Adele and Sherry have been best friends since the 1960s. Having attended nursing school together, the two are now widowed retirees who still enjoy many of the activities they participated in “way back when.” Exercise, oil painting, and Las Vegas trips are among their favorites.
Joe, a divorced 74-year-old Vietnam War veteran, remains in a battle. His enemies: Diabetes, loneliness, and a fixed income so tight that he can barely afford insulin. He also has high blood pressure, and needs it checked regularly.
Carolyn, 83, had been a devoted wife and mother. Ten years ago, her husband died from cancer. She cared for him to the end. Four years later, a car crash tragically took the life of their only child, a 45-year-old daughter who was Carolyn’s greatest joy and closest confidante. Depression, worsening spinal arthritis and osteoporosis, chronic pain, and mobility issues have made it difficult for Carolyn to manage. Sometimes she falls. Sometimes she doesn’t want to get back up.
Danny, 63, had been an aircraft mechanic of the highest caliber. Pilots confidently knew they were behind the controls of expertly maintained aircraft, thanks to “Dan the Man.” Then in his mid-50s, he and wife, Mary, noticed his increasing memory problems. Always with safety and responsibility in mind, Danny quickly retired. Soon after, tests revealed he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Now, six years later, Danny requires 24/7 care from Mary.
Monica, who never married or had children, was a caregiver for sick relatives. When the last one passed, she felt devastated and alone. On a neighbor’s tip, 70-year-old Monica attended a grief support group. She also went to a senior’s dance at the same location. Dancing was something she loved as a girl. That night, as if by kismet, she met a pleasant widower. Like Monica, he still knew how to cut a rug. He also knew how to make her laugh. What started as a sway around the room became an adoring later-life partnership.
Mike and Carol, seniors who have been married since college, have thus far had a great life together. Both in good health, with enough retirement savings to comfortably sustain them, and their grown kids successfully raising their own families, the couple wanted to give back to their community through volunteering, and helping seniors facing difficult times.
These people have something special in common — the grateful use of programs and services provided by the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center. A vibrant hub of activities and assistance, the center has been devoted to the independence, dignity and quality of life for seniors for more than 40 years. Among its myriad of life-changing programs: engaging socialization; delicious and healthy congregate meals; ageless learning; health and wellness programs (including blood pressure and hearing clinics); volunteering opportunities; enriching multi-generational activities; enjoyable recreation from dancing and painting to trips and tours; in-home case management for the frail and homebound; home-delivered meals; advocacy; referrals and access to available resources and transportation; handy-worker services to promote safety and security in senior’s homes; a social day care for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive impairment (this also offers critically needed “time-out” for caregivers); caregiver education and support; and more.
For many years the SCV Senior Center, long located on Market Street in Newhall, was also in need of assistance. It was an aged and space-deficient structure. The wonderful news is this: the center now has a new address in its stunning, just-built, state-of-the-art, 30,000-square-foot, two-story facility. Located at 27180 Golden Valley Road, the light and bright center features a deluxe banquet room hall with seating for 250 plus, a fireplace lounge/library, six multi-purpose rooms, fitness center and dance studio, an outdoor cabana with concert seating, wine events, book clubs, a bistro café, movie nights, a putting (golf) green and other delightful amenities.
Immense gratitude and admiration goes to steadfast and visionary SCV Committee on Aging/Senior Center President Peggy Rasmussen, the SCVCOA board, SCVSC Executive Director Kevin MacDonald, the many donors (from corporate to seniors), expert designers and builders, the City of Santa Clarita, and County of Los Angeles, and others, for making this amazing new resort-like facility a reality.
Research has shown that senior center participation can have an enormously positive impact on older citizens. Improved mental and physical health, valued social interactions and camaraderie, and increased contentment with life are among those benefits.
And it’s all waiting for you now at the beautiful new Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, aptly named “Bella Vida” – “Beautiful Life.” Call the Senior Center at (661) 259-9444 or visit www.seniorcenter.org.
Diana Sevanian is a retired RN, and former SCV Senior Center staff member, and longtime Signal features writer/columnist.
Note: While the names mentioned in this column’s intro are fictional, these later life scenarios are not.