Real stories about the Fergus Falls Senior Citizens Program, Inc.
By Kathy Sporre, Program Supervisor
Waste Not, Want Not
Senior Centers were started in the 1940s in New York to be a place for lower income, older people to get a well-rounded meal every day. That is a stigma that senior centers have carried until recently, as more and more meals have been delivered off-site to senior apartments and homes.
The introduction of assisted living facilities (that began in earnest here in the mid-1990s) pushed Senior Centers everywhere to re-invent themselves. With meals included in people’s rent, they no longer had a need to visit their local senior center for a balanced meal.
For many years, it was the norm for members to wait to join the Senior Center until they were in their mid-70s and 80s. The stigma is slowly retreating as senior centers everywhere strive to remain relevant in a new day.
Sharon is a prime example of this change. “I joined about a week after I retired,” she said. “A member mentioned the exercise equipment that you had recently installed, and I came to exercise.”
Welcome to today’s senior center! According to a recent membership survey, exercise is the number one reason people join our Senior Center, and makes up over 60% of programming in senior centers nationwide.
Sharon didn’t waste any time after retiring from her 45-year career as a medical technologist to get involved in our Senior Center. “A few years before retirement, I was worried about what I was going to do to keep myself busy. I don’t have a lot of hobbies outside of reading,” she said. “When I heard about the Senior Center, I made it a point that it was one of the things I was going to do.”
“I mainly came to exercise,” she continued, “and then the next year someone asked me if I would serve on the board of directors. That’s when I learned about all the other things going on here. I had never served on a board before, so it’s been fascinating. I would encourage anyone to consider serving on the board if you really want to get to know about the program.”
“After I started, I realized how important the socialization piece was. I met lots of people with varying backgrounds and made so many nice friends. I think that’s on an equal footing with enjoying the exercising,” Sharon said. According to our survey, socialization was one of the top two reasons people joined the Senior Center.
“I try to come almost every day, but there are times I can’t make it,” she continued. “It has contributed to a healthier lifestyle for me through exercising. The people are really friendly and welcoming here, and the friendships I have made have been blessings.”
Sharon noticed two ladies painting the interior of the Senior Center one day and volunteered to help. After painting what ended up to be the entire interior of the Senior Center, she continued with her volunteer activities, giving back to the Senior Center that offered her so much.
“I’ve really enjoyed fundraising for the Senior Center,” Sharon, who is also the fundraising chair, replied. “It can be nerve-wracking at times; especially when we try a new fundraiser.” She continued, “People are so good to volunteer to help out. The comradery that goes on here makes me proud to be a member, and also makes me want to continue doing what I have been doing.”
We thank Sharon for wasting no time in finding us after retirement. What has come to be a reciprocal giving relationship has helped us both as an organization and member to “want not.”
Our Mission: to enrich the lives and promote the independent lifestyles of senior citizens in the Fergus Falls area.