Written by Jill Nossa: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 13 April 2012 00:00
Last month, the senior center and its program was selected as the recipient of the 2012 MindAlert Award in the Lifelong Learning/Third Age Educational Programs category by the American Society on Aging, in collaboration with MetLife Foundation. The program is a multidimensional lifelong learning program that provides new opportunities for mental stimulation and retention, socialization, and may spark an interest for continuous learning among program participants.
Carol Waldman, executive director of the Glen Cove Senior Center, and Lucy Van Horn, program coordinator for the Lifelong Learning Program, told the Record Pilot how honored they were to receive national recognition from such a prestigious organization.
“To be acknowledged by the American Society on Aging is really a big deal,” says Waldman. “We’re very proud of that; but it is the work we’re doing that we are especially proud of.”
The Lifelong Learning Program is currently in its 11th year at the senior center and has been extremely well-received by members, according to Waldman. One of the goals of the program is to help people change the perception they have about themselves and what they can do as they grow older, and to help them see that they can live life to its fullest at any age.
The program is only one way that people are drawn to the center, which has always enabled people to develop friendships and widen their social circles. The Lifelong Learning Program allows older adults in the community to access learning at no cost and links them to vital services that can enhance their well-being. Contributing factors to the program’s success include transportation to and from the program, a nutritious lunch prior to the program, relaxed time for meaningful discussion after the program, computer support to pursue additional research and a natural evolution of study groups and engaging group excursions.
Waldman says the center attracts people from all over Nassau County. The center also reaches out to members who may not be able to travel any longer through a program called Project Read In.
The informational and interactive programs attract between 20-165 people and are diversified in subject matter, ranging from topics such as history, science and the arts. The emphasis is toward growth for members, which is key, according to Waldman.
When describing the impact some of the programs have had on people, Van Horn lights up and tells a story about a butterfly program that she was not sure would attract much interest, but how fascinating it turned out to be and how engaged people were. Finding those who have common interests is another focus of the program. She also tells how she has seen important friendships develop between people that have lead to excursions outside of senior center programs.
In developing the programs, the senior center has a lot of community involvement, from people who have extensive knowledge of a subject who come in to speak, to businesses that provide food and entertainment for some of the larger events. They draw in professors and professionals for their lectures, and some programs, such as learning the Spanish language, lead to an interest in gaining more knowledge so study groups form or field trips are taken as a follow up.
Waldman explains how research has shown that doing new things will help the brain grow, which may slow dementia. Sitting home does not stimulate the brain; programs such as this can allow people to “step out of themselves, open life up and connect.”
“Seniors have spent their lives sowing seeds, and now they are at a stage where they can try new things…it gives an incentive to go forward,” says Van Horn.