Dynamic senior social group meets for education, friendship, and entertainment
For being a group comprised of members over the age of 55, the Young at Heart program certainly lives up to its name. The almost 200 members meet once a month, get together for holidays and card games, and even take trips together. One of the program leaders, Marianne Boston, emphasizes her desire to raise awareness that seniors can certainly participate and be active in our community.
When Jackie Keller moved here 10 years ago, she joined St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church and was asked to help form a Senior Group. She and Mary Guyant, another founding member, worked to create a small group that has now grown into more than they could have imagined. Guyant says she started the group with the help of her husband, praying the seniors would come, enjoy the fellowship, and return the next month. She brought baked goodies at first, and then eventually others started pitching in, helping set up and making coffee. As more and more members began to attend, “we grew and learned from each other,” she says.
The decade-old program includes a planning board to schedule and plan all the events to enjoy. There are trips to the Inner Harbor, theatres, group performances, and even a cruise once a year. They have traveled to Canada and the Carribean. “We are a really active group and enjoy getting together,” says Boston. Sometimes it is just something small where a member will simply bring a guitar and we gather for companionship. There are two bridge nights a month, along with other card-playing nights. Last year’s Christmas celebration included a luncheon, door prizes, and decorations.
At the monthly meetings at Warrenton’s St. John the Evangelist Mercy Hall, Young at Heart seniors have the opportunity to listen to guest speakers brought in to educate on a variety of topics. Participants bring snacks to share and open minds to learn. Topics may include exercise, social security, AARP, healthcare at home, and other subjects of interest to this age group.
Sometimes these meetings serve to introduce new programs for seniors to take part in or use as a resource. For instance, a speaker from VOLTRAN — Volunteer Transportation Service that serves Fauquier, northern Culpeper, and Rappahanock Counties — gave a presentation at one meeting that inspired volunteer participation for some and provided assistance for others. Volunteers with VOLTRAN provide rides for the elderly and disabled to doctor appointments and necessary errands. After the presentation, two Young at Heart members signed up to become volunteer drivers. Other Young at Heart members are unable to drive, and therefore are in need of VOLTRAN’s services, so it became a valuable resource for them.
Trips and events are usually planned in partnership with Fauquier County Parks & Recreation, Blue Bird Tours, travel clubs, Aging Together, and other senior organizations. The goal is to meld with other community organizations and activities to bring people together and create friendships with others of similar interests and grow local groups for seniors to join. “We look at the needs our seniors are currently having and try to meet them,” says Boston.
The magic of partnerships with other organizations is building that network of like-minded individuals and providing more opportunities for seniors in our community to get together. For instance, a representative from the Wellington at Lake Manassas came to speak to the Young at Heart group to advise them of programs and classes at their facility that are free for area seniors to attend. The programs cover all sorts of topics, from art and painting to wine, culinary pursuits, fashion, photography, and much more. Partnerships with other organizations also yield benefits for members.
“This group is dear to my heart and I look forward to each get together,” says Keller. Many other members feel the same. Boston says “Young at Heart has given me an education on available community resources for seniors and their families, as well as the joy of sharing good times with like-minded seniors.”
Word of mouth is the biggest factor in other seniors hearing about this unique program. Their events are listed in the St. John’s Church bulletin, but additional efforts are made to reach other seniors in the community. Leaders of Young at Heart also will reach out by speaking at the Fauquier Senior Center and other assisted care facilities.
Each month, an email blast is sent to the entire membership list, with an information sheet with all the activities planned for that month. And for not-so-tech-savvy seniors, a member, Donna, contacts them over the phone to make sure they are able to attend as well. There are no dues, no obligations, no strings, and its nondenominational. “Just come and have fun,” says Boston.
The group is a place to be understood, to relax, to learn, to build relationships, and to enjoy the many activities that bond them together. Seniors really can have fun! Interested seniors age 55 and older can join by attending one of the monthly meetings, filling out a membership form, and choosing which activities they would like to partake in.
Be sure to join them at the next meeting on the first Friday of the month at St John’s Mercy Hall, 271 Winchester Street in Warrenton. For additional information and questions, contact Marianne Boston at 540-347-5718.