Mary Swanson turns seniors into MaineStreamers
Mary Swanson is the director of Maine Township's MaineStreamers program for seniors. | Contributed photo
Updated: March 4, 2013 1:50AM
MAINE TOWNSHIP — Mary Swanson has worked in senior services for more than three decades, including the past 12 years as the director of MaineStreamers, a social group for residents aged 55 and up. Prior to her post with Maine Township she served as program coordinator at the village of Niles Senior Center. Through MaineStreamers, Swanson organizes educational programs and recreational activities that encourage socialization, learning, and independence among elderly residents.
Q: What inspired you to pursue work in senior services?
A: My whole life I have been helping seniors. As a young child I would help my elderly neighbors. I believe it’s been just something I always liked to do. While in college, I took classes in gerontology and the rest is history.
Q: What do you like the most about your job?
A: It’s extremely rewarding to offer trips, classes and programs to make people’s retirement years both fun and challenging. Last year I offered a Danube River tour. I had seniors say it was a lifelong dream fulfilled. I also appreciate my wonderful staff and the elected township officials who fully support the MaineStreamers program in many ways.
Q: In what ways does MaineStreamers enhance seniors’ lives?
A: There are so many ways that I believe we enhance their lives. They appreciate all the opportunities we offer to keep them involved and enjoying life. Most importantly, I believe it’s the relationships they establish. I have seniors who have lost a spouse, so many of the MaineStreamers take it upon themselves to watch over each other.
Q: How do you determine the groups’ programming and activities?
A: I meet quarterly with the Advisory Council that consists of MaineStreamers who offer advice and suggestions on all aspects of the MaineStreamer program. After that, I work with staff to develop an action plan. I also read many different publications, such as newspapers and travel magazines, that help me keep up-to-date on the interests of seniors. It’s a lifelong learning thing for me, too.
Q: What is your favorite MaineStreamer event?
A: I would have to say the 90-Plus Birthday Party. I have been doing this type of program throughout my career. Maine Township invites residents that are 90 years of age or older to an event held during May in honor of Older Americans Month. Each attendee gets a certificate, a corsage/flower and a nice lunch. They are also recognized by the Maine Township elected officials. Last year we had over 80 residents celebrate their 90-plus years with two of them being over the age 100.
Q: What are the benefits to staying active later in life?
A: I believe being connected with others helps seniors remain active and by being active they maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Q: How do you encourage seniors to stay active and social?
A: First of all, my wonderful staff and I try to make everyone feel welcome by encouraging them to participate in different activities. I also feel that the MaineStreamers are never alone because they are with us. We offer a variety of programs that a MaineStreamer can choose from so we just have to encourage them to try something new and they often do.
Q: What are the biggest issues affecting seniors today?
A: There are always the worries of health issues and money problems. But I believe it is those seniors who no longer have family nearby who occasionally need our help. Nowadays people move for various reasons such as job relocation. This might cause a senior to become isolated and that is why I think programs such the one Maine Township offers is a blessing. And it’s free to join.