This past week we had the opportunity to visit Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine for the launch of the Institute for Integrative Aging, a partnership between Health eVillages, Tivity Health and Saint Joseph’s College providing seniors a comprehensive environment to better themselves physically, mentally and socially. The Institute for Integrative Aging (IIA) serves as a pilot/model for how other colleges can play an integral role in serving the community, engaging seniors and students in innovative projects, and establish vital on-line learning opportunities. The IIA provides older adults in the Lakes Region with a location to participate in Silver Sneakers, a product of Tivity Health, and the opportunity to connect with others in a social environment. There are plans to expand the IIA into a residential community, as well as provide continuing education to the older adults in the area.
We were lucky enough to celebrate the launch of the IIA with a breakfast meet and greet with the group of seniors who have already taken advantage of the IIA. About 80 individuals who participate in the Silver Sneakers classes on campus attended and had the opportunity to share their stories with our founder, Donato.
One of these stories was that of Shirley Saunders, a 95-year-old woman who lives in Windham, Maine, a short drive from the Saint Joseph’s College campus. Shirley hadn’t left her house for most of the winter because of the ice and snow, cutting her off from her usual social connection. She had just started Silver Sneakers classes this past week and was thoroughly enjoying the physical aspect as well as the social aspect that the class was able to provide.
Shirley had already become an inspiration to her fellow members and her energy was truly contagious! So many great stories were shared! Although the classes are only scheduled for an hour, many of the members will come an hour before the class to spend time with each other and then stay an hour afterwards to talk over coffee in the commons. A very special “Thank you!” to the instructors for letting us sneak in and witness this in action!
We were also able to tour the “freight farm” located on campus. This is a trailer donated by the Hannaford Foundation in which vegetables are grown year-round (a huge feat, especially with the harsh Maine winters) and are utilized in the campus cafeterias. In the first year it was operational, the freight farm was able to produce 20,000 lbs. of lettuce! This is an entirely student run endeavor, employing 7 students who would otherwise need to go off campus to find work.
Our day was full of learning and experiencing the ever growing IIA. In addition to the work being done on the Institute for Integrated Aging, we were happy to attend a dinner in honor of the two individuals who were being awarded an honorary degree from the college, including our own Donato
We are so happy that Health eVillages is playing a role with the Institute for Integrated Aging and we are excited to see where the additional developments will take the community of Saint Joseph’s!