A Second 'Home' for Senior Citizens
Memorial Program Gives Elderly a Place to Go and Reasons to Connect
It’s easy to overlook the Boulevard Heights Community Center. It’s a nondescript building on a residential side street in a west Hollywood neighborhood, the kind of place that easily blends in with its surroundings.
But, for Elizabeth Frantzen, it’s “home,” and what goes on inside its walls is critical to her health and well-being. The Hollywood senior citizen is part of Memorial Healthcare System’s A.L.L.I.E.S (Adults Live Life Independently, Educated, and Safe) program that meets each weekday at Boulevard Heights. She goes so far as to credit the people and services she receives with helping her out of a deep depression after her son’s accidental death.
“Depression and loneliness are common feelings for our seniors,” said Tim Curtin, executive director for Community Services at Memorial Healthcare System. “We provide opportunities that get them out of their homes and into a place that exercises their brains, bodies, and spirit.”
Curtin says Memorial knew seniors and their mental health were especially vulnerable during COVID-19, with some doing little more than watching TV during the pandemic. At that time, Memorial organized appropriately-distanced gatherings at T.Y. Park to provide a respite from the isolation most were feeling.
The positive effect during a difficult time empowered Memorial to supercharge an existing seniors’ program to maximize its impact. Daily activities at the community center now include health-focused presentations, ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) classes, mental health services, exercise and fitness instruction, cognitive games, and arts & crafts opportunities. The healthcare system has partnered with Broward County Transit’s TOPS program to provide transportation and Meals on Wheels for daily lunches. On some days, as many as 100 seniors receive services and participate in activities.
“This is a place they can go to see friends, learn new things, and get exercise they wouldn’t otherwise be interested in doing,” said Carmen Marin, a team leader at Memorial Healthcare System. “When they return home, they do with a smile on their face and happy that there was a purpose to their day.”
The nonprofit Memorial Foundation, in collaboration with the Community Foundation of Broward County, has been underwriting the expenses of the A.L.L.I.E.S program for more than five years. Funding from Memorial in the last year alone was more than $300,000 and includes the salaries of full-time employees, support staff, and supplies needed each day at the community center.
“The feedback we’ve received from both the staff and participants makes it clear we’re changing lives. We’re thankful for our generous donors that enable us to fund this effort year after year,” said Kevin Janser, president of the Memorial Foundation.
It’s an undertaking that continues to pay dividends for people like Nubia Martin, a senior that first connected with Memorial’s community services in 2014. “This program has made me much better mentally, healthy, and I love the community they’ve been able to put together,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”