Senior Center and elementary school celebrate 'Older Americans Month'

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Tue., May. 31, 2011
Members of Golden Glow perform at the Senior Center Older Americans Month picnic. Photos By Kevin Hotary.
Members of Golden Glow perform at the Senior Center Older Americans Month picnic. Photos By Kevin Hotary.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy designated the month of May as “Senior Citizen Month,” a time during which communities across the country were to celebrate and pay tribute to their older residents. And although the designation has since changed - May is now “Older Americans Month” - the celebration remains.

Last week, many Colchester residents celebrated their older citizens.

On Wednesday, May 25, the Colchester Senior Center hosted its Older Americans Month Picnic, which featured food, games, entertainment and a raffle of gingerbread houses made by culinary students at Bacon Academy and donated to the center. 

“What better way to celebrate than with a picnic?” said Senior Center Director Patti White, as the celebration started with a concert by the Golden Glow singers. Led by Bertie Hawkins, the group ran through a number of familiar favorites, with some strong solo performances, like “Love Me Tender,” performed by Bernie Gursky.

The Golden Glow “started as a sing-along,” said Hawkins, who turned it into a group about 15 years ago. The only requirement for becoming a member “is a love of singing,” she said. The Golden Glow singers perform at various venues and events throughout the area, including nursing homes. Sometimes, said program assistant and Golden Glow singer Priscilla Clesowich, residents who otherwise don’t interact with others will hear the familiar songs and start to sing along or clap.

“We feel like we really touched their day,” said Clesowich.

The celebration continued on Friday, May 27, with Older American Day at Colchester Elementary School. Starting with coffee and breakfast, a group of seniors spent a couple of hours interacting with and learning about the various day-to-day educational activities of Colchester’s youngest students.

“It’s our attempt to reach out to the seniors. We want them to have the opportunity to see the kids, to see what Colchester Elementary School is all about,” said CES Principal Jacqueline Somberg. 

The program was organized by CES music teacher Roslyn Etra, who has been coordinating events aimed at bringing the generations together for a number of years.

“We’ve always had that partnership between the school and the community,” said Etra. “It’s really great to bring the generations together.”

And both generations benefited from the brief visit.

Evelyn Schutz said that because her grandchildren live so far away, she rarely gets the chance to see them. 

“Now I know what my great grandchildren are doing,” she said, adding, “I like coming here.”

Similarly, the students benefited from the patience and the encouragement shown them by the visiting seniors.

“That was a very special thing that you just did,” said Clesowich to a group of second-graders who had just stood before them and recited poems they had written.

The visit ended with a trip to the library, where the seniors talked with second-graders about their dinosaur projects. Caitlin, after going through her project with Schutz, told her how much she liked the blue necklace that was hanging around her neck.

Schutz smiled and said, “Thank you. It’s very old.”

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