A Morning with Seniors

“People of faith working together to support and enrich the lives of Fort Wayne’s central city residents.”  This is the mission statement of Wellspring Interfaith Social Services, a not-for-profit organization located in downtown Fort Wayne.  It is an organization that structures its programs and services to meet the needs of the city’s downtown residents.  As with many cities, central city residents often have low household income, limited access to basic community resources, and limited access to safe environments that promote healthy development.  Wellspring understands these common characteristics and tailors its services to address them.  They offer a variety of services that the core city community can participant in.   They offer programs for the youth of the community such as after school and summer camps.  Neighborhood services such as a food bank and parent club are available to those that have the need.  Wellspring also offers an Older Adult program.  We had the opportunity to volunteer and spend some time in this program.  We have spent a lot of time with youth so far on our journey.  This was an opportunity to spend time with some seniors.  We are glad we did.

The morning started with an introduction to group.  There were 20 to 25 individuals present for the program on this morning.  It was Halloween and a few of people had on costumes.  One lady was dressed as a witch and another was a red M&M.  We introduced ourselves and jumped right into the activities.  The first activity of the morning was exercising.  Members of the group circled up to go through exercises that get them moving.  Erica and I participated with them.  As we exercised, we had the opportunity to learn about some of the seniors through conversation.  We met a family who takes advantage of the service.  Two brothers and a sister have been attending the program for about a 6 months.  They stated that it gives them a chance to stay active, see each other, and meet others in the community.  It was obvious to us that the entire group was like a family.  The exercise program is important to many of the seniors because it keeps them active.  It was also clear that the participants enjoyed it.

After morning exercise, Erica and I had the pleasure of serving the morning treat.  On this particular day the morning treat was an ice cream sundae.  We dished out two different kinds of ice cream and we offered a variety of toppings.  One gentleman by the name of Roger was excited to have “the works”.  He wanted both flavors of ice cream topped with every topping.  His eyes lit up as we constructed his sundae.  A huge grin appeared on his face when I handed him the bowl.  His response of “Oh boy! The Works” brought a smile to my face as well.  He came back up to the table to tell me how much he enjoyed the treat when he finished.  I told him how much I enjoyed him.

Group discussion was the last activity before lunch.  We all gathered in a circle to discuss our favorite Halloween memories.  We heard so many stories dating back seventy to eighty years.  Almost every person participated and shared a story about Halloween.  I shared how much I enjoy our family tradition of pumpkin carving.  There was an obvious benefit to gathering around for this talk.  It gave the seniors an opportunity to think and recollect memories from their childhoods.  This brain stimulation is needed to keep their minds active and alive.  It also gave each person a chance to learn a little more about the person sitting next them.  There were many smiles and laughs during the discussion.  It was enjoyed by all.

We spent about three hours with the seniors in Wellspring’s Older Adult program.  In that time, we had a real chance to get to know individuals and their stories.  We also had the chance to see how the service’s provided by Wellspring help the community.  The Older Adult program offers a great service to many who need it.  Of those who attend the program, over 50% are physically and/or developmentally challenged.  Many live with caretakers or in group homes and shelters downtown.  They need Wellspring.  One woman told us that she had been attending the sessions for over eight years.  She also told us that she didn’t know what she would do without it.  Wellspring and its staff work to build relationships with each individual it serves and we witnessed those relationships first hand.  They are all part of a family looking after each other.  The way it is supposed to be.

You can learn more about Wellspring by visiting http://www.wellspringinterfaith.org.  It is an organization committed to serving the core of our city.  We really enjoyed our time with seniors at Wellspring.  I ask that everyone find time to connect with a senior.  Investing time in the life of a senior can help eliminate and suppress a feeling of loneliness.  As people get older, self-worth often declines.  They cannot perform many tasks that they once did.  They sometimes struggle to remember things.  These feelings of inadequacy can lead to depression.  If we all make a little more time for our elders we can help with these feelings.  I am sure we all will grow from it too.

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