Warwick is the second best community for senior citizen health care and the fourth best place overall to retire in Rhode Island, according to a recent report released by SmartAsset.com, which indexed cities across the country in regards to the best living conditions for senior citizens.
The study looked at data regarding how highly seniors were taxed, how available healthcare and recreational facilities were to the senior population and the overall percentage of senior citizens that made up the population to create the rankings.
With seniors accounting for 18.5 percent of the population, according to U.S. Census data, Warwick has the fourth highest number of seniors out of the 10 Rhode Island communities analyzed, with Tiverton, Greenville and Westerly coming in first, second and third respectively.
Warwick ranked highest in health care availability, as the data reported that Warwick has 1.9 medical offices available for every 1,000 senior citizens. Only Westerly had more, with 2.7 per 1,000 seniors.
Warwick finished in the middle of the pack for recreational and social availability, with 0.4 centers available for every 1,000 residents.
However, if you ask the people who operate and patronize the Pilgrim Senior Center, they may make the argument that it’s a matter of quality over quantity when it comes to providing good opportunities for the elderly.
“I think we should be number one,” said Pat Seltzer, Community Wellness Nurse and chair of the Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Disabilities. “I think Warwick goes over and above what a lot of other communities do to provide services to our seniors.”
Seltzer wears many hats, and they all have something to do with organizing and helping out the elder population. In addition to sitting on the Mayor’s Advisory Commission, Seltzer teaches several classes at the Pilgrim Senior Center, including one specifically targeted towards helping diabetic seniors live and eat healthier.
Although Seltzer said it’s sometimes difficult to get senior citizens in the door of a senior center, “because they’re not old,” she chided, for others, the center is a place that has brought much happiness.
“I come here about four times a week,” said Pilgrim Senior Center attendee Louise Brown. “It’s been a lifesaver for me. I really love it here.”
Brown, a 75-year-old Warwick resident who has lived off Warwick Avenue for about 50 years and spent 37 years as a housekeeper, talked about the various opportunities available at the center that she participated in, including knitting sessions, dancing lessons and classes on how to maintain a healthy life with diabetes.
“I get lunch served to me now and I get to do what I want when I want,” she said. “I've made about 80 friends. I've met a lot of wonderful people. It’s the best thing I ever did.”
Kathleen Bennett, manager at the center, said that it’s important to offer a little something for everybody.
“The center itself has a ton of things going on that, I think for the folks who come through our door, make a resounding difference every day,” Bennett said.
Available at the senior center is a variety of activities – ranging from Zumba to field trips to fun locations around Rhode Island, like the Playhouse in Newport. The costs for such activities vary, but they are open to any senior citizen, not just those from Warwick.
Others may come to the center to ensure that they get at least one good meal in a day, as the center takes part in a federally funded lunch program.
“I know that for a lot of the people who come here regularly, it's difficult for them to meet that need at home so we're fortunate to provide that for them during the week,” said Bennett.
The center will also hire professionals to come in and give presentations, such as attorneys who give informational sessions on estate planning or tax consultants during tax season. They also provide transportation to seniors to do their shopping, banking or certain recreational trips.
Recently, Bennett said the center is trying to take advantage of more evening activities, so that seniors who haven’t yet retired can also take part in classes and fun activities. She reported that about 120 people had passed through the doors halfway through a normal Wednesday.
“We take pride in helping people find the services they need,” she said.
For those who recently found the center, like Brown, you don’t need numbers and figures and rankings to show how beneficial these types of programs are for senior citizens around Warwick.
“It's helped me to figure out what to do with myself and gets me out of the house instead of staying in the house all the day,” she said.
To view the study and relevant data, visit smartasset.com/retirement/retirement-calculator#rhodeisland/recreation-social.