Betty Dickstein: Senior Center

WBetty Dickstein image Goddard Riversidehen Betty Dickstein, a retired executive secretary and nearly native New Yorker (a Manhattan resident for over 60 years), stopped in to see what Goddard Riverside’s Senior Center had to offer, she had no idea what she was getting into.

“I was widowed, and I had more time on my hands,” she said. “One day I just decided to walk down here. I live a few blocks away. I began taking the Spanish class, and now I guess I will study Spanish for the rest of my life.”

But discovering a life-long love of the romance language was only the tip of the iceberg. Now her résumé at the Senior Center reads like this: a Vice President of the Advisory Council; Chairperson of Food Committee; member of Outreach, Public Issues, and Recognition Committees; active in annual bazaar; participant in Spanish class and Chorus; and founder of the Scrabble Group. She eats lunch nearly every weekday, surrounded by friends, in the Center’s dining room. Reflecting on how she got in so deep, she chuckled and said, “Well, one thing led to another.”

The Spanish class led to an exercise class which led to the chorus.

“I love to sing,” Betty said. “It’s fun.”

Any reservations about how she might fit in with the close-knit chorus group melted away when they heard her sing. “Right away I became a star,” she joked.

Members and staff at the Senior Center quickly zoomed in on Betty’s enthusiasm and get-it-done attitude, and, in her words, “catapulted” her onto the Advisory Council, which in turn won her more leadership roles. The Director of Senior Services, Erika Teutsch, said, “Betty is always around to help with whatever. She’ll do the nitty-gritty and take on responsibility.”

As a member of the Outreach Committee, Betty works to make sure that hospitalized or homebound members of the Senior Center get the help they need. The committee phones members who are missed at the center and notifies a staff social worker about any needed follow-up. On the Recognition Committee, she helps coordinate the acknowledgment of outstanding staff and members with plaques and gifts presented at the membership meetings. She has traveled to city hall and Albany to lobby for health benefits for older adults and other legislation as a member of the Public Issues Committee. With her many roles at the Senior Center, the most palpably important may be chairing the Food Committee, for it is on Betty’s shoulders to present the members’ likes and dislikes to the kitchen and to negotiate for special holiday items with the chef.

Even now, Betty is not showing signs of slowing down. Her roster of responsibilities aside, the Senior Center is really about one thing for her.

“It’s the connections you make with people – the sociability,” she said. “To me the most important thing is to be part of the Goddard Riverside community.”

Learn more about Goddard Riverside's Senior Center.

Goddard Riverside Community Center is a nonprofit settlement house in New York City, building communities and changing lives since 1887.