DCS envisions new model for senior services

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
The Intergenerational Center on Chesapeake Drive in Cambridge is under construction, with completion expected in May of 2021.

CAMBRIDGE — Approximately one year after its groundbreaking, the vision for Chesapeake Grove Intergenerational Center is coming into focus. With construction of the Center set to be completed in May 2021, the team at Delmarva Community Services, Inc. (DCS) is planning programming for the new facilities while continuing existing outreach to seniors in the region.

A special online Oct. 2 event, sponsored by DCS and the Community Development Network of Maryland, highlighted plans for the center and explain the benefits it will bring to people throughout the area. Plans call for the Center to provide care for seniors and youth in a newly renovated, shared space.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the needs facing seniors in a rural community, including overcoming obstacles to get healthy food and other necessities.

“COVID-19 has brought to the surface the world in which our rural seniors are living every day,” explained Mary Handley, Program Manager for DCS. “Requests for meal delivery have increased exponentially. In rural areas, there is a real lack of affordable, safe housing – housing with central heating and air conditioning, housing that’s located near a transport hub, housing that’s located near to any of the services that we provide. The Center will allow us to do more to meet those needs and we’re excited to share those plans with the public.”

In addition to the Center, DCS has plans to build 61 units of subsidized senior housing and market-rate condominiums, along with a fitness center, a dining hall, and a pool which will be equipped with therapeutic senior services and open to facility residents, while offering a public membership option.

The model for the intergenerational programming was inspired by a serendipitous meeting between DCS Director Santo A. Grande and Sister Edna Lonergan, a nun who runs an intergenerational senior center in Wisconsin. During a visit to Saint Ann’s Intergenerational Center of Wisconsin, staff at DCS witnessed innovative methods that engaged seniors and youth in caring for one another.

“We heard this bell ringing, and many of the seniors got up and quickly began making their way to the childcare center,” Handley recalled. “As it turned out, the bell indicated to residents when a baby needed to be held or rocked, and the seniors were able to offer that human touch to infants in need, while also feeling needed.”
This “baby bell” is among the first programming ideas that Chesapeake Grove will be implementing. The building will have an open atrium with paths and greenery that connects a childcare center on one side and the senior care center on the other – physically designed to foster intergenerational programming, both formal and casual. And every activity that is put in place will be designed to engage with people and promote healthy interactions.

“We really believe that we’re going to extend people’s lives, that they’re going to lead happier lives, and that they’re going to have a purpose for living,” said Handley.
This event was part of Community Development Week, sponsored by the Community Development Network of Maryland and DCS. Among the participants were: Mayor of Cambridge Victoria Jackson Stanley; Delegate Sheree L. Sample-Hughes; Delmarva Community Services Director Santo A. Grande; and Community Development Network of Maryland Executive Director Claudia Wilson Randall.

The mission of the Community Development Network of Maryland is to promote, strengthen, and advocate for the community development sector throughout Maryland’s urban, suburban, and rural communities.