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From Golden Age Club to Senior Center
“We are entering an Age of Age, an era which does not slight the youthful attributes of vigor and aggressiveness and endurance and speed, but which is marked by ‘coexistence’ of youth and age in industry, families, and community; by continued service by the aged to churches, clubs, production and his fellowman.”
“Oldsters are rebelling against idleness, learning new tricks, and changing our economies.”
(Thomas C. Desmond, Age of the Aged, The Rotarian, 1955)
“People who stay young despite their years do so because of an active interest that
provides satisfaction through participation.”
Dr. William C. Menninger, psychiatrist (quoted in The Saratogian, 3/20/1955)
In the 1950s, concern in the United States about the health and well-being of seniors led to government studies, the rise of the study of ageing (gerontology) and demands by active seniors for economic and social opportunity.
State Senator Thomas C. Desmond’s legislative committee on the problems of the aging pioneered discussions and advocated for change in New York State.
Reports such as “Young at Any Age (1950), “Age is No Barrier (1952),“ Birthdays Don’t Count (1955)” helped usher in what Desmond called the “Age of the Aged "(1955) across the nation. The lawmaker was all for “oldsters” “ rebelling against idleness, learning new tricks, & changing our economies.”
In many communities, seniors took the initiative in ensuring their own wellbeing, founding of “Golden Age Clubs.”
In Saratoga, educators, public officials, seniors and the Saratoga County Health Association banded together to form a Saratoga Golden Age club in 1955. Their goal: to serve the county’s “7,700- odd oldsters” over the age of 50.
“In early 1955 a letter over the signature of Mrs. Minnie Borneman was sent to senior citizens whom she thought might be interested, inviting them to a meeting on March 28, 1955 in the office of Saratoga County Health association, The purpose of this meeting was to explore the possibility of forming a Golden Age Club”. “Great interest was expressed by those attending the meeting and the Golden Age Club was airborne with co-pilots Mrs. Edna Hogan and Mrs. Minnie Borneman” With 48 charter members (including Minnie herself), the Club set out to serve seniors because (as she wrote) “we oldsters have a job to do. And do you know, we can be very potent in our community and in our country – for good—if we learn how to work together to achieve that goal.”
After first meeting in the Saratoga Springs Public Library, American Legion Home, & Presbyterian Church, the Club sought a permanent home. Although the Club set out to serve seniors 60 years (soon 50) and older because (as she wrote) “we oldsters have a job to do. And do you know, we can be very potent in our comm-unity and in our country – for good—if we learn how to work together to achieve that goal.
Incorporated as the Senior Center of Saratoga Springs in 1957, the group, led by Claude Van Wie, purchased 162 Circular Street in 1958. It opened in 1959 and remained the Center’s home until 1979, when the current home, at 5 Williams Street opened.
By 1964, its fifth anniversary, the Center was open 5 days a week, 10am - 4pm, offering a “variety of programs… so that each person is able to find some activity of interest.” The list included ceram-ics, painting, chair-caning, rug-hooking, card play-ing, billiards, singing and sewing. Events ranged from hobby and flower shows to dinners, picnics, field trips and weekly movie screenings. Today many (not all) activities continue, alongside Tai Chi, dance, and other mental & physical activities.
But they do so in a new home. By 1969, with the initial mortgage paid off, and the center – serving up to about three dozen of its 300 senior members a day under the leadership of Executive Director Marjorie Vokes, was looking for a new home. Robert Gass, a life-long Saratogian and community leader, spearheaded the building of a brand new Senior Center at 5 William Street.
Marjorie Vokes was hired as the Center’s first paid executive director, a job she held until 1970. Under her leadership, membership tripled from around 100 to over 300 seniors, with about three dozen members coming to the Center every day. By its fifth anniversary in 1964, the growing center established the goal to eventually serve the county’s total population of seniors over the age of 50, estimated to be 7,700 at the time. https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B0sbTj8c9WODV0E5Z1RhdDVobms