“Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend?” In 1971, when James Taylor sang those lyrics, I’m sure he didn’t realize how true they would ring for thousands of seniors who have found fun, friendship, and even romance in Staten Island’s own Friendship Clubs.
So where can a mature lady or gentleman go for a reasonable breakfast, lunch, card playing, art lessons, bocce, or singing and dancing? How about one of the four Friendship clubs that operate daily from about 8:30am to 3:00pm?
The Friendship Clubs accept members 60 years and older. Members may be accompanied by an aide or family member. According to some clubs, youngsters under 60 are asking to join! For a small contribution (usually $1-$2), the four active Staten Island clubs serve breakfast and lunch five days a week.
According to Jeannie Agnello, coordinator at the Arrochar Friendship Club, the club is a hopping place where on any given day you may find members playing Mahjong, participating in a Glee Club, using computers, or dancing to the music of a DJ spinning discs.
“The center is a wonderful place for friendships, as well as a few romances,” but she warns that the ladies do outnumber the men. “Our members enjoy the indoor activities as well as our outings, which could be anything from a day trip to Atlantic City or a week vacation in the Ozark Mountains.”
Hundreds of seniors gather at Friendship Clubs throughout Staten Island, arriving by foot, car, Access-A-Ride, or via a fleet of buses that provide transportation to friends in the area of the clubs.
Anna Stout, the coordinator of the Mount Loretto Friendship Club, enjoys her job and takes great pride in the Club that hosts about 150 members a day. “We are a very active club, a great place for seniors to make friends and sometimes romances. We have had weddings and many birthday celebrations. People feel good here, and we welcome everyone. Our bocce courts and billiard tables are extremely popular. Socializing and keeping seniors active is good for the mind. It helps people to not become too depressed. We even have a stress management class, along with Tai Chi and outings.”
There are currently four Friendship Clubs operating: Arrochar, Great Kills, Mount Loretto and Todt Hill. The New Dorp Center has been out of commission since Hurricane Sandy. According to Marie Didato, Associate Director of SI Community Services Friendship Club, Inc., “We are working closely with the Department of Parks to refurbish and reopen the New Dorp Friendship Club. Many seniors are anxiously awaiting the reopening.” Some of those members have been attending the Great Kills and Arrochar Friendship Clubs in the interim.
For many vital seniors who are young at heart, the club is a place to meet friends, challenge their minds and bodies, and eat nutritious meals. For some, cooking has become difficult and shopping is quite an expense these days, so the nutritious meals are a blessing.
For information about the clubs, contact: Marie Didato at 718. 356.5050.
Note: In addition to Friendship Clubs, Staten Island is home to other senior centers, such as the Joan and Alan Bernikow Jewish Community Center and The United Federation of Teachers Retired Teacher Center, where seniors and retirees can meet, take classes and enjoy life, For a list of other resources for seniors on Staten Island, visit siparent.com/seniors.
Marianna Randazzo is a Staten Island author and educator who is enjoying her new role of Grandmother.
Staten Island Parent’s Grandparents Column: Life is Grand