UPSLIDE program receives award for innovative ideas in health and wellness – WCTV

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – The Tallahassee UPSIDE program was awarded the innovation in health award by the National Recreation and Parks Association.
Senior Center Upside Coordinator Melanie Lachman said the senior center, which falls under the umbrella of the city’s parks and recreation department, got the award for its holistic approach to “mental health, physical health and emotional health” for the seniors they care for.
“We have this wonderful senior center where we can plug people in and we have a bunch of programs that we can get people involved with,” Lachman said.
Graham Smith, 83, has spent 10 weeks with the program and said the group activities that the center provides allow the ability to connect with people.
“I come here three times a week minimally, sometimes four sometimes five,” Smith said. “When I do, I go home and I’m recharged, and I’m not sad and even though I’m sitting in my home by myself, I feel filled by these people.”
Smith said the outings, game days and company give him a reason to leave his home.
“The people are really caring, they’re interested in you and they’ve experienced the same thing,” Smith said.
Lachman said the program has allowed seniors to form connections and develop friendships. They’ve had “success stories” of people getting involved in the program.
The groups range from anywhere between nine to 20 people at times. They meet for “friend connections” Monday from 3 p.m. to 4:30 pm at the center, Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Groups also meet virtually on Tuesdays between 1 p.m. and 2:30 pm.
“In the groups, we try to change it up. We have discussions, we play games, we try to do different things just to keep people talking, sharing and laughing,” Lachman said.
The groups also take field trips to goat farms and the Florida Museum. Next month, they’ll have a handler come in with birds of prey for the members.
Smith said being part of a group and a community is the most important part.
“It’s reentered me into society,” Smith said after joining the program following 15 years of caring for someone before they passed away in February. “Being part of the group is really it for the most part.”
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