‘55 Plus Program’ in Fairfield provides year-round senior activities

A Fairfield program that offers local seniors a chance to have fellowship with others is continuing to grow in popularity.

The “55 Plus Program” by the City of Fairfield Parks and Recreation Dept. aims to help people in their older years stay mentally active and physically healthy.

“I’ve seen what these programs do in people’s lives, and it’s important to keep that fellowship throughout, and continue to meet new people,” said Stephanie Hocter, 55 Plus recreational programmer for the City. “This program is so loved and important to people’s lives. They tell us daily that they are thankful for the programs we have in Fairfield. It’s a great thing to look forward to,” Hocter said.

Some of the activities are card games, virtual bowling, chair volleyball, Bunco parties, movies and popcorn, lunch outings and more. These programs allow participants to meet new people, explore different places, stay in shape and learn new skills.

Hocter said the 55 Plus Program helps senior adults form new friendships, keeps their minds active and it builds community.

“It’s important to offer different programs because we’re all individuals, and we all have different interests, and sometimes, it takes different programs to help people grow their interests in other ways. So, if they are here for one thing, and they meet someone, they might not think they are a bingo player, but they end up coming to bingo, because they want to be with the people that they’ve met through another program. So, diversity helps grow the entire program, because we’re connecting friendships,” Hocter said.

The COVID-19 pandemic taught her, the staff and the seniors more about the importance of those friendships. Seniors were lonely and they reached out. Informally, a group started to meet outdoors at Harbin Park once a month for 14 months, because the senior programming was shut down during COVID.

“We started with four of us meeting. It started in May of 2020, and by the end of October, we had 25 people coming to lunch, by word of mouth. They would bring their own lunch, and we sat six feet apart, but it truly showed me that this community that we are building in the 55 Plus is an important part of these people’s lives. They were reaching out to people that they missed and needed, because the 55 Plus Program has set this foundation for them,” Hocter said.

The year-round program also includes lunches, crafts, ice cream socials, on-your-own, self-directed activities and group activities. The City says on its website the 55 Plus Program is for those “55 and better”.

Participants are coming from all over the region.

“The No. 1 problem that seniors have is loneliness, and if you become part of 55 Plus, or once involved with a small bit of 55 Plus, you’re going to find a friend,” Hocter said.

55 Plus Program guests may play Dominoes and match numbers, or they pick up a glue gun for the first time in Craft Corner and may learn how to use it for the first time. There’s a monthly craft, where participants learn a new one as they socialize with others. Participants have made wreaths, home décor, paintings and more.

There are folks nearing 100 years old who attend activities through the program, too.

“It’s a successful program. We have people that met here 14 years ago as widowers and they became friends, traveled along, and they are so active in this,” Hocter said.

One new program, Dancing in the Daylight, offers an afternoon of music to move to or sit and listen to. Guests should bring their own drink and a snack to share. Music is provided, with a different genre featured each session. This new program, which just started in March, is offered for two hours and the cost is $3 per session.

One day each month, senior adults can participate in Games Galore, where they can learn/play a different game while enjoying the fellowship of others in the Senior Lounge. Snacks will be provided. The cost is $3. Games include Dominoes, Skyjo, and Skip-Bo. In April, the featured game will be Dominoes. There’s also a monthly Bunco group and a Senior Moments Luncheon once a quarter.

Travel Adventures includes historical tours to casino trips. In January, the group visited the Holy Cross Immaculate Church in Mt. Adams and went on to the Cincinnati Art Museum for an art tour in Cincinnati. The trip included a lunch stop at Ford’s Garage in Norwood. Casino trips are offered quarterly.

There’s also a new monthly group that just formed called “Let’s Get Together Gatherings,” where individuals can gather to talk about their feelings, to share the good and the bad, and chat with each other. Topics have included stress management for seniors, loneliness, friendships, losing people we love, or having health issues, among others. Participants can express their feelings, or just sit and listen. The 55 Plus Program is collaborating with UPLIFT in Butler County on the program.

In addition, the Senior Lounge at the Fairfield Community Arts Center on Wessel Drive is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday mornings. Parking is located outside the Senior Lounge in the west parking area, which allows for easier accessibility to the lounge.

A 55 Plus quarterly newsletter with a schedule of events and activities is available at www.fairfield-city.org. Those who would like to be added to the monthly newsletter can stop by the FCAC or call (513) 867-5348 to sign up. The April through June newsletter is out now.

Some activities and events require advance registration. For those activities with a registration deadline, participants should stop by or call the front desk inside the Fairfield Community Arts Center at (513) 867-5348 to register and pay for the event/activity prior to the registration deadline. Some programs have a set capacity, and they might fill up quickly.

“Our biggest complaint every month is that the programs fill up too fast,” Hocter said. “People are often waiting to get on the list.”

Upcoming events

Senior Prom: Apr. 18. The evening will include dinner and dancing with a photo op. This year’s theme is “Once Upon a Time.” The dress code ranges from casual to dressy. In addition to the Senior Prom, other popular dance events include a Happy Hearts Dance, a Square Dance in August, and Halloween Hoopla.

Gold Years Senior Expo: 9 a.m.-1 p.m., June 5. This is a health expo with nearly 40 vendors offering information about health care, senior communities, estate planning, Medicare, physical therapy, staying in your home as you age and more. The event is free and is geared to those 55 and older and their caregivers.

All events are at the Fairfield Community Arts Center except the Travel Adventures, which are held off-site. FCAC is located at 411 Wessel Drive.

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