Changing lives for the better and creating opportunities for activities that otherwise may not be available for many people is a very rewarding part of being in the parks and recreation industry. Opportunities and activities shouldn’t stop at a certain age, and providing recreation programs for older adults is just as vital for this age group as it is for any other. Lucky D’Ascanio, Falmouth Parks and Community Programs director, in Falmouth, Maine, has worked with providing programming for older adults for more than 20 years, starting as an intern while working on her master’s degree, and she says, from the very beginning, they always just light up her day. When it comes to staying active, the senior citizens in Falmouth have an array of options, everything from games to yoga and aerobics, to trips around the world.
Parks & Recreation magazine recently caught up with D’Ascanio to learn about her department’s widespread approach to programs for the senior citizen community in Falmouth.
Parks & Recreation: What is your role as the Falmouth Parks and Community Programs director?
Lucky D’Ascanio: I oversee the parks division facilities scheduling for the town of Falmouth, the open space program, which is robust, as well as adult recreation and senior programming.
P&R: What are some of the programs that you’re proud of that are directed at older adults?
D’Ascanio: In the past two years, we’ve had a Senior Citizens Advisory Committee, and from that, we’ve gotten funding for a “senior room” in our small activity center. In that senior room, which we call the Presumpscot Room, we have programs such as Mahjong and cribbage. We also offer a AAA defensive driving course for seniors and partner with the southern Maine-area Agency on Aging to offer fall prevention courses and things like that. We’re also working with seniors in our community on projects such as ride shares. We may partner with a local church to offer rides to seniors to get them to doctor’s appointments, hair appointments or to pick up groceries. One of the best programs we offer here is a safe indoor walking program, where seniors come in and they get these lanyards with foam cutouts to put in a basket each time they walk one lap. Eleven laps measures to be one mile, and the cutouts help so they don’t have to keep track of how many laps they’ve walked. We also have a really vibrant pickleball community here in Falmouth.
P&R: What are some of the benefits, as well as challenges, of offering a wide range of programs for seniors?
D’Ascanio: The greatest benefits for seniors are the socialization aspects and just the comradery, making new friends and connecting with old friends. Another benefit is just having a place in town where they can gather and have some fun. Some of the challenges that we are having are trying to partner with someone to be able to offer the ride programs. We have a program right now that’s in the hands of the finance committee to be able to offer some tax relief for seniors. Our senior services coordinator, Kim Doyon, is also working with the volunteer coordinator at Falmouth High School to try to match “seniors with seniors” to have these students do odd jobs for senior citizens. We’d love to be able to offer handyman services, however, it’s difficult to work around liability issues with recommending someone and them not working out. So, we’re really trying to develop a volunteer network.
P&R: So, it’s safe to say that you all are offering a lot of programs even outside the realm of parks and recreation?
D’Ascanio: Absolutely. We have a robust senior population, so we have 15-passenger vans and take them on day trips and outings with lunches, which they love. We partner with community recreation areas and we do larger trips. As a matter of fact, we just came back from Ireland, and the average age was 70-something. These are people who have always wanted to go to Ireland, but only feel comfortable doing it with recreation professionals like myself and my colleagues. We’ve been doing these types of things for a long time and realize that regionalization for these types of programs is key in keeping the price point down for the seniors, and it’s been very successful.
— Cort Jones, Associate Editor for Parks & Recreation magazine.