Sometimes all you need to feel happy is to mingle with other people. After all, no man is an island, and studies have shown that being lonely can lead to depression — which is why it’s important to get in your daily quota of socializing with others. This is especially true for those who are older, retired, and no longer have the added benefit of interacting with others at work or school every day.
Senior centers and programs in west Oakland County can help fill that void by providing a place for seniors to hang out with friends
“(Going to the senior center) helps us socialize,” said Carole Lapham, who frequents the Highland Township Adult Activity Center. “Once you stop working, you’re not seeing people every day.”
Senior centers also offer a chance to form new friendships or even find love — just ask some of the couples who met at the Highland Adult Activities Center.
“It’s like a second home, a place to come out and socialize,” said Emily England, director of Commerce Township’s Richardson Center. “We have a lot of widows and widowers who come. It’s a chance to see other faces. We get a lot of new people. Either they are new to the area, or just lost a spouse, or didn’t know we were here.”
“I like that people have a place to get together,” said Ottilie Kowalis, who serves on the Dublin Senior Center’s Advisory Council in White Lake Township. “We have fun. We have a lot of widows or widowers. We have a few couples that come and a lot of people come by themselves. It’s a chance for us to all get out of the house and have some fun.”
And there are often many opportunities for fun at senior centers, whether patrons are playing cards, catching a movie, sharing coffee with friends, or telling a joke or two.
And senior centers aren’t only about having fun. They offer support, exercise classes, and educational opportunities in addition to day and overnight trips, which often include casino trips and cost-effective day trips to places like Frankenmuth and The Henry Ford Museum.
“I like meeting new people and going to different places,” said Mary Boland, who frequents the Richardson Center in Commerce.
What follows is a run-down of the senior centers in the lakes area and a sampling of what they have to offer.
The Highland Adult Activity Center is located at 209 N. John Street next to the Township Hall and offers a wide variety of activities and educational opportunities. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Exercise classes are held in the Highland Middle School gym next door, while a trivia activity is held every Thursday at noon. There are piano and organ lessons, art and computer classes, Wii sports, cards and Bingo available. There’s a book club that meets on the last Thursday of the month, and at least two speakers come every month to discuss topics such as nutrition and pensions.
Recently the activity center held two meet-and-greet events with political candidates running in the upcoming elections.
And dogs are brought in for some pet therapy every Friday morning.
“We also have a lot of parties,” said Adult Activity Center Activities Director Heidi Bey. “We are always finding a reason to party, whether it’s Father’s Day or another holiday. We try to keep them going and thinking and doing. It’s not just crocheting here. We want to keep them entertained, which is why we plan different activities such as boating and picnics. The fellowship the seniors find here is important. We have resources here for them. And it’s an alternative to not just sitting at home all day watching TV by themselves. We really want more people to come in and take advantage of what we have to offer.”
“Some people that come here, it’s the only activity they have,” said Leona Cramer, one of the center’s patrons.
“We get to meet all new people here,” said Carol Roberts, another patron. “We need more people here to really make a go of it.”
Part of the problem may be a lack of transportation, especially since the center’s van has been out of commission, making it harder for seniors to get to the center — especially considering public transportation costs, which some seniors say is quite steep for someone on a limited income.
The center also is a participant in Meals on Wheels. Seniors 60-years-old and over can buy a meal for $3 daily, provided they call 24 hours in advance. Sally Sanner is the site coordinator and can be reached at 810-632-9963. For those under 60, the price is $5 per daily meal.
For more information on activities and trips offered, call the center at 248-887-1707.
The Richardson Center, located 1485 E. Oakley Park Road across from Walled Lake Central High School, sees between 50 and 100 people walk through its doors on a daily basis, according to England, the center’s director.
“Some days it’s more,” she said. “It all depends on the programs and activities on that day.”
The center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and offers a variety of activities, including Bingo, a sewing circle, movie days on Thursdays, woodcarving on Wednesdays, and art groups on Fridays. There are health and finance seminars covering topics such as Alzheimer’s disease, pain awareness, and long-term care. There are also specialty days held, such as Ice Cream Day and Root Beer Float Day. For a full list of events, read the center’s newsletter at commercetwp.com or call 248-926-0063.
Cards are played daily, with bridge played on Mondays, Euchre on Tuesdays, Pinochle on Wednesdays, and games of choice on Fridays.
Bingo is also a big draw on Mondays.
“I enjoy playing Bingo, and getting together to socialize with the ladies on Monday,” said Esther Camardese, a Richardson Center patron. “The center also sponsors nice trips. I take advantage of them when I can.”
“I like talking to people, playing Bingo, and just sitting around and talking with friends,” said May Fendelet, another patron.
Doris Lelli said she really appreciates the center’s ability to lend medical equipment.
“I think it’s nice that they lend medical supplies such as walkers and wheel chairs,” she said. “I borrowed one for my neighbor and she was so grateful.”
The Dublin Senior Center is located at 685 Union Lake Road in White Lake and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“It’s very frequently used,” said Dublin Senior Center Director Kathy Gordinear. “We have a good handful of seniors who are here every day.”
Some of the biggest draws for seniors are the health and fitness classes offered for a low fee of $5 per class, or six classes for $24.
“We are very proud to have more health and fitness classes than many other senior centers in the area,” Gordinear said. “It’s a big draw for the Baby Boomers.”
Classes are conducted by certified instructors and include yoga, line dancing, Zumba, and stretch and strength training, in addition to other cardiovascular exercises.
In addition to fitness classes, the center has different classes and seminars available such as computer instruction, Bridge, and piano and art lessons.
There’s also line dancing and Wii bowling. Dublin has even formed a Wii bowling league which lasts for eight weeks.
There’s book club meetings every third Thursday of the month, and a podiatrist comes in every first Thursday. Manicures are available every fourth Friday and massage therapy can be obtained every second Wednesday. Ask a Nurse events are held every first Friday of the month and Ask the Attorney events are offered every last Wednesday, in addition to many more activities, which people can learn more about by calling 248-698-2394 or by looking at the center’s newsletter online at whitelaketwp.com/DublinCenter.asp.
The potential to meet new people is another big draw for seniors.
“I didn’t know anybody here when I first moved,” said Gloria Schantz, adding that the center is a way for her to make friends in the community.
Added Paula Slack, another patron: “It’s convenient and close by. People here are very friendly.”
Transportation is offered for seniors in White Lake, Commerce, and the village of Wolverine Lake to the center, medical appointments, work, the grocery store, pharmacies and more for a suggested donation of $2 each way.
“I love it,” said Ottilie Kowalis of the transportation system. “Without it, I couldn’t come here.”
“And without her we can’t go on. When she isn’t here, we are lost,” said Kowalis’ friend, Helen Zale, who comes to play Bingo with Kowalis on Mondays and Fridays.
“I like to be with the ladies,” Zale said. “And we always have new people and friends bringing friends, even friends from Florida.”
“The senior center keeps them young and active,” Gordinear said. “It’s something to look forward to.”
The Wixom Senior Center draws people from all over Oakland County for camaraderie, fitness activities and sheer enjoyment. Energy abounds in a variety of activities. Whether it’s exercise in a Zumba class, using creative juices to paint or weave a basket, or chatting away with friends at a luncheon, the center is a place seniors can find stimulation and comfort.
Wixom resident Celia Boyea said the center has been a positive outlet for her for nearly seven years.
“Companionship is pretty important for an older person and I’ve found good friends, and a great Scrabble partner,” Boyea said. “We’re here to have fun. A lot of us have a story to tell, but we keep the conversation lively and positive.”
For a small fee, seniors have access to programming such as massage therapy, member luncheons, yoga/Zumba, Bingo, pot lucks, movies, game or creative writing clubs, and special events.
Wixom resident Joan Rourke has been coming to the center for about 15 years.
“I’ve made a lot of friends and come here often,” she said. “Now there’s lots of new people and membership has really grown. We have game days and now have a Mahjong group where about 16 of us meet twice a week.”
Senior Center Coordinator Tracy McMahan and Parks and Recreation Director Deanna Magee are appreciated by senior center members and know many of them by name.
“I keep coming back because of these girls and the people I meet,” Rourke said. “The program is consistent and Tracy does a wonderful job, like on the luncheons and dinner dances with entertainment.”
McMahan obtains sponsors to pay for speakers, who routinely address nutrition and health initiatives, legal matters and financial planning.
Meals on Wheels comes in twice a week for $4.
Heart and blood pressure checks are conducted once a month. Seminars and screenings are free-of-charge services.
“I am always trying to get something in here that’s different,” McMahan said. “There are different factions here because everybody likes different things.”
For example, McMahan recently helped earn a Brooksie Way mini-grant for $1,000 to enhance exercise classes currently offered to seniors by purchasing new exercise equipment.
She also incorporated into the schedule a once-a-month luncheon for veterans.
“We get about 20 (veterans) and Tracy always makes something homemade for them,” Magee said.
Some young-at-heart seniors enjoy the extensive travel opportunities. From visiting casinos or Detroit Tigers games to overnight stays Up North to European tours, these trips serve a certain niche of seniors.
The Wixom Senior Center is housed within the Community Center, adjacent to the Wixom Public Library at 49015 Pontiac Trail. Normal hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday unless a special event is scheduled. Facilities include a lounge and stage room for classes and special events. Community Center rooms are also utilized if necessary.
Membership fees are $7 per year for Wixom residents and $12 for non-residents. Subsequent costs for activities vary.
Walled Lake appropriates money in its budget annually so Walled Lake residents can use the center as if they were Wixom residents.
Apart from being the benefactors of a fun and energetic environment, the seniors who attend the center are known for giving back to the community.
“They are always coming up with ideas to donate to the community,” McMahan said. “At the holidays, they do a couple food drives and organize back-to-school drivers for school supplies that are donated to Hospitality House.”
“We support the events in the community by giving time to such projects as Founders’ Day and the summer concerts,” Boyea said.
Members also show support toward one another at the center.
“Some of us help each other by taking those who can’t drive to the doctor or reach out and help occasionally,” Boyea said. “We also try to get a card to each person if they are ill, and if someone dies we contribute a book to the library inscribed with the person’s name.”
For more information, call 248-624-0870.
The Waterford Senior Center is more than an activity and meeting place for those 50-years-old and up. It’s a self-supporting effort with services impacting those from the cradle to the elderly.
The center is a multi-purpose facility located at 3621 Pontiac Lake Road, the site of the former Leggett Elementary School. It is still owned and operated by the Waterford School District. While the program has been running since 1973, it moved to the Leggett campus five years ago. There is programming for active seniors, adult day care services, an outreach department, Focus: HOPE, as well as an on-site preschool and day care.
“We are unique in that we have childcare from birth to 4-years-old, preschool and adult day care for Alzheimer’s, dementia and end-of-life seniors,” said Maureen Margraf, assistant to the coordinator and program and nutrition supervisor.
In 2001, the center became the 51st National Council on Aging accredited senior center in the country.
“Our members and visitors come on a regular basis from Clarkston, White Lake, West Bloomfield, Pontiac, Keego Harbor, and as far as Ortonville,” said Supervisor of Auxiliary Services Donielle Fidler.
“Membership ebbs and flows — it’s difficult because you form bonds and then you lose them,” Margraf said. “Still we get new members every day.”
Lunch is served at the center Monday through Friday at noon. There is a suggested donation of $3 .
“A lot eat lunch here every day,” Fidler said. “Many of them think of it as being part of something bigger and part of a home.”
A comprehensive Meals on Wheels program, along with a Focus: HOPE food pantry for low-income seniors, is available on a daily basis.
“All our Meals on Wheels drivers are volunteers and deliver Monday through Friday and on most major holidays,” Margraf said. “Some of them take our seniors under their wings and buy cat food, litter, and do extra things.”
The Meals on Wheels program services 150 people a day.
Focus: HOPE routinely feeds 132 seniors who receive a box of government surplus food. The program is supervised by Carylsue Evanoff, a volunteer who has dedicated her time to the program since 1992.
“We also have emergency boxes for anyone where there is no food in the house, that way they are not sent away empty handed,” Evanoff said. “But then we point them in the right direction.”
“There are literally people in Waterford who are going without food or sharing food with their pets,” Margraf added. “The center is also a place of comfort. We have lonely, depressed seniors and those doing without basic comforts like air conditioning.”
In addition, there’s a snack bar open from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. which features homemade soups ($1.50), sandwiches and salads ($2), fresh fruit (50 cents), and beverages (50 cents).
Membership for residents is $20 per household annually; non-residents pay $25 per household annually.
For the seniors’ use, there are over a dozen classrooms, a gym, a gift shop, a wood shop, a bistro lunch room, and four activity rooms, including one with two pool tables.
There is $1 drop-in fee for most programs.
Moreover, there is grief and caregiver support, seminars, and health screenings available at no charge.
About one-third of the 2,000-plus members enjoy special events and a travel program that offers day trips to casinos and downtown Detroit, and longer excursions to New York City and national parks out West.
Other perks include a massage therapist visit once a week and a social worker who visits twice a week.
Other opportunities for socialization — such as a deaf and hearing-impaired group, a quilting group, Euchre and Pinochle groups, and a jam session ensemble — occur periodically.
“(The Jam Session ensemble has) as many as 11 playing different instruments at one time … and they even play at some of our special events and nursing homes,” Fidler said.
Waterford resident Frank Surhigh spearheaded the jam session concept.
“I wasn’t playing with anybody, so I came down here and asked if I could get a couple guys together and now we’ve been doing this for a year and a half,” Surhigh said.
The wood shop group is dubbed the “Bistro Bums,” and the “Bistro Babes” is a welcoming committee of sorts.
“We’re here five days a week,” said Waterford resident Joyce Fisher. “We’re greeters, and a pretty young group at heart.”
West Bloomfield Township resident Joan Climard said she goes to the Waterford center since there isn’t one available in her area.
“I’ve been coming here for four years since we don’t have one near me,” she said.
“A lot of us are retired and don’t travel a lot, so it’s a nice, reasonably priced place to come and (is) better than sitting at home,” Fisher said. “We develop a lot of friendships.”
The Outreach Center on site provides Medicare and Medicaid counseling, along with housing and other resources such as a medical equipment loan center where wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and other equipment is available.
The Encore Program, supervised by Erin Asdell, provides the seniors with structured recreational activities like music, exercise, cooking, games, memory stimulation, and group discussions in a safe environment. Recently they played balloon volleyball.
“It was a blast,” Asdell said. “There’s a theme every day and it’s good for significant others that can go grocery shopping or participate in Senior Center activities.”
The Waterford Senior Center could not function without its contingency of volunteers, Fidler said.
“We have close to 400 volunteers every year,” she said. “Mostly it’s seniors helping take care of the senior population, which is extraordinary.”
Learn more by calling 248-738-4710 or visiting waterford.k12.mi.us/seniorcenter/.
The Milford Senior Center is located across from the Milford Civic Center at 1050 Atlantic Street and provides numerous services, classes and activities for residents 50-years-old and over in the community.
Built in 1989, the Senior Center is now over two decades old and has evolved into not only a gathering place for Milford’s seniors, but also an institution that reaches out to the community.
Nancy Hinzmann is the Senior Center’s director, while Debbie Shew serves as the activities director.
The Senior Center also has its own official board, which meets the second Monday of every month at 3:30 p.m.
In addition to regular activities, the center provides bus trips to destinations that have recently included stops in Traverse City and even Atlantic City, N.J.
The Senior Center also provides daily van transportation on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for adults 55-years-old and older or certified handicapped seniors to appointments, whether those appointments are for a doctor or a hairdresser.
Fees for transportation are $4 each way inside Milford and Highland Township, while transportation to medical appointments or transportation outside Milford and Highland up to 16 miles is $8 each way.
Reservations must be made 24 hours in advance, preferably between 8 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., by calling 248-887-4979.
Lunch is served every weekday at the Senior Center at noon for seniors 60 and over for a $3 donation. Reservations can be made by calling 248-684-0705 by 11 a.m. at least one weekday prior to the day a senior wishes to eat.
The Milford Senior Center’s regular schedule of activities is as follows:
• Walking Class, 10 a.m.;
• Awareness Through Movement, 10:30 a.m.;
• Veterans Lunch, noon (third Monday of the month);
• Ask the Attorney, 1:00 p.m. (second Monday of the month);
• Board Meeting, 3:30 p.m. (second Monday of the month).
• Stretch & Strength, 10:45 a.m.;
• Bridge, noon;
• Red Hats, noon (fourth Tuesday of the month);
• Bingo, 1 p.m. (first and third Tuesdays of the month);
• Pot Luck, 5 p.m. (third Tuesday of the month).
• Line Dancing, 10 a.m.;
• Birthday Lunch, noon (second Tuesday of the month);
• Wii Bowling, 12:30 p.m.
• Stretch & Strength, 10:45 a.m.;
• Euchre, 12:30 p.m.;
• Pinochle, 1 p.m.
• Coffee Club, all morning;
• Sewing (quilting), 10 a.m.;
• Friday Morning Squares Knit/Crocheting, 10 a.m.;
• Staff of U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Waterford, White Lake, Highland, Milford, Commerce, Wolverine Lake, Walled, Wixom), 10 a.m. (first Friday of the month); and
• Wii Bowling, 12:30 p.m.
For more information and to download the Senior Center’s newsletters and calendars, visit milfordtownship.org or villageofmilford.org. For information on Senior Center activities, call 248-685-9008.
While West Bloomfield Township does not have a senior center building itself, the township’s Parks and Recreation Department provides a wide range of activities and outings for the township’s senior citizens.
The department provides Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) transportation for residents who are 55-years-old and over, and persons
under the age of 55 with a disability, Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Transportation is available weekdays from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule transportation, call 248-706-2411 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Transportation is $1 each way and is available to Parks and Recreation programs, and medical appointments within the township and up to six miles outside of the township. Non-medical transportation within the township and up to one mile outside of the township is also provided.
A complete list of activities and prices can be found in the department’s “Pathways” magazine that can be downloaded from the Parks and Recreation homepage, westbloomfieldparks.org, in the upper left-hand corner.
Seniors interested in participating in activities can register by calling 248-451-1900 or by logging onto westbloomfieldparks.org and clicking on “online registration.”
Among the more popular exercise activities offered are “Stretch and Tone,” a flexibility training class held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. at The Corners, 2075 Walnut Lake Road, until Aug. 30.
Senior Coordinator Denny Troshak said that Stretch and Tone averages 50 people per session and that it has drawn 1,660 people through June.
The Ageless Grace program “21 Simple Tools for Lifelong Comfort and Ease” will also be held from Wednesday, July 11 through Aug. 29 at the Recreation Activities Center, with residents being charged $57 for the entire program and non-residents paying a fee of $67.
All of the exercises are designed to be practiced in a chair and will focus on different anti-aging techniques such as joint mobility, spinal flexibility, right-left brain coordination, cognitive function, systemic stimulation, balance, confidence and playfulness.
Early registration is being accepted for Ageless Grace before Wednesday, July 4, with residents being charged $52 and non-residents being charged $62.
Seniors who are hoping to transfer their priceless photos onto a computer can learn how at a special computer class on Thursday, July 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
The Recreation Activities Center at 4640 Walnut Lake Road will also be hosting birthday parties from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 31 and Aug. 28 in the game room, with no registration required and cake and other assortments being served.
Seniors are also invited to the open game room on Mondays and Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to play whatever games they wish.
The open game room is sponsored by the West Bloomfield Nursing Center and no registration is required, but participants in a group of 10 or more are asked to call one week in advance so that accommodations can be made.
Troshak said that about 1,400 people have attended open game room so far this year.
Also on Aug. 21, the West Bloomfield Family Aquatic Center will host the Surf and Turf Party celebration, sponsored by Heartland-West Bloomfield, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be water and land activities in addition to a surf and turf meal prepared by the recreation center’s culinary staff.
In addition to the activities provided, the Parks and Recreation Department also provides outings for seniors, including the Out-to-Lunch Brunch program that provides transportation from the activities center to restaurants across southeast Michigan, giving seniors aged 55 and up a chance to mingle.
So far 463 seniors have participated in the brunch program, according to Troshak.
The brunch program will be heading to Papa Vino’s in Northville on July 11, July 13 and July 18, with the bus departing at 11 a.m.
Then the bus will head to Sinbad’s in Detroit on July 25, July 27 and Aug. 1 before going to the Fox Grill in Bloomfield Hills on Aug. 8, 10 and 15 with the bus departing at 10:30 a.m.
The program will then take seniors on a Mystery Trip, North of Canada, on Aug. 22, 24 and 29, with the bus departing at 11 a.m.
Transportation can be arranged to these events by calling 248-706-2411 or by visiting the activities center.
On July 17, seniors can enjoy an afternoon at the movies at the Birmingham Palladium Theater, which includes a buffet lunch and tickets to a first-run movie, with the bus departing at 11:15 a.m.
On July 24, an outing to the Eastern Market in Detroit will be provided and on Aug. 27, seniors can enjoy a visit to The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and the Titanic exhibition.
In addition, activities are provided for seniors aged 50 and up to enjoy with their grand-children aged 7 to 11, including an outing to Greenfield Village on Tuesday, July 10.
Then on July 25, seniors and their grand-children can enjoy a game of bocce ball at the activities center, followed by a trip to the Chrysler Museum and BD’s Mongolian Barbeque in Auburn Hills on Aug. 2.
Then on Aug. 23, the Parks and Recreation Department will provide an outing to a Detroit Tigers game.
Staff writers Michael Shelton and Leslie Shepard contributed to this report.