Malibu Senior Center Running Strong

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Bruce Leonard moves with intention as Adrianna Fiori demonstrates moving a stretching band in chair yoga class at the Malibu Senior Center. 

Since the Malibu Senior Center opened in 2003, social hours, workshops and educational programs have helped the senior community grow older and wiser. 

The center’s new location opened on the bottom floor of Malibu City Hall in 2011 and monthly participation numbers have steadily increased with the help of guest lectures, luncheons and weekly exercise classes. 

Senior Center Recreation Coordinator Theresa Odello credits the “dynamics of the people in Malibu” for the rising monthly visitor totals. 

“It’s not like most senior centers where people only come, stay all day and they read the paper, have coffee and watch TV,” Odello said. “They come here for programs. They have great houses. They’re happy where they are. This center is all about programming.” 

A calendar of events, including a newsletter and brief description of classes and seminars is sent out monthly to over 800 people on the center’s mailing list, and the center averages well over 900 visitors per month . 

Odello takes pride in building the calendar of events around programs that best serve the senior community. 

A larger crowd is anticipated for the monthly luncheon, but when Pepperdine University professor of sports medicine Priscilla MacRae was invited to discuss dementia and the science behind aging and brain health, the center was a bustling lecture hall. 

“We do one luncheon a month,” Odello said. The luncheons are catered locally, last between one to two hours and cost $2 with an RSVP, $3 without. “Our last luncheon, we had 80 people!” 

To coincide with National Fall Prevention Awareness Week, Odello planned a week of free lectures, strengthening activities and handouts to better inform center participants of a problem that affects many older adults. 

During a video presentation of compiled monologues where actors read stories about a time where they fell, titled “Falling”, recreational assistant Jhenzier Gordon discussed ways the seniors could prevent the falls and how to help themselves after an accident. 

After a fall, “you should get to a chair, sit and check yourself,” Gordon said to the group. 

“Stop and take a deep breath. It helps to prevent against shock. You might hurt a little, but hey, you can talk. You’re OK.” 

In addition to the lectures and seminars, low-cost and no-cost exercise classes are offered most days of the week at the center or nearby parks. Stretch and strengthening classes require shifts in walls and room transformations to handle the capacity. The center recently started offering a chair yoga class and has seen packed classes full of happy attendees. 

“You just have to check out the chair yoga,” Senior Center regular Marsha Mous said. “I’m so grateful for them. It’s not just a physical but also a mental thing here. I feel so connected. Its so great here, so fun.” 

For the less flexible crowds, computer, cellphone and finance classes are offered weekly as well as writing courses to pique your inner-author. 

Author Louise Cabral has worked at the center for roughly two years and dedicates a few hours per week teaching a class based around her book “Life Writing,” where students visualize and write about different stages of their lives. 

“I believe in the power of the written word,” Cabral said. “Communicating by speech is very important and that’s how we reach one another. You try to touch the depths of your feelings.” 

Off-site excursions are planned in advance and cost extra. Open spots for museum adventures and food tours throughout Los Angeles are already filling up quickly. 

The center also offers $1 dial-a-ride program where participants can safely ride to the center for classes or seminars. 

“The classes are just excellent,” center visitor and 45-year Malibu resident Mary Glavin said. “Everybody here is so friendly and helpful and they all know your name.” 

After all, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.