With 27.4 percent of Marion County’s population over the age of 65, chances are, you know or are a senior citizen. Our seniors have resources available to help them for a spectrum of needs, from the bare basics to life-enhancement opportunities—but, not all seniors may be aware of them. Here’s a quick glance at some of the community’s best senior resources.
Making ends meet on a fixed income can be quite challenging, but you don’t need to go hungry to do it. Our generous local organizations have developed food assistance programs to help our senior citizens—who for one reason or another can’t make it to the grocery store or just can’t afford nutritious food on their incomes. These services range from expansive food pantries to hot meals delivered right to your doorstep, all thanks to selfless donors and volunteers in our community.
Belleview St. Theresa
11528 SE Hwy 301, Belleview
The wonderful social services team at St. Theresa Catholic Church provides seniors and others in need with a wide range of services. They serve fresh, delicious meals daily to anyone in the community who needs it. People come to Belleview’s St. Theresa Catholic Church for a number of reasons. Some come because they can’t afford a hot meal, while others come just to socialize with one another over lunch. One thing is for sure, they dish up a huge plate and an abundance of kind words.
They also offer grocery items to Belleview and Summerfield residents who otherwise can’t afford to fill their pantries. They also offer canned food, bread and other locally donated food items. And with the installation of their large freezer, they’re now able to offer access to frozen meats and other frozen foods.
Central Christian Church
3010 NE 14th St., Ocala
Behold the “Mountain of Food,” the collection project that serves those in need of food within the local community. Offering access to pantry items with a genuine smile, Central Christian Church is dedicated to helping not only members of the church but the needy and elderly within the community as well. Located directly off Bonnie Heath Blvd., Central Christian Church is convenient to the Silver Springs area and northeast Ocala area.
Marion Senior Services Congregate Meals
1101 SW 20th Ct., Ocala
Stop by Marion Senior Services’ main office Monday through Friday and join other seniors for a hot noon or dinnertime meal. Serving times are 9am to 1pm and again from 3pm to 6pm. They’re conveniently located right off SR 200 on SW 20th Court and are home to numerous other senior services. They also help support 11 other facilities around the county with congregate meals. For a list of other facilities that may be closer to you, call or visit their website at marionseniorservices.org.
1101 SW 20th Ct., Ocala
Can’t make it to a dining hall or know someone who can’t? No worries! Meals-On-Wheels has been delivering hot, noontime meals to seniors for over 40 years. The hot meal meets one-third of an adult’s daily nutritional requirements, so you can rest assured it’s healthy eating. Additionally, the Meals-On-Wheels program serves as a daily well-being check, for an added peace of mind for those living by themselves. If you’re over 60 and are homebound, contact Marion Senior Services to enroll in this exceptional food delivery program.
Staying active and social plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle at all ages, but it may be especially important in helping you retain independence as you age. In fact, the National Institute of Aging found that a carefully structured, moderate physical activity program can reduce the risk of losing the ability to walk without assistance. If you haven’t thought about getting into an exercise routine, now may be the time.
The Ocala area has plenty of programs to help you become not only more active but more social as well!
Eighth Avenue Adult Activity Center
830 NE 8th Ave., Ocala
Located in gorgeous Tuscawilla Park, the Eighth Avenue Adult Activity Center is a gem to many local senior citizens. The center hosts a variety of activities, programs and special events, including arts and crafts, bingo, cards, movies, dance, exercise, concerts, trips, educational classes and special celebrations throughout the year. In addition, the Eighth Avenue Adult Activity Center has plenty of covered shuffleboard courts. The center is open weekdays from 9am to 4pm.
Barbara G. Washington Adult Activity Center
210 NW 12th Ave., Ocala
The Barbara G. Washington Adult Activity Center, located on the west side of Ocala, is perfect for active senior citizens. With a walking trail, basketball, baseball, soccer and football fields, picnic pavilion and more, this center is designed exclusively for older adults. Senior citizens also have a chance to become more socially and physically active with programs such as fitness classes, walking clubs and special events. Seniors also have opportunities to receive health screenings, social services such as tax help and access to listen to public speakers. The center is open weekdays from 9am to 4pm. Don’t miss out on these free amenities!
Senior Companion Program
1101 SW 20th Ct., Ocala
The Senior Companion Program helps you maintain your independence as you experience the obstacles of aging. The volunteer companions can help you in a number of ways when a family member or caregiver is unable to. Let a volunteer companion help transport you to important medical appointments, go grocery shopping or even help you cook a meal in the comfort of your own home. They’re here to not only help you and give family members a little help but also provide a valuable friendship.
Department of Elder Affairs
Check out the Department of Elder Affairs website at elderaffairs.state.fl.us or call (800) 262-2243. They’ve compiled a list of state programs for seniors with links to their websites, including the Adult Care Food Program, the Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (EHEAP), Home Care for the Elderly (HCE) and several others.
Frank DeLuca YMCA’s Silver Sneakers
3200 SE 17th St., Ocala
Want to increase your strength, flexibility and balance while making new friends in the process? Come see what the rave is about at the Frank DeLuca YMCA’s Silver Sneakers classes. These popular classes are offered daily, Monday through Friday, with exercises specifically designed for older adults. Want to try it out, but don’t necessarily want to commit to a membership, call or visit the Frank DeLuca YMCA to learn more about a free-trial pass.
Silver Sneakers at the YMCA
Roxanne Schwaller, YMCA Wellness Instructor
Q: What are some of the classes like? Are there different levels of classes?
A: The classes are 45 to 55 minutes long and use cardio, strength, resistance, balance, flexibility and coordination exercises. You have the option to stand or sit during the class, and the instructor always faces toward the class. The movements are designed to simulate day-to-day motions, such as reaching into the back seat of a car or opening a jar. The class begins with a warmup and proceeds to light cardio to increase the heart rate, strength training and balancing. There aren’t different levels of classes, but you can start off with lighter resistance bands and move up as you feel comfortable.
Q: Do you need a membership to attend these classes?
A: The Silver Sneakers program is a trademark program. Therefore, a number of supplemental health insurances will cover the cost of the program. Seniors can also get a discounted senior membership to the Y.
Q: Do you have to sign up for specific classes? Where can you find a class schedule?
A: You don’t need to sign up for any of the classes, just show up to any Silver Sneakers class. Our members are very welcoming to new people. We offer eight classes a week, and schedules can be found in the YMCA lobby or on the YMCA website at ymcacentralflorida.com.
Having some sort of transportation is essential in today’s world. Whether it’s making it to medical appointments or simply getting out of the house, when you don’t have access to a vehicle, it makes life complicated. However, there are resources available for your transportation needs that you may want to keep in mind the next time you’re in need of a ride.
Marion Transit Services
1101 SW 20th Ct., Ocala
As a subsidiary of Marion Senior Services, Marion Transit Services can assist you with transportation needs. Their buses service disabled and disadvantaged citizens and can provide service even to rural areas of the county upon request. They maintain a fleet of regular and wheelchair lift-equipped vans to fulfill the needs of any senior citizen.
Marion Transit Services
Donna Hersom, Transportation Director
Q: Does it cost anything to catch a ride?
A: Yes, it’s $2 each way, so $4 for a roundtrip.
Q: How do you sign up for service, and how does it work? Can you schedule weekly or monthly rides?
A: You can call (352) 620-3071 three days in advance to schedule a trip but no more than two weeks out. For trips that are ongoing such as dialysis, therapy, etc., you may schedule transportation as a standing order without having to call for individual trips. We have a two-hour pickup window, so if you have a 10am appointment, you will need to be ready for pickup at 8am.
Q: What are the route limitations? What are some examples of places that Marion Transit Services can take you?
A: We service all of Marion County. For individuals who reside within the Ocala area, appointments can be accommodated between 9am and 2pm. For residents who live in the rural areas of the county, our schedules will accommodate appointments between 10am and 1pm. Individuals who are disabled and unable to access the mass transit system (SunTran) are eligible to ride with Marion Transit. We provide life-sustaining trips such as medical appointments and grocery shopping.
Q: Does the bus wait for you at your stop or come back to pick you up?
A: The bus doesn’t wait for you at your stop. Once your appointment is complete, call the dispatch line at (352) 620-3127 to request the return transport.
1805 NE 30th Ave., Ocala
All aboard! Taking a SunTran bus is an alternate option to get to shopping plazas, restaurants and medical facilities. With routes spanning across the heart of Ocala and even Silver Springs Shores from Monday through Saturday, SunTran can meet all of your transportation needs. All buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts and also offer generous discounts to senior citizens. A monthly SunTran pass is only $23 for seniors or, for occasional needs, a one-way fare is 75 cents. For more information and a map of available routes, check out the SunTran website at ocalafl.org/suntran.
Sources: quickfacts.census.gov, nia.nih.gov