Home Our Diocese Seniors flock to St. Francis LIFE Center for flurry of activities: ‘They...

Seniors flock to St. Francis LIFE Center for flurry of activities: ‘They still can be part of the community’

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Anthony Lombardi, a recreational therapist at the St. Francis LIFE Center in Wilmington, talks with some of the seniors who recently visited. The center offers social activities, physical therapy and other services. Lombardi said a minimum of 60 people will come to St. Francis LIFE on a given day.

WILMINGTON — Some aspects of life can be difficult to navigate in later years. There may be no family nearby, or perhaps a person can’t drive themselves to appointments or shopping or wherever. But on the Wilmington riverfront, some local seniors have found the assistance they need at the St. Francis LIFE Center.

The center offers a full range of services to its clients, according to Anthony Lombardi, a recreational therapist.

“We are pretty much the one-stop shop,” Lombardi said recently. “We have social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy, dietary, medical, nurses, doctors. We have a day center here for them to attend and get out and be social.”

“We offer a bunch of activities in a given month … bingo, arts and crafts, gardening, dollmaking classes. We’re just about to introduce crocheting and knitting class,” Lombardi said.

They also take the participants on trips into the community for lunch or shopping, for example. “It encourages them to socialize. They still can be part of the community. That always gets filled up.”

On any given day, he said, a minimum of 60 people will come to St. Francis LIFE to take advantage of one or more of its services. They range in age from their mid-50s into their 90s. Some have been going for the more than 10 years the Wilmington center has been around, while others recently discovered it. One who fits the latter category is Shirley Murray, 88, a Wilmington resident who is a member of St. Joseph’s Parish on French Street.

St. Francis LIFE Center.

“I love it,” she said in March. “Everything is included. They take care of you. You don’t have to worry about anything.”

She attends twice a week, with one of those days normally being a Friday, when a group heads to the Boothwyn (Pa.) Farmers Market. Murray said the assistance provided by the St. Francis LIFE Center has been crucial for people like her without much family around.

“As I got older, rather than depend on my daughter — she’s a flight attendant, so she’s not available all the time. That’s the only family I have here,” she said.

Lombardi said one of the benefits of the center is that people often learn new hobbies and make new friends. For Rita Smith and Gloria McGee, both of those things happened.
Smith started going to the center last October, a few months after McGee, after some friends recommended it. Now she’s there three days a week.

“Number one, I like the people,” Smith said. “The people are just wonderful. I enjoy talking to everybody. It gives me some time to do arts and crafts, doing the trips and going out and having a good time.”

As she and McGee got to know each other, their friendship deepened.

“Since I’ve come, the two of us have just kind of, our spirits just connected,” she said.

McGee, who lives with her sister in Wilmington, said she and Smith met after one of her best friends died.

“She’s my new one,” McGee said. “Isn’t that wonderful?”

She may spend a lot of time with her new bestie, but McGee also likes “mingling with the people.” She likes that she is able to get some exercise and learn some new skills.
“I like arts and crafts. I’m just not that good at it. But I like doing it,” she said.

In the past few months, she has made a heart wreath and clovers for St. Patrick’s Day. She tries to do something for every holiday.

“They didn’t all turn out great, but I had a great time doing it,” McGee said.

Lombardi said the participants come from a range of faith backgrounds, with a chaplain available for one-on-one counseling or to conduct services or Bible study. Center leadership has heard the positive feedback from its clients.

“Since we’re all in one, it makes things a lot easier for them,” Lombardi said. “Being able to see the doctor, being able to do rehab, social work here. Being able to be stimulated cognitively, the physical exercise. All of that coming together, they’re very appreciative.”