When you walk into Ohio Living, a senior day center located in West Akron, you can expect to see lots of activity. You might see socializing amongst cups of coffee, nostalgic stories shared to the soundtrack of music therapy and occasionally fierce competitions of Wii bowling. But the best part of Ohio Living is the people, all diverse in personalities and backgrounds, and now, after welcoming a collaboration with Summit DD, diverse in all abilities.
“We have a very eclectic bunch, but somehow it really works,” said Alex Scott, Director of Adult Day/Senior Center at Ohio Living, with a clear fondness in her voice about the diverse group that attends the inclusive program.
The collaboration started after staff from Summit DD reached out to see if seniors from the Agency’s former Akron Center could make visits to the senior center in order to socialize with peers of a similar age. After experiencing success, Summit DD and Ohio Living decided to make the center available as a day option support service for seniors with developmental disabilities.
“It’s great. Individuals are engaging with people in their community that live in the same area and that are their own age,” said Drew Williams, Director of Community Supports and Development at Summit DD. “Our goal is to support people to be full members of their community, which is their right! We have a responsibility to work with partners within the community to create full participation for everyone.”
Ralph, an individual who previously attended Akron Center, was the first person to transition to Ohio Living. He has enjoyed the opportunity to engage with his peers.
“I like it here,” expressed Ralph with a warm smile.
“His transition went really well,” shared Ralph’s Service and Support (SSA) Administrator, Rhonda Mallard. “The staff from Akron Center trained Ohio Living staff on Ralph’s likes, wants and needs and Ohio Living was very welcoming and open. They were happy to meet his needs and happy to have him there,” she continued, “and Ralph really rose to the occasion.”
Rhonda also shared how Ralph has enjoyed being part of the group and feeling just like everybody else. “There, he’s just Ralph,” she concluded.
The collaboration is an innovative model for other senior centers to follow. SarahCare, a senior center located in Stow, has now adapted the program and found similar success. “Our hope is that the program continues to expand,” shared Drew.
The model brings the community closer and proves that there’s no age limit to inclusion.
“We can’t do this alone. Part of our role at Summit DD is to build collaborations with agencies that are going to support people with developmental disabilities,” summarized Drew. “We think everyone, at any age, deserves a right to be in their community and that’s exactly what this is all about.”
Want to hear more about Summit DD’s collaborations to create inclusive community opportunities for people with developmental disabilities? Check out Kelsey and Franklin’s story!