Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center has something for everyone

The Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center is pictured. (Courtesy photo)

From Northern

Michigan University

ISHPEMING — Located within Marquette County’s west end, the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center stands as a shining symbol of community and compassion. Guided by executive director, Ashley Roberts, this center serves as a lifeline for individuals aged 60 and above, offering a variety of services and programs designed to nurture their well-being.

The sprawling service area spanning 786 square miles encompasses not just geographical terrain but the lives of 4,493 seniors. The Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center is filled with activities from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., offering a diverse array of recreational activities and educational programs tailored to nurture both body and mind. From bingo to tai chi sessions, there’s something for everyone seeking enrichment and companionship.

Chair yoga and low-impact aerobics keep bodies limber, while art classes ignite creativity and camaraderie. Dominoes and mahjong tables resonate with laughter, weaving a tapestry of cherished memories.

Yet, the center’s mission extends beyond mere recreation. It serves as a wellspring of knowledge, offering vital insights into memory care, caregiving and end-of-life planning.

Collaborations with esteemed organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association and Lake Superior Life Care and Hospice illuminate the path for seniors navigating the complexities of aging.

At the heart of the center’s operations lie its Case Worker Services, a lifeline for those in need of assistance. Three case workers guide individuals through the maze of available resources, from respite care to Medicare counseling.

Continue reading to hear more from the executive director of the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center, Ashley Roberts.

Q: Tell me about your work as the Executive Director of the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center. What services do you provide?

A: As the executive director, I oversee the operations of the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center. The senior center is a hub for individuals 60 years of age and older who live in the west end of Marquette County. Our service area is 786 square miles and includes the city of Ishpeming and the townships of Ishpeming, Ely, Tilden, Humboldt, Champion, Republic and Michigamme. This area is home to 4,493 individuals who are age 60 and older. The senior center offers a variety of recreational activities, programming, and case worker services. Our recreational activities include bingo, low-impact aerobics, chair yoga, tai chi, art, dominoes, mahjong, knit and crochet, bus trips, Thursday lunches, a foot care clinic, a diabetes support group, and more! No matter the individual, someone is bound to find something to participate in, Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m. The programming offered is centered around providing education and local resources to seniors that help them through their journey of aging in place. We have featured topics to support memory care and caregiving with the Alzheimer’s Association, end-of-life care with Lake Superior Life Care and Hospice, Rehab, and Long-Term Care with Marquette County Medical Care Facility, along with estate planning, Fraud Abuse and Prevention, and gardening tips and tricks. Our case worker services are available to anyone in our service area who needs assistance with finding services for themselves, a loved one, or a neighbor. There are three case workers on staff that individuals can meet with at the senior center or in their home. Services that can be set up for an individual are respite care, homemaking (light housekeeping), grocery shopping, chore service, Medicare and Medicaid assistance program counseling. We assist with referrals to the Meals on Wheels program, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program friendly visitor program and RSVP non-emergent medical transportation.

Q: What drew you to working within this role? What makes you so passionate about this work?

A: As an undergraduate at Northern Michigan University studying Community Health Education, I worked under a professor who guided me and two other students in the development, implementation, and evaluation of a memory health program. The program worked with all four senior centers in Marquette County for three weeks educating seniors on tips and tricks to help them improve their memory. Having the opportunity to work with seniors in the community was sGroup of ladies dressed as the Pink Ladies for Halloween rewarding. I have found the older population has so much to share with their community and they also are so interested in continuing to learn. Following graduation, I was fortunate enough to return to the U.P. with my husband in 2011 and work at the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center as the Center Aide. I helped with programming, educational bulletin boards, and bus trips. I was only there for a short time, so when a position opened as a caseworker in 2019, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to come back. Now, as the executive director, I am driven to help seniors in my community. I not only live in our service area, but have family here as well as children in the school district. When my staff and I explore programming ideas and service expansion, it is centered around supporting individuals through their whole person looking at all aspects of someone’s health. That can range from their physical, spiritual, emotional, vocational, intellectual, environmental, financial, and social health.

Q: How can we improve access to care for seniors in our region, and within the state?

A: We need to be willing to meet our seniors where they are at. We can’t force individuals to adapt to a fast-paced, technological way of life as they age. We can be there for support, and we can have resources for them, but we must be respectful of their way of life and try to adapt our models of care to support them. We need to take the time to listen to their stories about how they got to where they are to ensure we provide the best possible care. We can’t put them in a box or make preconceived notions about who they are based on their way of living. There needs to be more money carved out for grant-funded senior services. Our senior center offers grant-funded in-home care to seniors for homemaking, grocery shopping, chore services, Medicare and Medicaid assistance applications, and more. These funds help us to serve everyone in our community, but our focus tends to be on those individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid but do not make enough for private-pay care. There are not enough caregivers or in-home care aides to support seniors living in their homes or in skilled care. There needs to be an emphasis on this valuable workforce that can support our most vulnerable population.

Q: What are some barriers you have experienced that negatively affect access to care for seniors in rural areas like the U.P.?

A: Seniors living in rural areas lack affordable senior housing, transportation, and access to hospitals, pharmacies, banks, and grocery stores. Many individuals can’t afford private pay in-home care or don’t have access due to their location. Seniors are also facing issues with connectivity. Many do not have internet access nor have the desire to have internet in a society that forces individuals to be connected regularly. Transportation barriers and limited volunteer drivers put seniors at risk of missing their medical appointments, lab draws, and other needed medical care.

Another barrier to accessing healthcare occurs when simply making a phone call to a provider’s office. Once answered, an automation system requests the caller to listen to a series of options and prompts them to press 1 or 2 which can be very discouraging and frustrating to an older adult. There are many state assistance programs available to seniors. However, some applications are only available online which assumes individuals have broadband access, an electronic device, and the wherewithal to complete all the requirements using technology. Individuals who are used to face-to-face interactions are being forced to access information online, create passwords and two-factor authentication, and upload documents for services. This process can be very overwhelming for many older adults, even those who have worked on computers in their lifetime.

Q: What do you feel are some steps that can be taken to improve access to care for seniors in our region?

A: There needs to be more access to affordable senior housing, and improved efforts to coordinate transportation for seniors to go to the bank, grocery shopping, or their local senior center for socialization. There also needs to be a focus in our healthcare system on helping to bring care to the homebound or the patient versus trying to get the patient to the healthcare provider.

Q: What useful facts about the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center do you think most people are unaware of?

A: The Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center is governed by the Greater Ishpeming Commission on Aging, a 501(c)3 Nonprofit Corporation that has been in existence since 1982. Our largest funding source is Marquette County Senior Millage and Region XI Area on Aging (UPAAA). These funds help to support our most valuable services to seniors in our community to help support independent living. We offer Case Worker Services, Homemaking (light housekeeping), Chores, Respite Care, and Outreach.

Q: If someone within the community wanted to help contribute to the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center, how can they do so?

A: There are many ways someone can give back to the senior center. Individuals can volunteer at our meal programs, coffee hour, Tax program, and support the RSVP program. They can also support ongoing programs like our Homebound Senior project where we collect essential items such as toilet paper, Kleenex, personal care items, and cleaning supplies for low to moderate-income seniors. Individuals can also give monetary donations to support services and activities provided through the senior center.

Q: What is your connection to the Northern Michigan University Center for Rural Health? How does this partnership benefit your work or how may it benefit in the future?

A: The Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center connects with NMU Center for Rural Health through various collaboratives in Marquette County to improve services to our aging population. This partnership helps the senior center gain access to information and resources to continue to support our aging community by supporting our mission. As the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center continues to evolve, its doors remain open to all seeking solace, companionship, and empowerment. Together, we can build a future where every senior is cherished, every voice heard, and every life enriched by the warmth of community.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today