A recently-held focus group will be the catalyst for a new learning series that encapsulates all aspects of a senior’s life.
Combining the efforts of John Jay Center for Learning, Jay Community Center, Jay County Hospital and Purdue Extension Office, the free series is proposed to begin in late summer or early fall to help educate Jay County’s elderly community about technology, and health and wellness, and serve as a social setting for participants.
“Our mission is lifelong learning — cradle to grave — so that’s kind of where it started,” said Rusty Inman, John Jay Center for Learning executive director.
Targetting those older than 50, the program is meant to keep a vital part of the community active and up-to-date with developing technology and health information.
Classes could range from how to work smart phones, e-readers and Skype to dancing and genealogy.
The subjects are limitless, but the organizations won’t know the exact format of the series until they have enough input from the focus group and outside sources.
“We really want to know why some of the other people aren’t participating,” said John Jay Center for Learning student service adviser Carolyn Carducci.
“Perhaps we’re not offering things that they need or the things that they’d like to participate in. We want to make sure that the things we do are the things they want, that they’re excited about.”
With an extensive range of possibilities, with financial help from a grant from The Portland Foundation, the program could become a part of each organization’s year-round calendar.
Talking in what-ifs, Inman and Carducci hope that it is something that can take place once or twice a month, with the option to slow down in the summer and winter months.
But it will be the voice of those using the program that will determine the final product.
“To me, because it’s never been done, the opportunity is so great, it’s not overwhelming, it’s exciting to me,” said Inman. “This can be whatever it needs to be at this point so that’s exciting.”
Jay Community Center senior outreach coordinator Jaime Freeman Wagner sees it as an opportunity to reach more people in the senior community who may not know about each organization’s individual opportunities.
With the community center’s free programs for anyone 55 and older, Wagner has witnessed how companionship within a class keeps seniors coming back and active in the program and hopes the new series gives the opportunity for crossover between senior participants of different organizations.
“The socialization is very important with the activity so they make new friends,” said Wagner. “The socialization gets them more active. (It’s) a really important aspect of it. … (The series will) give us a chance to meet with people we wouldn’t normally see or meet with.”
This interest in classes and programs can also help seniors keep up with what is happening around the county and remind residents of the value found in their older generation.
Carducci hopes the new program serves as a reminder to others of the value of such a generation.
“Seniors are a valuable resource for any community, and I think they’re the most often to be forgotten,” said Carducci. “All of our programs are meant to be about community and bringing them together and shared resources. … As a non-profit, we have no excuse for not providing these kinds of things for this great generation of people that are sometimes forgotten.”
For those on the ground floor of the first program of its kind in Jay County, the series will be a success as long as they continue to listen to what participants want and cater to the seniors’ needs.
“We just have to pay attention to it, and this thing will grow on its own,” said Carducci.