Silver Linings: ‘Socialization is the biggest thing’
Nancy Hutchinson of Auburn works last week on a party favor she stuffed with gum
AUBURN — Cynthia Larrabee likes to be busy and sociable, and in retirement she’s found a place to do that: the Auburn Senior Community Center.
Larrabee taught at Elm Street School in Mechanic Falls for 45 years. Now she fills her days with crafting, watching movies and dining out with people she met at the center.
“It’s the friendship,” she said Thursday after a card-crafting workshop. “I’ve met so many new people.”
Busy people. Her cohorts on this day were other retirees, a former hairdresser, an education technician and a payroll clerk, who worked hard for decades and wants to keep that energy rolling.
“Socialization is the biggest thing,” Larrabee said. “You have to keep your mind and body busy.”
The center at Pettengill Park, a sprawling compound in the heart of the city, was renovated and expanded in November 2019, but the doors were closed in March 2020 because of the pandemic.
“We went from thriving to surviving as we quickly transitioned the facility and staff to our ‘grab and go’ community food distribution program,” Recreation Department Director Sabrina Best said in a recent news release.
Larrabee and others prepared meals and packaged them for distribution during the worst of the pandemic.
As the spread of the virus slowed, the center recently reopened with a full slate of activities.
“Some small-group programming started back up in May as (Center for Disease Control) guidelines allowed, but the facility and staff are fully prepared to welcome larger local senior groups and clubs this summer,” Best said.
Activities cover a wide range of interests: indoor, outdoor, home-based and out of the house.
“We try to make sure we have something everyone can enjoy,” said Jamie Longley, a recreation specialist for the Auburn Recreation Department and the age-friendly coordinator for the city.
A monthly calendar of events with a full list of summer programs, such as take-home craft kits, movies, lawn games, trips, chair yoga and tech talks is available online at auburnmaine.gov.
In July, the city’s three senior groups — First Auburn Seniors, Robin Dow Seniors and New Auburn Seniors — will begin holding weekly or monthly meetings (and bingo!) at the center.
Anyone age 50 and older is welcome, no matter where they live, Longley said. Minimal dues are paid once a year. For example, members of the senior groups each pay $5 to $10 a year to their group, Longley said.
She said the Auburn Age-Friendly Community Committee, chaired by City Councilor Leroy Walker, accepts donations for their meals and movies, and Auburn Recreation Department trips and programs have their own minimal fees, depending on the program.
“There really is something for everyone!” she said.
Sally Gagnon of Auburn, the retired ed tech, agrees. She is another regular participant in the programs and was in the card-crafting group Thursday.
“The biggest thing is getting together and not being alone,” Gagnon said. “Not everyone is your best friend, but you know them.”
It’s also the place to be in the know, she said. “You find out here when there’s a new doctor or a new dentist in town or where to have a specific procedure. It’s information central.”
The center is especially dear to her because she is a widow.
“It’s fabulous,” she said.
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