2015-09-17 / Living

Flushing Area Senior Center

Looking out for wellbeing of community’s large senior population
By Samuel Tunningley
810-452-2661 • stunningly@mihomepaper.com

A look at the recent craft show held at the Flushing Senior Citizen’s Center. Also, above, back in the kitchen as lunch and snacks are served. 
Photos by Samuel Tunningley A look at the recent craft show held at the Flushing Senior Citizen’s Center. Also, above, back in the kitchen as lunch and snacks are served. Photos by Samuel Tunningley FLUSHING — Karen Popovits, Executive Director of the Flushing Area Senior Center, has a daunting, yet rewarding, role to play in the Township — her organization accommodates the highest senior population, per capita, in the Midwest United States.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census data, 10,596 of Flushing’s 26,575 total population were seniors aged 50 and over. This year, the number is calculated at 12,034—45 percent of its community.

“We have a sustainable community. Our homes are well-built, well-maintained — we can age in place here,” said Popovits.

It was not always this way. In the 1960s and 1970s, the child population vastly outnumbered the older population.

Then, in 1966, some of the older adults around the Flushing area started meeting twice a month at the Central Elementary school for dinner and a program, and the inception of a community Senior Center began.

“Senior centers are very different from what they used to be. They used to be an activity place; that’s no longer their main focus,” said Popovits. “A level three senior center, like ours is, focuses on the total wellbeing of the individual — in keeping them well, keeping them in their home, providing continuing education and giving them the assistance they need.”

Popovits said she sees a large majority of individuals, generally between 50 and 60, who are working and trying to take care of their older parents, or taking full-time care of grandchildren. The Center offers aid to individuals struggling with these new and challenging responsibilities.

Creating a Confident Caregiver, for example, is an eight week course designed to deepen knowledge and understanding of caregiving. They also have a variety of support groups, including a group for those taking care of grandchildren and one for individuals battling, or know someone battling, Alzheimer’s.

Volunteers—some from various universities partnered with the Center — are often brought in to assist visitors. This can range a service to aid individuals trying to wade through the confusing medical system for Medicaid and Medicare, to a consumer protection program in conjunction with the sheriff’s department.

“Let’s say you got taken by a roofer; they make calls and connections, and, because they are related to the sheriff’s department, they can get more things done,” said Popovits.

A member of the Veteran’s Association of Genesee County, John Nelson, also frequents the center to meet one-on-one with veterans and their families to get them proper benefits.

Most of the services offered at the Senior Center are provided in-house, and Popovits said it allows a personal connection between staff and seniors. This way, they can recommend specific services people wouldn’t otherwise have been aware of to fit their specific needs.

The Center also offers fitness classes (everything from low-impact workouts to more intensive sessions, such as Zumba and Pilates), computer classes, travel shows and special events, including a recent rummage sale.

“We’re a very relational organization,” said Popovits. “We can’t fix everything, but they know we care. It makes a huge difference.”

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