A week ago, Friday, a storm-created power outage forced the Sheridan Senior Center to do the unthinkable – close its doors for what may be the first time in its 40 years of existence.
No one on the facility's current staff is certain, because center Communications Director Lois Bell said no one's been there too long.
Services for Sheridan County's senior citizens began in 1972 when a group of people formed a coordinating council with the same goal it has today – to celebrate, embrace and serve older adults for the betterment of the community.
At that time, according to the center's web site, services specifically for the senior residents of Sheridan County were virtually non-existent. The coordinating council began meeting monthly to determine what services were available from other organizations in the county, and what needs were not being met.
Then a year later, in 1973, federal funding became available for programs to benefit people age 60 and older, when the Older American's Act was passed. In that year, the Senior Citizens' Coordinating Council incorporated as the private, non-profit Sheridan Senior Center. Bell said the program was modeled after a program for senior citizens that began in New York City in 1943.
At this point, the senior center on Smith Street provides a variety of services for county residents, primarily age 60 and older, ranging from home-care services, mini-bus transportation and meals. In addition to state and federal funding, the senior center also relies on volunteers, of which the director says they could not do without.
One of the Sheridan facilities earliest efforts was providing meals to senior citizens, starting in 1972. The first senior nutrition meal site was opened in 1976 in the Salvation Army Community Center. After the senior center was built on Smith Street in 1980, the meals program moved there. Today, meals are still served there, as well as at Heritage Towers, the Tongue River Valley Community Center in Dayton, and at the women's club buildings in Story and Big Horn.
The senior center also added home-delivered meals for individuals 60 or over who are home-bound, either long-term or short-term. Home-delivered meals are prepared in the center's kitchens for delivery throughout the county. As with the meals program, home-delivered meals are provided at mid-day seven days a week, 365 days a year. Those who want more information about the home-delivered meals can call 672-6079.
The center's Help At Home program provides assistance from personal care like bathing, feeding, exercising and hygiene, to shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and chores like shoveling snow or mowing lawns. Help at Home is a licensed home health agency, and those who want more information about the programs for themselves or their family can call 675-1978 for assistance.
The Day Break Elder Care Center was launched in 1992 to provide a safe place for adults who need help with daily activities, health monitoring and supervision or who have experienced memory loss or suffer from a neurological condition. Equally important, Bell said, the Day Break program provides a respite for those who are the primary caregivers for spouses, aging parents or other family.
Another service offered by the center is the mini-bus public transportation, which provides rides for individuals under 60 as well as over. The service is available to all individuals with disabilities, including those using wheelchairs or other mobility aids and those who cannot climb stairs. All buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts. For more information about the mini-bus services, call 674-9272.