According to the American Community Survey, 25 percent of East Hartford’s residents are age 55 or older. By 2028, it is estimated this will increase to more than 37 percent. Nearly three-quarters of residents aged 60 or over own home, with more than a third report spending 30 percent or more on housing costs on a fixed income and many having difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. More than one-third of East Hartford’s older residents report having one or more disabilities.
To address the current and future needs of the growing senior population, East Hartford is consolidating senior services into one centrally located service location, expanding programming, and creating a new state-of-the-art senior center. To assist in this effort, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has approved a $300,000 capital grant to equip a kitchen facility and exercise room for the new center.
“This grant will enable us to outfit a state-of-the-art fitness room and commercial kitchen in our new senior center which is in the final design stages,” said East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc. “We are truly grateful to the Hartford Foundation for their continued support in our community. These new program offerings for our growing senior population will improve their overall quality of life and provide socialization in the comfort of a modern Senior Center designed to keep them active and engaged.”
By having a commercial kitchen, the center will be able to prepare multiple meals onsite and provide cooking classes. The center looks to offer breakfast, snacks and multiple options at the noon meal. The goal is to provide nutritious meals and improve the health of seniors in the community.
The fitness center will provide local seniors with access to low-cost fitness classes in a familiar, supervised setting. Class options will include cardio, balance, and strength training exercises. An individualized fitness plan will be created for each senior, based on their specific needs as directed by a physician. Exercise is an important component of achieving and maintaining independence, socialization with peers and family, and better physical and mental health.
“The Hartford Foundation is pleased to support these kitchen and fitness center upgrades for East Hartford’s new Senior Center,” said Hartford Foundation Community Investments Officer Dawn Grant. “The commercial kitchen and senior-specific fitness equipment will increase the availability and quality of healthy nutritious meals and improve the overall health and well-being of seniors.”
The National Council on Aging states that “senior centers serve as a gateway to the nation’s aging network—connecting older adults to vital community services that can help them stay healthy and independent.” Research shows that older adults participating in senior center programs can learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease and experience improvements in their physical, social, emotional, mental, and economic well-being.
The town has begun clearing out the building and the project’s architect has now completed all public presentations and is finalizing the technology plans. Municipal officials have been engaging a broad range of community partners that serve low-income or homebound seniors for referrals. In addition, the town has launched a weekly column and public access television show to highlight its programs. Staff is making extensive outreach to reach low-income elderly and/or disabled persons and will be increasing transportation services.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $758 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.