NORTH SMITHFIELD – North Smithfield senior citizens say being involved in senior center activities has greatly impacted their life in a positive way, and they hope the push toward development of a multi-generational senior center in town will erase any negative connotations of what a senior center means to a community.
Joann LaFlamme, a retired banker for Trust Bank of America, said she first became interested in senior activities when she picked up a copy of The Breeze and saw that Aging Well of Woonsocket was bringing Zumba classes to Scouters Hall, the proposed site of the future grant-funded center.
“I thought, gee, you know, Zumba, I’m gonna check it out,” she said.
There, she said, is where she met Linda Thibault, the head of the wellness program at Aging Well and senior advocate in North Smithfield. LaFlamme said she had no idea of the connection that the classes held at Scouters had to do with the Woonsocket Senior Center. She said she found herself taking nine classes per week, including tap and line dancing.
“I enjoy the camaraderie, you know, the socialization, which is very important,” she said.
Bob Thurber, another North Smithfield resident, said participating in activities with residents 55 and older was a way for him to use his time well after his grandchildren graduated from school.
“Sharon, my wife, started it a couple of years before me, and she always kept asking me, you know, come on, come to dance,” he said. “It’s like, I don’t wanna dance because I like golf, right? I did a lot of other things.”
It was as a Christmas gift to his wife that he ended up relenting, said Thurber. That Christmas class, he said, turned into a class almost every day.
“It’s a little high for me,” he said.
Like LaFlamme, Thurber has been practicing for a recital that will take place on May 18 at Aging Well. Their teacher, Fran Golombiewski, a dance instructor at the Woonsocket Senior Center, has been teaching seniors for the past 20 years.
Both LaFlamme and Thurber said that when they heard about the $4 million grant acquired to renovate Scouters Hall into a new center, they were excited to hear that the town was moving forward to create a committee that would help streamline the process. Both residents have been to the meetings and discussions where the multi-generational center has been a topic of discussion among Town Council members, and say they haven’t been overly happy about the negative trend of those conversations.
“We have to move,” said Thurber, regarding spending the grant. He added that if that means just starting with “the nucleus” of a big room to share with the Scouts, that’s a place to start.
The Breeze reported last week on Thibault’s speech to the Town Council urging officials to move past their differences for the good of the town’s senior citizens, people she says have grown tired of the political infighting at their expense.
For that story, Thibault was quoted as saying that 100 North Smithfield residents are currently members at the Woonsocket center, another 89 at the Lincoln center, and another 39 at the Glocester center. Others attend centers in North Providence, Johnston, Blackstone and Bellingham.
Thurber said he looks at senior centers such as the one in North Providence, and only hopes North Smithfield could have something like that. He said Scouters is just too small to accommodate the number of people who take classes.
LaFlamme agreed, and said she originally had a negative connotation associated with senior centers but that quickly switched when she became involved.
“My perception of senior centers was at the bottom of my list,” she said, adding that her mother, who was involved in adult day care, had no desire to become involved.
All well and good, but transportation is key to many to enjoy this all.
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