Reframing Aging: The Kroc Center Healthy Aging Program Offers Older Adults More Opportunities to Engage

Jan 22, 2020


Mary Akers and Marilyn Johnson are proof that age is no barrier to learning – or teaching – a new skill.  Eighty-seven-year-old Mary recently taught her friend Marilyn, 77, how to crotchet. The two met in a Crafts and Conversation class that’s offered as part of the Kroc Center’s Healthy Aging program.

“At first I thought she wasn’t going to make it with the crocheting, but she surprised me,” Akers joked. Johnson finished several dozen prayer squares for shawls that were distributed to residents at area nursing homes during December and plans to keep practicing her new crocheting skills this winter.

Akers, who crocheted nearly 800 prayer squares in just two months for the prayer shawls, spends several hours on Wednesdays and Fridays in the Kroc Center’s art room, where she chats with friends as she colors, knits or crochets. She admits that if she didn’t come to the Kroc Center, she would likely just sit at home alone.

“One day my daughter said to me, ‘Mom, you’re just sitting here. I’ll take to you to the Kroc Center where they have an art room and you can get to know people.’ So here I am,” Akers said. 

In addition to Crafts and Conversation, the Healthy Aging program offers dozens of classes, seminars and events tailored to older adults. From Cyber Seniors, aquatics, art, yoga and fitness classes to a monthly potluck lunch, a drum circle, devotions and prayers and a weekly Lunch and Learn program featuring a wide range of topics including Medicare, elder law, estate planning and nutrition, there is something for everyone.

“Most of our folks here who are in their 60s and beyond are not looking for the kind of senior center where you go to play cards and board games,” explained Glenda Wood, senior life specialist at the Kroc. “The paradigm is shifting -- we are living longer, and we are living healthier. So that’s what we are working on here. We call it ‘reframing aging.’”

After 25 years in the construction industry, Wood decided to change her professional path when she became the primary caregiver for her mother, who has congestive heart failure and end-stage renal failure. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the hospital with her and a lot of time managing her health conditions, and in that time, God put on my heart a desire to help improve the quality of life for older adults.”

When Wood joined the Kroc Center staff in 2018, one of her first initiatives was to inventory and evaluate the programming and survey older adults to find out what kinds of classes and opportunities they were looking for. “The most important part of my job has been the relationship-building – getting to know the members and discovering what they want and what will work best for them,” she said. 

The Kroc offers plenty of opportunities for its more than 500 55+ members to engage their mind, body and spirit. But for many, like Marilyn Johnson, it’s the gift of connection that keeps them coming back. “I do anything that’s going on here,” said Johnson. “I come for the conversation.”

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Related Content: Kroc CenterKroc Community CenterOlder Adult ServicesOmahaPrograms / Services

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