Leonard "Joe" McManus, left, enjoys a cupcake and shares a smile with his wife, Rhea, while fellow card player Frank Garofalo awaits for Rhea to shuffle the cards. The trio participated in a social activity offered by Lakeland Activity Center for Seniors staffed by Catholic Charities. (DAVID GONZALEZ | FC)

Mobile services for seniors introduced in Polk


LAKELAND  |  For over three decades the Lakeland Activity Center for Seniors, a program of Catholic Charities of Central Florida, has provided a second home for the area’s seniors, giving them a place to participate in activities, meals, health screenings and, most importantly, to socialize with other seniors. Now the organization is introducing “Mobile Services for Seniors” to serve more seniors through satellite locations.

The first satellite site, operating out of the Frostproof Care Center, began welcoming seniors in the fall of 2016. Since then additional sites have opened in Bartow, Polk City and Dundee. Catholic Charities is looking to expand to other locations as well, and has recently hired a new mobile services coordinator. The goal is to help seniors avoid isolation, which is dangerous for their health.

“A lack of socialization or being isolated is more detrimental to one’s health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being obese,” explained Barbara Cage, program manager. “Harvard School of Public Health studies have found that seniors who are less social are more likely to suffer from memory loss, and that socializing is as beneficial for their health as exercise. Many of the seniors we serve are widowed, separated/divorced or single, meaning that most live alone, which greatly impacts the factors of isolation.”

“Mobile Services for Seniors” is funded by a new Community Development Block Grant from Polk County. The program promotes health and wellness through nutrition, socialization, activities and education. They provide opportunities for seniors 55-plus to meet other seniors living nearby, become more informed on health issues, and learn about resources available to seniors in the area. Programming includes exercise classes, card games, arts and crafts, educational presentations, computer assistance, and a free lunch. n