Brick Senior Center To Open In Fall

Senior Services director Zulma Soto shows the kitchen, will double as a space for some of the activities. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  BRICK – The Brick Times got a sneak peek at the new Senior Center on Aurora Place. Workers have been busy rehabbing a building that was formerly the home of the township’s volunteer ambulance squad.

  Senior Services has been holding activities and programs in the VFW Hall on Adamston Road, while the administrative/outreach side has been operating out of Civic Plaza on Chambersbridge Road.

  All services and programs will come together under one roof when the new, more centralized building opens in October, said Senior Services director Zulma Soto.

  “We hope to be somewhat functional and fully operating at that time, and while there could still be some delays, we’re excited,” she said from the construction site.

The first aid building is being converted into a senior center. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  The largest area is the multi-purpose room. An attached alcove will be the site of a small library with a table and chairs. There is even a large window in the alcove, which adds to the overall bright and airy feel to the center.

  A small conference room is also located off the multi-purpose room, where there is space for a table, four chairs and computers. This room will offer a private area for seniors to share confidential information about various programs.

  “When we work with our seniors, there is a lot of exchange of personal information,” Soto said.

  “We do taxes, we do eligibility for programs for prescription coverage, for utility assistance…we do an assessment to see if they’re eligible for any state benefit programs like food stamps and things like that,” she said.

  Soto said that the center partners with a number of organizations such as Fulfill, which provides monthly food boxes to eligible seniors and are delivered to the recipients by Senior Services.

  Over 2,000 Brick seniors seek these need-based services on an annual basis, Soto said. Some of those same people attend classes and recreational events, educational programs, social programs and nutrition programs at the center.

  The new center will have space for exercise classes, including tai chi, yoga, strength training, aerobics and zumba. Attendance has been building since Covid, and the classes regularly have 15 to 40 people, Soto said.

  Plans call for an existing outdoor concrete pad to be converted into a patio with chairs, umbrellas and a community garden created by some of the seniors who have expressed an interest in planting vegetables and herbs.

  Even the kitchen will have a dual purpose, serving as a space for small group activities like the book club and writing club, Soto said.

  Senior services has two buses to drive seniors to the center and also to shopping centers, banks, medical appointments and more.

  “There is always a need for transportation, it’s one of our largest demands,” Soto said. “Within Ocean County you’ll see that there is a very high demand for transportation because there really is no public transportation system.”

Senior Services director Zulma Soto shows the progress being made on the construction. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  The design of the new center has new office space for the Senior Services staff which includes four, full-time outreach workers, a part-time social worker who does counseling for long-term care needs, a part-time outreach worker and two bus drivers. The center is looking to hire additional drivers, she said.

  Soto said Senior Services has a lot of resources the staff can refer to, and their main goal is to pass that information along to seniors so they can obtain whatever services they require.

  “We do a lot of advocacy. If they’re having difficulty applying for these programs, we will assist them. We fill out the applications. We make phone calls on their behalf if necessary. We take a look at what they are eligible for and then do the work to help them,” she said. “Our seniors are very grateful – we get a lot of thank you cards.”

This attached alcove will one day house a small library. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  The hours at the VFW were limited, so now that the Senior Center has its own space, Soto said she hopes to expand the hours and offer some activities after hours for those seniors and caregivers who are still working.

  25 percent of Brick’s population are over 65 years old, and an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 use the center annually, Soto said.