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COSTA MESA : Harmonious Seniors Find Togetherness

A spry, white-haired woman, a scarf tied stylishly around her neck, tapped her cane to “O Holy Night” Tuesday morning as carolers from several Costa Mesa senior citizen clubs entertained fellow seniors at Newport Villa.

The woman, Elizabeth Cunningham, 90, stood outside her apartment door as the carolers filled a room across the hall where one of them played songs on the piano.

“I don’t think you ever get tired of Christmas songs,” Cunningham said. “There’s something about them.”

The 35 seniors also sang to residents of the Mesa Verde Convalescent Hospital earlier in the morning and finished the day with lunch at the Rea Community Center. The caroling marked the first time the senior groups--the Goldentimers, the Costa Mesa Seniors Club, TLC and residents of Bethel Towers--had joined in one activity.

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Such a coalition is exactly what the city hopes will come about with the construction of the Costa Mesa Senior Center, which is scheduled to break ground in February. The Costa Mesa Senior Corp., a nonprofit organization established to run the center, will plan more events with the similar goal of bringing seniors together, said Jeffrey Hovsepian, development director.

“What the city realized four years ago was there were segmented services and with the senior population fixed to expand over the next 20 to 30 years, they thought it would be good to have a centralized location for all the services,” Hovsepian said.

The organization also must plan its own fund-raising and will kick off a campaign when construction begins Feb. 1, he said. He estimates the center will cost $350,000 per year to run.

Many of the seniors sing regularly in their own groups, but never had they joined in with other groups, said Naomi Watts, who lives at Bethel Towers, a senior retirement complex.

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Residents there gather every Tuesday to sing gospel music and then get together again on Thursdays to sing “old-time numbers,” she said.

At Mesa Verde Convalescent Hospital, Katherine Earhard, 82, lip-synced the words to “Noel.” Collapsed bronchial tubes prevent her from actually singing the songs, she said.

“I was making a joyful noise with my lips,” she said. “I can’t afford to use any oxygen for singing.”

At Newport Villa, Marcella Van Riper stopped to rest on a hallway chair after caroling along the halls of the upper floor. She wore Christmas tree earrings and a blouse decked with cloth poinsettias she had made.

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Van Riper, who belongs to the Costa Mesa Senior Club and the Goldentimers, reflected on the significance of seniors caroling for other seniors no longer able to get around easily.

“There are some who can’t get out and it would be nice if they would come and visit them more because they’re lonely,” she said.


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