Santilli: JSC isn't your grandparents' senior center anymore

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People are living longer and are no longer old at 50, 60, 70, 80 or even 90. Today people of age are still working, traveling, more conscience of their health and what it takes to continue to have an active life.

Most people of age are exercising regularly, watching their diets and making much more healthy choices.

The Johnston Senior Center has long realized that our Baby Boomers were coming and in full force, so we have been changing the perception that most people have about what a senior center is. Over the years we have continually heard the age-old response to the question, “Why don’t you come to the center?” The answer has always been, “I’m not old enough,” or “I don’t want to be with old people!”

Well, whether or not you want to admit your age, we must face it we have aged, but in numbers only and not in spirit. Our minds still function 20 years younger than our bodies and we can still do everything we use to. It just takes a little longer, but who cares? We’re not in a rush we have earned the right to stop and smell the roses, and still have plenty of time to get the job done.

We here at the JSC embrace the maturity of our fellow peers, and have created a unique venue that accommodates all our friends of age and allows them to continue to be creative, active, and remain “forever young!”

I will always remember my dear friends and neighbors, Nancy and Ray Calderone, who were a lot older than I was; Nancy always embraced her age with style and dignity. I remember saying to my husband when we were only in our 40s sitting on our deck watching as Nancy and Ray were going out on a Saturday night all dressed up, hair done, etc., “I want to be like them when I get older.”

Well, here I am older and still getting dressed and going out on a Saturday night, always looking for good food and somewhere to dance. Nancy would always say, “Age is just mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!” Nancy Calderone lived a full life well into her 90s. Who would have thought that I, along with our director Anthony Zompa and our center coordinator Denise Bell, would be responsible for bringing the Baby Boomers full circle and providing a venue they can be proud to belong, too? Today our peers don’t look at our building as a senior center; instead they view it as their own private club, which is what we wanted when we took on this endeavor of building the center and then finally opening the building in 2008. We also took on the vigorous accreditation process to become what we are today, a top-of-the-line senior center everyone in the town can be proud of. It hasn’t always been an easy road, we have had our share of hurdles to overcome, but we are not quitters and so here we are today running a vibrant center full of life.

When you look at our members, you can see it is very difficult to pinpoint anyone’s age, as a matter of fact sometimes the younger people look older than the older people. Being of our age, we have come from a generation where you always dressed up, your hair was always perfect, and you always wore makeup even to go out to get the mail! Jeans were not part of our wardrobe; classic, tailored, stylish clothes were what we wore and still wear. Sometimes even clothes that are a little sexy, as to remind us that we still have it! This is why our mission at the JSC is to always be true to who we are and continue to provide you with a place you can be proud of; we like to think we keep you forever young!

We get asked all the time, “What kind of programs do you have?” Here’s an idea of what some of our programs are and what we do at the JSC. Our exercise programs for example include the everyday walk away the pounds exercise class that happens every morning at 8:30, Zumba, Line dancing, moderate exercise, Tai Chi Chuan, Yoga, and coming soon a six-week boot camp program to jump-start your weight-loss program. The gym is open every day, and can be used as long as a scheduled class is not going on.

Trips are always a big hit here at the center. We have it all – day trips, overnight trips, four-day trips, and even bigger trips in and out of the country. We are looking into Nashville, Cocoa Beach and Orlando, Florida, Bermuda Cruise, Austria and Switzerland, the Azores, New York for the holidays, Niagara Falls, Atlantic City, Las Vegas and even a riverboat cruise. Our goal is to provide a venue that can be accommodating to everyone’s interest. We like to call ourselves the one-stop shopping.

Along with are many trips, we also have dinner dances with some of the best entertainment around. We have wine and painting nights that are extremely successful. There are cooking demo’s, painting classes, piano lessons, computer classes, mystery lunches, bocce, special luncheons, card tournaments, casino trips, shopping trips, and so much more. Let’s not forget our ever-popular Bingo twice a week. The JSC is proud to be a vital part of the community always providing a variety of social events and entertainment to our peers of age. We are a force not to be reckoned with!

Now the JSC is not just a place to go for fun, we also provide a social service department with trained social workers and CIS workers. We can accommodate any of your needs at any given time. We pride ourselves on never letting you leave without getting an answer. We don’t send you on wild goose chases; we go above and beyond to help find what you need. We do the work for you.

Every year, for your convenience, we have trained tax preparers come into the center to prepare your taxes. There is no charge for seniors.

If you are looking for other services, the JSC has the University of Rhode Island administer free blood tests, and provide seminars with various topics. URI also provides a monthly flyer on good nutrition, and menus. The JSC provides health fairs, woman’s expos, investment workshops, legal help for wills, power of attorney forms and more. We work closely with the R.I. Bar Association, which provides free counseling for seniors.

The JSC is a participant in the federal senior companion program, which is run from the center, and as of now we have nine senior companions who visit and help homebound seniors with a once week visit, and/or do grocery shopping for them.

The JSC is not your grandmother’s center anymore. The JSC has a highly trained staff that can provide assistance and direct you to the proper person with any if not all your other needs. We are also very blessed at the JSC with a fantastic group of well-trained volunteers who give they’re time everyday in all departments to help us run the center like a fine-tooth comb. These dedicated volunteers are our backbone and we are forever grateful to them. We always say we couldn’t do it without them.

Our qualified and professional staff, Anthony, myself and Denise, come to you with years of experience and knowledge in not only the corporate business world, but also years of working with elderly affairs, the retirement industries, and other senior centers around the state. Combined, we have years of experience in geriatrics, finance, marketing, programming, social services and all other aspects of running a center of this caliber. We are very proud of our accomplishments and we understand and take seriously the importance of our positions.

Take a minute and stop in to see what the buzz is about. We are sure you will be pleasantly surprised and leave with a different point of view. The JSC is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. We look forward to seeing you!

Millie Santilli is the assistant director of the Johnston Senior Center.

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