This column in Attraction, by Amelia Blades Steward, visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore or are one of the organizations giving back in unique ways to better our world. She has been a freelance writer in our community for over 20 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.
Since the pandemic began in 2020, senior participation in senior centers on the Mid Shore has declined. Upper Shore Aging, Inc. (USA), which operates Senior Centers in Denton, Federalsburg, Easton, St. Michaels, and Chestertown, is working hard to re-engage seniors and is seeking volunteers and paid staff to expand its programming offerings.
A recent article by The National Council on Aging, “How Senior Centers are Bringing Back Older Adults,” by Diane Stone, states, “As public health guidance changed, and especially with the availability of vaccines, senior centers began a gradual shift back to in-person activity. But, unlike the suddenness with which they closed the doors, the return is gradual.”
According to Jennifer Neal-Acree, Director of Senior Centers and Nutrition at USA, “Seniors have been hesitant to come back to the centers, but it’s starting to happen, and we are rebuilding from our pre-pandemic attendance. Socialization, including exercise and information on proper nutrition and health, are so important to overall wellness for our seniors and we can help them with that at our centers.”
USA’s senior centers offer seniors programming in health education and nutrition, as well as exercise and craft classes. At the Caroline County Senior Center in Denton, where there is a new Senior Center manager, seniors can come between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily, engage in classes, and get a meal. In addition to diverse weekly programming, the Caroline County Senior Center in Denton helps homebound seniors with Meals on Wheels and with the Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) – Maryland’s Medicare Program. The senior centers also partner with Delmarva Community Transit for bus transportation. Bus passes are available for seniors who attend the center at least two to three times a week.
We can really advocate for the seniors who attend, helping to connect them to the services and socialization they need,” adds Jennifer. “They don’t always have a voice and sometimes we are that voice for them, as well as a resource.”
“Seniors who attend find that we are one more person to support them. It’s so rewarding to see the smiles on their faces when we talk with them and they engage in activities with us,” comments Brandy Hatten, new Manager of the Caroline County Senior Center in Denton. “We are looking for certified instructors to offer evidence-based programming, such as senior exercise programs. We will even pay for online certification training for instructors.”
The Caroline County Senior Center in Denton, the only center offering ceramics classes for seniors, is also looking for a paid ceramics teacher, a volunteer backup driver for the Meals on Wheels program, and a paid kitchen aid.
Anyone with crafting abilities, health promotion skills, or any kind of special talent is encouraged to contact the center, which needs more programming options. The center is also looking for organizations interested in offering special programs and entertainment for seniors. Individuals and organizations can also donate funds to help support these special offerings.
“With the New Year beginning, we are hoping we can encourage people to volunteer at our centers as a way of giving back to the community,” comments Jennifer.
Volunteers are needed at all USA senior centers and interested persons can apply and be trained through Upper Shore Aging’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), which is sponsored by USA and funded by AmeriCorps. The program spans three counties on the Upper Eastern Shore of Maryland: Kent, Talbot, and Caroline, and places older adults (age 55+) in a diverse range of volunteer activities to meet various community needs, including USA’s Senior Centers. Volunteers are needed to help with the senior care programs, senior reassurance phone calling, answering phones, making calls, and greeting visitors, as well as engaging seniors in an activity at the Senior Center.
The Caroline County Senior Center in Denton is located at 403 South 7th Street, Suite 127, Denton. For information about the Caroline County Senior Center in Denton, contact Brandy Hatten, Caroline County Senior Center in Denton Manager, at 410-479-2535 or follow the Caroline County Senior Center in Denton on Facebook. For information about volunteering for Upper Shore Aging or to donate, visit uppershoreaging.org or call 410-778-6000.