St. Michael’s Fifty Five Plus Club
By An Interview with Rose Pilat
Senior citizens are growing in number, both in the general population and in our churches. Many are entering these years in good or fairly good health. Many find themselves living just as a couple again, the children having gone off to form families of their own, often in far distant places. Many are adjusting to living alone, their spouses predeceasing them, and others who have always lived a single life, find the frailties of older age making life alone a little harder to handle.
It is most understandable that activities and groups of special interests should spring up in communities to give seniors a place to meet together, to share common interests, and to feel a connection with others. Every town and suburb offers such groups, so why, one might ask, would a parish want to form a similar group under the auspices of the church?
The answer from Rose Pilat, a past president of the St. Michael’s Fifty-Five Plus Club in Cleveland, Ohio is as follows:
Some 10 years ago, when a good number of our parish population began entering the “golden years,” we decided to ban together. True, there are Senior citizen groups in our communities and many of us belong to them. But for most of us, the church is really the focal point of our lives, and has been since our childhood. What better place to meet, to support one another, to share each others’ joys and sorrows. Though our activities are primarily social in nature, they reflect our church life as well.
The Fifty-Five Plus Club was formed with 55 as the lower age so that younger Seniors could also join. The greater energy level of the younger members has been helpful to the group in that they often participate more actively in planning our events.
We meet once a month on Tuesday mornings at 11:00 A.M. First we have a short business meeting, followed by lunch, and then we informally play cards, bingo, chat or have a special program. A group of three or four members prepares the luncheon, chosen either from the alphabetical membership list or by drawing names from a hat. The Club reimburses the preparers for the cost of the food. We have minimal yearly dues, and at our meetings we pay $2., $1. for the luncheon and $1. for a fifty-fifty raffle, half of the profits going into the Club treasury.
Our programs are varied. At each luncheon we remember the birthdays and anniversaries of that month. We have two more lavish pot lucks each year, one in May to celebrate any 50th wedding anniversaries, and one in October. In August we have a picnic on the church grounds with planned games, music and food. At our November meeting we have a requiem in the church for all of our deceased members. December is the month of our annual Christmas party that is catered and paid for by the Club. During Great Lent we go to private confession together as a group and then after the Liturgy, we have brunch together.
In addition, a number of trips and outings are planned, about one a month. There are short outings such as a boat ride on the lake, a dinner-theater party, an afternoon trip to near-by Amish country, and longer trips of several days to resorts and places of special interest.
At some of our meetings we invite speakers in to talk on topics of relevance to seniors - an explanation of the latest medicare information, investments, new treatments of various illnesses, and on the spot testing for sight, hearing, blood pressure, etc.
SUPPORTING ONE ANOTHER
Since, in our parish, we have a particular group that does charitable work and makes visits to the sick and homebound, “The Good Samaritans” - to which some of our members belong, we support their work with monetary donations. Of course, this does not prevent us from sending cards to those who are ill, and visiting sick and homebound members ourselves. We also make monetary donations to the church periodically.
The Fifty-Five Plus Club is very popular. We have almost 100% attendance at our meetings and gatherings because we look forward to getting out and getting together. Members come with canes, walkers, and even in wheel chairs. Those who are in good shape help those who can’t get around so easily. Those who drive, pick up those who don’t. One way we can express our thanks to God is by being there for each other.
Questions for Discussion:
1. What is the situation with the senior members in your parish? Are their particular needs being met within the Church?
2. Would there be sufficient numbers or interest to form a senior citizens’ group in your parish, or to get together with another near-by parish?
3. What are some of the activities such a group might want to pursue in your area?
4. What benefits might such a group offer the seniors? the church?
Mrs. Rose Pilat, a past president of the Fifty-Five Plus Club, is an active member of St. Michael’s Orthodox Church, Cleveland, Ohio.