Teaching the Tewksbury Senior Center a Few New Tricks
TEWKSBURY -- The past year has been a year of firsts for Senior Center Director Nicole Hutcheon -- her first time attending Town Meeting as a department head, her first time creating a department budget and her first time walking the center’s halls as director. It is a year of firsts that Hutcheon has worked hard for.
Since earning her dream job last year, Hutcheon has been busy adjusting to her new role and introducing new services. Those changes have included extending the center’s hours, hiring a nutrition assistant who introduced popular new salad bar offerings and moving the veteran service officer to the center.
Walking through the center with Hutcheon is a lively experience. At every room she stops there are smiles and a whole lot of banter as those enjoying the center’s facilities pause their games of pool and mahjong to say hello.
Joe Amato, who has been going to the senior center for years, has enjoyed many of the new services. The salad bar and moving the veteran service officer to the center were particularly great changes, he said.
Hutcheon is not a new face at the center. She volunteered at the center before taking a job as the center’s outreach coordinator, which she held for almost three years.
“For me, being here is kind of second nature,” she said.
At the heart of Hutcheon’s passion for the work is her upbringing. Hutcheon was raised by her grandparents.
“I have them to thank,” she said.
It is because of her childhood that part of Hutcheon’s focus as director has been to introduce inter-generational programming.
“Given my upbringing, it’s super important to me to bridge the gap between the ‘young young’ and the ‘old old,’” she said.
Some of that programming has included Pizza Fridays for grandparents and their grandchildren, and an inter-generational cookout held in September.
The benefits of such programming goes both ways, according to Hutcheon. It aids healthy aging and fosters understanding and closeness between generations. Hutcheon sees that in a young boy who comes to the center with his grandmother when she volunteers at the front desk a few times a week.
“I think it’s the highlight of his week to come here after school,” said Hutcheon.
In addition to inter-generational programming, Hutcheon hopes to extend the reach of the senior center beyond its Chandler Street address. With more of Tewksbury’s population aging, Hutcheon wants the community to see the center as an inclusive resource.
According to Hutcheon, there is a bit of a stigma around senior centers and the people they serve. Hutcheon wants to change that.
“I think you’d be surprised about how young and vibrant and active the crowd that we get through the door actually is,” said Hutcheon.
“They have plenty of activities, a lot of people don’t realize,” he said.
Already, Hutcheon said the center is seeing a shift in the interests of the center’s attendees as awareness of the center grows and more of the town’s population ages.
To accommodate those interests, the center has begun offering more active programming like overnight trips to New York City and Vermont, hiking and a “50s and fit” class.
In addition to the activities, Hutcheon said it is important for Tewksbury residents to understand that the center is a resource for planning ahead for everything from creating a fixed-income budget, to finding housing and transportation.
“It’s my mission to make this a place that’s super welcoming and inclusive and is one of the best centers in the area,” said Hutcheon.