Whether they are splashing in the pool, making jewelry, listening to a guest speaker or concentrating on a serious game of chess in the senior lounge, older adults have a wide variety of programs to join at the Chicago, Ill., Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

Eighteen hundred older adults currently take part in activities, said PJ Jones, program director at the Kroc Center.

More than 30 programs are designed specifically for older adults, he said, adding that field trips to Broadway shows and other venues are among the most popular. Many of them will even set sail together on a cruise in December 2024.

“Remember when you were in school, and you could not sleep the night before going on a field trip with your classmates? The seniors here are the same way,” PJ said. “They average about one trip a month; as soon as it is announced, it sells out within a day.”

A number of the center’s clubs are led by older adults, including clubs for chess, photography, scrapbooking and guitar. Seniors can join a walking group, do aerobics to gospel music, swim, play pickleball or bowl.

There are specific programs for veterans, including meeting on the fourth Friday of each month to listen to a guest speaker. They also help with the Kroc Center’s afterschool program on Tuesdays and Thursdays, offering mentoring opportunities for youth ages 11-17.

Educational workshops bring information on diabetes, stroke-prevention and life skills such as managing money, healthy eating or making a will.

“We’ve had all kinds of speakers—doctors, lawyers, preachers, police officers—people from every walk of life,” said 69-yearold Lillie Thurman, who became a member of the Kroc Center when it opened in 2012.

These days, Lillie is generally there from noon to 8:00 p.m. about three days a week. She calls the center her “safe haven.”

“The senior program for me has been a godsend,” Lillie added. “They [Kroc staff] are interested in making sure we have everything we need—and that we’re not pushed off in a corner somewhere.”

The Kroc’s senior lounge is always a hub of activity.

“Our seniors come here for friendships, for relationships. They play cards, dominoes, they socialize,” PJ said. “It’s a home away from home.”

PJ would invite any older adult to come to the Kroc Center to experience the camaraderie.

“I would challenge them to dip their toe in the water and try it out,” he said. “Once you immerse yourself in it, a whole new experience takes over. Our seniors eat together, they travel together and enjoy one another’s company. Come and join the family.”

Darlene Humphrey, senior manager, added, “The seniors feel they belong here at the Kroc Center. And this is a place where they really can belong.”

 

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