Walking into the Bay Hundred Senior Center at the Perkins Family YMCA in St. Michaels, one is immediately greeted with energy and positivity. The sparkling new building beckons visitors through its doors and new part-time manager, Ann DeMart, has people lined up at her door to inquire about activities, membership, and to just say hello.
She comments, “I have been thrilled with the response. We are getting two to four registrations for membership a day and are probably up to over 100 members since opening in June.”
This is probably not a surprise to residents of the Bay Hundred area. Childlene Brooks, Manager of the Talbot County Senior Center, Brooklets Place in Easton, comments, “A survey a few years ago showed us that the Bay Hundred area had the largest number of seniors in Talbot County. We are so excited to open this new center as it is really filling a need here.”
The new center is now one of five centers operated by Upper Shore Aging, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that is the designated Area Agency on Aging for Talbot, Caroline, and Kent counties. The organization develops and manages a coordinated program of services that work together with a goal of helping seniors to remain, and live well, in the community as long as possible.
The center offers active seniors age 60 or older free opportunities for socializing, exercising, recreational fun, lifelong learning, and community engagement and is not an adult day care center or a nursing home. It is designed for seniors who are independent, although any senior with limited mobility or who needs assistance can participate if they have a caregiver to accompany them.
Ann further explains, “The center is here to enhance the offering in the Bay Hundred Area for seniors, complementing what the St. Michaels Community Center and Union United Methodist Church are already doing for our seniors. Because we are located at the YMCA, our members can also join the YMCA at an affordable price and participate in its exercise offerings, including the fitness center, gym, and a new indoor pool which is opening this month. A number of our members come by the center after exercising to take a class or just visit with friends.”
Membership to the Bay Hundred Senior Center is free to residents of Talbot County age 60 and above. Members’ spouses who are under the age of 60 are also eligible for membership. Membership benefits include access to the center and free classes. The monthly calendar of events includes a myriad of classes designed just for seniors, such as exercise classes including yoga, stretch, and water aerobics; cards and games; dance classes; and musical offerings. Some programs, such as art classes, may require a fee for materials and leaders. Social offerings include discussion groups and presentations on health and lifestyle topics. All of these offerings are posted on a member kiosk in the lobby, where members can easily sign up to participate.
On Monday, Tuesday and Fridays, the center offers a nutritional lunch to members for a suggested contribution of $2.75. Those who are unable to donate are still welcome to a meal. Non-seniors may also join for a fee of $5.50. Delmarva Community Transit buses are available to transport people to the center with advance notice. This fall, the center will be one of the new venues for course offerings through Chesapeake Forum, an academy for lifelong learning, including classes on memoir writing, life reviews, and other topics. Registration through Chesapeake Forum is required for these programs.
Ann reflects, “Sharing the facility with the YMCA has been terrific as it provides multigenerational interaction. In addition to the younger YMCA members, we hope to work with St. Michaels High School student interns. They might teach a course, give music performances, help with computer skills, or include some of the members in history, biomedical, or other research.
The new facility has access to a central lounge area that provides seniors with a space to meet and greet one another and for socializing. Two studios, which the center shares with the YMCA, offers spaces for classes and courses. A multi-purpose room provides the space for lunch and for the growing art of game playing at the center. Pinochle and Mexican Train Dominoes have taken the center by storm and more games, including Bridge, Scrabble, and Mahjong are offered to those interested.
For members Joe (age 76) and Susan (age 71) DiGiandomenico of St. Michaels, the center has become home. The couple, who are newlyweds and moved to St. Michaels from the West Chester, Pennsylvania area three and half years ago, couldn’t be happier. Susan, who calls herself an “exercise rat” was active in the local YMCA in Pennsylvania and is enjoying the YMCA and Senior Center’s fitness and dance offerings. Joe, who was rehabbing after a surgery this spring needed an outlet and socialization. When he approached the center about offering weekly card playing, a hobby he has had for most of his life, they agreed. In a month’s time, through word of mouth, Joe has gathered 12 people who want to learn how to play traditional single deck Pinochle and the group is now playing twice a week in the afternoons from 1 to 3 p.m.
He comments exuberantly, “People who played the game before are learning it again, as well as people who have never played the game before. The game of Pinochle really brings out people’s personality. Anyone can play and people are really getting interested in it.”
Susan adds about her husband, “He has turned into a real pinochle instructor and loves it.”
Joe chuckles, “We are all on the move here.”
The Perkins Family YMCA is the first facility to bring together the YMCA, Talbot County Public Schools, Talbot County Government, and Upper Shore Aging to provide expanded programs and services to residents of all ages throughout the communities in the Bay Hundred area.
Ann, who was recently hired as the manager of the Bay Hundred Senior Center, has 35 years of advertising and marketing experience, primarily in healthcare information technology, and worked most recently as a freelance writer. She serves on the board of directors for Talbot County Arts Council and Chesapeake Forum. She completed a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Albany, SUNY in Albany, New York and completed post-graduate studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
She comments, “We are so grateful for the vision that Robbie Gill, CEO of the YMCA of the Chesapeake, had for this facility and for the generosity of the Perkins family. The center is really becoming a community gathering place where people care about one another. It has been wonderful to watch it grow.”
According to Ann and Childlene, the center is looking for volunteers with computer, administrative, and hospitality skills who can help with growing program and membership needs. In addition, the center relies on donations to provide its community programming. For further information about membership or volunteering at the Bay Hundred Community Center, contact Ann DeMart at 410-745-4017.
To donate to the Bay Hundred Senior Center, make checks payable to “Mid Shore Community Foundation” and mail to Mid-Shore Community Foundation, The Bullitt House, 102 East Dover Street, Easton, Maryland 21601. Specify “Bay Hundred Senior Center – Talbot County Senior Center” in the memo section of the check.
The Bay Hundred Senior Center is located at 300 Seymour Avenue in St. Michaels and is open Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.