The Remarkable Work of Chelsea Senior Center

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By Doug Marrin

Another remarkable thing about Chelsea is its Senior Center. It’s a community effort, and we can all be proud.

At the April 18, 2022, Chelsea City Council meeting, Chelsea Senior Center Director Bill O’Reilly highlighted a few of the Center’s many accomplishments this past year. The report was part of the Senior Center’s funding request to the City.

The Senior Center requested $35,000 from the City’s budget for its next fiscal year, which the Council approved. O’Reilly projects this to cover 8% of the Center’s costs. The Center increased its request this year from $30,000, the City’s subsidy since 2015, when the amount covered 14% of the Center’s expenses.

O’Reilly read off a list of the Senior Center’s most notable highlights, and Chelsea can be proud.

  • Over 1,000 area seniors, the largest segment of them Chelsea residents, have a place to go for needed services, over 250 activities per month, and much needed socialization.
  • Over 500 meals are prepared and delivered to home-bound seniors, most of which are Chelsea residents, through the Meals on Wheels program. Daily on-site hot lunches are available.
  • Multigenerational programs connect school-aged children and seniors using resources such as the Trinh Pifer Intergeneration Garden.

As O’Reilly explained to the Sun Times News in an email, socialization is vital. “Due to COVID, we were closed for on-site activities for about a year. When we reopened, we were surprised and saddened to see a dramatic drop in the physical and mental skills of many members who live alone and were largely cut off during that period from social interactions. Scientific research shows a strong correlation between physical and mental health as it relates to keeping socially active.”

Continuing O’ Reilly’s list of highlights:

  • Free access to medically related programs such as “Ask an Expert,” “Matter of Balance,” and “TOPS” weight management classes. Retired physician Dr. Gary Maynard offers free check-ins with a blood pressure check. Foot care and massage professionals also provide services.
  • Newly introduced programs such as “Connections Café” to help those dealing with early-stage memory issues and their caregivers.
  • The ROAM (Rural Older Adults in Motion) transportation program through WAVE and the Center’s van.
  • Accessible technology support and services through the C2S2 (Chelsea Community Senior Services) program include access to services for their home, medical referrals, family support, and more.
  • Movement classes include Enhance Fitness, Zumba Gold, Line Dancing, Movin’ & Groovin', Gentle Yoga, Tai Chi, Line Dancing, Walking Club, Pickleball, and Square Dancing.
  • Creative groups such as Quilting, Sewing, Painting, Stained Glass, Woodcarving, Knitting & Crochet, Paper Crafts, Ukulele, Writers Group, Musical Jam Sessions, and a Barbershop Chorus.
  • Activities include reading, puzzles, and games like Bingo, Mah Jong, Euchre, Cribbage, Hand & Foot, Dominos’ Mexican Train, Pinochle, and Bridge.

O’Reilly told the Council that plans for this year include implementing in-home tech support, providing free tablets for home-bound seniors, and respite care for families dealing with memory, physical, or other intensive conditions.

“And quite bluntly, we’re saving lives and adding years to the lives of these vital citizens of Chelsea and beyond,” said O’Reilly. “And I should add that we no longer have a minimum age requirement.”

When asked to elaborate on that last, somewhat surprising statement of no age minimum, O’Reilly responded, “It started with the Pickleball players. We noted a lower age group was coming in. Also, we are putting a greater push now on Intergenerational Activities to bring seniors and school-age kids into greater contact through programs and activities. We realized that we shouldn’t restrict the interactions to those who are school age. So, it just made sense to eliminate any barriers to joining. Though without question, we will always have our primary focus on seniors.”

O’Reilly is not suggesting this, but who knows? Maybe someday, the word “Senior” will be dropped altogether from the Chelsea Senior Center. That is how vital these engaging programs and services are to seniors and all ages at a time when we really need them.

But quietly and unnoticed as the Chelsea Senior Center has gone about bolstering its programs and services, it could never be achieved without the community. As O’Reilly notes, “Because of the Chelsea taxpayers and support from City Council members, and Mayors, the Chelsea Senior Center has been able to provide these benefits to Chelsea residents for nearly 50 years.”

Photo credit: Doug Marrin

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