Sixty-Three Washington Street Home for Seniors, a residential care facility in the heart of Camden, has expanded its services to offer a day services program — a first in Knox County.

The new program, launched about two months ago, provides activities and companionship for those still living at home. In addition, it can provide a worry-free place for seniors while caregivers run errands, take short trips, or seek time to rest and rejuvenate.

"It's been a wonderful experience," said Dorothy Erickson, one of the program's first regular participants. Erickson spends three days each week at the home. "I can't tell you how I'd get along without them."

The day begins at 10 a.m. and ends around 3 p.m., with the program being participant-driven, said Administrator Nancy Riley. The program is very flexible in terms of accommodating participants' needs, she said. People can choose one, three, or five days a week. Some may choose to come less frequently to enjoy specific weekly activities and outings, while others may choose to come full-time.

"We let them pilot the ship," Riley said.

The seniors can choose to mainly just sit and chat, do an art project, watch a movie, or play games. They often have guests come in with entertainment, such as Lincolnville musician Rosey Gerry. In the coming months, themed parties around the holidays and family events are in the works.

One of Erickson's favorite things to do is sit on the enclosed porch and watch the birds. She and aide Julie Pease enjoy looking through a bird book to identify them. The two affectionately refer to the porch as "The Tranquil Room."

Pease does most of the work with the day program, and Erickson cannot say enough kind words about her — bringing tears to Pease's eyes.

"The participants are treated so well, I can't say enough good things about them. They are so concerned about us," Erickson said, joking that she tries to take Pease home with her at the end of the day.

Certified staff members are always on hand to offer assistance, including dispensing medications as needed. Both Riley and Pease are Certified Residential Medication Aides.

Daily home-cooked meals are served family-style, with snacks provided as needed. Erickson said she really enjoys the food. "They are wonderful cooks. That's always a pleasure," she said.

Sixty-Three Washington Street accepts Elder Independence of Maine, or EIM, a program for people who do not qualify for MaineCare, but can qualify for this program to help pay for the day program's cost, said Jeanne Denny, president of the Board of Directors.

In addition to day services and respite care, the facility has always been a home for the area's aging citizens. It was built in 1898 as the Camden Home for Aged Women and was more commonly referred to as "The Old Ladies' Home," until its name change to Sixty-Three Washington Street, which is the home's street address, in the early 1980s. The home now operates as a fully licensed and state-approved assisted living home. There are six bedrooms, and residents must be at least 60 years old.

For more information, to arrange a tour or interview to discuss services, contact Riley at 236-3638.

Courier Publications Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at klincoln@villagesoup.com.