For the last 10 years, Frank Lucia of Demarest, or “Grandpa Frank” as he is affectionately called, has been an active member of the Kaplen JCC of the Palisades senior program.
Oh, and he is 107 years old.
According to his son, 78-year-old Joe Lucia, the JCC has been the best thing to happen to his father. Grandpa Frank moved in with his son about seven years ago, after his wife died. He rode his bike until he was 98, and drove a car until he was 100.
“The JCC has given my dad a place to come and make friends,” Joe Lucia said. “It is a real feeling of warmth and family. The activities keep him both mentally and physically active.” When Frank comes home, he is always asked, “What did you do at the center today?” and then he regales his family with stories about the lectures he’s heard, the aerobics, singing, and dancing he’s done, and of course a nice lunch.
Not only are the programs at the JCC wonderful for Frank, they are extremely helpful to his son and daughter-in-law as well, the younger Mr. Lucia said. “My dad cannot be left alone, because he still feels he is able to do anything. He would be out blowing leaves if we let him. While he is at the center, my wife and I have a chance to get errands done, go to appointments, and take care of whatever is at hand. Once dad gets home, we can’t let him out of our sight.”
Grandpa Frank is just one of more than 500 people who benefit from the JCC’s senior activities. The majority of these programs are free to residents of Bergen County. Lavish Lunches, the magnificent and delicious fundraiser that the JCC held last week, is another major source of income for these vital community programs, which are not all and never fully state funded. This fundraiser, which the JCC has held for the last 12 years, brings in between $50,000 and $60,000 every year. This year, its chairs were Lorin Cook and Brandi Rubin, who both have been involved with Lavish Lunches in other capacities in years past.
“I was so impressed by the first one, which was held on someone’s basketball court, that I have been on the committee for every one since,” Ms. Cook said. “The event helps fund these amazing programs, and you can’t help but want to get involved.”
These programs include the Kaplen Adult Reach Center — better known as ARC. According to the JCC’s website, ARC provides programming for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia, making it possible for participants to make friends and enjoy a socially engaging life while providing respite, support, and guidance for their family caregivers. ARC meets four days a week, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., in a big, bright room with an outdoor patio, and door-to-door transportation in handicapped-accessible vehicles to many local towns is available. The program includes a full breakfast and hot kosher lunch, as well as a diverse calendar of activities led by an experienced professional staff. ARC is reasonably priced, and offers financial assistance. Free caregiver support groups are available twice a month. For more information on senior programming, call Judi Nahary, the director of the JCC’s senior programming, (201) 408-1450 or email her at email@example.com.
There is also the Senior Activity Center — SAC for short — for people who are 75 and over. The program includes trips, lectures, door-to-door transportation, speakers, and current events groups, among other activities. The program meets from Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., and includes a nutritious hot meal. For more information, call Helene Schwartz at (201) 408-1451 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Retired Executives and Professionals — REAP — meets on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m.; it offers book discussions and lectures, among other activities. Participants can get transportation for $5; and they can either bring their own lunch or buy it at the JCC Cafe.
Claire Roodman attends the Senior Activity Center and represented her peers at the Lavish Lunches program. She relocated to Englewood six months ago after living in the Bronx for most of her adult life. One of the reasons she chose to move to Englewood, she said, was for the JCC’s senior programs. “A typical day includes exercise, lectures and, of course, there is always lunch. We socialize together and we are all moving through a new stage of life together. I especially enjoy the grandparent program. This is when we go into the nursery school and play and read to the children. Their excitement becomes ours and we all enjoy talking about our JCC grandchildren.”
The intergenerational programming has become a big part of the senior programs. Ms. Nahary talked about the intergenerational garden, where seniors and kids plant vegetables, and watch them grow, and then harvest them together. “These programs allow the seniors to age in place, to stay in their homes, and then come to us for activities, socialization, and a chance to feel needed,” Ms. Nahary said. “We help take advantage of all the skills they have to offer, and that makes everyone feel good.”
Lavish Lunches is a unique culinary experience. The day begins with breakfast together, with all the participants gathered at one home. Next, they choose lunch from among 12 different options, ranging from spa-themed cuisine to a meal with the seniors at the JCC that this fundraiser benefits to the luxury of being cooked for by American chef and restaurateur David Burke.
More than 100 women joined Lavish Lunches this year. The guest speaker at breakfast was Chef Josh Capon, who is known for his many restaurants both in Manhattan and in Florida, including Lure Fishbar, El Toro Blanco, Bowery Meat Company, and the B&B Wine Pub.
Here, he answers some questions.
Five questions for Chef Josh Capon
1. Q. What was the first meal you ever cooked?
A. Chicken parm and caesar salad. That was my go-to for a long time!
2. Q. Since Purim is coming, what is your favorite hamantaschen filling?
A. Always raspberry, or apricot is a close second. Never understood the prune! No one wants to eat the prune! I would like to see a raspberry apricot swirl.
3. Q. With Passover around the corner, what is your favorite kosher-for-Passover dish?
A. My mom used to make a pretty mean braised flanken or short rib dish with pomegranate seeds and fresh horseradish over whipped celery root and apple puree. OK, I added the horseradish and puree, but my mom gets credit for the pomegranate.
4. Q. Since Lavish Lunches is a fundraising event for senior programming, what is your favorite low-sodium low-sugar, heart-healthy dish?
A. Poached salmon or halibut with artichokes, tomatoes and olives with white wine, fresh thyme, and lemon. Easy and delicious. Throw in some carrot, celery, and fennel if you want.
5. Q. What is a culinary dream you have yet to fulfill?
A. I definitely want to explore the Far East. China, Japan, street food in Vietnam, Thailand. I love those flavors, and I am sure it would be quite the culinary journey!