Niskayuna Senior program a home away from home

INDIANA NASH/GAZETTE REPORTER
Elizabeth Paul (on left) and Joan Almas (on right) are members and volunteers at the Niskayuna Senior Center program, working to make it feel more like a second home to seniors. Wednesday, August 10, 2016.INDIANA NASH/GAZETTE REPORTER Elizabeth Paul (on left) and Joan Almas (on right) are members and volunteers at the Niskayuna Senior Center program, working to make it feel more like a second home to seniors. Wednesday, August 10, 2016.

BY INDIANA NASH

Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA- When Joan Almas moved to Niskayuna a little over a year and a half ago, she was looking for a community.

Since then, she’s not only found one but helped to build upon it.

“I call myself the chief cook and bottle washer,” Almas said, only half-jokingly.

She moved from Long Beach on Long Island after retiring from an office management position and her son encouraged her to move into the Capital Region to be closer to him.

Almas began going to the Senior Center program shortly after moving to Niskayuna.

“On the second day I was there, I began to notice things that I could improve,” Almas said.

After speaking with Rosemarie Mullaney, the director of the program, about her ideas for the center, Almas took off and hasn’t stopped trying to improve the lives of those in the senior community since.

Earlier this year, she formed the Niskayuna Senior Community Association, along with three other local seniors.

Although the Association is a separate entity, it works with the Town’s Senior Program to help with any extra funding or costs.

“We have trips that we do and lots of the seniors want to go . . . but many of us are on a tight budget,” Almas said.

The Niskayuna Senior Program usually runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the days in-between, the Town plans day trips to places like Lake George or the Grant House in Wilton or the Saratoga Race Track.

Any senior who can’t afford to go on the trip can express their need to Mullaney, who will then present it to the Association.

“But the name of the person is kept confidential,” Mullaney said. Then the Association will vote to cover the cost of the trip for the senior in need.

To Almas, the senior center should be a second home.

“We want seniors to feel welcome at the center,” Almas said.

During a recent senior picnic, several members of the senior center, called Almas ‘one in a million,’ and ‘just amazing.’

Almas mostly laughed off the praise, and went on to talk about the strong friendships she’s seen built at the center.

“For those who don’t have the center, what are you going to do? There’s only so much cleaning you can do around the house and you don’t want to be watching the tube all day,” Almas said.

She believes that seniors in the community need more than just medical care and fun trips.

They need a community that will help support them.

“People are now meeting outside of the time at the senior center too,” Almas said.

During the winter of 2016, she introduced everyone to Mahjong and many members have grown fond of it.

She also helps fellow volunteer Elizabeth Paul with the garden at the center.

“Two years ago we started a garden here and now we use it for our cooking,” Paul said.

The herbs that Almas and Paul tend to get used for the lunches served at the center every week.

“That’s my second home. Now I have a place to go,” Paul said of the senior center.

This care is what led Mullaney to nominate Almas for Schenectady County’s 2016 Senior Citizen of the Year Award.

“Although she is new to us, she is a very enthusiastic person and she is generous with her time. I appreciate that she got right into things,” Mullaney said of Almas.

When Almas first began volunteering, Mullaney said that she started out as a greeter or a welcomer to the center. Now Almas does that and much more.

“Joan has also brought people in from the community,” Mullaney said, “We’re a small staff so we do need help.”

Almas is ready and willing to provide that for the senior community.