Mobile Senior Center Continues Operations in First Church, Expands to LaGrange

The Oberlin Senior Center closed permanently in March 2020 due to financial hardship. In September 2021, The Neighborhood Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides family support services to the Oberlin community, launched a test replacement program called the Mobile Senior Center in collaboration with the First Church in Oberlin. Though the test program was originally meant to run for 90 days, the Mobile Senior Center continues to meet weekly on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the First Church’s community room.

When the Senior Center first shut down, many former attendees expected it to reopen once the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic wore off. Unfortunately, the Senior Center had been losing money for several years before the pandemic began, in part due to the cost of building maintenance. The Mobile Senior Center aims to provide seniors with some of the services formerly offered by the Senior Center without the additional cost of maintaining the building. The original Senior Center building has since been sold.

During meetings, seniors have the opportunity to eat a free meal, socialize, participate in various activities such as games, movies, and exercise, listen to guest speakers, and access other important resources like medical screenings. This month, the Mobile Senior Center provided blood pressure checks and glucose screenings, assisted with rent and utilities for people 60 and over, and hosted two guest speakers. As of Sept. 21, the program has expanded to an additional location in LaGrange, OH, meeting every third Wednesday.

Even seniors who don’t rely on the Mobile Senior Center for free meals or important support services are grateful for the opportunity to socialize. Jim and Jeanne Harris, for example, go to the Mobile Senior Center to play bridge with their friends and meet new people. Despite feeling like many of the services don’t apply to her and her husband, Jeanne Harris considers the meetings to be informative.

“There were several meetings where they gave information about how to get special services,” Harris said. “Somebody came on macular degeneration and somebody else came on how to get Lorain County services.”

Despite the popularity and success of the Mobile Senior Center, it has not replaced many of the services that the Senior Center provided and is limited to meeting only once a week. 

When the original Senior Center closed, former member and volunteer Margaret Gueulette asked First Church Reverend David Hill about using church space for the Mobile Senior Center. Gueulette attends the Mobile Senior Center for a variety of services and activities, but mostly for the sense of community.

“I do the exercise class, we play bridge, and we are in a Scrabble group that plays,” Gueulette said. “When the Senior Center first closed, we did it in my garage.”

She feels that meeting once a week is not a real replacement for the community and resources lost with the Senior Center. The Senior Center  had also provided resources like weaving and quilting equipment, an extensive library, and reliable access to computers. 

“I know that there were some elderly people that came almost every day for coffee and just to sit around and talk,” Gueulette said. 

Hill doesn’t see the Mobile Senior Center expanding much more within the church’s space, as the space needs to be available other days of the week for other groups and services. 

As a result, community members are looking for a more permanent replacement for the Senior Center. According to Hill, patrons of the Mobile Senior Center are hoping to move into the building that was formerly Prospect Elementary School; the school district is currently considering how the space will be used. 

If that doesn’t pan out, Hill is happy to continue hosting the Mobile Senior Center at First Church for the foreseeable future. He is very proud of the program and loves seeing the church space being used for the community. 

“We’re happy to see the church used,” Hill said. “Even a couple of additional seniors from our church have shown up because of the exercise part of it. I think it’s going really, really well.”