LIVINGSTON, NJ — More than 100 attendees filled the Livingston Library Program Room on June 17 for the season conclusion of the Senior Happening series as Frank Sinatra and some of his friends of the 1950s came to the Library. 

Donny Ferrara and Joe Gilligan took the audience down memory lane sharing humor, stories, and songs of Frank Sinatra and others who appeared on Sinatra’s TV show.

Livingston resident and Sinatra devotee Joel Lightner said, “The Sinatra concert was fantastic. The singing and comedy were terrific entertainment.” 

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Lightner’s wife, Pegeen, also in attendance, added, “We always enjoy Library programs and look forward to the next event, Barnya, part of the Library’s Sunday Centennial Concert series.”

The Senior Happening series is presented on the third Friday of every month from September through June. Although the focus is on “seniors,” all are invited to the programs, which typically combine entertainment, education, and socialization. 

The series has two components: from noon to 12:45 p.m., a “social hour” invites attendees to bring a “brown bag” lunch while Friends of the Library volunteers serve coffee and dessert.

“Volunteering for this program is one of the best activities I do,” said Teresa Allard, Friends’ Board Treasurer and a Senior Happening regular volunteer. “Attendees are really appreciative of our efforts and I always have one or more interesting conversations with patrons.” 

Following the social hour, attention shifts to the stage as artists bring music or lecture for a one hour performance program.

“I can second Teresa’s comments about the pleasure of volunteering here. And on top of that, the entrainment is terrific, said Margaret Luke, another regular volunteer. “The Sinatra & Friends program introduced me to an array of performers from a period I was not familiar with.”

Senior Happening has recently received national recognition. Library director Amy Babcock Landry was asked by the American Library Association, the oldest and largest library association in the world, to share the story of this series on their Programming Librarian Website (programminglibrarian.org) as a model for other institutions nationwide.

The program model feature of the site is meant to act as a resource for librarians who are searching for inspiration and creative program ideas for their library. Amy will be sharing information about how we organize the program series; what topics and activities we’ve done; which event themes were the most popular; what goes into the programs budget-wise; and advice or tips for librarians looking to put together a similar program.

Thea White, Library Program Specialist, has seen the series grow over the years.

“It’s a pleasure to note that over the years, the attendance at Senior Happening has grown,” she said. 

Since its initiation during the 1975-76 season, attendance has grown from 25 or 30 per program to often room-filling capacity of upwards of 100 attendees. There is a reason the attendance has increased, which Adela Fiorello summed up the feeling.

“The Senior Happening experience is wonderful,” she said. “As a regular monthly attendee, I am always impressed by the quality of the programs and the welcoming attitude of Thea and all the Friends volunteers. I look forward to this outing each month.”

White noted that in addition to individual attendees, people from group residences and senior-living facilities in Livingston and surrounding communities also frequently attend. At the June season finale, seniors from Solana Senior Living, Care One, and Stratford Manor joined the festivities. 

The Livingston Department of Senior, Youth and Leisure Services (SYLS) provided additional transportation for Livingston residents.

“In everything the Library does, it is important for us to create a welcoming environment for all of our patrons,” said Babcock Landry. “With Senior Happening, where our patrons may arrive by foot, with cane or walker, or by wheel chair we especially want a warm, hospitable environment.”

The Senior Happening series will return in September with Dr. Dubious and the Agnostics, a seven-piece Dixieland Jazz band playing hot jazz of the 1920s and 30s in New Orleans and Chicago styles. The series is sponsored by Friends of the Library.

The series is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs. Additional funding is provided by a grant received by Friends from Macy’s.