Reaching out to enrich the lives of older people on many levels

COLONY – In the Arts Room at Beltrone Living Center, Cohoes’ Christina Homer worked on a pair of calligraphy projects with pens, scissors and colored pencils spread out in front of her.

It’s a delicate job that Homer, who suffers from post-polio syndrome, would overtake her if it weren’t for the past 10 years she has lived in Beltrone, which is part of the Elderly Service Centers. of Colony.

“I’m still alive a decade later and it wasn’t supposed to happen,” said Homer, 72, from a wheelchair. “I do something like this, which I could never have done when I arrived. This community center, all this CSSC, allowed me to do well in my head, my body and my spirit.

Just down the hall, René Comtois de Cohoes was seated in the billiard room. Comtois does not live in Beltrone but goes there almost every day to play billiards with his friends.

“We’re retired and it’s giving us something to do,” said Comtois, 75, who was a body shop manager. “Everyone likes it. “

Colonie Senior Service Centers, an independent nonprofit, turned 40 on October 1. The name doesn’t quite describe the extent of its reach.

“Our mission is really to support seniors throughout the Capital Region, not just in Colony City,” said Executive Director Diane Conroy-LaCivita. “And so we make sure they’re active and healthy and can age in place and age with dignity.”

Colony Seniors Service Centers provide independent living opportunities with three senior communities: Beltrone, King Thiel Seniors Community and Sheehy Manor. Together they have 396 apartments which house over 500 residents. All three have community spaces.

Sheehy Manor, which opened in 1998, offers low-rental housing to people aged 62 and over. Beltrone, which opened a year later, and King Thiel, which debuted in 2017, offer affordable housing for those 55 and over.

Sheehy Manor is named after Ann Marie Sheehy, Colonie’s former director of community development. Sheeny and the late city supervisor Fred Field are “the reason we exist,” according to Conroy-LaCivita.

“(Sheehy) was very concerned that seniors are falling through the cracks and people can afford to stay in the municipality,” said Conroy-LaCivita. “You want to sell (your house) and you try to find an apartment, where is there a place where you can live and be able to live responsibly so that most of your income is not spent on it. “

Colonie Senior Service Centers also has a fleet of 12 vehicles that transport residents to the doctor, dentist, shopping and other activities.

Two years ago, CCSC expanded its offering by opening the Center, which offers dance and yoga, games and other programs to members.

The Center is also accessible to people aged 55 and over who do not live in any of the three elderly communities. A membership costs $ 20 per year.

In addition to the pool league and art classes, the Center offers bingo once a week and community dinners once a month. A retired Rockette teaches beginner and intermediate tap dancing.

“We took all of this community programming and multiplied it tenfold,” said Conroy-LaCivita. “Now we have four arms. It’s artistic, educational, related to health and wellness or travel. So we do a lot of day trips. We will take you to a cellar or bring you apple picking. We will take you to the theater in the evening. And we use our buses. So that allows people to get out of their homes and not have to worry about driving, glare and all that. “

Also inside the Center is Bright Horizons, an adult day program for people with early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or struggling with depression or isolation. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

One recent day, guests from Bright Horizons sat around a TV and moved around in their chairs alongside an old Richard Simmons workout video.

“Maybe a spouse is still working and worried about leaving that loved one at home or mom comes to live with you and she starts to struggle,” Conroy-LaCivita said. “They can bring them here to spend the day with us. “

She said CCSC gets 3 percent of its funding from Colony City. Otherwise, the centers depend heavily on grants and partner companies.

Colony Seniors Service Centers

6 Winner’s Circle # 1, Albany

518-459-2857 or

They have a staff of 42 – not counting hundreds of volunteers – which has been reduced to just 11 during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When it was all closed, they didn’t want the old people to come together,” said Conroy-LaCivita. “It was from New York State and Albany County. So a lot of our programs that we normally offered have been shut down. “

Even then, staff delivered 37,000 hot meals to the community from April to August 2020.

The Center has reopened gradually, with the Bright Horizons program being the last to restart in June.

Homer, taking his first art class, was grateful that everything had reopened.

“Because of all the many offerings in this building, at the Center, I can go to dinner with Diane and lead a normal life,” she said. “It helps your mind and your attitude, which I believe in the mind-body connection. “

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