Philadelphia (March 19, 2019) – Ellen Brown carefully studied the bingo cards spread out on the table in front of her, looking for matches to the numbers and letters called out to the room. So far no luck, but that didn’t really matter to Ellen. The 85-year old resident of Philadelphia’s Grays Ferry neighborhood is surrounded by all of her friends on this Thursday afternoon, as part of the RESTORE program at The Salvation Army’s Central Corps Community Center.
“When you get to a certain age, there is nothing for us to do except look at the TV and nod. But this gives us something to do. We can come up here and sit and talk with each other,” she explained.
RESTORE, which stands for Returning Elderly Strength to Overtake Repressive Economics, offers older adults a safe environment to socialize four days a week, with structured activities and free, nutritious lunch. Mark Wright has overseen the program since the community center opened in 2002.
“Most of them live within a few block radius. Some of them carpool. The ones that can drive pick-up others. Some walk. Some catch the bus. We have a few that come from West Philadelphia because they grew up in this area,” said Mark.
Nearly 50 seniors are enrolled in RESTORE. Bingo is one of their favorite afternoon activities here, but the program also offers them day excursions out of the city and even a week-long trip to Camp Ladore, The Salvation Army’s camp in the Pocono Mountain region.
“I am grateful to The Salvation Army for putting it here,” Ellen said of the RESTORE program. She’s been a member since its inception 17 years ago. “If it wasn’t here, we would just sit home with nothing to do and it messes with your mind.”
Studies show staying active and socializing in the later years is vital to health and wellbeing. Socially-isolated older adults are likely to be sicker and die sooner, and have higher health care expenses, than seniors who retain their social connections, according to a report from AARP Public Policy Institute, Stanford University and Harvard.
“I love it here I really do,” said Vernal Baldwin. The 94 year old woman has been coming to the program for five years, having learned about it from her neighbor. “The first day I was here I was welcomed with harmony and love. Everybody was so nice.”
Since 1879, The Salvation Army has taken a holistic approach to providing for the needs of the whole individual – physically, emotionally, economically and spiritually. As a result, the seniors here at Central Corps are among thousands across Greater Philadelphia who lead healthier, safer and more productive lives each year.
“The joy that this program brings is beyond whatever I could say,” said Mark. “Just to give them a little relief within their day of the pressures of life, to say we care, we love you … that’s what I see every day.”