For over 40 years, the Joslyn Center has worked to enhance the well-being of all adults 50+ through innovative programs and services. Since 2010, IECF has awarded the center more than $230,000 in grants, and we are proud to manage The Joslyn Center Fund, established in 2018 to support the center’s programs.

The Cove Communities of Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, and Indian Wells are home to a growing senior population with diverse needs. Serving as a bridge to vital community services, the Joslyn Center has positioned itself as a core hub of activity, offering 80-90 programs a week, including meals, exercise, education, recreation, and counseling. On any given weekday – and now on Saturdays, too – the Joslyn Center is a thriving scene of connection for older adults and a testament to the leadership of Jack Newby, the soon-to-be-retired Executive Director of the center.

As the U.S. population of those over 65 is expected to double by 2040, Jack anticipates a significant increase in the demand for services and funding.

Socialization is the key

Newby’s seven-year tenure at the Joslyn Center has been marked by a future-forward focus on innovation and inclusivity, all centered on the idea that socialization is the key to longer, healthier lives. “Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation can have the same adverse health impacts as smoking about a pack of cigarettes a day,” Jack tells us. “If you’re sitting at home watching Judge Judy, you’re going to not only be going crazy, you’ll be losing muscle mass.”

Members participate in exercise classes at the Joslyn Center

He cites evidence-based research from the National Council on Aging, indicating that exercise improves physical and mental well-being. The Joslyn Center is tackling both through a varied menu of offerings. “You want to learn to tap dance? We’ve got a class for that,” Jack says. “Pickleball, yoga, ukulele, painting…we have so many things going on. We have folks join our exercise classes using walkers and canes, and a few months later they don’t need them. I have two friends who took up painting and are now selling their artwork.” Talk about life-changing.

Innovative programming to meet new needs

Perhaps these are the types of classes you’d expect to see at a senior center, but Jack, with an eye on the future, has integrated some additional thoughtful and innovative new programming to meet the needs of the senior community. Men’s groups, a rarity in senior centers, were introduced to create opportunities for connection. A Parkinson’s exercise class begins this month in collaboration with Eisenhower Health, and the Braille Institute offers education for those learning to use white cane navigation. “These programs provide a space for support, social interaction and shared interests,” Newby explains, “which is vital for combating isolation.”

Jack tells us that brain function and mental acuity are ongoing topics of interest to seniors. “We’re the only senior center in the Coachella Valley doing Brain Boot Camp, developed by the UCLA Longevity Center,” he shared. “And we have an Aging Mastery program developed by the National Council on Aging.”

Counselors on board for mental health services

The Joslyn Center also recently began offering individual counseling using evidence-based Problem Solving Therapy. “Our therapists are master’s level clinical social workers or Associate Marriage and Family Counselors under the supervision of a licensed therapist.” Their work with the Joslyn Center allows each therapist to gain 3,000 hours of experience, receive their license, and go into the community to provide much-needed mental health services. It’s a win for both the counselors and Joslyn clients.

Importantly, the center delivers these services to the eastern Coachella Valley, where a stigma about seeking help remains and mental health programs are few, particularly for Spanish-speaking individuals. “We meet them where they are—churches, senior centers, we work with Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine,” Jack explains. “We have three Spanish-speaking therapists who are truly bilingual. They can communicate seamlessly with native Spanish speakers, with an important understanding of the nuances of the language.”

Support for seniors with autism

Jack is especially proud of another program to be launched in 2024. In a notable accomplishment, the Joslyn Center is the first senior center in the nation to receive certification as an autism center. It will serve local clients as well as clients from Inland Regional Center.

“Autism was only established as a diagnosis in the eighties,” Jack says. “We understand that many seniors with autism have experienced a lifetime of isolation. We’ll offer social and recreational activities, a quiet room, and noise-canceling headphones. Caregivers are welcome to accompany their clients, and we’ve received education on how to recognize people who might need additional support.”

Behind-the-scenes work to keep the wheels turning

As with any nonprofit, finances are always a top concern. Joslyn members pay only a nominal fee of $30 per year to participate in most classes, so this extensive slate of programming comes at a significant expense to the center.

Many of their members are stretched thin financially. “They may have purchased a condo in the 80s, but now they’re faced with $1,000 association fees and exorbitant electricity bills,” says

Joslyn Center received funding to support their food bank in 2020 through the S.L. Gimbel Fund at IECF.

Jack. Food insecurity is a looming issue for some, so a food pantry and farmer’s market are essential. For those who are homebound, the Meals on Wheels program is a lifeline; they count on the food as much as they count on what may be their only human connection.

A recent switch to solar will save the center $30,000 – critical dollars to be funneled back into programming. Grants, including several over the years from IECF, pave the way to introduce new programs, support Meals on Wheels, and make capital improvements like the recent addition of the Wellness Center and $300,000 ADA-compliant restroom upgrades. Construction costs have skyrocketed. “You could build a house for that,” muses Jack, “but the restrooms were about 40 years old, and we have to meet the needs of our aging population.”

Although they’re expensive to produce and offer diminishing returns, event fundraisers contribute to the bottom line as well. The Joslyn Center hosts an annual Wine and All That Jazz event, and its recent Joslyn in Bloom fashion show was sold out.

Here’s how you can help

While cost-cutting measures, grants, fundraising, and the gift of volunteerism are all a part of the necessary mix to keep the doors open, Jack invites those with charitable giving goals to consider donating directly to The Joslyn Center. “If our services align with your values, a direct donation means more of your dollars go to the organization you support.” Newby aims to raise another $100,000-200,000 before he retires. “I want to leave the center in better shape than I found it,” he says.

As Jack prepares to retire, the Joslyn Center’s success demonstrates the power of engaged leadership and strategic partnerships. Newby may be stepping down, but the legacy he leaves behind – a center that embraces inclusivity and caters to the evolving needs of its patrons – promises to endure.

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