Article by Jessica McGregor
Video by Mackenzie Mohr
Entirely East Lansing staff writers
EAST LANSING — As East Lansing residents enter their prime years as senior citizens, they look for support within the community. The Prime Time Seniors’ Program has been providing that support for 40 years since its establishment in 1972.
“They found out that that is one of the most significant populations of East Lansing, much less Lansing, is people over 55 which includes a heck of a lot of retired people,” said Gary Stollak a retired professor of psychology from Michigan State.
The Hannah Community Center, which hosts Prime Time, is a place for learning, health and support. Many attend programs offered by Prime Time to socialize or keep up.
Stollak leads a program called Parenting and Grandparenting. For a low rate, he rents a conference room in the Hannah Community Center each week to meet with local parents and grandparents to talk about issues they are dealing with while raising children or helping out with their grandchildren.
“The value is incredible. He comes here and actually he spends most of his own money to get this room,” said senior citizen Carolyn Tody, “there’s no way you can put a value on somebody offering their time that has been teaching at a college level for 64 years.”
Some seniors show up to these meetings because they know Stollak, but no matter the reason for attending, the discussion can help with day-to-day problems seniors may face. With more participants the advice and discussion gets better.
Stollak said if more seniors attended the grandparenting sessions, they could give more insight and advice. The sessions would be more advantageous for both himself and the other members of the program.
Prime Time Seniors’ Program is not just where seniors can get advice, but a place to make friends.
Senior citizen and Prime Time participant Gene Friend said, “It’s a way of developing a community because after you retire you lose your work community, and so you have to develop other communities, social communities.”
Prime Time Seniors’ Program has received national accreditation and the members attribute the success to Director Kelly Arndt.
“There are a lot of things that go on here and this is a highly accredited center because of Kelly Arndt. You will never meet a more dynamic, compassionate person,” said group exercise instructor Shirley Warner.
Arndt attributes the accreditation to community networking and the help of local individuals. She sought out experts in particular areas to create a successful program.
“National accreditation is a big deal. There are only three senior centers in Michigan that are nationally accredited out of 300. National accreditation is a status that less than 1 percent of the nation’s senior centers ever achieve because it’s a lot of work a lot of effort,” said Arndt.
Arndt’s efforts expanded the program from about 12 volunteers to 125 and participation has doubled to about 1,700 participants, however, they still need help. Prime Time Seniors’ Program is funded by fundraising and donations, and every little bit counts in the eyes of those who depend on this program to socialize, stay healthy and be involved in their community.