Robert Lynch and Robert Antonini with Program Specialist Hayle Wilder at the Friendship Center’s Connections class. | Credit: Paul Wellman

You don’t have to be religious, spiritual, or even very emotional to understand that, as humans, we all crave some type of connection. As we age, our minds and our bodies tend to slow down, so in order to stay connected, we need to stimulate our senses. The Friendship Center, which has locations in Montecito and Goleta, does so through a program called Connections, which promotes social and cognitive stimulation while teaching effective strategies to slow down memory loss.

“Our Connections senior social club is a wonderful way for older adults to meet new friends and participate in stimulating brain exercises like puzzles, word games, and math,” said the center’s program specialist Hayle Wilder, who runs light chair workouts and aromatherapy classes. Every Monday, Wilder hosts guest speakers on a wide range of topics, such as antique cars, modern art, and American history. “Many of our members become companions and look forward to catching up each week and discussing current events.”

The effects are apparent. “It’s amazing to see our members light up when connecting about a place they’ve traveled to, a similar job they’ve had, or even a type of food they like,” said Wilder, who also learns a lot personally. “We have a group of remarkable people who come to Connections with amazing life stories. I learn a great deal from all of them and I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to facilitate the program.”

One heartwarming example is a woman named Olivia who recently started at the program. “At first, she was very shy and did not want to participate in the activities,” Wilder said. “On her second day, we played a sing-along of classic Irish songs. Since Olivia was born and raised in Germany and had traveled to Ireland, she was excited to hear the songs and started singing along with the group. Her excitement showed when she talked about the meaning of the lyrics and how much she loved her time in Europe.”



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