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Pittsfield Senior Center Supportive Day Program Offers Opportunities
By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff
05:15AM / Thursday, January 19, 2023
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Council on Aging is hoping to spark interest in the Senior Center’s supportive day program with billboards that better advertise its benefits. 
 
The program, also referred to as "The Happy Club," has been a life-saver to many families giving seniors a chance to enhance their social, physical, and cognitive skills while also providing caregivers respite care at a cost-effective price.
 
The previous design of the billboard did not reflect the benefits of the program and had nothing to grab the attention of the drivers, council member Lisa Lungo said at Wednesday's meeting. 
 
The locations considered for a new billboard design include Hubbard Avenue, Crane Avenue near Allendale Shopping Center, the Merrill Road Bridge and Elm Street.  
 
The high traffic would allow the center to reach a large number of people, council members said. 
 
Once the design is finalized, they will get an updated list of available locations and decide how to proceed. 
 
The program costs $35 a day and is open 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. every weekday with full days and half days available.
 
Breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack is included in the cost. Transportation is available to Pittsfield residents and financial assistance from Elder Services of Berkshire County is available to eligible participants. 
 
Despite the helpful services the program provides, the current census has gone down, Executive Director James Clark said. 
 
Driving factors of this could be the program's limits to provide certain medical care to individuals who are at higher risk of accidents when not receiving constant care, he said. 
 
Although staff work with participants and their families to create an individualized care plan, the program is non-medical so members need to be ambulatory and continent to be a good fit for the program, he said. 
 
The program offers a free trial day so patrons can determine if it is a good fit for them. People often enjoy the services despite apprehensions they may have had prior to the trial, council member Paula Almgren said. 
 
"We'll do a trial day to see how that person works on their own for a day and then from there we determine whether or not the person is a good fit for the program," Clark said.
 
"Because understanding dementia and Alzheimer's, too, there's various stages that people go through and sometimes the timing might not be right now for that person to join the program."
 
The program gives members with physical or cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer's and dementia, a place to socialize, stay active, and find purpose.
 
While loved ones are enjoying their days participating in activities including pottery, exercise, knitting, bridge or off-site travel opportunities to local destinations like museums and Boys and Girls Club, families can feel rest assured that they are in a safe place. 
 
The center has partnered with the Berkshire Family YMCA  as well, giving its members the opportunity to utilize the Y's new track during the winter season. 
 
Many seniors used the Berkshire Mall to stay active but when that closed, they didn't have a destination to stay active in the winter, Clark said. 
 
Almgren said the program was a life-saver for her family as it allowed her mother to live at home for more than three years.
 
Another potential driving force of the low census could be the lack of knowledge about its existence, she said. So the hope is the billboard will spread the word so they can help more families. 
 
The program has become a model for future programs with Boston University's Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research and Executive Office of Elder Affairs reaching out to learn more. 
 
Clark and Supportive Day Program coordinator Janie Bates met with these organizations to discuss the program and assist them in the possibility of creating similar programs throughout the state, Clark said. 
 
Learn more about the program and arrange a trial by calling Bates at 413-499-9346, Ext. 212.
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