Now and Then – ‘Age is Inevitable, Aging Isn’t’ Marv Levy, former football coach and motivational speaker
by Linda Pedersen
In many cases, negative realities of aging minds and bodies clash with the well-meaning platitudes of motivational speakers like Marv Levy. A contrasting view is accredited to actress Bette Davis: “Getting old is not for sissies.” Both sentiments have a home at the SCV Senior Center. Whether the aging experience is positive or challenging, there are programs and resources at the Center for each, beginning with an active social calendar.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”
George Bernard Shaw
The Center’s social scene unfolds each weekday at 8 a.m. when seniors begin arriving at the Market Street building in Newhall by foot (a senior housing complex is next door), by car, or city bus. Weather permitting, many take a seat outside the entry, waiting to greet friends and catch up on the latest gossip.
Chess enthusiasts, card players, pool sharks, and budding artists migrate inside where there is a designated area for each hobby. On certain days, lines form outside for buses that will take the more adventurous on day trips to outside attractions like casinos, vineyards, or libraries.
The non-stop activities pause at noon each day when live music begins emanating from the community room. It’s there that seniors enjoy a nutritious lunch, then tap their toes or grab a partner to dance to the infectious tunes being played.
This scenario had its start in the ‘70s, before the Market Place building was available to seniors. At that time, the Oak of the Golden Dream Senior Citizen Club organized monthly lunches at the Elks Lodge. Created by SCV resident Kay Coleman as a way to provide a social outlet for her aging parents, the club designated a theme for each month’s get-together. During the summer, seniors would dress up in colorful luau costumes, which would only be outdone by the spooky outfits they would wear at October’s Halloween luncheon.
Whether the theme was Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or Thanksgiving, the scene was the same — energetic seniors sipping soft drinks or wine, laughing over their lunch entrees, and then dancing to the tunes played on the piano by retired schoolteacher Ruth Jones. Community activist and future SCV Man of the Year Frank Lorelli made sure there were no wallflowers at the dance. With wife Gussie’s blessing, he would twirl a number of partners round the dance floor.
The participants who populated the luncheons and events promoted by the Oak of the Golden Dream Senior Citizens Club blended into the new milieu created when the SCV Committee on Aging secured the county-owned building on Market Street in 1983 and began offering its daily calendar of activities.
The SCVCOA also had its beginnings in 1972 with the same goal of providing activities and services for senior citizens. It reached official status when it was incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) in 1976. With its new designation, the committee was able to pursue official support and funding for specially allocated senior citizen programs from Los Angeles County and, in turn, the Federal Government’s Older Americans Act. The early years of negotiating and organizing by the grassroots organization led to the donation of the county building.
While the social aspect of the Senior Center is the most visible, the organization has other far-reaching benefits for our valley’s aging population. In addition to special exercise, dance, and music classes, the Center also sponsors educational lectures and counseling sessions for seniors, their family members and caregivers.
“If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”
Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees Slugger
A health and wellness component at the Center addresses the unique physical and mental challenges facing the aging population. In addition to classes for attaining and maintaining general health, the Center’s outreach also includes information and resources for those with age-related diseases. Health clinics, care management counseling, and a weekly caregiver support group are a few of the services offered. An In-Home Care Program provides supervision for things like personal care, meal and medication management, as well as light housekeeping. Adult Day Care is also available for those with conditions like Alzheimer’s, dementia, post-stroke, and Parkinson’s disease.
Home delivered lunches are prepared according to state nutritional requirements for certain homebound seniors depending on medical condition, recent illness, recent discharges from the hospital, and mental or emotional dysfunction.
“It’s important to have a twinkle in your wrinkle.”
According to the website, over 200 volunteers, many independent seniors themselves, provide a support system for executive director Kevin MacDonald and the Center staff. With 19 different programs and services offered, the volunteers are a valuable resource. And when the Baby Boomers began expanding the aging population, the Center’s volunteer board (SCVCOA) took up the challenge of providing for that expansion with its $11 million building campaign.
“The Market Street center has served our valley well,” says board president Peggy Rasmussen, “but it has its own aging problems. Its size and infrastructure are being sorely stressed by our burgeoning number of clients.”
The board’s campaign to provide SCV seniors with a larger, state-of-the-art building is within $1 million of its goal, prompting a ground-breaking ceremony this month near the intersection of Golden Valley Parkway and Newhall Ranch Road. The new facility will not only provide a home for seniors, but a valuable resource for other community organizations as well. To donate or learn more about the Center’s services and its building campaign, one may visit newseniorcenter.com or call (661) 259-9444.
“The Boomers will eventually have to accept that it is not possible to stay forever young or to stop aging. But it is possible, by committing to show up for others in community after community, to earn a measure of immortality.”
-Eric Liu, Deputy Assistant for Domestic Policy to President Clinton