Sometimes, what is actually on the lunch menu is the farthest thing from the minds of diners at local senior centers, as the sites are just as much designed for socializing as eating.
In Oakdale, the Gladys Lemmons Senior Community Center on East A Street does a brisk business, serving lunch and hosting a variety of activities, Monday through Friday.
Riverbank’s senior lunch program runs Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at that city’s Community Center on Santa Fe Street, with fun and games prior to the meals.
The long-running senior meal program at the Escalon Community Center – which was offered Tuesdays and Thursdays – has temporarily shut down on-site meals but still has its Meals on Wheels home delivery service. The senior gentle exercise class that was hosted at the center before the meals has shifted to the Escalon Library on Second Street, where it is now offered Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Oakdale’s Senior Center opens early for card games, socializing, billiards and more, puts on a lunch daily, and has many other special programs throughout the month. From blood pressure checks to line dancing, there’s never a shortage of activities.
Mondays include painting class, Zumba, Young at Heart exercise, dominoes and Bingo. On Tuesday, try line dancing, watercolor painting class, bridge, afternoon games, purls of wisdom knitting group and a widow/widowers support group. Yoga, crafts, tap dancing and more are featured on Wednesday, with badminton, drawing, hand and foot card game, tap dancing and singing seniors among the Thursday offerings. Yoga, Hula, ukulele and an afternoon movie matinee are scheduled Friday events. Many are free; others come with minimal cost per class or by the week.
This past Thursday, Leda Taylor and Les Harkins were busy in the drawing class prior to lunch, with the ‘on your own’ class offered from 9 to 11 a.m.
“We all help each other,” Taylor said of improving skills. “We have a good time.”
She does primarily ink drawings and said they welcome all interested artists.
“All they need to bring is paper and a pencil,” she said. “And an eraser if they feel they need that.”
“I find that you get an awful lot of enjoyment out of it, and you improve with practice,” added Harkins.
Overseeing the serving of lunches at Oakdale is site manager Don Welch, who said seniors are asked to call two days in advance to make a lunch reservation if possible, and a $3 donation is requested, though not mandatory. Those wishing to reserve a lunch should call 209-303-0946.
“Our average attendance is at least 30,” he said of the lunch program, with meals prepared through the Howard Training Center, brought in and served hot.
“We go five days a week, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” he added of having the Senior Center open. “We have a lot of other activities, too.”
Retired in 1998, Welch said he has volunteered with the meal program for about 10 years.
“We just dropped in one day,” he said, noting that his wife Peggy made him “get off the couch” to attend and they have worked together there for many years. Peggy also is involved in an exercise class at the center.
Diner Margaret Duke was enjoying Thursday’s lunch of Salisbury steak with potatoes and gravy, vegetables, bread and fruit.
“Most of them are very good,” she said of the lunches.
“Today’s meal is one of the better ones,” agreed 14-year program participant Janice Johnston, adding that she attends regularly so she can “visit with a lot of people, too” in addition to eating.
At the Riverbank Community Center, the story is much the same, though the lunch prepared by Howard Training Center is served just three days a week there. They have Bingo, cards, Zumba, a puzzles and games day, socializing, music and more in addition to the lunches.
“I’m from San Jose originally, but I’m getting to know this area,” said diner Esther Venegas. “If it wasn’t for this program here, I wouldn’t know what to do, I enjoy this.”
Added fellow diner Vickie Smith, “People are fabulous around here.”
Serving as site coordinator in Riverbank is Kathy Roudebush, who said they typically get between 21 and 23 for lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, up to 25 on Thursdays.
Diners are asked to call a day in advance to reserve a meal, 209-303-1015, and the suggested donation is $3.
“That’s if they can,” Roudebush said, noting that no one is turned away.
Meals are nutritionally balanced, designed to provide a healthy meal for seniors and can range from a hot turkey sandwich to tacos, lasagna to barbecued chicken. Senior meals are available to those 60 and older, as well as to the spouse of a participant that is 60 or older. A disabled adult under 60 that resides with, and accompanies and older adult 60 or older may also attend.
In Riverbank, meals are served at 11:30 a.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; in Oakdale, meals are served at noon Monday through Friday.