South Florida Hospital News
Friday July 25, 2014
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April 2010 - Volume 6 - Issue 10

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Mae Volen Senior Center: Hip and Holistic

Sixteen years ago Elizabeth Lugo started a Social Work internship at a senior care program, with the intention of finishing her degree from Florida Atlantic University and stepping out into the world of social work to do something ‘hip’ to help make the world a better place.

Her epiphany came about 3 weeks into the internship when she looked into the twinkly blue eyes of a frail octogenarian and realized there was a youthful vibrant spirit in her elderly body.

According to Lugo, "I realized from the standpoint of government, funding and community interest, my clients were a part of an endangered species competing for the support with a multitude of other needy and vocal constituencies. From that point on I’ve been compelled to be a strong and visible advocate for seniors."

That has been the singular mission of Elizabeth Lugo, President and CEO of Mae Volen Center, Boca Raton, as she climbed the ranks from supervisor to director to VP and as CEO for the past 12 years. The Volen Center is a not-for-profit multi-service senior service agency founded in 1968. The Center’s mission is to enhance the well-being of South Florida seniors, family caregivers, the disabled, and their families by educating and advocating on their behalf offering health care and supportive services that meet their physical, emotional, social and psychological needs.

However, if you think she has given up on her dream of a ‘hip’ contribution; take a look at the variety of Mae Volen Center services. The center has determined to bring health, fun, laughter and companionship into the lives of senior citizens – all based on a preventative concept designed to nurture the mind, body and the spirit and foster continued good health.

For example, aging boomers and their senior friends claim the computer lab, with classes on website searches or email to keep in touch with grandkids, is one of the biggest draws with standing room only crowds at times. Another twist on conventional senior programming is the Child Development Program for 3-5 year olds which opened in 2010! Yes, you read correctly, Child Development in a Senior Center.

Provided through a partnership between the Peter Blum YMCA of Boca Raton and the Volen Center, this diverse, child-directed curriculum is based on the Reggio Emilia model. This innovative model encourages exploration, creativity, and self expression where the children themselves guide the learning experiences through their interests. Volen Center seniors support specially trained staff in their quest to provide healthy social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development in a nurturing environment that is responsive to each child’s need. Seniors participate as volunteer aides and mentors for the children. They actively participate in special mentoring units based on their own life experiences and skills, such as programs on the significance of the 4th of July, the senior’s hobbies such as toy collecting, and gardening.

Another ‘hip’ program is the intergenerational draw of popular Wii games where sports minded seniors can play golf, football, or tennis and never leave the sun room. Such entertaining & educational programming can not only tease the brain but also cement a bond between generations, according to Lugo’s experience.

However communicative technology is, Lugo emphasizes that there is no substitute for personal interaction. To that end she gets her daily dose by walking the halls of the center, sometimes on a strategizing mission to insure that that those who paved the way for her as teachers, homemakers, nurses, business men or military still feel valued and have the continued opportunities to contribute to society with a quality of life. Or, another day may include involvement in an emergent situation to facilitate a family facing the challenges of impaired physical or cognitive health. The Mae Volen Center is well known for dementia-specific therapeutic and respite day care programs staffed by fully certified professionals. In addition to health needs, nothing is left to chance because the Volen center offers transportation, social services, nutritional support, personal care and fun activities to enhance the wellness atmosphere for seniors with memory deficiencies and their families.

Lugo encourages her health care colleagues - doctors, discharge planners, therapists and other clinicians-- to learn how Volen center can help enhance their patients’ quality of life. The center is a nationally accredited and recognized for a myriad of holistic services from providing 70,000 rides to medical appointments annually to timely educational and social programming and compassionate health and wellness care.

For more information, e-mail lugoe@maevolen.com, call (561) 395-8920 ext. 208 or visit www.maevolen.com.
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