May is Older Americans Month

May is Older Americans Month, a yearly celebration of the seniors in our communities.

Sadly, many senior citizens struggle to get by and their needs can often be overlooked. Many aging Americans suffer from hunger, poverty, loneliness or a mix of all three.

A study released this year titled “Senior Hunger in America 2012” revealed that the threat of hunger for U.S. seniors has increased 78% in 10 years. Since the onset of the recession from 2007-2010, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger has increased by 34%.

The Salvation Army is meeting the physical and spiritual needs of low-income seniors through the services of 275 senior citizen centers and 26 adult day cares in operation throughout the U.S.. Since the 55-plus age category is the fastest growing group in the country, The Salvation Army’s senior programs are more important than ever.

I had the opportunity to chat with D.D. Landerville, the Senior Services Director of The Salvation Army in Omaha, NE.

D.D. is passionate about her work with the elderly and rightfully so – she’s been invested since the day she helped open Durham Booth Manor, a residential home for low-income seniors, as well as the Dora Bingel Senior Center, 16 years ago.

Durham Booth Manor boasts 47 one bedroom apartments and is currently home to 51 residents averaging 79 years of age. I was shocked to learn that the entire facility is managed and operated by only two employees of The Salvation Army!

“It’s so exciting to see folks find quality housing who have struggled all of their life. As soon as they join us, we give them a welcome basket and immediately make them part of the community,” she said.

The Dora Bingel Senior Center sits conveniently on the lower level where approximately 60 seniors gather together on any average day for hours of social activity, fun, learning and recreation. Transportation is even provided for the those who don’t live at the building.

“We celebrate a lot here because there’s so much loss. Loss could be losing children, a spouse, health, eyesight, hearing, or even the ability to drive. So, we find ways to celebrate life,” she explained.

Birthdays, memorial services and holidays are never missed and theme parties are not uncommon. During the royal wedding last year, the group enjoyed wedding cake while “roadkill grill” was on the menu for April Fool’s Day.

Outside of the parties, games, regular movie viewings and “quick trips” to places like the ice cream parlor, the center provides educational opportunities such as ceramics classes, quilting and tai chi for a few examples. Spiritual nourishment is provided through daily Bible devotionals and prayers.

The theme this year for Older Americans Month just happens to be, “Never Too Old to Play” -  fitting considering the activities offered here.

But the senior center provides more than emotional support. D.D. explained that many seniors attend simply to get a good meal, stating the average yearly income of facility residents is a meager $10,900 – pretty shocking to learn. Thankfully, Durham Booth Manor, among other Salvation Army homes for the elderly, provides a solution for older Americans who are struggling with financial hardships.

“People come in and they’ve been emotionally and physically beaten up and they’re not the people they used to be. We meet them where they are and we see miracles here all the time. These people are accepted, they thrive and they really shine. That’s the celebration of life again and I am so blessed that these folks are here,” she said.

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If you’d like to volunteer your time at The Salvation Army of Omaha’s Dora Bingel Senior Center or the Durham Booth Manor, please contact the volunteers department at 402-898-6000. Click here to visit the website of The Salvation Army of Omaha.

Don’t live in Omaha? Find a location near you by searching by your zip code on our national website: www.SalvationArmyUSA.org.