PISCATAWAY, NJ – The Piscataway Senior Citizens Center is a hub of activity for the township’s older residents.
According to the center’s mission statement, it is “a community focal point where adults 60 years old and over can come together for services and activities that reflect their experience, enhance their dignity, support their independence and encourage their participation in the center and the community.”
Fully funded by the Piscataway Township Office on Aging, any senior in Piscataway can join the center for free.
“There are a lot of centers that do charge to join, but Piscataway is very lucky that there is no fee to participate,” said Amy Bauman, the center’s Director on Aging.
Bauman, who started her career in social work in 1997 at East Windsor’s Senior Center, and later at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, became the Piscataway center’s director in 2009. She is proud to have joined when the center began its expansion project, adding new facilities including Room D, the Computer Room, and the Card Room, bringing new programs to the center.
“We’re always looking for innovative ways to do things and have very diverse programs to offer,” said Bauman.
She put in “My Senior Center”, a computerized scan-in program that allows participants to track their activities within the center. “We keep all of their information and data at all of the employees’ desks,” said Bauman. “If there’s ever a situation that involves the police, like a senior that’s wandering, we have their pictures [and can help them].”
About 2,000 Piscataway senior citizens are registered with the center, with 150-175 checking in every day.
Bauman is very proud of getting different hospitals to come in to do health fairs, which encourages them to keep working with different community places.
Every spring, summer, and fall, a representative from Robert Wood Johnson, St. Peter’s or Somerset Medical Center is scheduled to do health screenings and education for seniors. “We see an increase in center participation from the senior community as they can get their blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol checked for free at the health fairs,” said Bauman.
The center offers a nutrition program, and houses a “Meals on Wheels” prep area that is used by Middlesex County to pack the meals that are delivered to other seniors throughout the county.
The center’s activities are geared towards the seniors’ interests. A mix of employees, volunteers and paid outside teachers staff the different classes that are also offered for free to the seniors.
“We have many different types of exercise classes including Tai Chi classes,” said Bauman. “We also have Spanish and E.S.L. classes, and knitting classes among others,” she added.
The seniors can take Zumba classes, and there is a Wii team and billiards teams that compete against other places, and also a Bocce court.
The computer room coordinator, Chor Lee teaches free computer classes and has written books geared towards seniors who may be apprehensive to learn more about how computers can be used.
And the seniors love to party, especially at holiday times. The next big party is Feb. 11 celebrating Valentine’s Day, and the center looks forward to the St. Patrick’s Day celebration and the annual 4th of July Senior Picnic.
“The parties bring the seniors together,” said Bauman. “I think that’s the main thing about the center is that we are a community focal point where seniors can engage with each other and enjoy activities. This way they’re not at home alone or lonely.”
“A lot of times senior centers help keep people in the community, and help people stay away from being in a nursing home,” explained Bauman. “Some people have been coming here for 20 years.”
The Senior Center also offers free transportation within Piscataway so seniors can go shopping or get a ride to medical appointments.
Center participants are empowered to form groups and host events throughout the year. For example, the Piscataway African-American Senior Citizens group is coordinating different Black History Month events in February. “I want the seniors to be involved and to come up with some things themselves,” said Bauman. “It (the center) is like a school but at the same time, we’re here for them.”
Bauman has a “no tolerance” policy when it comes to conflicts amongst the seniors. “At times we have some issues,” she said. “But we don’t put up with any kinds of bullies or anything like that.”
The center has 24 hour video monitoring so they can review any reported incidents, and if necessary, the social worker will intervene to offer conflict resolution options.
Bauman hopes to continue to provide interesting, innovative and quality programs for the seniors, and to make changes or improvements to help people in the future.
“The senior of tomorrow is not going to be the senior of yesterday,” she said.
“I love my job, I really do,” beamed Bauman. “It’s very rewarding and always interesting.”
The Senior Citizens Center is located at 700 Buena Vista Ave in Piscataway. It is open Mon.-Fri. 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., and Sat. 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Late nights are Mondays and Thursdays until 9:00 p.m.