By Gregory Zarb
In the lobby of the Life Enrichment Center in Oyster Bay, several elderly people muttered to each other if they think a sweatshirt will look nice for their granddaughter. In the main hall filled with people, the only sounds heard are the shuffling of bingo cards and the person on the microphone calling out each number.
“This is a senior center where we are open Monday through Friday during the daytime,” Joanne Daddio, executive assistant at the Life Enrichment Center, said. “Some people think a senior center is similar to an assisted living or a nursing home which it is not. It is a club where seniors live at home.”
The senior center in Oyster Bay is just one of the over 250 centers in New York State, according to the Department for the Aging. Along with senior centers, nursing homes, assisted living homes and adult day centers are on the rise due to the rise in population of the senior citizens on Long Island. The rise in population is due to the high number of baby-boomers aging and the increase in life expectancy as well.
There are an estimated 1,282,161 people over the age of 65 living in the state of New York, according to the United States Census. There are 1,273 types of senior citizen homes such as nursing homes, assisted living homes and day centers in New York, according to New York State Department of Health.
Beth Spickler-Lerman, the social worker coordinator for the Life Enrichment Center, has been in the senior citizen care field for over 25 years. Her experience in the field and her work has helped show how it’s never a good idea for senior citizens to enter a nursing home or assisted living residents right away unless there are specific circumstances.
“It’s helping them age in place longer,” Spickler-Lerman said. “Going into a facility isn’t the worst thing in the world. You want to have that set of eyes in case someone needs to intervene because something will eventually happen.”
Nursing homes and assisted living homes make up the majority of senior citizen living centers on Long Island. Places like Woodhaven Nursing Home and Brookside Multicare Nursing Center have nurses available to treat the senior citizens 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year.
However, due to past statistics, moving into a nursing home comes with certain risks as well. Nursing homes have always been the source of lawsuit, as countless stories of abuse in nursing homes continue to pour out. About 25 percent of abuse in nursing homes are never reported, according to a report and study conducted by the New York Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog. It’s also very expensive to live in a nursing home. The average cost of a nursing home is around $97,455 a year, according to Genworth Financial.
Day centers and places like the Life Enrichment Center are becoming more popular, mainly due to the much lower costs to spend time there. While these places do not offer overnight stay, they offer a plethora of other activities and services.
“Some people come here because they need a little more support than others,” Lori Maldavir, Manager of Program Development and Government Relations at Day Haven Adult Day Services, said. “Some of them might need some assistance going to the bathroom, or cutting up their meals or just walk around the room. Some people just come here to socialize with their peers.”
Jennette James, a member of the Life Enrichment Center, had one specific reason why day centers beat out going to nursing homes and assisted living homes.
“The people,” James said. “The people that I have met since joining this center, we’ve all become very close.”
Linda Libertini, James’ friend and member as well, added on about how many of the senior citizens there feel too young to be going to nursing homes at this stage of their lives.
“As long as I’m viable and can keep driving, or until I can’t take the bus service anymore, the thought of going into a nursing home, I don’t think so,” Libertini said. “If I needed that much care, I’d be at home. I would do anything I can do to make myself feel comfortable in my own home.”
While there are many different options for senior citizens to choose from, day centers seem to be one of the most popular choices for many. Due to the cost of nursing homes and assisted living homes, and the longevity of life in today’s world, senior citizens would rather spend time with friends, partying and playing bingo rather than sitting cooped up in homes.
“In part of having fun, it’s getting people out of their four walls,” Judy Palumbo, executive director of the Life Enrichment Center, said. “Part of growing older is isolation, and they come here for that social interaction. That’s actually one of the things our members say adults need the most.”