In our most recent Community Spotlight, we feature Peter Thompson, Executive Director of The Center At Belvedere in Charlottesville. Previously known as The Center, The Center at Belvedere is an award-winning independent nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for healthy aging through social engagement, physical well-being, civic involvement, creativity, and lifelong learning.
“I’m Peter Thompson, I have the great pleasure of serving as the Executive Director at The Center, also known as the Center at Belvedere and for decades previously known as the Senior Center. And for folks who don’t know what we are, I find the best way to describe us is we’re kind of a teen center for older adults. a place where people age 50 and better come and make friends, connect with long-standing friends, stay socially engaged, stay civically involved, can continue to stretch and test their mind, body, and spirit in a very fun and supportive environment. So it’s not a residence. It’s a place where it’s more of a community center, a hub focusing on healthy aging for people aged 50 and better but also particularly with the new Center at Belvedere, a community center that’s open for all that encourages all people to come and celebrate community together.”
“When we hear about the hesitancy sometimes that people have about thinking it’s not for me, people often have an image of its just people using walkers and wheelchairs and nap time. And nothing against a good nap, but The Center is a lot more than that. It really is a vivacious place where you would see people, we have 60 and 70-year-olds who run marathons. We have people who do come in on Jaunt and using walkers and maybe have early dementia. We have a wide variety of people who come. So what we encourage for whether it be an individual or a family or professional caregiver who wants to bring Peter to The Center is just to come and check it out and really find what is that tribe? What is that niche within The Center for that person to be able to make new friends? Is it the woodcarving group, or the hiking group, or the art group, or the band, or the tap dance? There’s such a wide variety of programs it can be overwhelming for people sometimes. But if people just come and try one program which you don’t have to, there’s no obligation to come in and just check out the programs at any given time, I think most people will find a welcoming, fun, supportive environment that encourages people to live life to their fullest.”
“What we know and research is increasingly showing is that social isolation kills. It’s not just sad. It doesn’t just lead to mental health issues not that that’s not problematic enough, but it leads to a physical, mental, spiritual decline. And that’s not natural aging, it’s not healthy aging, and it’s not necessary. And so a core of what everything The Center does is about encouraging people to come out and continue to celebrate life, explore your horizons, expect the unexpected. We had one medical professional with the university come. They were new to town and they didn’t know much about The Center. And they came and they took the tour. And when we finished it, I said, “So what do you think?” He says, “This is what healthcare should be about. You’re doing what we know are the key ingredients for people to age well and you’re doing it in a fun environment.” We’re not having to give people prescriptions, it’s people coming out to have fun. And then what we know is they’re doing all the key things that are going to keep them out of the doctor’s office and out of the hospital and isn’t that what we all want for ourselves, our loved ones, and our entire community?”