TNDC Expands its Activities Program for Seniors

TNDC seeks not just to provide affordable housing for Tenderloin senior citizens who wish to remain in the neighborhood that has been their home, but also to provide housing that will enable them to maintain healthy, happy lives and to age with dignity. A key part of this mission includes fostering a sense of community in TNDC buildings––developing neighbor relations and heightening the interpersonal communication skills that can deteriorate with age and infirmity.

TNDC’s Activities Coordinators, subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, work hard to create a platform for growth and communication for senior citizens in TNDC’s senior buildings. Through games, classes, and field trips, seniors are encouraged to venture outside their rooms and actively participate in the community of their building and the neighborhood. “I am happy to see residents feel energetic during the activities and know they are being loved and cared for by TNDC,” said Teresa Suen, who has been an Activities Coordinator at TNDC for over seven years.

Last winter, in response to growing demand for these services, TNDC welcomed two new Activities Coordinators to the team – Helena and Mark. Their enthusiasm and love for working with seniors has helped to usher in a new, expanded program to engage our residents.

Until last winter, TNDC’s Activities Program did not have the capacity to extend to Turk/Eddy Preservation, two HUD buildings that house seniors and the disabled in the heart of the Tenderloin neighborhood. “A woman who lives in Turk and Eddy used to stay in her home and never come out,” said Mark. “So when we invited her to the Mother’s Day Celebration she felt a little overwhelmed. But she attended and even participated in the arts and crafts. It was really touching to see her open up.”

TNDC Activities Program includes field trips to destinations like the California Academy of Sciences, the Museum of the African Diaspora, and SF Giants games, knitting, cooking, and Tai Chi classes, and even intergenerational projects that connect the seniors with kids from TNDC’s Tenderloin After-School Program, such as last May’s celebration of Filipino culture and creation of “The Pabitin,” a traditional Filipino party game in which a bamboo frame is hung from the ceiling with favors and candy tied to it. Seniors had great time pulling the Pabitin up and down on a string to tease the children as they reached for lollipops. “Residents really enjoy preparing these projects for the little children and have fun watching them do them,” said TNDC Social Worker Betty Duran, who organizes many of these activities at Alexander Residence, a building for senior and disabled occupants in which she serves.

“My favorites are the musical events,” said Mark. Bread and Roses, a local organization dedicated to providing free, live music performances for people who live in institutions or are otherwise isolated from society, often holds performances in TNDC’s buildings. “Those events are the most successful at bringing people together – not only those who live in the building but residents from other buildings and the neighborhood as well.”

“And there is no dividing line as far as language barriers go,” said Helena. One of the major hurdles TNDC’s Activities Coordinators face is the dividing line between cultural groups in TNDC buildings. “We’re really trying to encourage residents to venture beyond their comfort zone and meet neighbors who are different from them.” Helena, Mark, and Teresa keep themselves busy gauging the interests of residents and offering activities that will enrich their lives and their community. Resident surveys help highlight areas they might overlook and weekly coffee hours bring residents out to share their opinions on what new activities would be most welcome.

“We’ve recently learned that a short story writing class is desired,” said Mark, who is currently looking for a volunteer to teach the seniors to write memoirs and short stories about their lives.

“We’re always looking for volunteers to share their skills and teach a class,” said Helena. If you are interested in learning more, contact Jane Hatch at (415) 358-3946.


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