Venturing out again

Horses, baseball, and everything in between is enjoyed by the folks at the Center for Living.

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The Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living is bustling with an exciting new program for outdoor social events in the community. When COVID hit, they had to pivot to Zoom programming, and 15 to 20 clients and their families would join them at any given time. Zoom programs in June include music, art projects, fitness, singing, and more. But Mary Holmes, supportive day program supervisor, shares, “These are still isolating to some extent, because our hospitality is a really important part of what we do.”

While mindful of COVID protocols of social distancing and mask wearing, the center has begun a new set of offerings from a grant from the I’m Still Here Foundation and help too from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, for their clients and new people who are joining to learn about outdoor places to go and things to do on the Island that they might not have entertained before.

The first program was in April, with a trip to the Misty Meadows Equine Learning Center. Guests were able to tour the center, groom a horse, and meet some ponies. In June, they went to Mass Audubon’s Felix Neck, where they got a tour through the butterfly garden and a musical performance by Ben Hughes. On June 18, they enjoyed a social with the Sharks, playing baseball on the MVRHS field during practice. A ukulele group, including Gail Stevenson and her friends, led the gang in some singing. As always, one of the aims of the program is for it to be fun for caregiver and client alike, because, as Allison Roberts, LCSW, executive assistant/social worker, says, “Caregiving is a huge task, but these experiences are also good for people with cognitive challenges.”

In July and August, because of the traffic and how busy it is on the Island, Holmes says, “We will probably be doing programs outside in our own space. The first will be an old-fashioned ice cream social, with Melissa Knowles providing music. In August, we’re fortunate to have Andy Herr performing music, and then we will head out and ask other Vineyard venues in September and October if we can come and visit their place on a Friday afternoon.” As you can see, music plays an essential part in the events. Holmes feels one of the benefits of their programming is that they can showcase and pay Vineyard musicians.

The I’m Still Here Foundation was begun by seasonal resident Dr. John Zeisel, and is meant to support people living with dementia and their loved ones. The foundation supports organizations that are helping to promote nonpharmacological treatment and other meaningful ways to engage someone who has a memory impairment as their disease progresses. Zeisel helped design their building as well, the way it would be laid out, so that it worked well for people with cognitive challenges.

The organization provides a variety of services, programs, and activities for Islanders 55 and older through partnerships with the town Councils on Aging (COAs) and other related organizations.

In 1973, Island Councils on Aging was established as a 501(c)(3) to support the work of the local municipal Councils on Aging to collaborate and address needs on a regional basis, rather than individual, town-focused programs. In 2009, the name was changed to Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living to reflect a focus on living, rather than aging. One of the things that the organization provides is an opportunity for the community to learn about people with cognitive challenges. Roberts says, “I would love for people to be more involved with the elder community. These people are older, and they might be forgetting things, they might be a little more isolated, but they are exactly who they are, and they have a lot to give.”

Part of the center’s goal is to create an age-friendly environment. Holmes shares, “A lot of our clients are living with memory loss and some impairment, which is pretty normal when you age. Things happen. It’s important to get out there and see you can still live your best life. We try to facilitate and make things happen for people.”

As wonderful as these special programs are, Holmes says fondly of her possibly favorite activity, “Hopefully, we’ll get back to the place where we can always ask you for lunch.”

Events are free and open to all. For more information, ideas for programs, and/or to RSVP for any of the upcoming events, contact saraby@mvcenter4living.org or call 508-939-9440.