Falcon Senior Services is seeking more members, and members who would like to step up and help lead it. It’s time for a new generation, and that would be the baby boomers!
Bev and Nick Ordon founded Falcon Senior Services in 2007 to connect local seniors socially and physically. “It was the senior people in our area that had the greatest need, and they saw that,” said Cathryn Reed, a longtime member of the group.
Falcon Senior Services thrived for over a decade.
“We did a whole lot of things way back when,” said Jahna Badger, chairwoman of Falcon Senior Services since 2017.
Badger recalled a calendar overflowing with group activities, such as an annual car show, bake sales, various other fundraisers, luncheons with speakers who presented on themed topics, group outings to parades, dinners and more.
The group also had its own bus and bus driver to transport members to the outings. Leaders of the group even made an effort to obtain a building to use as a sort of senior center in town (which was unsuccessful, due to building regulation obstacles and insufficient funds).
Unfortunately, as a result of COVID and the original members aging out, the group has lost momentum.
“For around three years, everybody was staying home. That really hurt us in the amount of people that are involved because now they’re all in their mid 80s and they just can’t do it anymore,” Badger said. “We don’t have our car show anymore, we don’t do fundraisers. It just did not survive COVID.”
These days, the only gatherings that the group has the capacity to organize are monthly luncheons and twice-weekly exercise classes.
Badger thinks that increasing attendance and introducing some “new blood” — folks who are younger and able to lead and organize events — would set the group back on track.
A 2008 article in The Gazette by Andrea Brown reported that 130 members were active in Falcon Senior Services at the time. Badger said that attendance only reached about 40 to 45 people at the most recent luncheon; a questionnaire sent to members revealed only 20 wanted to continue with the group and only three would be willing to help run things.
Badger said, “At this moment, we don’t know what we’re going to do. We don’t know if we’re going to continue … if we can’t get some younger help.”
However, Eric Lustig, the culinary teacher at Patriot High School and the senior group’s saving grace, is determined to continue serving the seniors of Falcon, as he has taken it upon himself to lead the luncheons.
“I just cannot sit back and bear witness to something so positive and fun for our neighbors coming to an end, Lustig said. “When it is time for me to move on, I will do everything in my power to make sure my successor continues the event.”
Lustig and his culinary students host the Falcon Senior Services luncheon at their school. The event started as an annual Thanksgiving tradition through the middle school program at Patriot 15 years ago. Today, under the direction of Lustig, the luncheons have evolved into a special event, where the Patriot High School culinary students prepare and serve an entire meal for the seniors on the second Wednesday of each month. The seniors enjoy entrees, side dishes, desserts, drinks and good company.
Of course, the monthly luncheon is an important event for the senior group, but it is arguably just as important for the hosts.
“This really gives us the opportunity to get to know some of the people in the community, and some who have spent their entire lives here,” Lustig said. “The students are expected to sit with the senior guests during the luncheon to get to know them and to gain a totally different perspective on life and the history of the area.”
Lustig and his students consider the members of Falcon Senior Services family, and the feeling is mutual for the members, too.
“We just love ‘em. They work as hard as they can to serve us seniors — and we enjoy that very much. They’re just precious,” Reed said.
“By taking the lead in organizing the event, we are hoping that it will bring in new people to the luncheon, as well as rebuild the base of the Falcon Senior Services group, which was compromised during and after the COVID situation,” Lustig said.
Still, it’s proving more difficult than ever to recruit new seniors to the group.
According to a February 2019 Boston Globe article by Robert Weisman, “Campaigns to attract younger members to senior centers and organizations aimed at older adults are often uphill slogs, meeting stubborn resistance from boomers who avoid activities and labels that might suggest they’re getting old.”
Could that be the reason behind the lack of participation seen from younger seniors in the Falcon area?
Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are now the seniors or “older adults” — today’s preferred term over “seniors.” What will it take for them to accept the torch being passed down? The New Falcon Herald conducted a survey to find out.
Out of 21 local seniors between the ages of 59 and 77 who responded to the survey, eight were definitely interested in joining a senior group. Two were not interested at all, with one of them stating there isn’t time because of work, the other stating the group would be of more interest if there were different generations of people involved. The remaining 11 were unsure, stating that their interest was dependent on factors such as the group’s location, focus and activities offered.
With the exception of one person, all of the seniors surveyed were interested in gathering over food or beverages (with an emphasis on happy hour). And many of the seniors said they would also like to participate in interest-specific activities and day-trips.
Yet, even with the majority of local seniors surveyed being interested in or at least open to the idea of joining a senior group, only three people said that they would consider stepping into a committee or leadership role to help organize the group events and outings that seem to be clearly desired.
Other areas of concern that survey respondents mentioned was the lack of a common gathering place for seniors in Falcon, such as a senior center and lack of transportation to get folks to and from events.
With the help of a younger generation like Eric Lustig and the students, perhaps there will be new momentum for older adults in the Falcon area.
Seniors who are interested in continuing what their predecessors have worked so hard to build, and community members who might be able to lend resources or ideas, can contact Jahna Badger at 719-330-5994 (be sure to leave a message).
Editor’s note: Thanks to everyone who responded to the NFH survey.