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At United Way, we know that people of all ages need access to healthy and fun opportunities to socialize.

To talk to Ramona today, you would never suspect that she used to struggle with loneliness and depression. Says Ramona with a huge smile: “the UCC Senior Center brought me back to life!”

Before she turned 60, Ramona felt lost. Though she had lived in Milwaukee for several decades after moving  from Puerto Rico and was lovingly married to her husband, Salvador, she didn’t have many opportunities to get out of the house and socialize. This isolation led to feelings of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

Then a friend told her about the Senior Programs at United Community Center on Milwaukee’s South Side, and Ramona jumped at the chance to join in.

United Community Center’s Senior Center offers interactive programs for seniors that provide education and recreation while fostering socialization and independence. United Way funding supports these programs.

Of those surveyed in United Way-funded Older Adult Support and Independence programs, 90% were more physically active and 89% felt they were better able to cope with stress.

“United Way’s support of our elderly programs provides vulnerable elderly in our community with a comforting environment that feels like home, where they can socialize, build friendships, and find a place of belonging,” said UCC Executive Director Ricardo Diaz.

Though she was shy at first, Ramona soon found her niche with the sewing club. “It had always been my dream to sew something, but I didn’t know how,” recalls Ramona. The sewing club is a group of more than 20 women who meet at the senior center daily to work on fun projects. They even sell some of the items they make.

“I love being around the other girls,” said Ramona. “We dance around the room, celebrate each other’s sewing, and they cheer me up when I’m feeling down.” 

Last year, Ramona and her fellow sewing club members put on two fashion shows. Ramona was proud to show off the beautiful dresses she had been working on and even modeled her own designs.

These days, Ramona and her husband Salvador are at the Senior Center every day. In addition to sewing club, Ramona takes Zumba classes and participates in intergenerational activities with students from UCC’s Bruce-Guadalupe Community School.

As for what she would say to other seniors struggling with loneliness like she was: “give yourself a chance and try something new. You don’t have to do everything at once, and (here at the UCC Senior Center) you can try anything you like.”

“It changed my life,” said Ramona. “And it can change yours, too.” 

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