Stroll through the Waxter Center for Senior Citizens near downtown Baltimore, and you can glimpse the possibility that old age really can have its golden moments. For the past two decades, the center has stood as an example of a community's commitment to the welfare of its older citizens.
A typical week can include 100 or so activities, ranging from choral singing or ballroom dancing to swimming, needlework or nutrition classes. The center's medical service offers screenings for a wide variety of problems, such as high cholesterol, diabetes elevated blood pressure. Social workers offer counseling for individuals or groups. Other staff members help guide seniors through the red tape surrounding Social Security, food stamps, medical assistance or other benefits for which they may be eligible. Breakfast and a hot lunch are served each day. The center also administers day care programs for physically or mentally impaired adults who might otherwise be placed in nursing homes by family members unable to devote full attention to their care.
For many people, these activities provide a focal point for days that would otherwise be lonely, a place to go, things to do and -- perhaps most important -- companions to do them with. One testimony to the love participants have for the center is the fact that they willingly contribute money to support it, over and above the small membership fee. Many members contribute an extra $10 each year, sometimes saving for several weeks in order to so do. Recent fund-raising campaigns have even elicited several dozen gifts of $50 from people who use the center -- a major gift for many senior citizens.
One donor explained her generosity by recalling that when her mother was alive, there was no place for older people to go, except for church. Another contributor gladly gave $50 because her husband goes to the center every day. "I'm so glad to get him out of my hair," she said. "I think he understands." So would many couples.
Keeping senior citizens active, occupied, learning, doing and going is more than entertainment. It's good sense. Especially in the later years of life, active people are more likely to be healthy people. By meeting a wide range of needs -- from social to nutritional to medical -- the Waxter Center has proven the wisdom of the city voters who supported a $3.8 million bond issue in 1967.
That investment has paid for itself many times over in healthier, happier senior citizens -- and in the resulting peace of mind for their families and friends.