America’s geriatric population is set to explode over the next decade as the Baby Boom generation begins to retire. Medical advances have pushed life expectancy such that many women and men will live a third of their lives in retirement.
Enter the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, a private, non-profit advocate since 1973. PCA works to improve the lives and independence of senior citizens by lobbying for public and private monies.
One-eighth of Philadelphians (192,000 people) are 65 years and over and one-third of that group are living within 150% of the poverty line, according to PCA.
The South Philadelphia Older Adult Center is funded jointly by the city and the PCA.
The staff of four are employees of the city. The organization works to help its members live enriching and dignified lives.
For $7 per year, members can come to the building, located at Passyunk Avenue and Dickinson Street, from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and enjoy activities with their peers, Philadelphians 55 years and older.
They have access to a garden, bocce court, billiards, card games, arts and crafts, knitting and sewing, dance and more.
Instructors come to teach zumba, aerobics and chair exercise classes ranging from $1-3.
Hot and cold lunches are offered everyday for a suggested donation of 75 cents.
The Adult Center arranges to have SEPTA’s Customized Community Transportation pick up and drop off members for a suggested round-trip fare of $1.
South Philly Adult Center offers more than light activities, $1 movies and glee club performances.
This month they scheduled “Seniors and Sexuality…Let’s Talk!” which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a courageous and important program given the increasing risks of STI transmission among seniors who don’t use prophylactics.
Deborah Hoffer, the Adult Center’s Program Director, said they have more than 1,000 paying members and more than 100 come in each day.
“Some don’t even come to join any groups or activities. They just sit and talk. It’s about being with people,” she said.
But Hoffer laments the limitations of her job.
“We haven’t had [a funding] increase in seven years.”
Sadie Piccolo has been coming to the Adult Center since 1994. She’s 92 years old.
“I can’t just stay in and clean. I like to get out of the house. It keeps you going.”
Facilities like the South Philly Older Adult Center are more important everyday but budget issues, like the Philadelphia Public School District’s shortfall, will test the will and means of the government to continue to invest in them.