Donut Day. Live music. Lefse making. Shopping. Dancing. Fitness and nutrition classes. Cultural day trips. Extended holiday tours.
This is just a sampling of the many different activities going on each month at Roseau’s Four Seasons Senior Center. Into its 40th year now and after many moves throughout the decades, Four Seasons has been comfortably at home in their current building on Center Street since 1997. During that time, the shingles have worn through, but on the plus side, membership has grown from 120 to 228 (annual + lifetime), and the variety of adventures and educational opportunities available has increased exponentially.
Turns out, having things to do and people to be around is a pretty big deal, especially for Seniors.
On average in Northern Minnesota, 20% of the population is retirement age or older, and nearly 17% of households are made up of someone aged 65 or older who is living alone. According to AARP’s website connect2affect.org, isolation is a growing health epidemic, and the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Living in rural areas can make social connection even more difficult due to transportation challenges, poverty and a general lack of opportunity for older adults to engage and contribute.
But, it’s statistics like these that the Four Seasons Center is actively working to address.
There comes a certain stage of life, Director Thora Halvorson explained, in which older adults are simply left alone. Their children are now parents and grandparents, and in some sense have replaced them as the epicenters of the extended family. It can be a very lonely season of life, especially if friendships haven’t been nurtured over the years.
The Center aims to help with that. With a wide variety of planned activities, day trips and holiday tours, Four Seasons members (and even nonmembers – they never turn anyone away) can enjoy dozens of opportunities for social engagement each month.
Many of the activities function as fundraisers that help keep the Center going. For example, the current goal is to raise enough money to re-shingle the Center’s roof next spring. Volunteer board members meet each month at an open meeting and all members have a say, according to Halvorson. A Hunter’s Bake Sale earlier this month was a big success, and volunteers also regularly help with Donut Day, lefse sales, quilt sales and more. There’s a second-hand store onsite – The Unique Boutique—that accepts donations, organizes and sells them at nominal prices, and their great room is also available to rent for events. Halvorson that it has hosted everything from birthday, graduation, anniversary, and confirmation parties to craft fairs to funeral receptions.
Even with all the activities and its ongoing outreach, which includes a member newsletter, regular newspaper articles and various calendar of events submissions, Halvorson suspects there are many members of the community who remain alone and isolated. “Some older adults are just scared,” she said. “They need companionship and they need to get out, but they don’t want to be a bother.”
It can also be an emotionally and physically challenging season of life. “Maybe they’ve realized their body is old even while their mind isn’t,” Halvorson said. “As we age, it takes our bodies longer to do things than it used to.”
She spoke of one active member who, though he can neither hear well nor see very well, shows up to every single event. It’s cases like that, and the possibility that some interesting activity or outing may just bring someone out of isolation, that continues to drive Four Seasons toward new and innovative ideas.
They recently held an Info Fair that included 23 different informational booths all geared towards the health, lifestyle and planning needs of seniors. Members are also regularly on the go. Halvorson has helped plan several extended tours – a group of 38 is leaving for Branson, Missouri on November 15 – as well as a multitude of day trips and cultural outings. They take in every Warroad Summer Theater program. They do driving tours of Christmas lights. They travel to musical theaters, concerts, recreational areas, and historical sites.
On their home turf, there’s always a pot of coffee on and a comfortable lounge area where folks can simply “be”. The meals-on-wheels program through Lutheran Social Services is run out of the Four Seasons Center, so many older adults meet for lunch five days a week. The Center also hosts soup suppers and baked potato bars, mini concerts, bingo and pinochle, monthly birthday celebrations, and according to Halvorson, they’re always willing to try new ideas.
“Everyone is invited, younger adults too,” Halvorson explained. “We want them to know that they are really welcome here. And if there is anything that they would like to share with the older generation, we would love to have them come.
“You’re never too young to come in here and to interact with older people,” she said.
That statement could function as an aspirational mantra across the community. Younger generations are growing increasingly isolated as well, though for different reasons, and the experiential knowledge from cross-generational interaction is slowly being lost. While that sounds grim, organizations like The Four Seasons are doing what they can to bring the community together and at the same time, provide for the age group that is often the most neglected.
The Four Seasons Center has many allies across the community: Roseau County Ford loans them a passenger van for their outings, Security State Bank puts on a Christmas dinner and program each year, the Roseau Schools provide all the decorations for their “Senior Prom”, and the Roseau Lions recently held a fundraiser pancake breakfast for the roofing project.
There’s much more, of course. Businesses and individuals across the community at large step-up in many ways to help out.
Older age can be a delicate season of life; there are a lot of big and different concerns to balance, but almost more importantly, there’s still a lot of living to do. Finding personal enjoyment and empowerment through ongoing education and social connection, as well as having the right resources to address health and accessibility concerns, is a need that only increases as we age.
Ultimately, the folks of the Four Seasons Senior Center want everyone to know that it doesn’t matter what season of the year it is and it doesn’t matter what season of life you’re in; there’s something there for everyone. The Center is your resource and your ally. So, come on out and take part.
(Published in the November 14th issue of the Warroad Pioneer)