D.C. Wellness Centers: A Joy for Seniors

Hayes Senior Center Photo 1 Caption: Catherine Pridgen, 76, has found an oasis at the Hayes Senior Wellness Center following the death of her husband. 

WASHINGTON — Catherine Pridgen could no longer bear the thought of sitting in the house she once shared with her husband, Allen.  After Pridgen’s husband died from cancer, she needed somewhere to go so she wouldn’t be depressed. This, she said, was when she learned about the Hayes Senior Wellness Center Center.

Hayes  in Ward 6 is the latest of six senior wellness centers that caters to Washington’s residents ages 60 years and older.

The others include Bernice Elizabeth Fonteneau Senior Wellness Center in Ward 1, Hattie Holmes Senior Wellness Center in Ward 4, Model Cities Senior Wellness Center in Ward 5, Washington Seniors Wellness Center in Ward 7 and Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center in Ward 8.

The centers offer programs that provide health education and applied learning centers with activities.  There are classes in nutrition, exercise, reflexology, smoking cessation and other health care concerns.  They centers also include seminars, support groups, auxiliary activities, creative arts and intergenerational programs.  All services focus on wellness, promoting better health and preventing disease. 

One of the goals, officials said, is provide help that will allow seniors to maintain their independence and avoid premature institutionalization, such as nursing homes.

Before coming to Hayes Senior Center, most of the seniors spent their days at the Sherwood Recreation Center for about one and a half years. The seniors were relocated to Hayes Center because Sherwood Center did not have a functioning kitchen. Some of the activities offered at Hayes Center include aerobics, yoga, weight lifting, line dancing, daily lunches, field trips and more.

Renna Summers, 78, who lives alone in her Capitol Hill Towers apartment, has been coming to the Hayes Senior Wellness Center for two years. She particularly likes communicating with people, dancing and playing cards and games. She enjoys coming to the center, she said.

“I get to go to my doctor’s appointments and my dentist appointments by coming to the center,” she said. “Seabrook picks us up and carries us free of charge.”

Although the center provides an excellent place for seniors to socialize, they still get bored sometimes.

“Some days we do nothing,” Delores Robinson said.  “I think we should have more activities. We should go on more field trips and have other games we can be involved in when we’re just sitting around after lunch and doing nothing other than playing cards. Maybe we can have some board games and things like that,”

Hayes Senior Center Photo 2 Caption: Delores Robinson and Renna Summers at the Hayes Senior Wellness Center.

Another senior at the center wanted to be referred to as ‘The Doctor’ or as ‘Pastor Allen.’  He said he was very appreciative the center.  

“I was born in the 40’s and they had boys clubs, not really community centers,” he said. “The community centers are new for seniors.”

There are approximately 68 community centers in DC that cater to children, teens, adults and seniors. These centers provide a gateway to learning and involve fun activities. There is usually a center that is close to your home.

Pridgen, like many other seniors, sees the community centers as a home away from home.

 “When somebody dies and you are in the house where they lived, you get depressed,” she said in reference to her decased husband. “So I said, ‘I got to go,  I can’t stay here.’ We were like two old people. I would be in one room watching my show and he would be in one room. And every time I look around when I couldn’t see him, I said Oh no, I got to go.” 

Hayes Center Photo 3 Caption: Mr. Prince, 98, and Lorenzo Lewis, 84, enjoy a game of checkers at Hayes Senior Wellness Center.