Book clubs, speakers and gardening
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Book clubs, speakers and gardening

Senior living centers help community members stay active and social.

Rabbi Dovid Small leads residents in a megillah reading. Photo courtesy of Jewish Association on Aging
Rabbi Dovid Small leads residents in a megillah reading. Photo courtesy of Jewish Association on Aging

Pittsburgh’s senior living centers are helping older community members stay active and social.

At Weinberg Terrace, Weinberg Village, The New Riverview and AHAVA Memory Care Center of Excellence, residents enjoy a host of engaging and meaningful activities, said Leah Berman-Kress, Jewish Association on Aging’s marketing and public relations coordinator.

Whether it’s through monthly volunteer-led boards and councils — where residents discuss changes they’d like to see at Weinberg Terrace and The New Riverview — participating in regular bingo games, art projects, holiday-themed events or helping with spring and summer gardening, “our residents are really involved in the places that they live,” Berman-Kress said.

The Jewish staffer said that she and her colleagues are constantly working with residents to ensure they feel “connected and included in our community” and offer a range of programs seeking to satisfy a plethora of unique interests.

In recent months, authors, artists and even Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey have visited Weinberg Terrace, Berman-Kress said.

Pittsburgh Police’s Zane visits a resident. Photo courtesy of Jewish Association on Aging

At Concordia of the South Hills, a number of prominent local educators, authors and historians regularly speak with residents, explained Christie Wahlen, director of marketing at Concordia of South Hills.

Each month, Todd DePastino, director of the Pittsburgh-based Veterans Breakfast Club, discusses war-related history. Radio personality and journalist George Savarese reviews current events. Rabbi Alex Greenbaum of Beth El Congregation of the South Hills addresses contemporary topics, and children’s author Judy Press leads a bimonthly creative writing workshop, Wahlen said.

The programs — along with regular book clubs and groups dedicated to poker, bridge and mahjong — provide opportunities for residents to leave their apartments and socialize, Wahlen said.

Fraternizing isn’t just fun — it can also be good for one’s health. Research suggests that getting out and expanding one’s social circle is important to healthy aging.
Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin found that older adults who engaged with individuals outside of their usual circle of close friends and family were likelier to be physically active, have better moods and harbor fewer negative feelings.

Berman-Kress said that she and her colleagues are always looking for ways to introduce residents to one another.

For instance, she said, during warmer months, ice cream socials are great vehicles for getting people to venture outdoors and engage with staff and other residents.

Wahlen said she makes a point of encouraging residents to express their interests, even when they might think there may be no one else who enjoys the same things.
“If you’re interested in it then someone else will probably be interested in it as well,” Wahlen said.

That’s how community-building occurs, she added.

Photo courtesy of Jewish Association on Aging

Concordia has about 140 residents, ranging in age from 70-105, according to Wahlen.

Weinberg Terrace, Weinberg Village and AHAVA Memory care have about 120 residents, while The New Riverview houses slightly more than 200 residents. The ages of JAA residents range “from their 60s to over 100 years old,” Berman-Kress said.

“Our community is a very welcoming place, and we want everyone to feel involved,” she added.

Wahlen offered a similar sentiment, saying, “Concordia of the South Hills is a great place, we have great residents here and we love to have new residents.”

After describing how much residents and staff enjoyed a recent visit from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police’s first comfort dog, Zane, Berman-Kress said, “We have tons of activities throughout the day. There is always something a resident can find.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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