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South Pas Seniors Find Community After Pandemic Isolation

By Jessica Doherty
The Review

Four years after the COVID-19 pandemic changed the social landscape worldwide, the South Pasadena Senior Citizens’ Foundation is entering a new era with a new leader at the helm.
Alexandria Levitt took the reins as president this month, after Bill Cullinane stepped down from the position.
The Senior Citizens’ Foundation helps fill the gaps in the South Pasadena Senior Center’s funding from the city to provide new programs and attract local residents. One such program is the monthly lecture series, which curates speakers on a variety of topics and sometimes works through Cal State University, Los Angeles. They also offer line dancing, bingo, technology lessons and events such as a senior prom.
Melissa Snyder, the Community Services Supervisor for the city of South Pasadena, works closely with the Senior Center and Levitt at the foundation on programming and community support.
Snyder said that participation in the Senior Center programming is returning to reflect pre-pandemic numbers — but still has a way to go. Snyder said only 75% of pre-pandemic visitors have returned so far. Classes that were drawing in around five participants are now approaching 20 to 25 participants. Levitt is hoping in the coming year to interact with other groups across South Pasadena to keep the numbers growing. The center brings older individuals together from the community.
“We forget when we live in our South Pasadena affluent community, for the most part, that there are people who don’t have the same connections or resources that we have,” Snyder said.
As a part of their daily offerings, the Senior Center offers a daily lunch program as well as food drives and meals during the holidays.
“[Seniors] are an important part of the city,” Cullinane said. “They have a lot to offer. They’ve seen a lot. The seniors have a lot to contribute.”
The center’s foundation also helps celebrate these contributions through its annual Senior Champion Awards. For their second year, the group honored Ellen Daigle and Sally Kilby for their contributions to the community.
“There’s so many great people doing things in this town who don’t get recognized and I feel that award has been a nice way to find people who might not always get that pat on the back and recognition for all they’ve done for us,” Levitt said.
Not everyone may see themselves as a “senior.” But Snyder said the organization serves a wide range of ages — from 55 to 101. This makes it important for Snyder and the foundation to work together to provide a variety of programs for participants of varying ages and needs.
At the heart of all of the programming, Levitt finds, is the benefits of socialization on a senior’s health.
“Loneliness has the same health detriment as smoking or obesity, but it isn’t the kind of thing a doctor can give you a pill for,” she said. “And just because you go to a room where there’s a lot of people doesn’t mean you won’t be lonely — it has to be a meaningful interaction.”
The interactions through the Senior Center’s programming clearly has an impact — the foundation is fully staffed by volunteers. And one could say many of these volunteers are participants in the programs as well. After all, everyone is there to spend time with each other, which is what Levitt loves about the center the most.
“Whenever I go to the center and see people hanging out, playing cards, drinking coffee, doing art projects, I just get a warm, fuzzy feeling,” Levitt said. “Because that’s what we want.”

Carol Fischer Becky Quiroz Cynthia Lopez Sachiko Saijo Martha Gomez Graciela Chavez and Bertha Copeland enjoyed the Senior Centers Cinco de Mayo luncheon

First published in the March 29 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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