On August 29, the Catholic Charities’ Lakeland Activity Center for Seniors received the Florence R. Goldmann Award, given annually to a member of the Florida Association of Senior Centers for distinguished service. Barbara Cage, the program manager accepted the award on behalf of Catholic Charities of Central Florida during the Florida Conference on Aging in Orlando.

According to Sally Marvin, president of the association, “The judges felt this center really exemplified hard work and commitment to make the most of their space, employees, and volunteers and had an open mind when it came to new ways of making things happen for them.” Marvin noted that each year, as the senior centers in the state up their game, it makes the decision for a winner increasingly difficult.

Making the choice even more complex is the fact that member senior centers range in budget, services available, and elders frequenting the centers. At the Lakeland Activity Center, participants average 75 years of age and have a very low yearly income, highlighting the need for programs that fill in the gaps. The center began by offering meals and games and has expanded with a full schedule of health and wellness activities such as line dancing, Scrabble, art, Tai Chi, exercise, a weekly fresh produce distribution, and presentations on healthy living and nutrition.

Recognizing that isolation leads to depression and poor physical health, the center has expanded their Mobile Services Program for Seniors in Polk and Osceola counties to ensure that seniors in remote areas are experiencing human contact and interaction. Cage said, “Social isolation is proven to affect one’s health and well-being. It is among the top causes for depression.”