When the social calendar is blank and even the restaurants on Longboat Key take a break, The Paradise Center aims to break the cycle of isolation.
“Our average age on Longboat Key is 70, and loneliness is an epidemic among seniors, even before the pandemic. So now it’s a crisis,” Executive Director Suzy Brenner said. “It’s bad for your physical health, your mental health, everything, to be feeling alone and lonely.”
TPC offers classes, discussion groups, mahjong games and movie matinees. Games and exercise classes are held weekly. Additional class options range from how to use an iPhone to do-it-yourself art projects. TPC focuses on being both fun and affordable.
“We don’t charge an arm and a leg because our mission is to help prevent isolation and loneliness,” Brenner said.
TPC offers a membership, but it’s not required. All residents are welcome to check the calendar and try a class for $10. That includes all ages; anyone can have fun or become lonely.
The CDC reported findings that more than one-third of adults over 45 feel lonely and that one-fourth of adults over 65 are considered socially isolated.
“We don’t limit it. We’re just geared towards the demographic of Longboat Key,” Community Outreach & Marketing Manager Donna Sharp Blaney said. “We have members in their 60s and a couple here and there in their 50s. And we have grandparents who come in, and they bring their kids and grandkids when they’re visiting to take a class or see a movie.”
TPC also offers a medical suite, where doctors share offices and bring additional medical services to the island, but connection is the only cure for loneliness and isolation. At its core, TPC is a place to meet new people and form lasting friendships.