... a neighborly visit
Once a farm, once the poorhouse, now expanded into a beautiful colonial place for Stoneham's seniors.
Another pleasant chapter in an endeavor to share impressions while visiting a Senior Center in this area.
The Senior Center on Elm Street in Stoneham, Massachusetts, is a picture from the past. Its circular driveway edges a grassy island with a garden shaded by a pair of trees. On the far side of the hot-topped path stands a 150 year-old white clapboard home. Inside the three story building, the large rooms are charmingly furnished. It had started out long ago as a prosperous farm and eventually it became the town's Poor House. In 1996, a ground-breaking ceremony was held and extensive renovation began to turn it into what it is today ... a pleasant atmosphere in which Senior Citizens can enjoy and thrive on the available activities. Every room, including the offices upstairs, are attractively furnished by a Town Selectman's daughter who, as a professional Interior Decorator, donated her talented services at the time of the new beginning.
A baby grand piano in the large downstairs parlor completes the opulent decor of that entry room. On Thursdays, fifteen members of the Senior chorus rehearse and perform.
On a nearby easel there is a fresh floral wreath in memory of Paul Holmes who died recently. He and his wife had been bridge players at the Center. In Korea in the armed services, this former pilot had participated in a hundred missions and had earned fifty medals.
On the second floor in the office of the Board of Health, Denise Breen showed us the offices and the highly polished floors of what could have been a ballroom. In a small office was a Senior Citizen guest having her fingernails cut by a professional manicurist. Along the corridor, the framed prints on the wall were very attractive. The evening activities are yoga, line dancing, craft room creations and co-ed poker.
In the Reception Office, Gladys Thompson was most cordial and made us feel welcome in the absence of Director Jane Lavender.
The grand hall, upstairs.
We were seated in the dining room which was attractively appointed with blue tablecoths and white placemats. There was a roll and butter, a carton of milk and pineapple for dessert at each place. The silverware was not plastic! Two volunteer helpers served the delicious, nutritious main course of roasted chicken. We were seated at a table with Josephine and John. Their mutual hearing loss cemented their friendship. Waiting at the coffee pot, I met Costa who had come here from Albania many years ago.
There were about twenty people at four tables. We were told that this number was usually doubled, but today was a "Cheap Eats" outing, i.e., a weekly trip to a shopping mall with lunch in a fast-food restaurant.
We learned that this Stoneham dining room also serves breakfast for a dollar on Monday mornings. We promised to return.
In one corner I noticed two coin-operated machines ... one with juice; the other with soda for refreshing "breaks."
Everyone was friendly and helpful. The hospitable Shirley Murray showed us the first floor rooms in the house, pointing out and explaining things of interest such as paintings, pictures and poems of former residents. On one wall hung the current, framed, original, monthly poem signed, "Oncle George". He was a friendly "up" man who had sat at the table next to ours during lunch. He was also clever and extremely talented. (see last page)
Shirley Murray at the history board.
The grand hall, upstairs.There was a contest-winning photo on the wall by Marion Rockwood. It was of Laura Holden and Helen Lindsay. Ms. Holden, prior to her death, had been a constant worker and staunch supporter of the Stoneham Senior Center.
Henry Fountain, the chef who pronounced his last name with a French accent, accepted my compliments with grace and announced happily that they had been approved to serve their meals on china plates starting this summer.
In addition to weekly movies at the Center, there are groups of line dancers, the 60-Plus Club, chair caning instructions, watercolor painting, stained glass lessons, a knitting group and a book club. There is a hairdresser and manicurist available by appointment. For those who need help through expanded knowledge and companionship, there are classes in stress management, M.S. or Parkinson's Support Groups, and legal assistance. Other available interest groups are listed in the Stoneham Sentinel, a monthly publication of the Stoneham Council on Aging.
Unfortunately their computers have been in disuse since the instructor moved further north. Is anyone interested in teaching about RAMs and ROMs?
My companion, Lorry Norris, and her husband, editor Don Norris from the Melrose Senior Center, filled out an Evaluation form. The whole Stoneham operation was rated by us as: Top notch = 98.5 percent.
THE END.........except for Oncle George's poem.