Seniors who cannot make it to the Upshur County Senior Center for lunches will have an opportunity to dine at dinnertime.
Executive director Sarah Campbell said the center has decided to try something new because seniors now tend to work longer careers.
“This is something we are trying,” Campbell said. “We have seen a trend as baby boomers are aging into our service … Their lifestyles are very different than the seniors we are currently serving.”
Campbell said many new seniors are still working or raising grandchildren.
“There is a big difference from people who retired 20 or 30 years ago,” Campbell said. “The meal change is on a trial basis for the first three months. It will be the first Friday of the month, so our first one will be Friday, Jan. 4. We will serve dinner at 5 p.m. and the Upshur County Senior Center will be open that evening until 6:30 p.m. In January, the first Friday evening meal will be baked steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, drinks and dessert.”
Campbell said the goal is to open the center to people who should be off work at that time and passing through, giving them a glimpse at what the Upshur County Senior Center has to offer.
“We hope to educate people on the programs we currently offer and ask them what they would like to see offered through the center,” Campbell said. “We hope to see if there is a need for some meals to be served later in the day. Our three-month goal would be to see if folks take advantage of the dinnertime meal, and if it’s well received, take the findings to the Senior Center Board of Directors. If we see this is something people want, hopefully, we can continue it.”
Campbell said on the first Fridays when the center is serving the dinner meal, the regular lunch meal will not be served.
“We will still be delivering our meals on those Fridays,” Campbell said. “Our homebound clients will still receive their meals. We worked it out so it doesn’t mess with the schedules of our workers while everyone still gets what they need.”
Campbell said moving the meals from lunch to dinner still falls within the parameters of their grants. Meals at the Upshur County Senior Center are grant funded.
“There is a suggested donation per meal for those over the age of 60,” Campbell said. “If you are over the age of 60 and you don’t have the money to pay, no one is going to ask you for anything. No one looks at what you put in the donation jar – it’s all up to you.”
Campbell said there is a suggested sliding fee that is posted by the donation jar and on the doors of the Upshur County Senior Center. It is based on income.
“Anyone can come to the meals and they may bring their family as well,” Campbell said. “Those under age 60 should pay the $6 per meal that is suggested. The $6 is what it costs us to serve each meal.”
Campbell said during the January dinner, lots of staff from the senior center will be on hand to learn what people think of the evening meal and gather suggestions for things folks want to see happening at the center.
“If the evening meal is successful, perhaps we can add things like entertainment and other kids of programming for the first Fridays,” Campbell said. “With it being a trial, we first want to see how it is received before adding things. I would like to see these meals continue.”
“There is an initiative in the state of West Virginia to brainstorm ways we can serve seniors who are coming into service age,” she added. “I think everyone is noting there is a difference here, and we have seen the number of people coming to congregate meals going down. Our goal is to see if this change – doing something non-traditional – meets some of these needs. We are trying to be preemptive.”
In addition to the new first Friday evening meal, the Upshur County Senior Center has some other activities planned.
“We are looking at a partnership with the library,” Campbell said. “We will be doing a new mobile library and we will soon have dates for that in January.”
Once the mobile library arrives, folks may check out books and request books to pick up at the center. They will be able to bring books back, and the library will be able to help seniors with things they need, like books on tape and other items.
“There is a program in our state that helps seniors who need things like e-readers, audio books and other equipment to allow them to enjoy books,” Campbell said. “They will help the seniors apply for that and get those things. That is very exciting and I am looking forward to that partnership with the library.”
Also, Campbell said the pillow/pillowcase program for the homebound seniors was a great success.
“We are very excited and the program was received very well,” Campbell said. “We have had a few clients who called in and expressed their excitement about it. We all agreed it was very nice to be able share that Christmas cheer. The Hodgesville Elementary students also donated hygiene products, so their gifts were included in the bags with the pillows and pillow cases.”
Campbell also said the boxes for clients when the weather gets bad have been prepared and are ready for delivery.