First Senior Center Opens in Collier County
The first senior center in Collier County is now open welcoming all seniors over the age of 60. Jewish Family and Community Services of Southwest Florida helped establish the center in its building on Vanderbilt Beach Road after Florida Gulf Coast University conducted a study showing the need. It offers hot lunches, entertainment, computer classes, and more.
Dr. Jaclynn Faffer, President and CEO of Jewish Family and Community Services of Southwest Florida, said she can’t explain why it took this long to create a senior center in this part of Florida.
“I really can’t speak to why it hasn’t been built, other than we all know there’s a myth about communities like Naples where the resort communities,” said Faffer. “We have a feeling that everybody who comes here is happily, well connected, financially secure, and enjoying paradise; that’s just not so.”
Faffer said they enlisted the help of Florida Gulf Coast University to show there was a need for a senior center. It found that Collier County needed a number of services for seniors.
The study found a high population of seniors near the Jewish Family and Community Services office. A transportation system also runs through that area, which allows seniors to use it to get around.
Thomas Felke, Assistant Professor of Social Work at FGCU helped conduct the survey. He said he was surprised at the results.
“The biggest findings were that we had a high number of individuals 65 and over who were living alone, primary females,” said Felke. “When we went and conducted the interviews in the focus groups, what came out was kind of a reinforcing of that specific variable and that people were living alone, and they were lonely and they wanted to have a place where they could be around other individuals their own age to really just get together and socialize.”
Mary Mascolo already visits the center regularly. She said she really needed it.
“Getting out and talking to people, and you meet so many different people and I’ve sung with this group since the day one when I was here and it’s wonderful,” said Mascolo. “Today I did a dance! With one of the ladies that is in charge here, and I really, really enjoyed it. Any time they have music, I enjoy.”
The $15 annual membership fee covers everything, including events and food. It is open three times a week, but the goal is to have it open five days a week. Scholarships are available for seniors who can’t pay the fee.