The Glen Cove Senior Center Passport to Wellness: Lifelong Learning Program is the 2012 MindAlert Award winner in the Lifelong Learning/ Third Age educational program category. The ASA-Metlife Foundation MindAlert Award Program annually recognizes innovative mental fitness programs developed by nonprofit organizations.
We know physical fitness and good nutrition contribute to retaining a healthy brain, as does mental stimulation. Carol Waldman, executive director of the Glen Cove Senior Center and senior center liaison to the Glen Cove SAGE Foundation, developed their lifelong learning program. She adds to that list "staying open to new ideas, interacting with people, engaging in intellectual, recreational or civic activity and being able to adapt to change."
"This particular program actually saved my life and gave me a purpose," says senior center participant and retired reading specialist Marilyn Seltzer, age 82.
Design that Works
At the very least, Passport to Wellness fosters the characteristics on Waldman's list for mental fitness. It connects elders through shared interests in a wide variety of subjects that sometimes spin off into study groups or day-long excursions. It engages elders with a range of fitness classes and stimulating research projects. Its wildly popular interactive music program, led by Dale Zurbrick, beats a Broadway theater ticket when it comes to entertainment value, says Seltzer.
Plus the programs are free, bus transportation is always available and there's a nutritious lunch. Passport to Wellness also caters to different learning styles so everyone can learn and be challenged, no matter what educational background they have or what changes they go through as they age.
Established 11 years ago, Passport to Wellness was designed, Waldman says, to encourage vital aging. In order to get the program off the ground, given its limited start-up funding, many workshop facilitators were recruited from the Center's membership. The purpose was to reach beyond individual classes, book clubs and conversation groups to a year-long series of lectures and hands-on workshops in the arts, history and sciences.
The design seems to be working, if Nina Held is any indication. The 73-year-old didn't think she was old enough- "I had a busy life, I'm youthful and energetic and thought the senior center would be a place with older people just getting older."
But after apologizing for that characterization. Held adds, "I was proven wrong." Drawn in by Zurbrick's music program, she "came to meet other people of like mind who encouraged me to come to the exercise and recreational programs." Now she attends three days a week and says she is proud to tell people she is a member.
Diverse Group Finds Common Ground
With funding from the U.S. Administration on Aging, New York State Office for the Aging, Nassau County Office for the Aging, the City of Glen Cove and the Glen Cove SAGE Foundation, the Center has more than 1,000 active participants and a lunch program serving approximately 23,500 meals a year. …