Locations, host organizations and programs vary
By Michael Turton
“Center” may be the key word in the ongoing and at times animated community-wide discussion of the need for a local senior citizens center. Currently, programs and services offered to older residents are anything but centralized – and are offered in a number of locales through the auspices of several organizations.
The current dispersed nature of services to seniors was summarized by Amber Stickle, director of recreation for the Town of Philipstown. “They really want a place of their own. There is no centralized place where seniors can get information,” she said. “And information sharing among those working with seniors could be better.”
Recreation Department programs for seniors, those 62 years of age or older, are based at the Claudio Marzollo Community Center in Garrison. Seniors merit a full page in the department’s fall 2013 activity guide, including three new fitness programs – Fit for Life, Yoga and Zumba, all of which have already proven popular. Mahjong is offered year round.
The department also hosts five special seniors’ lunches per year – attended by 70 to 90 people each according to Stickle. Alternate-week bus trips to Walmart and ShopRite in Fishkill are also offered as is transportation to the Foodtown Plaza in Cold Spring. Friends in Service Helping (FISH) offers seniors individualized transportation to medical appointments, however Stickle said the program is struggling due to a shortage of volunteers.
Putnam County Office for the Aging
The Putnam County Office for the Aging (OFA) is one of the main providers of programs for local seniors and defines that audience as those 60 years of age and older. Ed Cleary, an Outreach Worker with OFA, works out of a satellite office in the VFW Hall on Kemble Avenue in Cold Spring, helping to implement programs in Philipstown. “The Nutrition Program offers seniors free, hot lunches at the Friendship Center,” Cleary said.
The Friendship Center is located in the American Legion Hall on Cedar Street. That program operates year round, except July and August, and welcomes from 40 to 70 participants daily. Activities such as bingo, pool, cards and Wii bowling are available before and after lunch. Mid-day meals are also delivered to local home-bound seniors.
OFA also conducts shopping trips to Fishkill and Foodtown Plaza, provides seniors with transportation to medical appointments and helps residents who need assistance with Medicare. Cleary said “Goodwill” calls are also made to local seniors who are ill. Numerous other programs and services are offered out of OFA’s main office in Carmel.
Philipstown Seniors, an organization that boasts 120 members, meets on the first Thursday of each month at Chestnut Ridge. The organization’s President, Phil Schatzle, said that the meetings, which are “a mix of business and socializing … are usually attended by about 80 members,” all of whom are 60 years of age or older. Guest speakers are often part of the meetings, including most recently, candidates in the election for Putnam County sheriff. Schatzle said that bus trips are one of the organization’s signature programs.
“Putnam County provides the bus for each trip,” he said, with members picking up the cost of their own ticket – ranging from as little as $10 to $350. Destinations include such places as Cape Cod, Mohegan Sun Casino and New York City. The group also hosts a number of special luncheons each year, centered mainly on holidays. “We also have a very good rapport with Haldane School,” Schatzle said.
Members receive free admission to all Haldane sports events, plays and music concerts. Schatzle and fellow member Terry Ridpath, also act as instructors in a driver education program open to members and local residents alike – at a very reasonable AARP rate of $19.
Donna Anderson, trip coordinator for the group, told The Paper that each spring, for more than 10 years, the Cold Spring Lions Club has hosted an annual dinner for Philipstown Seniors at the Methodist Church on Main Street. Anderson said that it is strictly a social event, open to all seniors in Philipstown.
At the libraries
While local libraries don’t necessarily design programs specifically for seniors, they do have services and programs that are often of great interest to older residents. Gillian Thorpe, director of the Butterfield Library in Cold Spring, said that book clubs and garden clubs that meet at the library are good examples.
She also delivers library materials to housebound seniors. “And with seniors turning to the Internet more and more for information, our staff offers computer training – though not restricted just to seniors,” Thorpe said. Butterfield Library has helped seniors with their tax returns. Thorpe said seniors would benefit from programs offering assistance in other areas of personal finance as well.
One area where Thorpe would like to expand programs is in training programs for seniors at Chestnut Ridge – specifically in the use of iPads because in Thorpes’ words, “that technology is simpler than computers.” Other libraries with seniors’ programs have also caught her eye. As part of “Senior Net” offered in the Kent library, seniors instruct other seniors; and in Fishkill, “Geek Squads” of young people work with seniors, teaching them various aspects of information technology.
The story is much the same at the Desmond-Fish Library in Garrison. “A lot of seniors use our tech help programs on Friday and Saturday,” Library Director Carol Donick said. Donick added that seniors also make up a good portion of the audience at guest lecture programs and talks given by authors. A group that specializes in knitting, quilting and other needlework meets at the library regularly and also includes a large number of seniors.
Photos by M. Turton