Many Topeka-area retirement and senior care communities are increasingly dedicated to offering a range of activities for their residents. Day trips, classes and learning opportunities keep seniors entertained and help them stay connected with the wider community in which they live.
Cindee Williams, senior marketing associate at McCrite Plaza Topeka, 1608-1610 S.W. 37th St., said residents there might attend a dinner theater at New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park or a Kansas City Royals baseball game; participate in Topeka activities, such as First Friday Art Walk, Sunflower Music Festival or Huff ‘n Puff balloon rally; or visit smaller nearby communities like Vassar that offer live music or dinner theaters.
McCrite residents also have gone on several tours to see the progress of downtown Topeka’s revitalization efforts.
“A lot of these residents have lived in the community all their lives, so they’ve been a part of those transitions — from downtown in its heyday, to the move to the west side of town, back to downtown,” she said.
Claudia Larkin, vice president and chief operating officer at Brewster Place, said residents of the senior living community — the majority of whom are in independent living — take day trips to area sites about once a week. The facility has a vehicle that will carry 24 people.
Brewster Place, 1205 S.W. 29th St., also has taken residents on overnight trips, such as recent visits to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., and Wichita, where they visited several attractions.
Trips to museums, concerts and other outings make for day trips that many residents at Meadlowlark Estates Gracious Retirement Living in Lawrence wouldn’t miss, said co-manager Ky McElhaney.
“They enjoy getting out and doing things,” McElhaney said.
Meadowlark Estates, an independent living community at 4430 Bauer Farm Drive in Lawrence, also hosts three events per month to which it invites the public, he said. Those include buffets, dances and even tailgate parties.
McCrite Plaza, too, plans musical programs and other events for families and residents who aren’t able to travel for outside events. Williams said residents enjoy a fall carnival and car show in late September, and holiday events, including a Halloween party and an Easter egg hunt, offer opportunities for residents who don’t have family nearby to interact with other attendees.
At Topeka Presbyterian Manor, 4712 S.W. 6th Ave., sales and marketing director Chelsea Watgen said residents in a sewing group make quilts and deliver them to Helping Hands Humane Society; local churches; and the Topeka Police Department, where they are placed in patrol cars for use with children.
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Kansas in Lawrence partners with two dozen area retirement communities, including Brewster Place and Aldersgate Village in Topeka, to schedule public classes on-site. Classes also are scheduled on the campuses of KU, Washburn University, Kansas State University and Fort Scott Community College.
Osher Institute director Jim Peters said 60 classes were planned for this fall. The classes, which don’t feature homework or tests, are broken down into three weekly, two-hour sessions — enough time to drill down into a particular topic without requiring a lengthy time commitment from participants or the instructor, Peters said.
“Because most of our folks are retired, they are busy people,” he said. “This allows them to do both their regular activities as well as be able to take courses and travel and do other things.”
Class fees are kept low, with a single class costing $50. This fall’s course topics range from the history of German settlements and the Underground Railroad in Kansas to memoir writing and a review of vintage American action heroes.
Contact reporter Samantha Foster at (785) 295-1186.