After more than 35 years providing professional, compassionate and affordable adult day services, the Friendship Center has taken the next step in meeting the community’s need with an expansion of its services. As an addition to the original site in Montecito, Friendship Center Goleta opened in July, on the grounds of Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

Friendship Center, the only nonprofit adult day services program on Santa Barbara County’s South Coast, serves the community’s aging and dependent adults, many of whom have cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease. Services include transportation, meals, socialization, mentally stimulating activities, supervision in a secured environment, and compassionate care, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The “friendliness” of Friendship Center’s program is key. Social contact and a feeling of belonging reduce the isolation and depression experienced by those with dementia because of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disabilities.

“Adult day services are a vital element in maintaining the well-being of those affected by dementia,” said Dr. Robert Harbaugh, a Santa Barbara neurologist.

Benefiting equally from these services are caregivers of aging 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.

Just as the Goleta Valley area is growing rapidly, with an ever-increasing population of elders, so are Summerland and Carpinteria. The launch of Friendship Center Goleta is a boon to those living in these eastern parts of our community as well as those to the north. With Goleta residents in attendance at that center, there is increased space available at Friendship Center Santa Barbara. Increased outreach is under way to Summerland and Carpinteria to increase the population at the original location on the campus of All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Montecito. This expansion significantly improves accessibility to affordable day care for aging and dependent adults and their family caregivers in all parts of the community.

To ensure that Friendship Center’s vital services are affordable to low-income families, the H.E.A.R.T. (Help Elders At Risk Today) Program is a boon to those in need.

Functioning like a scholarship system, H.E.A.R.T. enables elder and dependent adults in need of day services to utilize Friendship Center even if their families are unable to pay the center’s full daily fee. Many of these families have even fewer resources to draw upon because of their own economic downturns in the current recession. The center’s costs have increased dramatically in the past few years, and the average participant contribution covers just 44 percent of this amount. Friendship Center strives to continue providing affordable day services for those in need, and to do this, support from the community is crucial.

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.

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.

We look forward to moving into 2012 with new visions, plans and inspirations for carrying out our mission, and rely on donations from generous community members like you to do so.

Click here for more information, or call 805.969.0859.

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