After more than 30 years in seaside Montecito providing professional, compassionate and affordable adult day services, the Friendship Center has seen the need for increased accessibility to its services in the Goleta area and responded with an expansion of its services. The result is Friendship Center Goleta, which opened in July.

The new center is on the grounds of Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 820 N. Fairview Ave., about 13 miles north of the original Montecito location. The Goleta site provides a cozy cottage, outdoor patio and multipurpose room in a warm sunny environment among citrus orchards.

Friendship Center, the only nonprofit adult day services program on Santa Barbara County’s South Coast, serves the community’s elder and dependent adults, many of them seniors with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease. Services include meals, socialization, mentally stimulating activities, supervision in a secured environment and compassionate care.

As the name implies, Friendship Center is a friendly place — open, welcoming and inclusive. Social contact and a feeling of belonging reduce the isolation and depression experienced by those with dementia due to Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disabilities. In addition, any seniors interested in meeting others for socializing and activities are welcome.

Benefiting equally from these services are caregivers of elder and dependent adults, who gain not only much needed time to pursue career and family obligations, but peace of mind to do so without guilt or worry.

The Goleta area is growing rapidly, with an ever-increasing population of elders. Just as the aging population Friendship Center serves grows at a rapid rate, the dilemma for families is growing and becoming more complex. Many families report that without Friendship Center’s services, they would be forced to prematurely institutionalize their loved ones or to hire expensive in-home caregivers. Adult day services are an affordable answer to this problem faced by families caring for dependent elders at home. Friendship Center is proud to play this crucial role in helping families stay together and supporting our elders in aging naturally within the community.

“I am so grateful for the Goleta Center,” said the daughter of one of Friendship Center’s members. “It has reduced stress for both of us. The lengthy bus ride to Montecito every day from our home in Goleta was difficult for my mother, who is quite progressed with her dementia. I feel much better knowing that she is close to home.”

Friendship Center Goleta provides day services from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, including meals and a lively activity program. As at the Montecito location, musicians and other entertainers contribute to the varied and colorful schedule, including some favorite regulars — “Papa Heinz” with his cheerful accordion music, “Robo the Clown” performing classic mime and creative sleight-of-hand tricks, and Trudy Bixby singing smooth and soulful jazz standards to Oscar Maynez’s guitar accompaniment.

Both locations also offer an Early Memory Loss program, called Connections, on Mondays in Montecito and Wednesdays in Goleta. Qualified veterans and Tri-Counties Regional Center clients are eligible for reduced fees. The regular daily cost of the program is based on each family’s ability to pay.

Whether amid the stately eucalyptus trees of Montecito or the spreading live oaks of Goleta, Friendship Center’s mission remains steadfast: to preserve and enrich the quality of life for aging and dependent adults through innovative programs that value the dignity and worth of every person, and to provide respite, support and education, enabling families to continue to be engaged in their community, careers and commitments.

Click here for more information, or call 805.969.0859.

Upcoming Events at Friendship Center

» An Open House & Family Caregiver Holiday Party will be held from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at Friendship Center Goleta, 820 N. Fairview Ave. Come visit our new center and join us in a celebration of the holidays, as well as a tribute to family caregivers, our everyday heroes. Enjoy wine, hors d’oeuvres and live music. Please RSVP to 805.969.0859.

» Friendship Center’s 13th Annual Festival of Hearts will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort. Don your Fiesta best and enjoy Heart-Art, wine, a luncheon, live and silent auctions and live entertainment. Watch for tickets and more information in January.

— Justine Sutton is the grants/development coordinator for Friendship Center.