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Woodside senior center rings in 10th anniversary with laughs

Some may think seniors just want peace and quiet, but at the 10th-anniversary party for the VNS CHOICE Adult Day Center in Woodside Friday, the 100 seniors assembled proved they could still be party animals.

During the day’s activities and the presentation of proclamations from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) to the center’s director, Debbie Stricoff, the seniors cheered and called out encouragements to those speaking.

“They’re a very invigorating, lively crowd,” said High-Powered Howard, a stand-up comedian/fitness instructor who led the partygoers in Jokesercise, a program he created in which he told the seniors jokes in-between leading them in low-impact exercises. “They’re much younger than their years, here.”

The center, on the second floor of 61-10 Queens Blvd., celebrated its 10 years with a birthday party for staff and visitors. In addition to Jokesercise and the proclamations, the party’s festivities also included dancing, personal massages and lunch with an anniversary cake.

“I know I have in store for me a day of happiness and good cheer,” said Burton Kramer, a 71-year-old visitor who has been coming to the center for five years.

Stricoff said while it was not she who came up with the idea for the center, she was the one who helped create the center and has been there since the beginning.

“I love the elderly,” she said. “I’ve wanted to do this since I was 20 years old.”

Unlike most senior centers, the VNS CHOICE Adult Day Center is only open to members of the insurance program VNS CHOICE. An affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, VNS CHOICE is an insurance program available to those eligible for Medicaid and Medicare who live in the five boroughs.

For members in Queens and Brooklyn, the center is available to them as part of their long-term managed care program through the insurance company, said James O’Neal, director of community relations for VNS CHOICE.

Stricoff said what this essentially means is that those on the program get their own nurse, social worker and rehabilitation services and other benefits in addition to being able to come to the center for socialization. She said 1,100 seniors have been enrolled in the program since its opening and 235 actively come to the center now. She said the center has a program for the physically impaired and a program for those who have mental problems like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our goal is to keep seniors somewhere safe, keep them somewhere during the day,” Stricoff said.

O’Neal said the center is open five days a week and provides transport, a lunch and many activities and therapies for seniors.

“A lot of people here consider this their home away from home,” O’Neal said.

Kramer said the staff of the center has been friendly and nice from the beginning. They’ve provided food to him and helped him stave off being evicted from his apartment.

“They present this nice place, this haven for me,” he said. “When I feel lonely, in total despair, I come here and I feel better.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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