Written by Liz McHale
While losing weight and quitting smoking are challenging, making and keeping those social connections can be even harder. Our built-in network of family and friends can unravel as time goes by. Children often move away to build their careers and families. As they age, some of our friends move. Others pass away. After a while, there’s no one around to hang out with or to lend a hand when we need help.
Building new connections can seem really difficult late in life. So how can we can start aging well socially again? The Pasadena Senior Center offers dozens of ways to meet people and make new friends. Executive Director Akila Gibbs says the Center “tries to not only provide community, but also to create community through activities.”
After Pasadena resident Mary Washington suddenly became a widow, she turned to the Center to help her connect with people. “I came here where I could interact with other seniors, and that helped me tremendously.” Now she volunteers during the Center’s lunch service and helps introduce newcomers to other diners. Robbie Gregory-Hancox started volunteering in the lunch program when she retired. She finds Center members get a lot more than food when they show up for lunch. “When they sit at a table they find themselves talking, talking, talking to different people around them” and they learn different things. Frank Van Joolen lives alone and he enjoys talking with Center members from around the world. “I enjoy the company of the people. We have a table here that we’ve kind of become friends.”
Many members make new connections by joining the Center’s diverse classes, clubs and activity groups. Christine Celata met some of her new friends in the Sy Graff Fitness Center. “This place is like a second home to me,” she explains.I I get up in the morning, and I don’t think, ok, you’re going to go in there and work out. I think, I’ll get to see Alden, I get to see Kathy.” In the billiards room down the hall, top notch pool players from around the area bond over the love of the game. Member Glen Constantino refers to the group as “a very good family, a family of pool freaks.”
For members who are looking to make connections, Gibbs recommends volunteering at the Center as a good way to learn about what goes on, and to meet other volunteers. Members can meet people with similar interests by signing up for some of the Center’s 54 classes. Gibbs says the Center develops programs so there’s something to fit everyone. The Center is also open to developing new classes and groups to meet members’ needs and to help them age well socially. If you have an idea for a new group or class contact Dion Ferguson, Manager of Operations, at (626) 685-6706.