It’s no secret that the population is aging. By the end of next year, every last member of the baby boom generation will be over 60. But aging, like everything else, “ain’t what it used to be.”
Alas, neither are the aging body and mind, so health becomes more of a concern for seniors than it has been heretofore. For all kinds of wellness programs, one need look no further than the county Jewish Community Center.
“We take a broader view of wellness,” said Sue Horwitz, Director of Senior Adult Services at the Jewish Community Center of Middlesex County. “It is not just fitness, but also includes social connection, emotional health and educational stimulation.”
In addition to an array of fitness programs, from tai chi to chair Pilates and Gold Zumba, the Live Well @ the JCC program provides a schedule of five lectures per year on health and safety topics, such as stress management and scam awareness. Clubs and groups include a men’s club and an adult club. A bereavement support group meets twice a month and welcomes everyone. The Knitting for a Cause club has donated scores of comfort items to breast cancer survivors and mask-wearing health care workers.
“They feel it’s important for them to give back,” Horwitz said.
The JCC of the Jersey Shore is where Monmouth County seniors can pursue their wellness goals. “We have a lot of exercise classes that are great for seniors,” said Dori Ricci, Fitness Director. “We have senior body sculpting, aquatic classes in the pool and restorative yoga.” Exercise classes are supplemented by the weekly Lunch and Learn program followed by mah jong, including both instruction and play. “Our membership is about 50% seniors,” she said, “and seniors get a 50% discount on membership.”
Of course, all of these wonderful activities are useless if transportation is unavailable. That is where SCAT and MCAT come in.
The Senior Citizens and Disabled Residents Transportation Program, or SCAT, is designed to provide the maximum number of trips for transportation-dependent senior and disabled residents of Monmouth County.
“It is not just for the disabled, but for anyone 60 years of age or older,” said Kathy Lodato, Monmouth County Director of Transportation. She emphasized that it is not a medical transportation service; the client must be able to get to the vehicle, which will pick up the client at his home and take him anywhere in Monmouth County for $3 for most trips.
Using the service requires advance registration with name, address and date of birth, but no Social Security numbers or other information that would expose the client to identity theft. Scheduling a trip requires four days’ advance notice, but Lodato stressed that, in the event that timely notice is impossible, “Call anyway. There may be a cancellation. It is strictly based on availability.” Although trips are limited to Monmouth County for most seniors, there are special free trips to Veterans Administration Hospitals in East Orange and Brick, as well as in Tinton Falls.
Lodato explained that the service is well used, but there are still unaddressed needs that she is anxious to see accommodated.
“We take surveys every month, and everyone loves the service,” she said, “but we’re always exploring new avenues. We do a tremendous amount of outreach.”
This year she intends to focus on caregivers. “If Mom or Dad needs dialysis, and you have to help, how are you going to keep a job?” Providing that transportation can be a lifeline for that caregiver. “I want that to be my legacy,” she added.
MCAT is Middlesex County’s equivalent. Seniors can be transported anywhere within Middlesex County and up to five miles beyond for a fare of $3. Like SCAT, MCAT requires a reservation for use of its vehicles with capacities ranging from six to 28 passengers. They will accept calls from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day.
In addition to these county programs, free food shopping services are provided by many municipalities, including Wall, Manalapan, Ocean and Middletown. More are added all the time, so it pays to check if your municipality is among those that provide it. A competitive federal grant program for enhanced mobility of seniors and people with disabilities has covered the cost of vehicles, all purchased by NJ Transit, and operation of municipal transportation services in Keyport in Monmouth County and in East Brunswick, Edison, Cartaret, Monroe, South Brunswick and Perth Amboy in Middlesex County.
No more excuses! There are plenty of places to see and things to do for seniors in Monmouth and Middlesex Counties, and now there are the services we need to get
Jewish Community of Middlesex County
1775 Oak Tree Rd.
JCC of the Jersey Shore
100 Grant Ave.
Deal, NJ 07723
(800) 221-3520 for reservations
Edison, NJ 08820
SUE KLEINBERG IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE FROM MONMOUTH COUNTY.