Schenectady partnering with Catholic Charities for senior programming; To take on food insecurity, isolation

SCHENECTADY — In a bid to tackle food insecurity and social isolation within the senior community, the city has partnered with Catholic Charities to host weekly programming in the Hamilton Hill, Bellevue and Goose Hill neighborhoods beginning next week.

Following years of discussion, the Schenectady Social Club is set to formally launch in the coming days, building on existing senior programming that already takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Ancient Order of the Hibernians in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood. 

“Our intent is to bring people together, have them socialize and have some structured activities,” said Marlene Hildenbrandt, executive director of Catholic Charities Senior & Caregiver Support Services, who will oversee the program.

Social isolation has shown to have a number of negative health consequences, including increased risk for depression and dementia in older adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

City lawmakers allocated $50,000 in the 2023 budget to fund the program through the end of next year.

The program, which is open to all city residents ages 55 or older, includes a prepared lunch or brunch and will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, ensuring that seniors have a place to socialize in the city five days a week.  

Locations include:

  • Mondays at Hillside Crossings, 736 Albany St., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesdays at the Steinmetz Park Community Center, 2114 Lenox Road, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Fridays at the Bellevue Cafe, 2630 Broadway, from 10 a.m. to noon.

While Mayor Gary McCarthy said that expanding senior programming has long been discussed within City Hall, budgetary restraints have kept things from moving forward. 

The city, he said, scouted out locations in areas with the greatest need and highest populations of senior residents in order to have the most impact. 

“The ideal would be to have it in every place, but then there’s budget concerns and how do you serve the most number of people with the limited dollars we have for it,” McCarthy said. “They’re key neighborhoods and we’re excited about kicking if off next week.”

Seating at each location will be limited to 30 and attendees will be required to reserve their spot at least a day in advance and pay a $5 fee per day to participate, according to Hildenbrandt. 

In addition to a meal, those in attendance will be able to participate in programming, which, for now, focuses on balancing exercises aimed at preventing falls. But Hildenbrandt said additional programming is in the works, including tai chi, that will begin in the coming weeks through a partnership with MVP Health Care.

The hope is to add additional programming based on the community’s needs as the program continues to develop, including programming around counseling, health care and other long-term living concerns, Hildenbrandt said.  

“It’s bringing people out into their community,” she said. “The goal of this program for the city was to begin establishing programming in each of the communities so older adults have the opportunity to come in and have a social lunch and engage in these activities.”

Catholic Charities has long held a presence throughout Schenectady County, where it operates a Meals on Wheels program and hosts four community meal sites for seniors in conjunction with the county’s Department for Senior and Long Term Care. It also provides information about long-term care through a program overseen by the state’s Office of the Aging. 

But Hildenbrandt said the Schenectady Social Club will differ from services the organization already provides in the city, focusing on addressing social isolation, which has been associated with serious health risks — particularly as people age. 

A 2020 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, found that nearly a third of adults ages 45 and over reported feeling lonely, while nearly one-in-four adults 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.

Social isolation has been shown to have a number of adverse effects, especially in adults 50 and older, who are more likely to live alone or and suffer from chronic illness and hearing loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Studies, according to the CDC, have found that social isolation has been associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia, 32% increased risk of stroke and 29% increased risk of heart disease. 

Hildenbrandt noted isolation among seniors has only increased since the pandemic hit back in 2020, and many have struggled to to reconnect, especially with inflation worsened.

“I can’t express the importance enough,” she said of the program.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.


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