Many programs and services for the elderly require some mobility and stamina to become actively involved in the activities offered. Unfortunately, some seniors have neither mobility nor stamina. Through day care centers for the handicapped elderly, however, many can enjoy stimulating experiences.
One day care center is located just off the campus of the University of Maryland at the University Baptist Church in College Park. The center, directed by Janet Dixon, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each week day. Major funding comes from a Title XX grant under the Social Security Act; there is no charge for participation. The center is known as the University Fellowship Club and is sponsored by the Baptist Home and the University Baptist Church.
Dixon said about 25 persons a day take part in programs at the center; she pointed out that some persons can come only one or two days a week. Although some participations are brought by family members or friends, a van operated by the center provides free round-trip transportation for others. Wheel chairs are available and a chairlift has been installed at the center for those who cannot use the stairway.
The program has five full-time staff members and three part-time workers. A typical day begins with a snack followed by chores, exercise, open time, current events, lunch and rest. Afternoons provide such activities as balloon volleyball, leisure games, birthday parties, films and personal care.
A day care program is distinguishable from the usual senior citizens center program in several respects, primarily because the participants have special needs. Such a program, Dixon said, requires a considerable amount of planning for individual needs and necessarily has more therapeutic activities. Those include exercise, individual and group counseling, remotivation and reality-orientation therapy and emphasis on daily living skills like dressing, cooking and body care.
There is a sitting room where smoking is permitted and where no pressure is placed on anyone to join activities. One elderly participant spent most of his first month in the sitting room before, to the relief of the staff, he approached another sitter to suggest going to the snack area for coffee.
The center also operate a Title VII nutrition program which enables all participants to be served a hot meal at noon.
One reward for staff members is the change they see in participants. Some persons seem depressed when they first come to the center. Their talk, according to Sarah Barnhart, a program aide, is often about "impending death or the waiting cemetery." After a while, as involvement increases, enthusiasm and even enjoyment become more evident.
Another area day care center, established last April, is at the Hebrew Home in Rockville. The program, known as the Jewish Senior Day Program, is sponsored by the Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington and the Hebrew Home. It provides, at a comparatively modest fee, "social rehabilitative and supportive services to older handicapped adults in the community." The program is open to all persons regardless of religion.
Kay Mehlferber directs the program with seven staff members as well as volunteers. The program, which operates each week day, has an average daily attendance of 20. Participants are expected to attend at least two days a week. Transportation is available by minibus or a van specially equipped to accommodate wheel chairs.
A typical day begins with a snack upon arriving about 10 a.m. This is followed by a discussion period dealing with current issues or religion. Games and creative activities usually follow. At noon a hot lunch is served, and in the afternoon there may be a show, a speaker or a movie. Participants spend about five to six hours at the center.
On occasion, the participants are guests at special programs of the Senior Adult Club, which is nearby. Trips sometimes are arranged to places of interest like the White House or the Kennedy Center.
Social and recreational activities are only part of typical day. Attention is always given to rehabilitation and to development of personal care motivation and skills. This aspect of the program includes help in grooming, bathing and general good health practice. Along with it all, Mehlferber explained, "We've got a lot of love to give, and the participants reciprocate."
A new facility has just been added to the limited but growing number of day care centers. Sponsored by the Prince George's County Department of Services and Programs for the Aging, the Frail Senior Center opened in mid-January at 3112 Belair Dr. in Bowie.
As announced in the Senior Citizen, the Prince George's County senior citizen monthly, by Mary Galbreath, the director of the Aging Department: "The Frail Senior Center in Bowie will provide recreation, education, health, nutrition, transportation and other support services to infirm elderly on a five-day-a-week basis. We hope that by our support of this center many seniors who would otherwise have to go into nursing facilities can remain in their communities and homes."
Although there are only a limited number of day program centers for infirm elderly, the number is growing. Meanwhile, as Jan Dixon explained, these centers do not commonly operate with the usual type of waiting list. They find a way to help needy cases even if only on a limited basis.
Information on day program opportunities can be obtained from local offices on aging or from information and referral services.