All deserts have an oasis. In Coachella Valley, The Joslyn Center is one of them.
Through its wide array of programs, partnerships, educational opportunities, and social services, the center helps the area’s elder population transform the aging experience into one that can be inspiring and empowering.
“We strive to make a difference here,” says Joslyn Center Executive Director Jack Newby. “And we’re really looking at how we can expand our services to the community surrounding us.”
The center offers more than 50 programs weekly, all free or low-cost for its members. Exercise, performing arts, arts and crafts, sports, wellness services, Meals on Wheels, and social and cultural programs are among the highlights. The latter, in fact, includes meditation, Spanish lessons, tech lessons, and even Joslyn Singles, a meaningful opportunity to connect with others.
Recently The Joslyn Center received a grant from the Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF) through the Community Impact Fund. The funding was part of IECF’s focus on strengthening work that prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Newby says the funding came at a very opportune time because The Joslyn Center was in the midst of creating its strategic plan.
“We’ve been working on DEI for a while in terms of having a staff and a board that is much more diverse,” Newby says. “We’re working on expanding our services to underserved communities, both in our immediate neighborhood and in the Coachella Valley. We can now offer Spanish in Our Wellness Center programs, for example, and we’re doing so in the Senior Center, and expanding that to other locations. DEI is now becoming a real thing we do as an organization.”
Understanding the complexities of DEI can be, well, complex at times. For Newby and the team, one challenge is locating a difficult population to find: seniors and older adults, across all racial and ethnic lines, who are isolated and may not be aware of the services the center provides.
This includes individuals who are not technically savvy.
“This idea came to mind during the height of the pandemic when Riverside County released information about opportunities for people to get tested,” Newby explains. “It was all over the web, but it was difficult to do/access even for people that had some technical abilities. It became very clear to us that there were isolated people out in the community—whether it’s a disability or lack of transportation or fear during COVID. Now, we’re trying to find ways to reach those individuals and bring them into social activities.
Isolation is one of the most serious issues facing this population.
“Isolation and loneliness can lead to a host of mental and physical problems,” Newby shares. “It can seriously impact health.”
Early-intervention mental health service is key. Joslyn Center initiatives are designed to start early before somebody becomes depressed or so anxious that it begins causing physical and mental health problems.
Another bright beacon at the organization is its Wellness Center, which takes a holistic approach to wellness. This extends beyond “gym” exercises.
In conjunction with several local health care networks, the organization provides medical seminars and other significant information for its members. Classes designed to improve memory and keep the brain healthy, for instance, are offered, as are special exercises to enhance observation and keep alert.
“These types of classes help people in the early stages of cognitive decline and can also reduce the likelihood of cognitive decline,” Newby says.
Other success stories include the Aging Mastery Programs from the National Council on Aging, which tackles specific areas people should pay attention to for better health as they grow older. These include:
- Financial planning/financial success
- End of life planning
- Relationships: spouses, partners, children, friends, making new friends
Newby’s passion for the cause clearly shines through. He came on board The Joslyn Center five years ago and was inspired to be around others who also wanted to make a difference.
“I love being able to help with activities for socialization—for people to break out of their isolation and to become more engaged because I know from personal experience how important that is,” Newby says. “For me, this is personal because my parents were married 50 years and when my father passed away, my mom started to decline. She was at that age when peers were passing away or moving away with their families because they needed help. And she was becoming more and more isolated.
“Having a local senior center can be a miracle for people. It helps them stay engaged, active, and even reactivated.”
For more information on The Joslyn Center, visit joslyncenter.org.
This story originally appeared in the Desert Sun, June 2022.
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