Education & Technology

Education & Technology

New Programming Draws Young at Heart – Local Communities Kicking It Up A Notch To Attract ‘Senagers’

If your image of a senior center conjures up a group of “old people” snoozing around the Bingo table, just take a peek at your local facility. You may be pleasantly surprised.


Laurie Schaefer chuckles a bit at the stereotype. “They think they’re too young. But once I can get them to walk through the door, they change their minds,” says the Rocky River Senior Center program coordinator.

Cards and crafts are still staples of senior centers, but look around. There’s yoga, circuit training, speed dating, theater groups, distance learning and maybe even Elvis himself.

“We’ve expanded our fitness program to include more adventure and more intensity,” says Jill Frankel, director of the Solon Senior Center, who refers to participants there as “senagers” — combining senior and teenager to reflect the energy and interest of clients.

The center’s programming such as Pickleball, barre and circuit training define a more active lifestyle. “We were one of the first with (Nintendo) Wii. We try to define new opportunities and offer them,” she adds.


One of the first things a visitor notices about the Westlake Community Services Center is the absence of the word “senior” on its sign. Activities director Jennifer Yoo explains that senior services are rolled into other community programs.

As ladies in their finest hats attend a program about the fashions of “Downton Abbey,” she and co-director Jodi Rodriguez review a plethora of offerings that include a speed dating-styled mixer. “We were shocked at the response,” Yoo says. They plan to add more sessions because the first was so popular.

Frankel and her staff also have discussed rebranding and removing the “senior” word. “But we want people to know this is where they go to remain independent in the community.”

That independence is encouraged at senior centers such as Rocky River’s.

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Word Power – Book Bank Invests In Kids’ Future

In a downtown warehouse, thousands of gently used children’s books are sorted and boxed by an army of volunteers. Their goal? To get 100,000 free books distributed monthly to children in need. In their first three months, they’ve passed out 61,718 books.

The Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank is a nonprofit group established by Judy Immerman Payne and Judi Kovach. Since opening in February, they’ve distributed more than 88,000 free, gently used, quality children’s books to Clevelanders. Among the program’s goals: Help teach at-risk new parents the importance of reading to their babies; teach family childcare providers to read with the children in their care; and establish creative youth programming.

In addition, 1,700 Cleveland public school students received books from AARP Experience Corps tutors, which is locally sponsored by Greater Cleveland Volunteers. The program recruits people 50 and older to tutor students.

As part of the program through a partnership with Discover Books, the nation’s second-largest online bookseller, the Kids’ Book Bank is repurposing hundreds of thousands of books that would otherwise end up in a recycling center.

The more books volunteers sort, the more that will get into the hands of kids in need. Interested in volunteering? Visit or call Judy Immerman Payne at 216-417-1803.

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Learning Comes Full “Circle.” Embrace Arts and Science with University Circle’s Lifelong Learning Program

Imagine taking your family to learn about the world-renown Asian collections at The Cleveland Museum of Art. Or having them chat with a curator at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History to discuss trends in the area’s birding community? How about watching a live concert with students from The Cleveland Institute of Music?

Seeing, learning and listening — it happens in real-time each week through University Circle’s cultural offerings throughout Northeast Ohio.

University Circle Inc., (UCI) a development, service and advocacy organization, provides community education for students of all ages by creating unique learning opportunities through online connections to the institutions in Cleveland’s rich and vibrant cultural neighborhood.

The interactive programming allows lively dialogue with experts, educators and students up close and personal from the comfort of local community centers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes.


University Circle Inc. works closely with community sites to customize programs. Active adults who attend programs at senior community centers typically participate in a monthly videoconference, then go on a guided, follow-up field trip to an exhibit, concert or play.

Videoconferencing technology has been around for 20 years, but as equipment becomes more affordable, streamlined and easier to use, retirement communities have embraced the technology.

In 2001, UCI began developing a sophisticated program for schools and then began to adapt these programs for adult audiences in 2011. After a successful pilot program with Laurel Lake in Hudson, UCI offered the Senior Connections program regionally.

The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Cleveland Institute of Music have videoconferencing studios, and the Western Reserve Historical Society has a shared studio. Hundreds of programs are offered with topics as varied as history, current events, nature and cultural trends. The programs might include a single museum, or some events connect several sites simultaneously.

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