A Place They Call Home

Silver Fox Senior Social Club, a senior day service provider, opened in Fayetteville in April. It’s already considering expanding the facility

By Margaret McCormick

Mary, a member of Silver Fox Senior Social Club. Photo provided.
Mary, a member of Silver Fox Senior Social Club. Photo provided.

It’s cold and snowy outside but warm and cozy inside at the Silver Fox Senior Social Club in Fayetteville. At a round table, a couple of the club’s regular attendees sip coffee and chat on a recent morning while a couple others color and play word games.

The smell of roasting chicken wafts from the kitchen, where chef James Alderman prepares crowd-pleasing, mostly comfort food meals each day.

Since 2007, the nonprofit Silver Fox Senior Social Club in Baldwinsville has welcomed senior men and women in need of adult day services. Now, seniors in the eastern Central New York area, including Madison County, don’t have to travel as far to take advantage of the club’s offerings.

In April, the Silver Fox opened a second location at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, on Highbridge Road (Route 92), in Fayetteville. It’s a fairly contemporary building with easy access for those with physical limitations. It’s also the home of Meals on Wheels in the eastern suburbs.

Executive Director Jennifer Mellone says there is great demand for adult day services in the Fayetteville-Manlius area. Already, she says, the club is looking to expand its presence in the church in order to accommodate more members.

The club bills itself as “the gold standard” of senior day service providers. It calls itself a club — rather than a center — because it provides something more specialized and exclusive to seniors: a home-like environment where members can enjoy activities, chef-prepared meals and companionship, all in a professionally supervised, safe environment. All Silver Fox staff members are certified home health aides or certified nurse aides.

“They’re a member of a club,’’ Mellone says. “They’re not a client or a patient. It makes them feel like they’re part of something.’’

Activities are designed to meet the individual, social and cognitive needs of members and include things like trivia, bingo, jigsaw puzzles, Scrabble, Jeopardy, Cranium Crunches and other games designed to promote brain health. Staff members assist with therapeutic activity, modest exercise (like stretches, chair exercises and balloon volleyball), medications and personal care, including toileting and showering, if needed.

Member birthdays and other milestones are celebrated with cake and family members are invited to celebrate Halloween, “Friendsgiving,’’ Christmas and other holidays. In nice weather, members take supervised walks outside.

The food prepared on site is a big draw, Mellone says. A typical day might begin with coffee, juice and hot oatmeal or cereal from the breakfast bar. Lunch is eagerly anticipated and might include chicken cordon bleu, spaghetti and meatballs, Salisbury steak with mushroom gravy or scrambled eggs with home fries — plus dessert. Some members like to assist with meal prep and cleanup. Members have the option of taking home a bag supper so they don’t have to cook.

“We have some members who after lunch like to relax and close their eyes for a bit,’’ Mellone says. “Others have a lot of energy and just keep going. We send them home well fed. Our goal is they go home, relax and have a good night’s sleep.’’

Laurie Myhill, of Manlius, takes her father-in-law to Silver Fox east three times a week. After his wife died several years ago, he spent a lot of time at the Manlius Senior Center, where he would take yoga and art classes, stay for lunch, participate in activities and sometimes go on daytrips. He loved it, but as he grew older and developed dementia, they were concerned about him being home alone for unstructured periods of time.

Her father-in-law’s primary care doctor told Myhill about Silver Fox. They scheduled a day visit and her father-in-law has been a regular since fall. “He went in very skeptical because he doesn’t like change but he came out feeling super happy,’’ Myhill says. “He thrives on the routine, it’s incredibly convenient and he’s been gaining weight because the food is so good. Everyone there is friendly, accommodating and kind. He comes home happy and that’s the most important thing to me.’’

The Silver Fox operates weekdays only. Transportation is not provided, but staff members can help arrange it. Out-of-pocket cost for a day at the club is about $80, Mellone says. Financial assistance is available for eligible members through the Veterans Administration, Onondaga County Office of the Aging, Oswego County Office of the Aging and many insurance plans.

On average, eight to nine members a day attend the Silver Fox, usually a mix of women and men. Ages of members range from late-60s to mid-90s. Some members attend three days a week, while others attend every day.

“Some days it’s more of a men’s club, some days it’s a ladies club with a couple of men,’’ Mellone says. “They form bonds and get to know each other.’’

The reasons for becoming a member at the Silver Fox are as diverse as the members themselves, Mellone says. Some members live on their own, away from family and friends, and attend for reasons of socialization.

Studies have shown that social isolation and loneliness can lead to cognitive decline and risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, impaired mobility, high blood pressure and other long-term problems.

Caregivers of the elderly, who often juggle the demands of work and home, are also at risk of loneliness and depression, experts say. Being a family caregiver is a major commitment and can result in lost work time and little time for relaxation and social events – which in turn can lead to loneliness, anxiety and depression.

“Family members are so appreciative that we’re here,’’ Mellone says. “Just this morning we had a client come in who said, ‘I just thank you all for being here. I can go to work and be at peace that my loved one is not home alone.’”

More Info on Silver Fox

Silver Fox Senior Social Club is at 7248 Highbridge Road (Route 92), Fayetteville, and 22 E. Genesee St., Baldwinsville. Information: 315-635-5335, https://silverfoxseniors.org

Photo: Members of the Silver Fox Senior Social Club in Fayetteville chatting recently. The club provides a home-like environment where members can enjoy activities, chef-prepared meals and companionship, all in a professionally supervised, safe environment. Photo by Margaret McCormick.