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

Rethinking the Notion of a Senior Center


February 10, 2021

What do you think of when someone says the words senior center? Do you picture older people (much older than you, of course) sitting around eating bland, pureed meals while a television is blaring?

If so, the Director of the Chinook Senior Citizen's Center (CSCC), Karyn Higgins believes it's time to update your vision! As described by Higgins, CSCC is a vibrant transportation hub, tasty dining locale, and social center with a games menu that includes cards, board games, Bingo, and a Kitchen Band. It is also a focal point for Older Americans Act (OAA) services like respite, shopping, travel, and commodities distribution.

Although the CSCC, located at 324 Pennsylvania Street in Chinook, currently has limited access since they must abide by mandates set forth by the North Central Area Agency on Aging (NCAAA), Higgins is eager to see the Center resume its regular schedule.

"Typically, we are open from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, but we're unable to gather during this period when Blaine County's COVID Positivity Rate is 27.4%," Higgins told reporters.

Despite those deviations from what is normal, the Center's Cook, Katie Newfield, prepares meals for 25 regulars. These meals are picked up by the individuals requesting them or delivered to the housebound by Art Kleinjan, who provides the Center's Meals on Wheels delivery service.

"Anyone can request a meal," Higgins said. "We just ask that you call by 10:00 a.m. Meals cost $5.00 for anyone over 60 and $6.00 for anyone under 60, which really is a bargain for what you're getting."

When the Center is fully operational again, meals are served at their location on Pennsylvania Street. The Center's entertainment schedule includes pinochle on Monday, Shanghai Rummy on Tuesday, board games or other cards-like cribbage or whist-on Wednesday afternoons, Bingo on Thursday, and pinochle again on Friday. The Kitchen Band also plays on Fridays, with Roger Fischer taking leadership with that group, according to Higgins.

The Center also has exercise equipment available for use by those 18 years and older. "Anyone is welcome to join us," Higgins announced. "Rather than thinking about the Senior Center as a place you're not old enough yet to go, I want people to think about the Center as a place to socialize, interact, play Bingo, or learn a new card game."

Higgins, who accepted the position as the Center's Director on September 24, 2019, remembers attending the Center when she was in her forties. "I see the Center's role in the community as a place that brings people together to socialize, play cards, get out of the house, and interact with friends, neighbors, and peers. We're a type of community center that provides an opportunity to connect with others who are around the same age while also providing an opportunity to learn something new."

According to the NCAAA, one of the most important things seniors can do to retain long-term health and happiness is to engage with others on a regular basis. "The busier seniors are, the more they enjoy a higher quality of life. When older adults congregate, they fulfill many of their social, physical, emotional, and intellectual needs."

In Chinook, the senior center is funded locally but also receives some state and federal dollars. As part of the NCAAA network, the Center serves as a gateway to the nation's aging network-connecting older adults to vital community services that can help them stay healthy and independent.

Besides its meal and nutrition programs and social and recreational activities, some of the other services provided by the Center include

• Information

• Shopping assistance

• Health, fitness, and wellness programs

• Transportation services

• Respite services

While those applying for some of these services will have to meet certain eligibility requirements, Higgins encourages those who might need a ride to the grocery store or a break from caring for an elderly loved one or travel to a medical appointment to call her and explore options. "Some things, the NCAAA won't allow me to do, but in many cases we can get some reimbursement or help for you, so call," she suggests. The Center's phone number is 357-2648.

The Center is also the hub for distributing commodities. "We get supplies for 80-90 applicants and separate those into allocations. These are then made available for pick-up or are delivered with meals," Higgins explained. "I have some slots available if you qualify; just check with me, and we'll get the paperwork sent in."

Currently, the Center is holding a raffle in an effort to raise funds for a commercial grade air fryer. Such a purchase would enable them to create those crispy, chewy foods many people love without all the oil of deep-fat frying.

According to WebMD, "by most measures, air frying is healthier than frying in oil. It cuts calories by 70% to 80% and has a lot less fat. This cooking method might also cut down on some of the other harmful effects of oil frying. The reaction that happens when you fry potatoes or other starchy foods makes the chemical acrylamide, which research links to greater chances of getting cancer. One study shows that air frying lowers the amount of acrylamide in fried potatoes by 90%."

Raffle tickets for a half a hog are available for purchase from several area businesses: Shores Floral & Gift, American Garage, First Bank of Montana, Pehrson's Service Station, Top Dog Performance, Shear Inspiration, and Arlene's Cut & Style. The drawing will take place on St. Patrick's Day.

Higgins encourages the community not only to support this fundraising effort but to join them for some social interaction when the Center fully reopens.


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