Last year a man called Encore Lifestyle & Enrichment Center to inquire about their services because although he didn’t live in Tipton, his sister did, and she was struggling. Riddled with anxiety over the COVID-19 pandemic, she had become extremely withdrawn. Scared to leave her house, she had dropped weight and abandoned all contact with the outside world.
“We’ve encountered this before,” says Cara Kellerman, executive director of Encore. “Our drivers are wonderful. They’re kind and gentle, and older folks tend to trust them, as they should.”
Sure enough, an Encore driver slowly coaxed her out of her shell, first delivering a daily meal. As time went on, she began to engage in brief conversations with the driver and her hesitancy waned. The driver encouraged her to get on the Encore bus for just a five-minute drive and she agreed. Soon thereafter, the driver persuaded her to eat a meal at the center.
“She fell in love with the place and now she comes every day,” Kellerman says. “She gets picked up in the morning, stays through lunch and goes home in the late afternoon.”
Her brother told Kellerman that Encore has been a lifesaver for her, as she not only gained weight, but also gained friendships, confidence and a newfound joy for life.
Encore, which opened in 1979, is Tipton County’s senior-services organization. It operates a transportation service, and hosts a wide range of fun and exciting things to do for Tipton County’s active adults. The facility has experienced tremendous growth since 2015, having grown from fewer than 100 members to 230 in 2021. Growth trends are projected to continue as Tipton County is expected to be one of the oldest counties in the state in the next five years.
In the next three years, the Encore team expects to see a 28% growth in the senior population in Tipton and surrounding areas, which will be the highest in Indiana. Therefore, Encore wants to help meet seniors with additional support that doesn’t currently exist, because their mission is to enrich the quality of life for Tipton County adults by providing programs and services that support independence, healthy aging and social connections.
“Services needed to support holistic health include nutrition, fitness, health-care navigation and caregiver resources,” says Kellerman, who is part of the Senior Center Coalition of Indiana.
Encore’s recent five-year strategic plan expired in 2020. After a temporary interruption due to the pandemic, the board of directors got to work on a new plan in early 2022. With the help of Sullivan Consulting, the recommended consultant from Lilly Endowment, Encore has developed a new, robust strategic plan. Work begins this year through 2026. All of their efforts are founded on the five social determinants of health and well-being – access to health care, education, economic stability, social and community context, and neighborhood and build environment.
Many individuals offered input on this strategic plan including government employees, senior participants, health-care providers, police officers and firefighters, small-business owners, nonprofits, Encore’s board, and other stakeholders who have an educated viewpoint about what’s going on in the community.
Encore currently offers transportation, daily activities and a travel program. What the community will see coming out of this new strategic plan is a significantly enhanced activities program that will offer more robust, evidence-based programs.
“We plan to expand into a wide range of offerings that are attractive to more residents in the area,” Kellerman says.
Encore strives to serve three types of seniors – the older demographic who are primarily stuck at home; those who are 75 and older but still active, still drive, and enjoy activities like euchre and bingo; and 60-year-olds who still function like they’re 40, running around with their friends.
“Aging is changing,” says Kellerman, noting that September is National Senior Center Month. “Think of 30 years ago what it looked like to be 70 years old. It looks different now. Our health care is so good that people are living actively so much longer. Some refer to this as a ‘Silver Tsunami.’”
Kellerman has certainly witnessed this. Late in 2021 through the spring of 2022, Encore saw a dramatic increase in membership.
“You can almost see the relief on people’s faces when they find Encore,” Kellerman says. “When they realize they can use our bus and participate in the center’s activities, their world becomes broader.”
She recalls an 80-year-old woman who became a member because she was lonely after losing so many friends.
“Encore became her new network, and we all became her family, ” Kellerman says.
Encore Lifestyle & Enrichment Center is located at 900 East Jefferson Street, Suite A in Tipton. For more information, visit encorecenter.org.