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Senior Centers

Written by Contributor. Posted in Featured, Senior Living

Published on February 05, 2020 with No Comments

by Lee Lyons

Becoming a senior citizen is not always fun. There can be aches and pains and doctor’s visits and a growing sense that things are changing in the world without you.

There are some good things, however, that come with attaining Senior Citizen status: nice young men open doors for you when you enter and leave stores; you get that 10% discount  or free coffee at a number of fast food joints; and The Bonner Center in Portage and other Centers in nearby communities welcome you with open arms and provide fun and food and transportation in a place where Seniors definitely fit in.

Since 1979 the Bonner Center has been offering a wonderful space for Seniors where they can meet new friends, go shopping, learn new skills, and “play” among those of their own experiences and outlook.

Eunice Bonner, a Portage resident with a desire to help others, started the first “seniors’ club” in the early 1970s. That inauspicious beginning grew into a township-funded organization that strives to address the needs of seniors in a large, welcoming building and grounds that houses its many programs. Work on the building and its mission began in 1979 under the oversight of former Township Trustee John Williams. Current Trustee Brendan Clancy continues the support –both financial and emotional—of the Center which provides so much for Portage Seniors.

Center Director, Janet Clem, took this reporter on a tour of the spacious facility. Several rooms, large and smallish, provide plenty of pleasing space for the many programs—computer classes, a pool room (billiards), exercise, reading, and meetings—as well as the large-but-friendly lunchroom.

Clem, who has worked at the Center for 31 years and has been its Director for 15 years, is justifiably proud of the many programs and services Bonner offers Portage’s seniors. She’s also quite proud of the lovely building and grounds, all so much more than a newcomer might expect.

“I want our senior citizens to come by and give us a try,” she summarizes. “There’s so much to do here, no one should be sitting at home with nothing to do.”

Five days a week, members can enjoy a nutritious lunch in a friendly group setting for a $2 donation. Some of the daily menus include meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, garden veggies, mixed fruit, and cake; chicken, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, fruit cocktail, and pie; and Swedish meatballs with buttered noodles, spinach, fruit, and cookie. In addition, members get to sit with funny, friendly, active seniors who are obviously enjoying life along with lunch.

Before lunch, there are a number of activities offered including massage, yoga, and fitness, as well as Tai-Chi classes. Members can join in the activities as they like, or kick back and read or work on large, complex puzzles.

After lunch on Mondays, the Choraleers, a group of volunteer singers from the Center’s membership, practice for the free concerts they give around Portage. Bonner members are encouraged to join the group and share their talents.

More fun activities fill the afternoons including pinochle, Bunco, or dancing as well as Social Club and Zumba.  Fridays are “shopping days” where the Center’s buses take members to Walmart and Strack and Van Til’s or Meijer for grocery shopping. Special trips are also offered including Cubs’ games, trips to Shipshewana, and out of town overnight trips. This summer Diamond Tours, and the Bonner Center seniors will travel to Vermont and Niagara Falls for a week-long getaway for a cost of $799. If this sounds like a great idea, call the Center to reserve your place now.

Closer to home, there are Bingo games on Fridays and a bingo and Valentine’s Party on Thursday, February 13, along with special speakers and events throughout each month.

On the more serious side of life, the AARP Tax Service offers free taxes for Bonner Center members. Reservation required. Miller’s Assisted Living Community provides blood pressure checks once a month (Wednesday, February 12t at 10 a.m. this month) and a representative from Blue Cross will speak to health and insurance issues on Wednesday, February 19 at 10:00 a.m.

And for those who want to upgrade (or begin) their computer skills, the Center offers computer classes taught by a professional computer wizard. Classes to de-mystify your smart phone and other mysteries of current technology are upcoming.

To join the Bonner Center for the low cost of $10 or to visit to see what you’re missing, call them at 219-762-1522 or go to 5800 Lexington Ave., Portage. The Center is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more program information, visit www.portagetrustee.org.

If you don’t live in Portage, never fear; there’s a Senior Center in Hobart and Valparaiso as well as many other communities.

The Maria Reiner Center at 705 E. Fourth St., Hobart, is open to adults 55 years and older for an annual cost of $30 for residents. The Reiner Center’s mission is “to provide quality of life services to all members, in a social environment…that supports an active, social, and meaningful lifestyle.”

To that end, the Reiner Senior Center offers members breakfast on Tuesdays from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. for $3 and a soup lunch on Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., also for $3.  A variety of activities keep Hobart’s seniors busy, from stretching classes and pickleball, to classes on learning to navigate your Android or Smartphone. For the artist in all of us, there are scrapbooking classes, beginner and advanced painting classes, and oil painting.

For more information, call the center at 219-947-1864 or visit their website at hobartseniors.com. The Reiner Senior Center is open Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For Valparaiso senior citizens, there is the Banta Senior Center located at 605 Beech St., where adults 50 years and older can enjoy a hot lunch and numerous activities designed to stimulate mind and body. Lunches are served Monday through Friday at 11:15 a.m. for a contribution of $1.50. Reservations must be made 2 days in advance by calling 219-462-1301

In addition, Banta offers a fitness room with exercise equipment and a number of exercise programs with qualified trainers. If you’re looking for a quiet space, Banta boasts a library and comfy corners for reading, along with sewing machines, painting classes, a knitting and crocheting group, and many other programs. Membership is $4 a month paid annually or quarterly.

For more information, call 219-462-1301 or visit valpoparks.org.

So, if you are 55 or older, there’s no excuse for sitting at home alone. The local Senior Centers offer food, companionship, health, and fun just waiting for you to join in.

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