Senior Hubs Help Keep Older Adults Active and Vital

Ron Cohen, 75, had retired six months ago from the hospitality industry when he noticed a man in his apartment building returning home each day with a smile on his face as he walked into the building’s lobby.

Ron Cohen Ron Cohen found good times and good friends at JASA Club 76, a meeting place for seniors that offers everything from yoga to acting classes.

“Where are you coming from?” Cohen asked.

“JASA,” the man replied.

“What is JASA?” Cohen asked.

“My Senior Club,” the man said.

“Can I go with you some day?” Cohen asked.

“Meet me in the lobby tomorrow.”

Cohen admits he had no idea what he was going to find. But on the day he went to JASA Club 76 in Manhattan, which is run by the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA), a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency, a whole new world opened up for Cohen.

“I started doing things I never did before in my life because I was always working and my mind was focused on making a dollar,” he says. “At JASA the director got me into a walking group, then yoga, martial arts, a toning class. I took creative writing classes and acting classes. I was improving my mind and body.”

Providing an active and engaging meeting place for older adults is what JASA’s 22 senior centers are all about, explains Elaine Rockoff, JASA director of community-based programs. JASA also provides a wide range of programs for older adults including case management and mental health services, housing, and adult day care. But the centers, located in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Long Island, are especially designed to keep older adults active and vital.

The centers offer an array of activities, everything from exercising and lectures to visits to museums, and they provide kosher and non-kosher lunches five days a week. Between 75 and 200 people attend each site every day.

“These centers allow seniors to continue to learn and to grow and provide opportunities to remain participating members of their communities,” Rockoff notes.

Giving Back to the Community

For Cohen, who quickly became co-chair of the food committee, a natural fit given his background in hotel and restaurant management, participating in the community started this summer when he helped set up a JASA information table at a neighborhood block party and continues with a project this November, which is designated as Hunger Awareness Month.

“We’re working with a food pantry in the neighborhood to have JASA seniors collect canned food for the pantry and to bring other seniors to JASA for lunch,” Cohen says.

Giving back to the community is an integral part of each center, Rockoff notes, and she explains that centers often run clothing, eyeglasses, and food drives, and programs for visiting sick children in hospitals.

Cohen, who is married and a grandfather, recently accepted a part-time job to supplement his Social Security and shrinking financial portfolio. But he plans to remain involved with JASA two days a week.

Besides the classes and activities that Cohen discovered at JASA Club 76, he also found something else that he wasn’t expecting.

“I made a friendship here with a man who is like a brother to me,” he says.