Due in large part to the efforts of Sr. Patrick Mary, the Bridge Adult Day Program of Catholic Community Service (CCS) opened its doors in 1985 and over the years has supported thousands of Juneau's seniors and their families in maintaining their independence and improving the quality of their lives. Through socialization and therapeutic activities, the Bridge program serves as a link, albeit a "bridge," between home and community for both the participant who attends the program and their families who care for them.
"Developing relationships and fighting isolation and loneliness are the main stays of what the Bridge Program is all about," said Marianne Mills of Southeast Senior Services.
Originally located within the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation's (AHFC) Mountainview apartment complex on 12th Street, the Bridge program consisted of a large room, a small office, a small storage room and an alcove area near some restrooms. It had great light and windows, but looked out onto a busy street and had virtually no outdoor space. The Juneau Senior Center was also located there so that adult day participants were able to join other seniors for their mid-day meal and other senior center activities. Many Mountainview residents visited the Bridge program, attended special events or received assistance from staff as they were often there beyond usual AHFC service hours.
In 1999-2000, the Mountainview complex underwent major renovations, and the Bridge temporarily moved into the Twisted Fish restaurant during the winter months while the remodeling took place. The program then returned to the 12th Street location, but the need for a separate facility specifically designed for physically disabled seniors and people who experience dementia became more apparent.
Ongoing discussions with then-Sen. Ted Stevens' staff, the Juneau legislative delegation, The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and Juneau officials finally led to sufficient funding to make the concept of a "new" Bridge facility into a reality.
In 2003, with federal Housing and Urban Development funding, CCS purchased what was known as the "old Johnson home" and properties located on Glacier Highway. With funding from the State, the Rasmuson Foundation, The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, the city of Juneau and private donors, the buildings and grounds were transformed over the next few years into the state-of-the-art, adult day facility that exists today.
In December 2005, the "new" Bridge facility opened, resembling a homelike environment complete with separate rooms for large and small group activities, a sun porch, an outside deck, a salon for hair care and other services, a large kitchen, an upstairs break room for staff and a storage room for activity supplies.
The views facing Gastineau Channel features boats, barges, ducks, eagles and mountains - beautiful "pictures" throughout the day. The deck provides space for outdoor games, barbecues, mountain goat viewing, gardening activities and time to gather up a winter supply of Vitamin D.
In the summer of 2007, the Irene and Anne Shima sensory garden was dedicated, providing opportunities to enjoy the outdoors even more - especially on sunny days. The garden includes a variety of bulbs, bushes, trees and raised garden boxes - nothing poisonous or prickly - a flag pole and benches for viewing and enjoying the wonders of the garden. "Something is always in bloom," and "It's a great place to relax and be outside when the weather is nice," are a few comments shared by participants. Gardening is second nature to many of the participants, who grew up on farms or who had gardens of their own, and everyone enjoys the sights, sounds and smells of the flowers and birds that abound year-round.
In celebration of 25 years of service and National Adult Day Services Week, the Bridge program will hold an open house for the public to visit, have some snacks, stroll in the garden and meet participants, volunteers and staff. Doors will open to visitors between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Monday at the facility, which is located at 1803 Glacier Hwy.
For more information, call Jan Reece at 463-6171. Be prepared to laugh and perhaps join in a song or two, but most of all, come see what the Bridge program is all about.