Salvation Army Helps Seniors Transition after Ida Benderson Closes

The closing of the Ida Benderson Senior Center in September because of city budget cuts has opened an opportunity for displaced seniors to attend the Salvation Army’s Adult Day Program. In existence for 62 years, it serves people 60 and older.

Staff members provide a variety of services, and they welcome people from Ida Benderson to join.

John Shepard and Charley, who declined to give his last name, chat outside the Salvation Army. -- Photo by Scott DuChene, Staff Photo

“There is a TV room, a library, a music room and a cafeteria, where we serve both breakfast and lunch each day,” said Linda McNally, director of the Salvation Army’s Adult Day Program. The cafeteria also acts as a common room for arts and crafts, ceramics, activities and games. They play dominoes, cards and Wii bowling, and they also take trips shopping to Walmart.

For the 10 days before Ida Benderson closed Sept. 30, McNally and fellow staff members visited the seniors there to introduce themselves and share information about their adult program. But McNally expressed the importance of helping the Ida Benderson seniors understand that they were not being forced to go to the Salvation Army and that they had other choices.

“I prepared lists from the county office that listed all the nutrition sites in Onondaga County and all the other senior center programs so that if they chose not to come here, they knew where their options were,” McNally said. “Nobody needed to go hungry. If we could help them find one closer to where they lived, just as a form of education, that’s what we did.”

However, the Salvation Army does not seem to be having a problem attracting Ida Benderson seniors to its center. On the first day, 38 Ida Benderson seniors showed up, McNally said. At the end of two weeks, more than 70 seniors had registered for the nutrition program, she said.

The one activity that all seniors do together at the center, McNally said, is to share the noontime meal.

“Aging can really be a process of losses, and here we like to celebrate older people and their ability to make choices about how they spend their day,” McNally said. “So our job is to offer a variety of activities and yet still let seniors either participate or sit in a chair and read the paper or watch the news on TV.”

Staff members want to help the Ida Benderson seniors adjust to a new environment, McNally said.

“If you could tell which seniors are from Ida Benderson and which seniors are from here, then I am not doing my job.”