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September 14, 2013

From the Office: The sound of family in harmony rings out, won't you come along?

By Wayne Shepard
The Daily Star

---- — Our Place in Walton may have started out as a place to bring ailing older adults, so their caregivers could have respite time, but that’s not where it ended up. 

Today, a year plus a few months since the grand opening, those attending Our Place have become a family. While it was originally intended for caregivers to have respite time and know their loved ones were safe, the majority of people who have joined Our Place are older adults who live independently, but were struggling with a lack of social life. Most of these people have worked their entire lives, and need something to keep them active since their retirement; these people are known as our “Golden Dream Catchers Club.” Instead of a group of seniors sitting around staring at the four walls until their family or caregivers return, they are a group of dynamic individuals. Some choose the crafts table and some the card table, but no matter what, they are all having fun.

In the morning, when everyone arrives, they begin the day at Our Place by gathering in what is called the library, where there is enough room for everyone to sit around two tables arranged end to end, and enjoy coffee, tea and a snack. As the refreshments are being passed around, the activities leader outlines the plans for the day. Conversation then ensues around the table. They hear someone’s story about their doctor visit, or the most recent visit from the grandchildren. Grateful words from a woman who had a recent hospital stay stated visitors came and visited her every day bringing her joy and love; all her visitors were friends that she met at Our Place.

Most days begin with crafts or cards or puzzles and anyone can join either and even switch in between. At 11:30, the volunteers that have finished breakfast dishes now start to set for lunch time. The round tables are brought out and laid with silverware, napkins and glasses. At noon, Delaware County Senior Meals delivers the lunches, which are promptly served so they remain hot. Everyone enjoys their meal together, sitting with those they know or chancing that a new face may contain a friend. Small brown envelopes, three in total, lay above each plate. They are marked: Senior Meals, Our Place, and Golden Dream Catchers Club. The envelopes are for donations to help offset the expenses for Our Place.

After meals are eaten, the volunteers (now done with their own meal) descend and clear plates, silverware and cups. Leftovers are put into containers to be taken home. Dishes are washed and Senior Meals returns to gather its warming containers. The round tables are put away, but the chairs kept and arranged in rows. After lunch the seniors participate in age-appropriate exercises. Then the afternoon is filled with musical entertainment, speakers, games or other activities.

This program takes place each Wednesday in the Lower Level of the United Presbyterian Church on 58 East Street in Walton from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., respite clients can choose to stay from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or noon to 4 p.m., if they wish for a half day. Eligibility to attend Our Place is that the individual must be 60 or older, able to eat independently, participate in group activities and in need of socialization. One-on-one help for those who need a closer eye is available. Fees are $18 for a half day and $25 for a whole day. An additional charge for lunch is $3, or lunch can be brought from home. Those who are looking just for socialization are also welcome to attend the “Golden Dream Catchers Club” for a minimal fee of $5, which helps offset the costs for supplies and additional charge of $3 for lunch.

So whether you are a caregiver in need of a day off, or the opportunity to take care of chores and errands, while ensuring your loved one remains safe and cared for by trained people, or you are a senior in need of a social life, come and join Our Place! If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, look no further, we’d loved to have you. Whatever brings you here, there’s always room for one more, and we’d love to have you as part of our family.

All the descriptions in the world won’t give you a sense of the laughter and bright conversations that takes place and the seriousness of the faces at the card table. You won’t get the murmur of voices that crescendo with joy over the completed puzzle piece, or the clink and clack and then laughter of volunteers doing dishes in the kitchen. The sound of a family in harmony rings out, won’t you come along? If you are interested in this program as a client or volunteer or if you would like to make a donation or make a contribution to sponsor a senior to attend Our Place, call Delaware County Office for the Aging at 746-6333 and ask to speak with Program Coordinator Karen “Kit” Marshfield.

Wayne Shepard is director of the Delaware County Office for the Aging. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.