Elderly Keep Busy at Senior Center

Three-Week-Old Center Provides Activities and Social and Health Services

Through the Push-N-Go doors of the three-week-old Cambridge Senior Citizens Center, a welcoming atmosphere, dozens of activities and countless social and health services greet the city's elderly.

Founded last month, the $3.8 million center is intended to provide a home-away-from-home for Cambridge senior citizens.

Late yesterday afternoon, the Bingo crowd was just clearing out after an hour and a half of excitement.

"I don't care what we do, it's going to be great," senior Taimy James says of the spacious, modern center, which is located beside the Central Square YMCA.

Approximately $3.4 million of the funding to establish the center was allocated by the city, with the remainder from the private sector, the center's journal reports.

James and the rest of Cambridge's more than 13,000-member elderly population now have no need to worry about what to do in their spare time.

The non-residential center sponsors groups, clubs and classes almost every day, as well as hosting performances by various arts groups, according to Activities and Volunteer Coordinator Arline J. McGrady.

Charles A. Ash, a senior who helped establish the center, says the new building combines under one roof an array of previously scattered services, including health insurance counselling agencies.

A branch of Cambridge Hospital will soon set up a clinic within the center, Ash adds.

Besides offering a wide-range of social and medical services, the center serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week, McGrady says. Free meals are also provided for low-income diners, the center's journal reports.

Social activities range from bridge and energetic walking to line dancing and ceramics.

Over time, McGrady says she hopes to develop a library from the current collection of a single bookshelf.

'Keeps You Busy'

Seniors who frequent the center say they regard it as a place where they can keep busy and socialize.

James, sitting with four or five other women at a table in one of the Center's many common rooms, says the new center leaves her no excuse to stay home.

"It keeps you busy and you won't go nuts," she says. "Some people stay home and they just mope. I don't have time for that."

The pool rooms also provide socializing space--where the men hang out, according to McGrady.

Others come to learn, McGrady says. Many guests are immigrants who want to take English as a second language classes. Others, like members of the Russian group, want to learn about American history.

Still others take classes in "cooking for one," which teaches seniors accustomed to cooking for an entire family to prepare meals while living alone.

Meanwhile, modern-minded senior citizens are jumping at the chance to acquire computer literacy.

"It's interesting how some groups want to be more intellectual, whereas some want to do more socializing," McGrady says.

McGrady says the center welcomes volunteers, adding that volunteer teaching positions are available for many of the center's classes.

The Cambridge Senior Center supersedes the Pearl Street Center, which Ash describes as "a grim institution." Ash calls the center long-overdue, especially because many towns in the area have already established well-equipped senior centers.

Still, Mary J. Costello, a social worker for the Windsor House Adult Day Care program, has nothing but praise for the new center.

A branch of Windsor House operates in the basement of the center, providing activities and assistance for senior citizens requiring part-time care.

"Cambridge is really good to its elderly," Costello says.