Redefining Aging in Central Vermont

by  Dan Groberg

Activity Room at the Montpelier Senior Actvity Center. Courtesy Photo

Activity Room at the Montpelier Senior Actvity Center. Courtesy Photo

MONTPELIER — A typical day at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center is a whirlwind of activity. On the first floor, seniors enjoy the music of the Swingin’ Over Sixty Band before joining their friends for a delicious meal. A group of seniors prepare to set out to pick up litter around town while another browses senior service information in the resource library. Upstairs in the movement studio, seniors stretch and move in classes such as yoga and tai chi. Down the hall, a group meets to share poetry with each other. More than 150 seniors participate each day.

“The Montpelier Senior Activity Center is one of the best resources in Montpelier,” said one member. “It feels like a second home to me. I’ve met wonderful people and taken several classes that have enriched my life.”

Each quarter, the center offers more than 60 weekly classes in a surprisingly diverse set of topics. This quarter, the classes range from drawing, to rock and roll singing, to film appreciation, to Tango. Classes start at $20 for a 12-week class, and financial aid is available. More than 80 percent of attendees say that they feel healthier as a result of their participation.

“Over the years I have watched my students grow in community and friendships and of course, become healthier,” said yoga instructor Patty Crawford, who has been teaching yoga at the center for more than seven years. “I don’t know how much of that would be possible without (the center).”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the center, which has been located at its current home at 58 Barre St. for more than 20 years. A renovation project following a 2009 fire created a bright, modern and welcoming space.

The center recently passed 1,000 members for the first time in its 50-year history, and has grown by more than 150 members in the last three years. More than one-in-five Montpelier residents over the age of 50 are members, but the highest growth has been in members from surrounding towns, who now represent nearly a third of total membership. Membership is open to anyone 50 or older. There are more than 400 members participating in movement classes like our 19 weekly yoga classes.

Members take advantage of classes, reduced rates on swimming, tennis, and the gym at First in Fitness, discounted membership at Rehab Gym, a computer lab, extensive selection of games and puzzles and more. Annual dues for membership are $15 for Montpelier residents, $30 for residents of Berlin, Calais, E. Montpelier, Moretown, Middlesex, or Worcester and $50 for residents of other towns. Membership runs from July through June, and will be offered at half price for anyone who wishes to join for the spring quarter.

The center offers dozens of trips each year, to destinations near and far. Along with day trips to area museums and theaters, walking trips and an annual trip to a Red Sox game, the Center’s members also travel further afield. This April, 11 members are embarking on a 10-day trip to China, where they will learn about Chinese medicine and senior life in China while exploring the nation’s sights.

The FEAST Senior Meals Program offers community meals every Tuesday and Friday, as well as producing home-delivered meals. In a recent week, they served seared salmon with hollandaise sauce and spinach, and braised Hungarian chicken and mushroom stew, with polenta and local cabbage. Last year, the program produced more than 17,000 meals, the majority of which were delivered to home-bound seniors. More than 100 volunteers make the program successful each year, helping produce meals alongside CIA-trained chef Justin Turcotte, setting up the dining room, and delivering meals.

“I enjoy working with seniors,” said meals volunteer Linda Workman. “I’ve spent all my life working with seniors. I enjoy their stories. I help in the kitchen, set up for meals and even help in the dishroom if they need it!”

All are welcome to enjoy the community meals on Tuesdays and Fridays at noon. Meals are no charge with a suggested $7 donation. For more information, or to sign up to volunteer, contact Jessica Sanderson at 262-6288.

The center also offers a variety of engaging events and lectures, many of which are open to all at no or low cost. The center has planned a series of travel presentations hosted by members. On Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m., John Snell will display photographs from his recent trip to Cuba.

For information on upcoming events, visit www.montpelier-vt.org/msac or call the Center at 223-2518.

The author is director of programs and development at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center.

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