. She has taken her skill to the Valley View Health Care Center in Newton to teach the seniors there this new craft.
These seniors with developmental disabilities are serious about continuing to learn. They check in on current events every day. They explore the United States by selecting states to learn about, gathering information about the facts that make each state unique. They’re interested in health information and the environment, emphasizing the value of recycling. By building relationships with community members, such as the police and fire department, the seniors have learned about safety issues and, more specifically, about how the police and firemen do their jobs.
As winter finally draws to a close, the seniors are preparing for their Spring Fling – a springtime formal – requiring the preparation of gay decorations and discussions about dresses and ties and turning up in their best outfits. And, the Walking Club is glad that the snow is finally melting, and that they can return to the walking paths in local parks. There is no doubt that SCARC’s Senior Center is providing a place where these seniors with developmental disabilities can use their talents, develop new skills, and fill their days with friendship and fellowship.
The pride in, and ownership of, this Center is most evident in the scrapbooks that the seniors keep about their days at the Senior Center. Page after page is carefully prepared to include pictures of activities and events, parties and outings. Smiling, animated faces peer out from bold and funky frames precisely placed on vibrant backdrops. Joy, enthusiasm, and connection are displayed across the colorful pages telling a story of seniors who have found their “happy” place. Though these seniors with developmental disabilities have been challenged by their disabilities throughout their lifetimes, at The Senior Center, they are simply friends who have found a supportive and nurturing place where they can be active, engaged, and enthusiastically enjoy each and every day.