SENIOR BEAT – It’s that time of year again: Kids are back in school. And seniors are back at their beloved West Portal Clubhouse.
The Self Help for the Elderly program has just returned from the Ingleside Presbyterian church on Ocean Avenue. In the summer months, an all-day youth program takes over the clubhouse. While the church has more space than the clubhouse – enough to play badminton indoors —the seniors prefer their clubhouse atop the West Portal tunnel at 131 Lenox Way.
“It’s cozier,” said Agnes and John, program members who come nearly every day for the hot lunch and activities provided. The walls are decorated with murals by the kids in the after-school program with whom they share the clubhouse during the school year.
Birthday parties monthly
Lance Ma, the center’s director, said the program serves up to 85 hot lunches every day but Thursday. They also have a party every month for birthdays. On those days. when there’s a large sheet cake after lunch, he said, “we frequently serve up to 125.”
As volunteers prepare to serve lunch, the tables fill up with groups who call back and forth to each other. Jeremy, a volunteer for four months, serves lunch with the instincts of a good waiter—he just glances at a table and immediately sees who didn’t get an orange or who’s ready for a top-up of tea.
In addition to the hot lunch, which includes plenty of time for socializing with old and new friends, the center offers table tennis, karaoke, line dancing, exercise classes, Qigong, health and field trips. They also put on safety workshops, on topics such as, how to recognize and prevent scams targeting the elderly), and field trips.
The center works because West Portal seniors are so friendly and so generous, said Ma. “They feel at home at the center. This is their time together, they have each other.”
In honor of a supervisors’ parents
The West Portal program opened two years ago when Supervisor Norman Yee invited Self Help for the Elderly to start a lunch program in the clubhouse. From his experience with his own parents, he knew local seniors would benefit from a healthy lunch and an opportunity to socialize. He just didn’t know how many seniors might attend.
The program launched with a neighborhood open house, and word of mouth did the rest. Within two months, 75 seniors were regularly attending.
Yee wishes his parents had been able to take advantage of program like this when they were still alive, and he’s working to identify new locations and resources to expand senior programming.
“I know there are still many isolated seniors across my district and throughout our city who could benefit from nutritional meals, exercise and other social activities which connect them to one another,” he said.
The West Portal Clubhouse is a club where everyone takes care of each other, said Ma.
“We’re a safety net. When someone is missing, their friends call, and if there’s a problem they let me know,” he said. Ma then calls or schedules a home visit to see what the community can do to help. Often, some of the seniors will accompany her on these visits, bringing food and friendship.
But it’s not just good food and good care. Back at the clubhouse, Agnes and John agree that they keep coming back to the program because it’s fun.
Call the clubhouse at (415) 753-7038 to reserve a space on one of the special party days. Otherwise, just show up and test your ping pong prowess — but only if you’re a senior.
Call Supervisor Yee at (415) 554-6516 if you have a proposal for senior programming in your neighborhood.