Community Keeps Elders Active and In Touch

Social Adult Day Center, Walton, NYFor senior citizens who want to age at home, good neighbors can make all the difference. In Delaware County, some of those neighbors are members of Legacy Corps, a volunteer group that offers respite to family caregivers and also aids elders whose caregivers need to work outside the home.

Unfortunately, there aren't enough Legacy Corps volunteers to meet the growing need for this kind of assistance. So several community organizations have joined forces to try a new solution, the county's first Social Adult Day Center.

Housed in the United Presbyterian Church in Walton, and open one day a week, the Social Adult Day Center offers a place where seniors can visit together, stay mentally and physically active and keep up with what's going on in the wider world. A day at the center might include discussions of current events, chair exercises and activities focused on a variety of interests.

"We would like to offer a day for haircuts, a day for music appreciation," says Karen Marshfield, Legacy Corps program coordinator at Delaware Support Services, Inc. Visitors from local organizations might come in to tell about their work, or students from an arts group at the local high school might give a presentation.

Along with Legacy Corps and United Presbyterian, partners in the Social Adult Day Center include New York Connects, Office for the Aging and the Alzheimer's Association. In 2011, the Community Foundation provided $14,796 to help launch the center, which was due to open its doors in spring 2012.

The center offers benefits to both caregivers and their elderly relatives, says Drue Brenner, New York Connects coordinator at Delaware Support and Services. "It started out with a recognition of the burden and stress that most caregivers have to shoulder without a lot of assistance," she says. But by providing structured activities, social connections, physical and cognitive exercises and something to look forward to, the center also will help seniors enjoy a better quality of life.

If the pilot program in Walton proves successful, the sponsors hope to extend its hours and maybe create similar day centers elsewhere in the county.

The Walton center can serve as a model, showing people in other communities how to approach issues such as improving the quality of life for aging residents of rural communities, says Brenner. "That can be a very do-able thing if we look toward each other to help build these programs."

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