Work will begin soon on a wellness center for South End seniors that promises to give them a reason to leave home
By Daniel D'Ambrosio, Hartford Advocate Staff Writer
August 02, 2007
South End seniors should have a spiffy new hangout by the end of the year, a state-of-the-art "wellness center" that will include a kitchen and dining room capable of serving up to 150 people, a store where seniors can sell their handiwork, and computer labs.
There may even be a little greenhouse in back of the three-story brick, city-owned building at 830 Maple Ave., which will combine the existing Barry Square and South End senior centers into one new super center.
The city held a groundbreaking on July 16, and Iris Nieves-Cross, the City of Hartford's program manager for senior centers, said the renovation of the building is scheduled to begin in August. The city is shooting for opening the center by the end of December.
Hyacinth Yennie, who runs the Maple Avenue Revitalization Group, said the new center actually should have opened this month according to the original schedule, but noted that "our mayor assured us it's going to be open in December."
The new center will replace what Yennie described as the existing much smaller "mom-and-pop" centers, and will likely serve more than 1,000 seniors who live in the area. Some of those seniors may not currently feel they have a reason to get out of their homes, and Yennie hopes the new center will provide that reason. But she isn't going to wait for seniors to come to her.
"We're going to have outreach people, we want to make sure we find the seniors who live in the neighborhood," said Yennie. "If shut-ins don't have a comfortable place to go, they don't leave the house."
And if they don't leave the house, their health deteriorates.
"If you keep busy, you're healthier instead of being locked up in the house doing nothing," said Yennie.
Nieves-Cross, who is also responsible for the Salvation Army Senior Center at 120 Sigourney St., the Hispanic Senior Center at 95 Park Ave., the North End Super Senior Center at 80 Coventry St., and the Parkville Senior Center at 11 New Park Ave., said the city will be hiring a coordinator to be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the South End Senior Wellness Center, as the renovated building will be called.
Nieves-Cross herself will focus on writing grants to bring in money for programs for seniors at all of the centers the city co-manages.
Marian Cardone, who has lived in the neighborhood near the new center for some 40 years, and sits on the board of directors of the existing South End Senior Center, said the consolidation is "long overdue." It was Cardone and Yennie who found the building, formerly occupied by a church school, and brought it to the attention of the city.
"I think it will be very good for the neighborhood," Cardone said. "I think it will be a very safe building."