Aging with Joy
Senior Resource Center fulfills needs of area seniors
Sometimes the universe puts us exactly where we are supposed to be. Such is the case with AMBER SMITH, the director of New Hanover County’s Senior Resource Center.
Smith’s first job after graduating from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a degree in social work was as an intern at the center. In 2003, Smith joined the center full-time as its Retired & Senior Volunteer Program coordinator and then became the social worker for the center’s Life Enrichment Program.
In 2012, Smith transferred to NHC’s Department of Social Services, where she worked in adult protective services. However, helping the elderly called, and in 2014 Smith returned to the center as its social work supervisor. In 2015, she was promoted to director.
“I’ve always enjoyed older adults and am close to my grandparents,” says Smith. “The opportunity for an internship at the Senior Resource Center was a blessing.”
Smith and the senior resource center team created the center’s Master Aging Plan, which was adopted by the county this past May. The plan prioritizes resources and services for the area’s diverse senior population now and into the future.
“We serve seniors who range in age from 55 to the early 100s,” says Smith. “We look at different generations of older adults, from the very active to individuals who are homebound or transitioning to a facility.”
Smith and the team (some of whom are pictured below) also guided the center through its re-opening after pandemic restrictions eased. The center provides the area’s elderly with a wide range of resources, including assistance with Medicare; medication and energy costs, Alzheimer’s and dementia support, caregiver support, and transportation.
The center also offers numerous programs to help the elderly stay physically and mentally healthy. Seniors can work out on exercise machines alone or join the evidence-based strength training class Geri-Fit; or they can partake in exercise classes such as yoga, tai chi, dance, and Pilates, among others. Those who prefer to work out at home can do so via online classes.
The center offers a comprehensive nutrition program as well. In addition to receiving nutrition counseling, seniors can eat a fully nutritious meal five days a week at the center or at Castle Hayne Baptist Church. Volunteers deliver meals to those who are homebound.
The center’s socialization opportunities enhance seniors’ well-being, too. Often seniors make friends at the fitness or recreation classes they take, but the center also offers mentorships for those who are new, a women’s social group, and an extensive senior volunteer program.
“Many seniors are retired or have moved to the area and want to give back to the community but don’t know what they want to do or where to go,” says Smith. “We are a hub that marries them to the right organization.”
Ensuring the center keeps up with the growth of NHC’s senior population and their changing needs tops the list of Smith’s priorities for the future. She is currently developing a mental health program for older adults and plans to continue to build new programs for the center that fulfill seniors’ needs and desires.
After all, Smith knows first-hand how important the services the center provides are to the area’s older adults.
“This is a comfortable setting where seniors get the services or resources they need,” Smith says. “So many of our seniors have told me, ‘This place saved my life.’”
To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.
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