The Beginning – the 1950s and 60s
In 1951, the Council of Social Agencies met to discuss the social and economic problems of older adults. It was apparent that there was a need for a community organization to address the special needs of Senior Citizens. In 1952, the Tompkins County Senior Citizens’ Council, Inc., was established under the leadership of Jeanette McCay. Gertrude Grover inaugurated a weekly Senior Citizens’ radio program on WHCU, the forerunner of “Senior Time.” In 1953, the first Senior Citizens’ bus trip went to the Lilac Festival in Rochester.
After meeting in a variety of locations, the Senior Citizens’ Council rented two rooms and a kitchen at the West Side House in 1954. After two years, in 1956, the Military Hall at 201 E. Seneca Street (the basement of the Public Library) was established as the first official Senior Center, opening a Senior Citizens’ Gift Shop and offering the first exercise classes. In 1957, the Council received its first public funding from the City of Ithaca and New York State, totaling $700. Newfield Senior Citizens became the first group outside of Ithaca to become a Unit of the Council, shortly followed by Dryden Senior Citizens.
In 1962, the Senior Center moved to the second floor of the Woolworth’s building on State Street then owned by Mr. Leon Rothschild. The Trumansburg Senior Citizens assembled and became a Unit of the Council. In 1966, Lansing and Groton Senior Citizens became Units. In 1967, Malcolm Freeborn became the first salaried Director of the Tompkins County Senior Citizens’ Council. In 1968, Danby Senior Citizens became a Unit and in 1969, the Health Committee was formed to address health and wellness issues.
The Middle Years – 1970s and 80s
In 1970, the Council purchased 213 S. Geneva Street. Work began on constructing an addition. The Discount Program was instituted under the leadership of Mr. David Stobbs. The Machinists and Caroline Senior Citizens became Units of the Council. In 1971 the Council moved into its new headquarters on Geneva Street. The Friday afternoon square dance group started. Retired Teachers became a Unit of the Council. With a grant from the Gannett Foundation the Council was able to burn the mortgage on 213 S. Geneva St. in 1974. The Varna Senior Citizens became a Unit of the Council. In 1975 the Ellis Hollow Senior Citizens became a Unit of the Council.
In 1977, the Senior Citizens’ Council became the local sponsor of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program – RSVP. After a brief time at the Geneva Street location RSVP acquired offices in the Dewitt Mall. The Enfield Senior Citizens became a Unit of the Council in 1978. In 1979 the Council worked with the County Health Department to establish annual flu shot clinics. RSVP started sponsoring Tax Counseling For The Elderly through a grant from the IRS.
Under a contract from the County Office For the Aging, the Northside/Southside and North East programs were established in 1980. Under the leadership of Anne Winters the Cope and Hope (later known as Senior Friends) was established. In 1984 the Council established the “Seniors Are Giving” annual fundraising campaign. In 1987 the North East Program became self sufficient and became a Unit of the Council.
The Second half – 1990s and into the 21st Century
In 1991, the Health Insurance Counseling Program was established by the Council. Later through State Funding the program became HIICAP – Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program. In 1995 the Council held its first annual Seniors Walk For Fitness at Stewart Park and offered its first computer course for Seniors at Ithaca College. In 1996, the Council purchased property at 119 West Court Street owned by the OB-GYN group.
119 W Court Street
The doctors gifted the house next door (121 West Court Street) to the Council. Renovations to 119 West Court began in April of 1997. RSVP moved from the Dewitt Mall to 121 West Court Street in June, and Council offices moved into 119 West Court Street in October. The Senior Circuit program was launched in 1998, including computer classes in the new computer lab. Participation in activities increased 60%.
The Senior Circuit established a summer session in 2001. In 2001, the Council celebrated 50 years of service to Senior Citizens in Tompkins County.
In 2003, the staff expands to include an Executive Director, Program Coordinator, Executive Assistant and Receptionist/Administrative Assistant, Custodian. Eventually, an IT specialist and Bookkeeper also were added to the staff roster. In 2004, we adopted the name Lifelong.