More than 200 community based senior clubs, devoted to activities that include recreation, social interaction, education, community service, physical fitness and general well being, meet regularly in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Club membership is one way to alleviate the loneliness that studies invariably show to be a major concern of the elderly. Even when loneliness is not an individual problem, club participation provides an opportunity for continued growth.
The organizations meets on a schedule developed by their members, and could be monthly, bi-weekly, weekly, or more often. There are no membership charges but fees are usually asessed to cover the cost of optional trips, and in some instances for special events or for supplies used in certain activities.
Many groups meet in community centers or church buildings. Some meet in facilities provided by housing projects or wherever the community affords space. Times are usually during the day, often beginning at noon with refreshments or a light lunch served for which a nominal donation is customary.
Examples of recent activities reported by club publicity chairmen include a talk by representatives from Medicare and Blue Cross on insurance benefits, a showing of travel pictures of Hawaii and a cruise to the Bahamas, games of bingo, a trip to a dinner theater performance and a day at the racetrack.
Besides the activities scheduled by individual clubs, members are informed about outside activities of interest and benefit to them. Through representation on or in communication with the county association of senior citizens organizations, members learn about special events such as the summer in the parks program, a health check-up fair or a hobby show. Members may also be provided valuable information about such things as new legislation from which they may benefit.
The president of the Prince George's County Council of Senior Citizens Clubs, Rose Sullivan, speaks enthusiastically about club participation. She receives many calls from members who express appreciation for the club program. They say that if it were not for their club they might otherwise just mope in seclusion, she said.
As Sullivan explained, most seniors were tied down in their earlier years rearing children, deferring to their needs. Now, they can do things for themselves. They have the time and the inclination.
"Think of it this way," said Sullivan, "if one mopes at home, there is little to talk about when the children come to visit-except perhaps to complain. But club participants have much to talk about, sharing the interesting things they have done and plan to do. This makes for a far happier family visit."
Perhaps the best way way to keep informed about opportunities for involvement is to join one of the neighborhood senior citizens clubs or centers, which keep in touch with county offices on aging and recreation departments.
In addition to the regular programs, clubs and centers schedule various trips throughout the year. Currently popular are trips to the National Gallery's new addition and to dinner theaters. In Prince George's County any senior club can plan a trip within a 50-mile radius and apply to use one of the county senior citizens buses at a cost of $4 per hour. Pro-rated among the individuals on the trip, the per-person charge is minimal. Charter trips to Nova Scotia and to Wildwood, N.J., this fall are already fully booked. Rose Sullivan said that Prince George's groups are planning a trip to Hawaii for April 1979.
In addition to club participation, seniors are always welcome to take part in programs and services provided by the several county-operated senior citizens centers, a number of which are open daily. These centers offer many programs including recreation, education, craft classes, free paralegal counselling, free blood pressure checks and escorted trips.
The director of the Forest Glen Senior Citizens Center, Barbara Dahlman, said that while some seniors come every day others come only once or twice a week depending on the schedule of special events or classes that interest them. Men seem to especially enjoy the pool tables and the conversation that accompanies their games. Card games are always popular with both men and women. The center has just opened a Bocci court. Instructions for playing Bocci, a kind of bowling that is played outdoors on clay, is given at 11 a.m. Thursdays. The court is believed to be the only one of its kind in the Washington area.
More information about club and center activities can be obtained by referring to Senior Highlights in Montgomery County and Senior Citizen in Prince George's, publications that are generally available in all branch libraries. Information can also be obtained by calling the offices on aging in Montgomery County, 468-4450, and in Prince George's, 350-6666.