There’s a new Council on Aging director in town, and on September 30 she spent the afternoon meeting and greeting some of the patrons of the Rochester Senior Center. And if you are of a mature age and never before thought about stopping by, Cheryl Randall-Mach is hoping you soon will.
Through her work with the Association for the Relief of Aged Women of New Bedford (ARAW), and experience working with other local councils on aging, Randall-Mach has become familiar with the council on aging of today versus how they’ve always been thought of in the past.
To Randall-Mach, senior centers now feel more like community centers as more intergenerational activities become more common. “A lot of the activities are very community-based,” she said. “And I think that’s wonderful, engaging all people of different generations is important… because seniors are living longer and often you still have that generation gap.”
The stigma attached to the perception of a “senior center” is giving way to this new community center ambience as the outdated preconceived notion of “grandma’s senior center” is transformed by an aging Baby Boomer population. This next generation of contemporary seniors just doesn’t think of themselves as, well, “old,” suggested Randal-Mach. The “younger” seniors, she says, “They’re more open.”
A lot of the activities the Rochester Senior Center offers are geared toward this population Randall-Mach is seeking to attract – especially men who have historically been the minority of the COA crowd – with, for example, group trips to sporting events. As the Baby Boomers age, she said, the needs of the population are changing, resulting in a change of the types of programming senior centers offer.
“We always will look at things like that. Most of our ideas for activities come from the seniors,” she said. “It’s not your grandmother’s senior center anymore.”
Every senior center has its own “flavor”, said Randall-Mach. “They all have their own unique personality.” And Rochester’s, evidently, is a good one, given that about 40 percent of attendees of the Rochester COA are from other towns and cities.
Randall-Mach said it’s been a great transition for her into Rochester, and she is excited about the multiple grants coming in to fund future projects and programs. She said she is still investigating some of the ideas for new activities and programs, including a potential social day program for Rochester so residents won’t have to travel out of town to other COAs like Fairhaven for these services.
In the meantime, Randall-Mach urges potential new members to come and check out the Rochester Senior Center at 67 Dexter Lane. She said the staff is very warm and welcoming and the door is always open – during business hours, that is, which are weekdays from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. Breakfast is served at the Ye Olde Breakfast Shoppe every weekday morning from 7:00 am to 9:00 am, operated by the Friends of the Rochester Senior Center and the Rochester Lions Club. You can also register a day in advance for a hot lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday every week at noon.
Visit www.rochestermaseniorcenter.com for a look at the newsletter, program list, and upcoming events.
By Jean Perry