As part of their Catholic School Week activities, the St. Rocco School community welcomed Anthony Zompa, director of the Johnston Senior Center, and Rhonda Sasa, a St. Rocco parent and Advisory Board secretary for the center, to the school last Wednesday. The students collected food for the seniors and presented Zompa and Sasa with a check to help with other expenses at the center.
"Every little bit helps," said Principal Lorraine Moschella, who noted that she comes from a long line of family members involved in caring for seniors.
The Johnston Senior Center, located on Hartford Avenue, recently went through the rigors of an accreditation process, ensuring that their services to seniors are the very best that they can be. Sasa and Zompa shared with the students some of the activities offered by the center as well as ways that they, as a younger generation, can help seniors in their community and in their own families.
"The Senior Center is not a hospital or a nursing home, it's very different," said Zompa. "At 8:30 a.m., there are exercise classes daily, Monday through Friday. We have all kinds of programs in our Wellness Center, including chair exercise, Zumba, weights and yoga. We have lunch at the center, but we also have volunteers every single day that deliver meals to seniors in their homes.”
Zompa described other, more social activities that the seniors enjoy at the center.
"We do a lot of fun activities. They play Hi Lo Jack and Poker, and they have tournaments, they do line dancing and ballroom dancing, and they play Bingo," he said.
He also noted that there are many educational programs offered at the center, and said that the enthusiasm from the seniors for such programs amazes him.
"Many of our seniors have a desire to learn to use computers because they want to be able to communicate with you. A lot of your grandparents may come to the Senior Center to learn to communicate with you," Zompa said. "We also offered a digital camera class because many seniors receive digital cameras as gifts but then don't know how to use them."
He told the story of one 80-year-old grandmother who wanted to learn how to send an email so that she could write to her granddaughter.
"At the end of the class, she sent her granddaughter an email. The very next day she was at the front door of the center, waiting to see if there was an answer. And there was. To this day, she still comes to the center," Zompa said.
Sasa spoke to the students a bit about the accreditation process, noting that being accredited means that "the center provides outstanding services and leadership for older adults," and that the "programs meet the standards of excellence."
She encouraged the students to become more involved with seniors, both in their community and in their own families.
"You are never too young to help volunteer your services, and there are many opportunities for service. Most high schools ask for volunteer hours, and helping seniors is a great way to help you get those hours," Sasa said.
She explained that spending time with seniors can be very helpful for them.
"There are many opportunities for you to help them. You can help them with the new phones, the Internet, computers, you can teach them how to Skype, because they didn't grow up with these things," Sasa said. "Set them up on these sites and then go home and send them a move on one of their games, like Scrabble. Spend some time with them and they will love it. It will also help them with their memories and let them use their imaginations."
She explained that working with seniors doesn't just help the older generation, but that the students can learn from them as well.
"The most valuable thing you have is your time and you need to spend it with these seniors. Everything you do is helpful," he said.
Both Zompa and Sasa expressed appreciation for all of the items donated to the center, including posters that were made to decorate the walls of the building for the new year.
"We want to say thank you,” Zompa said. “We appreciate all of your efforts and it would be wonderful if you would do this every year.”