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An important function of the Cayuga County Office for the Aging is to identify and prioritize the needs of Cayuga County senior citizens. One reoccurring issue in our discussions with seniors and health-care professionals working with the elderly is the need to increase opportunities for social activities.

People who are socially isolated are at increased risk for physical problems, abuse of alcohol or drugs, cognitive difficulties and memory loss, depression and even death. Reducing isolation can be part of the solution to combat many of these issues seniors may face. Being active improves physical and emotional well-being and may prolong life. We are fortunate to have many resources in our county that provide great opportunities for ALL seniors to participate in recreational, cultural and community service programs.

There are two senior citizen centers in Auburn. Schwartz Towers on North Street is the site of the monthly meetings of the Auburn Senior Citizen Club and the Senior Nutrition Program (Monday through Friday). The program includes crafts and hobbies, cards and games, trips and various other social activities. Learning and community service opportunities are also a part of the activity agenda, as well as health screenings and religious services. You do not have to be a resident of Schwartz Towers to participate. For more information, call (315) 253-7626.

The Boyle Senior Center Program is located on Genesee Street and is open to all residents of Cayuga County. The center is also a Senior Nutrition Program site. The programs include health education and counseling, learning opportunities, community service programs, health screenings and organized trips, as well as social and recreational activities. For more information, call (315) 253-6178.

Senior citizen clubs are quite popular among active seniors. Most towns in the county sponsor an area senior citizen club that meets for lunch and, usually, a speaker one or two times a month. These clubs also plan day and overnight trips during the warmer months. Contact the Office for the Aging at (315) 253-1226 to get information about clubs in your area and when they meet.

The YMCA has an Active Older Adults program, which offer activities and exercise classes for people 55 and older. The Cato-Meridian Recreation Center at the Cato-Meridian Central School and the Finger Lakes Health Club, West Genesee Street Road, Aurelius, have programs for all ages, including water fitness, aerobics, exercise equipment and more.

Volunteering is another way seniors can get involved. The knowledge and wisdom seniors have gained through years of life experiences are invaluable. Community agencies and clubs greatly benefit from their volunteers, and they, in turn, derive personal satisfaction from their efforts. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is a placement agency for volunteer personnel, offering community-based volunteer assignments at over 25 agencies, institutions and organizations in Auburn. Sponsored by the city of Auburn, RSVP offers assignments that range from non-skilled through professional levels. Transportation is available and qualifying expenses are reimbursable. Volunteer opportunities are also available to individuals who are handicapped or confined to home offering the opportunity to remain active through community volunteer service. The RSVP office, which can be reached at (315) 255-1733, is located at the Boyle Senior Center, 149 Genesee St., Auburn.

Other programs that need volunteers include SCAT Van, Meals-on-Wheels, area nursing homes and adult care facilities, adult day care programs, hospice and most Office for the Aging programs.

For those seniors who would like to earn some income, opportunities for employment may be available for those 55 and over who have a low income. For information on these jobs, contact the Cayuga Works Career Center at Cayuga Community College at (315) 253-1590.

Senior citizens who no longer drive have a greater risk of being isolated socially, unless they have family or friends who are willing to give them rides. Those who live in the rural parts of the county are especially vulnerable. The SCAT Van has vehicles equipped with wheelchair lifts are available to provide transportation to people 60 and over throughout Cayuga County. City of Auburn residents who are handicapped or who cannot use regular bus service may use the SCAT system. Outside the city passengers over 60 may use the service for any personal business. Two days notice and donation for service is requested. Contact SCAT Van at (315) 253-0996.

Also available for seniors are parking permits for disabled individuals, which entitle eligible people to use parking spaces reserved for handicapped, are available at town clerks' offices. A doctor's statement is required on the application form. For further information call your town or village clerk, or in Auburn, the city clerk at (315) 255-4100.

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Janet L. Taylor is an aging services specialist with the Cayuga County Office for the Aging.

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Features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.