By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Too many elderly folks here were staying home too much, Carol LaChance concluded.
“When they go home, they’re just kind of there,” said LaChance, director of the village’s new Senior Center. “There are seniors who are isolated and lonely.”
In late summer, that began changing, as LaChance, an active member of St. Mary’s “Our Lady of the Lake” Catholic parish, got permission to set up the center in the brick parish hall behind the Elm Street church.
Thinking about the project since April, she was spurred into action on learning there was funding available through the Catholic Diocese of Albany, which includes Otsego County.
“They said that you needed to have a focus group,” she said. “So I did a survey of 144 people. Of 144, a majority were in favor of it.”
LaChance, who teaches aqua fitness at the Clark Sports Center, first considered hosting events at the Clark, but with a shifting schedule and limited space, she decided to look elsewhere. “It wasn’t conducive for a consistent space for adults,” she said.
The St. Mary’s offered to sponsor the center, providing the space for free, and in August, 10 seniors gathered at the first session; it’s open 1-3 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays. “If this building were not available to us, I’m not sure where we would go,” said LaChance.
“It grew from there,” she continued. Now, there are upwards of 75 members and 20-30 attendees on Mondays and Thursdays, and LaChance is hopeful that will continue to grow. “Currently, it’s mostly seniors who can drive here. I’m hopeful that once we have transportation, we’ll have more people come.”
She’s planning to develop a system of carpooling for prospects who live outside the village. “We’ll start with a five-mile radius … Maybe younger seniors will volunteer to pick people up and bring them here.
Perhaps if they’re aware of the senior center, they will see this as an opportunity to volunteer.”
Edna Chase, a friend and fellow parish member, is helping LaChance to publicize the center. “She needed help with publicity,” said Chase, and has been hanging fliers around town.
She also recruited friend Carol Bedworth to post on Facebook. “A lot of people have been answering back,” said Bedworth, who recently created “Cooperstown Community Senior Center.” Her updates include a calendar with upcoming events.
The center hosts a variety of programs aimed at informing seniors, including presentations on self defense, fire safety, and elder law. “A lot of our programs encourage people to think about what’s down the road,” said LaChance.
Barbara Chamberlain, who has been participating in the center’s self-defense course, is happy to be a part of the program. “I’m getting a lot of good information. It’s great for awareness,” she said. “I will come back for future presentations”.
For those looking for more of a social experience, there’s also plenty of activities. “It’s not just about programming,” says LaChance. They can chat, play cards, and take art classes … It’s very free-flowing.”
Lil Orlowski, who moved here from Connecticut six months ago, has enjoyed learning to paint at the center. “This has been a life saver,” she said. “The activities are very interesting. I finished my first painting so quickly … I didn’t know I had it in me.”
“Everybody has a talent,” says LaChance, “If you provide someone with a purpose, it’s a reason to get up in the morning.”