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Slusser Center is a place for seniors to gather

  • Betty Poor, left, and Janet Krzyzaniak work through projects during the Slusser Senior Center's quilting group, which is held each Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • Gloria Symonds, right, provides instruction for the strength exercises class as Miriam Shumway follows her lead at the Slusser Senior Center in Hopkinton last week. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • Sally Turcotte, left, Betsey Holder and Jean Lightfoot go through a strength exercises class at the Slusser Senior Center in Hopkinton last week. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • Allita Paine takes measurements for a quilting project at the Slusser Senior Center. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • Gloria Symonds, middle, leads Miriam Shumway, left, and Iris Sindelar through the strength exercises class at Slusser Senior Center. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • The Slusser Senior Center in Hopkinton offers strength exercises classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • The Slusser Senior Center in Hopkinton offers strength exercises classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

Monitor staff
Published: 3/14/2019 1:37:42 PM

Sue Strickland started going to the Slusser Senior Center just one program at a time.

It was five years ago and she needed a reason to get out of the house.

“I’m a widow, so it’s pretty lonely at home, so I come here to see people,” Strickland said.

Soon, she started going to more programs, got back into playing cribbage and now even volunteers at the welcome desk. She was reserved at first, mostly because of the stereotype around the label “senior center.” But the senior programs at the Slusser Center, named after Anne and Gene Slusser who donated the money for the Hopkinton community building, are not just for the retired and elderly.

“People have to get over the stigma of the term senior center or senior programs,” said Paula Simpkins, Hopkinton’s recreation director.

Open to anyone over the age of 50, the programs are held Monday through Friday during senior center hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. And the offerings are not just for Hopkinton residents – all seniors from any town are welcome.

The most popular weekly event is not where you play games, exercise or work on your hobby, rather it includes one of everyone’s favorite pastimes: food. The senior lunch is held every Wednesday at noon and Simpkins said about 50 people attend each week.

“They have to eat, but they love to see their friends,” Simpkins said. “And for a lot of people, that’s the only thing they come to.”

Different organizations, including the Hopkinton Recreation Department, will host the lunch, more often than not cooking a meal in the Slusser Center kitchen – although they have been known to be treated to pizza every once in a while. The lunches are free, as are all the programs, but donations are accepted. And when the Lunch Bunch is on the schedule, like they are this week, most of it is made from scratch. On the menu for Wednesday is sausage on a roll with peppers and onions, coleslaw, baked beans with brownies and ice cream (and chocolate sauce) for dessert.

“Sometimes our hosts do a presentation after lunch because it gives them an audience,” Simpkins said.

There is a set schedule of programs every week. On Mondays and Thursdays from 9 to 10 a.m. there is always strength exercises led by Gloria Symonds. She’s been instructing at the Slusser Center since it opened in 2007 and just so happens to be the oldest one in the class. She was certified in the course in 1996, which allows for attendees to do what they can.

“The goal of all the senior programs is to promote healthy mind and body, and keep people active,” Simpkins said.

Chair yoga is held at the same time on Mondays and Fridays, while strength and balance is from 3 to 4 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. They offer line dancing on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Each of the exercise/active programs has volunteer instructors.

“We are always looking for people who want to volunteer and has a talent to share,” Simpkins said.

And they’re always looking for new options to offer.

There are allotted times for game play, including cribbage on Tuesdays (1 p.m.), Scrabble on Wednesdays and Mah Jongg on Fridays at the same time.

Every Thursday, the quilting (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and crocheting (1:30 p.m.) groups can be found working away, and the same for the knitters (1:30 p.m.) on Tuesday, but it’s not all about creating a blanket or a scarf. These groups have developed friendships over the years and use the weekly meeting time as a way to catch up.

“It is just so important for older people to have a circle of friends you’re close with,” said Allita Paine, who has been going to the quilting group for eight years.

You can also talk through the ups and downs of life.

“Going to a group like this, you realize you’re not the only one going through things,” said Janet Krzyzaniak, who attends something at the Slusser Center just about every day of the week.

The groups have done special projects, like create pillow cases for Homes in Transition and knit hats that were sent to Pease Air National Guard in Portsmouth.

There are blood pressure screenings at 11:30 a.m. every Wednesday and on the first Thursday of the month, Concord Regional VNA holds a senior health clinic from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Sometimes they hold other programs here too,” Simpkins said.

They also have an activity board that provides information about other area programming that participants can take advantage of.

Some of the seniors don’t drive and benefit from the Dial-A-Ride program, which was founded by Anne Slusser and is headquartered at the Slusser Center. While it is not a recreation department program, it made sense to house the program that began in 1979 at the center its founder made possible.

“That’s the connection and why they’re here,” Simpkins said. “They gave a ton of money to organizations all over.”

Dial-A-Ride provides transportation to Hopkinton residents 55 and older using 35 volunteer drivers. It’s available Monday through Friday for food shopping, hospital, medical, dental and other appointments, and is free of charge.

The Slusser Center is also home to the town’s parks and recreation department, which provides programs in the evenings that seniors can also attend, and the town’s food pantry. Since the lightning strike that damaged the library last August, the library has been located in the Slusser Center basement, which Simpkins said has brought even more seniors to know about the programming.

“It’s nice to have the library here. It would have been neat to have a joint complex now that we’ve seen how it works,” Simpkins said.

The goal is to get as many “seniors” to take advantage of what the Slusser Center has to offer.

“It’s a way to stay active, so it you’re over 50 and want a comfortable place that’s fun, it’s a great place to come,” Simpkins said.

For contact information and more about Slusser Center programming, visit

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