Dreama D'Ortona loves it when people sit down for lunch at the Rotterdam Senior Center.
She loves it when people sit down for yoga, too.
"We have chair yoga for people who think getting on the floor might be too much for them," said D'Ortona, director of the gathering spot on Hamburg Street. "We have a craft group, we have a gentleman who comes in and teaches beginning and advanced Italian. We also have a blood pressure clinic every Thursday morning."
Senior centers have always been known as places men and women visit for inexpensive lunch specials. D'Ortona has them, too - currently pizza and salad on Mondays and Wednesdays while the center chef is on leave.
She said people age 55 and over stock up on other specials, exercises designed to keep the mind and body healthy.
Other senior centers offer similar diversions. In Ballston Spa, seniors participate in woodworking and craft classes at the center on Northline Road in Ballston Spa. There are chorus days, billiards, pot luck lunches, quilting and the tile-based game mahjong.
Similar programs are conducted at the Glenville Senior Center on Worden Road. Vicki Hillis, the center's director, say the lunch and other programs are ways for senior to stay connected to their communities.
"The opportunity to still participate and contribute is something that most of our activities offer," Hillis said. "We have 1,100 members and we have over 100 volunteers who give their time and service to other seniors in our community."
Glenville lunch program - like programs at other centers - is run by Catholic Charities and funded through federal, state and local money.
D'Ortona likes the variety in Rotterdam.
"We have a knitting and crochet group," she said. "And we have three quilting groups that come in on different days. We have brain aerobics, this is where people get in a room and do math problems, spelling things that just keep your brain going."
D'Ortona believes centers do more than just keep stomach and mind occupied. There's also a social factor.
"It gets them out of their houses," D'Ortona said. "When they're out in the community with other folks, there's less chance of feeling lonely or feeling shut-in."
Once the center's chef is back in the kitchen, $3 bacon-and-egg breakfasts will resume. The menu upgrades will include $5 meals such as homemade stuffed peppers, goulash, macaroni and cheese. "Simple things, but things that are nutritious and will fill them up five days a week," D'Ortona said.
All seniors are welcome. "We don't turn anybody away," she said.
The Niskayuna Senior Center also has options for seniors. Seniors recently took trips to the outlet stores in Lake George, the Norman Rockwell Museum and Gavin's Irish Country Inn in Cornwallville for a St. Patrick's outing. They've learned about hearing aids, seen dance performances and learned how to paint.
Upcoming diversions will include a gentle form of yoga and a defensive driving course.
Another Niskayuna center, the Jewish Community Center, shares the same game plan.
"We have wellness programs, fitness programs in various levels, from yoga to Tai-chi to swimming to zumba," said Judy Ben-Ami, Jewish cultural director and adult programming director at the center located on Balltown Road. "Everything is done with professional instruction. They will work with seniors at their levels. Some are more advanced, some need more help."
Ben-Ami believes the programs contribute to spiritual, emotional and physical health. She also loves the center's film festival, which puts Jewish cultural movies on the screen.
"I encourage them to offer programs they wish to have," Ben-Ami said. "We usually try to accommodate them."
Rob von Hasseln, executive director of the Horace J. Inman Senior Center in Amsterdam, also offers exercise and meal programs. Bridge, pickleball and wood carving are other options.
"By getting out and doing these kinds of exercises, this in and of itself helps," von Hasseln said. "But after the classes are over, they have a cup of coffee, they sit and chat, so it gives them something to look forward to beyond the exercise."
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]