The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Harlem Senior Center offers a variety of services and programs for locals


December 25, 2019

Senior friends in Harlem recently invited my wife and me to come for a visit and "help tell others about what is going on at the Harlem Senior Center." Being seniors ourselves, my wife and I always enjoy interacting and fellowshipping with others. We headed over to Harlem for lunch and "some visiting."

As a senior I've become more aware of the pitfalls of retirement. Oh, it's nice to have more control of your time and maybe no longer have a full time job. But there's also a downside, it's easy to slide in to isolation and loose some of the social interaction you enjoyed earlier while in the workforce. And researchers have found evidence that this isolation is a real risk factor that affects seniors' life expectancy and quality of life.

Senior centers can help. Centers provide structured and regular opportunities for seniors to enjoy healthy meals, activities that keep their minds sharp and broaden their horizons, improve and maintain healthy lifestyles and, well, have some fun. Here's some of what's going on at the Harlem Senior Center.

Meals: nourishment and more

The Harlem Center serves a full course noon meal Monday through Friday. A volunteer at the table with us said, "Be sure and let people know that meals are for anyone who wants to come join us, not just seniors." She added another mistaken idea is that the meals at the Center are only for residents of the Little Rockies Retirement Center. Like all diners, retirement center residents pay for their meals if they choose to eat the noon meal at the Center.

The noon meal costs $5 for diners 55 years of age and older, under 55 the cost is $6. The lunch begins promptly at 12 noon five days a week. For fifty cents additional there's a meal delivery service for folks who are "homebound or lack transportation to get to the Center." The day we visited there were about 30 people dining, including a group of Harlem High grads who meet regularly to socialize.

Diners should call the Center (353-2971) before 10 am for a noon meal reservation. Because of the upcoming holidays, there will be no noon meal at the Center on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

There are dining opportunities in addition to the weekly noon meals. Connie Zanto, Director of both the Center and the residential units, said, "Souper Saturday is set to begin again in February." As the name suggests, Souper Saturday is a chance to get together for soup and fellowship during the winter.

This coming February "Breakfast Sunday" will begin. It's a variation of an earlier program that provided lunch on Sunday. Zanto said, "Breakfast will be served 10am-1pm." Another volunteer explained the breakfast is "aimed at folks going to or coming from church who want to dine out. Currently there is no place to have lunch on a Sunday in Harlem. This will fill a void for families and visitors." A freewill offering is requested.

Additional activities:

physical, mental and social opportunities

Strong Persons Exercise helps seniors with "balance, strength and flexibility." It meets in the Center's activity room and all equipment is provided. The exercise program meets Mondays at 5 p.m. and Thursdays at 9 a.m. One regular participant said, "it's not real strenuous but really important to physical well-being." The Blaine County Public Health Department recently conducted

"Living Life Well," a program that provides guidelines and tips about healthy lifestyles for seniors.

The Center also offers a safe and comfortable place for walkers. The Little Rockies Retirement Center's apartments are all situated around a courtyard. The hallway is available for any walkers who want to avoid the outside hazards of winter walking. The hallway is available from 7 am to 7 pm. Fourteen laps around the hallway equals one comfortable winter walking conditions.

There are "gathering" opportunities open to any community members. A coffee group of women meets at 1 am on Mondays and again on Fridays, at 10:30 am, for devotionals followed by coffee. Men's coffee group meets at 9:30 am on Saturdays. Both groups meet in the dining room and I was reminded, "tell readers the coffee pot is always on at the Center for anyone to stop and enjoy a cup and visit."

Other activities stimulate the mind and provide a creative outlet. Card players gather on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Play begins after lunch and favored games are canasta and pinochle. During all major holidays there are opportunities to make decorations for the holiday and display them at the Center. A number of Christmas holiday adornments and ornaments were up for Christmas and New Years. A group also gathers on Monday, Tuesday and Friday afternoons from 3-4 pm to color. That's a hot new art phenomenon that also provides lots of opportunities for visiting while making art.

The Center will host its annual New Year's Eve party on Wednesday, December 31. Director Zanto said, "The party begins at the Center at 7 pm and will definitely run until midnight." Snacks and party materials will be available.

A couple of new programming twists

Connie Zanto, with help from former Harlem High shop teacher Rod Donahue, added two elevated gardening beds (boxes on legs) so residents could do some vegetable gardening in the enclosed courtyard. Zanto said the project was a big hit as residents raised tomatoes, brussels sprouts, kale, chives and other vegetables. She added, "it was a situation where they ate the fruits of their labors."

Another new project was a Mother's Day Tea. Zanto explained for ladies it was a "dress up event." A local resident loaned several vintage hats for ladies to wear during the event. Locals' special tea pots and tea cups were used during tea and crumpets. The event drew about 35-40 ladies and is planned again for this coming May.

Well, there you have it, an overview of what the Harlem Senior Center has to offer. If you have never visited the Center, check it out. If you are involved in the Center, bring a friend and get them involved. It's all about creating and enjoying a healthy lifestyle. For info about events and daily menus for lunch, go to the Center's website:


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