INTERCULTURAL SENIOR CENTER: Serving the aging in the community

“As an organization we strive to improve the quality of life of seniors, both their physical and mental well-being. We do it through advocacy, education and access to social services,” said Carolina Padilla, Executive Director of the Intercultural Senior Center.


The ISC’s primary goal is to serve the underserved aging of our community. Padilla explained programs and services are for people age 50 and over.


There’s a lot more going on at the center than people might think.


“The mentality for many people is that seniors come to socialize, wait for a hot meal and then go home,” Padilla said.


The reality is that more than 400 seniors come in each week with about 60-90 per day.


And they’re doing a lot more than just eating.


The Intercultural Senior Center offers Tai Chai, salsa classes, sewing, gardening, folkloric dancing, music and arts. All of which give seniors fun opportunities to learn, move and socialize.


Padilla said there’s also a department of social services in the center that does case management.


“There is no fee to be part of the organization. Seniors simply go through an intake process to assess their needs, whether they are legal, medical, social or they simply want to be more physically active,” she said.


The ISC also provides English as a Second Language classes because the center primarily serves Latinos and refugees. But there are also Spanish classes for English speakers, citizenship courses and basic computer skills training.


Exercise is provided on a daily basis as well and there is caregiver assistance and a grandparents’ support group.


“We also have mental health support groups in four different languages and have a partnership with the VNA, so we have a nutritionist who comes every month,” Padilla said.


Nurses are on premises every week to take care of any other needs the seniors might have from trimming nails to diabetes checks. Padilla said these services are made possible with a partnership through Sarpy and Cass counties.


During the warmer months, ISC staff take seniors to see cultural events or take them on community visits to see the city.


“Some seniors come once a week for personal reasons but others are here Monday through Friday. They enjoy being active, learning and seeing their friends. And since they’re here every day, they give us valuable input about the things they want to change here or things they would like to have here,” she said.


95% of the people who go the center each day use the ISC’s transportation. And meals are given through the Meals on Wheels program from the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging. Padilla said the food is brought in each day.


Though there is no charge to eat, the ISC always accepts contributions. And there’s also a monthly pantry where seniors can take a food item home to help them feel they are contributing to their family’s well-being.


“I think there’s a concept about senior centers that they’re boring or just for old people but getting old doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the community. People need to be engaged and avoid isolation. That’s what makes people sick,” said Padilla.


She said there aren’t many organizations like the Intercultural Senior Center that are taking care of seniors from different backgrounds. Padilla said the center is diverse and many different languages are spoken there.


With the aging population on the rise, not everyone has the capacity to pay for a place to go. But by going to the ISC, Padilla said they can build strong, healthy relationships and engage in a variety of activities.


The ISC is open from 8-5 Monday through Friday. Services are offered from 8 to 2 and all classes start at 9:30.


If someone wants to learn more, Padilla said they can just go by the center and staff will give them a tour and show them what they do.


She said the ISC’s biggest goal in the next couple years is to find a permanent home. Since the center opened in March 2009, they’ve moved four times.


Padilla said as they grow, they want to become a one-stop shop for seniors. There are plans to have a geriatric nurse practitioner located in the center and bring more services in for seniors as well.


In the meantime, Padilla said the center can always use donations and not just the cash kind. Anyone can donate food, time or crafts. She said if a business wants to contribute, especially toward transportation needs, they would appreciate that as well.


“We are here to serve our seniors. People should care for those they love. Seniors deserve to have a place where they can enjoy themselves too,” she said.


Intercultural Senior Center, Located at 30th and R in the back of the YMCA building on Q, InterculturalSeniorCenter.org


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Cheril Lee

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