LAKELAND | Every week, a dozen seniors enjoy fun and fellowship at St. John Neumann’s Senior Mobile Center located at St. John Neumann Parish in Lakeland. They gather to exercise, play games and share a meal with friends. This month, their activities focused on St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The Catholic Charities of Central Florida senior program began at the Lakeland parish last fall and has taken off.

Bethany McBride leads the geriatric group with joy and energy. “My favorite part of our senior mobile services is the holistic approach that we offer. We address the mental, physical, and emotional needs of all of our clients. At the parish sites, we also get to aid the spiritual needs. Our group offers a safe space for our clients to engage with other adults, physically exercise their aging bodies, and fulfill their mental needs as they are provided the opportunity for many different presentations that help to educate them, or get them thinking.”

Betty Wilcock, 86, says, “It’s a learning experience. It just gets me out and about.” Although the program is open to people of all faiths and parishes, those currently attending are parishioners—a bonus for Wilcock who adds, “I like meeting new people from my church I haven’t met before.”

Father Jarek Sztybel, pastor of St. John Neumann, was happy to provide space for the program. “It’s very important to provide services for all ages, including our seniors,” he noted. “This is a great opportunity for them to be together and have quality time.”

“This group brings comradery and companionship,” notes 74-year-old Pat Stevens. “The fact is, that it makes you focus on getting good exercise at least once a week. It’s good for you all around. I enjoy spending the day with everyone. I find the game and activities mentally stimulating. It’s great to have interactions with other adults too,” she said.

Jim Ferrell is a widower who lives with his 59-year-old daughter Ellen, a vibrant woman with disabilities. “I like to socialize and exercise and color,” says Ellen. “I like going with my dad to meet new people.” At the March 14 gathering, Jim sported his lucky Irish t-shirt and the Ferrells bowled with potatoes, worked out during chair exercises and ate traditional Irish foods such as shepherd’s pie and soda bread.

“So many of our older adults feel their lives are coming to an end, and slowing down but that doesn’t have to be the case. There is so much hope for our clients, and we do our best to help them see that. They too can live very meaningful, intentional, and fruitful lives. This program helps guide them to that truth!”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – March 18, 2019