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My Turn: Haven for seniors

Did you know Greenfield has its very own oasis?

This haven is the Greenfield Senior Center.

You can choose how to restore yourself, from aerobics to yoga, line dancing and Tai Chi. Bridge, mahjong are popular as well as Wii sports and art classes. The range of workshops is large and the concerts by dancers, entertainers, singers & musicians are well attended.

If you’re wondering about membership requirement there’s one: You must be over 55. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit. In fact, the center serves many in their ninth decade who are active and attend various activities. Seniors can benefit from free expert benefit counseling, legal and computer issues, enjoy talks by local authors and have a lot of fun on trips like the Spirit of Ethan Allen Lunch Cruise that included a delicious visit to Ben & Jerry’s. That cruise, like some other outings, was organized in partnership of the Greenfield Senior Center and the Shelburne Senior Center. A few programs and services are fee-based, most are free, although donations are gratefully accepted.

A small sampling of center users shows the astonishing wealth of possibilities: Some seniors have marvelous “crafty” talents and you’ll find a beautiful assortment of hats, gloves, mittens and useful goods in the glass display cases. Still others love the writing group and the book chat. Some need and appreciate the Low Vision Support group, others, the Bereavement Support group. The 9:15 aerobics class led by Kathy Dunn, the activities director, has a devoted following. The 10:30 Fit & Fabulous class led by Hope Macary, the center’s director, attracts yet another group interested in exercise. Some folks are such faithful attenders there’s even a “Regular Attender” award. MaryAnn Socquet, the fiscal manager, a Notary Public (yet another free service) is the third in the center’s amazing staff, which creates a host of wonderful programs despite staff reductions from budget cuts that sliced down to the bone.

Greenfield has over 4,000 residents who are 60-plus. Last year, some 1,700 seniors visited the center. That is, they were “served by the Council on Aging,” the center’s official “parent.” Many of these 1,700 seniors visited multiple times so it translates to 17,000 units of service. What an incredible number for a staff of three to handle.

Officially, the town has “… through its multi-purpose Senior Center, an environment that supports personal dignity, opportunities for sharing, creative expression, learning, and a general encouragement of initiative and self-fulfillment.” The aim is to “provide healthy lifestyle support through health promotion, health education, physical activities, and other wellness programs.”

Most importantly, the center pledges to “be responsive and accessible to the changing needs of seniors, in cooperation with community organizations, agencies and individuals.”

Read the monthly newsletter, Senior News, online or pick up a free copy at the Center: www.Greenfield-MA.gov/Pages/GreenfieldMACOA/Index — click on Senior News. You can contact the director at: hopem@greenfield-ma.gov. Better yet, drop by and check in with staff to receive your ID tag so that you can freely explore the center’s possibilities and unleash the power of your aging!

Hazel Dawkins is a member of the Council on Aging.

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