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Smart Seniors program offers people of all ages a chance to learn something new

January 27, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Theresa Spruill of Spruill Day Money Management tells seniors how to organize important documents so that their family can access them in case of emergency, during a past Smart Seniors program at The Village at Robinwood.
Theresa Spruill of Spruill Day Money Management tells seniors how to organize important documents so that their family can access them in case of emergency, during a past Smart Seniors program at The Village at Robinwood.

They are not your stereotypical senior citizens.

Most don't own a rocking chair and the majority don't spend the day playing bingo.

Instead, they thrive on learning something new.

That's why, on the third Tuesday of each month, you'll find them sharing a hot meal with a heaping side of information.

One week the topic could be identity theft, the next it's about art preservation.

Then there are the entertainment programs, like an afternoon of German music.

It's all part of Smart Seniors — lunchtime meetings aimed at education and socialization.

Held at The Village at Robinwood, the informative sessions have been offered since May of 2006, said Pete McMillin, coordinator of the Smart Seniors program. 

"It was started by my predecessor as a way to share information with seniors," said McMillin, who also is the manager of marketing and sales with The Village at Robinwood and Ravenwood Lutheran Village.

Each month, a speaker presents a program on a specific topic and follows it with a question and answer period.

"In many cases, it helps people make informed decisions about particular issues," McMillin said. "In other cases, it's a chance to be exposed to something completely new."

Regardless of why people attend, McMillin said the program is popular with older adults in the community.

"People come from all over," he said. "Many are from Washington County, but we also have folks who come from Pennsylvania and West Virginia."

And while Smart Seniors is targeted to older adults, McMillin said it is open to anyone, of any age, who wants to attend.

"We don't card people," he joked.

Over the past few months, McMillin said the programs have been filled to capacity.

"We have a lot of regulars who are part of the audience each and every month," he said.

McMillin said organizers have found three reasons why people keep coming back.

"First, is the fellowship and socialization," he said. "Second, they appreciate the information they receive. And, third, the lunch is really good."

McMillin said he tries to schedule speakers and topics that he knows will be of interest to seniors and works hard "not to turn meetings into sales presentations."

"I want people to relax and enjoy the programs, to walk away better informed, not feeling pressured to buy something," he said.

That's why each presentation is carefully screened.

In the past, topics have ranged from bladder problems and living wills to genealogy and preventing fraud.

McMillin also appreciates feedback from those in attendance and often receives suggestions for future sessions.

"This really is their program," he said. "Eventually, I would love to have a planning committee — a group that's self-governing."

In addition to speakers, McMillin said Smart Seniors also has had a short story writing contest, with the top three winners published in The Maryland Cracker Barrel magazine.

While Smart Seniors is informative, McMillin said the meetings also bring people together.

"We have seniors from all walks of life, all backgrounds and experiences," he said. "But they all enjoy the socialization."

"It's a wonderful way to meet people," he added. "Some very strong friendships have been made between folks who, otherwise, may never have met."

McMillin said Smart Seniors also has been rewarding for him. 

"I get to meet the most fascinating people," he said.

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If you go ...

What: Smart Seniors

When: Third Tuesday of every month, 11 a.m.

Where: The Village at Robinwood, 19712 Tranquility Circle, east of Hagerstown

Cost: Program is free, but lunch costs $9. Seating is limited to 55 and reservations go quickly.

Contact: To register or to receive more information on speakers, call 240-420-4133, press 5.

More: The next Smart Seniors meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 15. The speaker will be auctioneer and Realtor Robert Wilson, who will speak on "Trash or Treasure." People are invited to bring in items for appraisal.

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