Chapel Hill: Opinion

Chinese welcome, well served at Seymour Center

If you have been to the Robert and Pearl Seymour Center on Homestead Road in Chapel Hill, you have seen the Seymour Center is an open and diverse place where seniors are served without borders. Since the construction of the center in 2007, it has become a safe environment for Chinese seniors to express their emotions and seek companionship.

Although most of the seniors live with their children, many remain isolated due to language barriers, unfamiliarity with the environment, being disconnected from social networks and mobility issues. That is why they value the Seymour Center so highly. “Even half a day in Seymour makes my life colorful.” This is the statement I hear over and over again. Each day, Seymour welcomes 40 to 50 Chinese seniors who participate in various activities, attend customized health education trainings, and access services provided by the Aging Transitions team.

Their exercise starts right away when the Seymour Center opens at 8 a.m. Chinese seniors will play ping-pong, pool and tai chi to refresh their morning, or play mahjong and socialize with their friends.

To promote mutual communication and understanding among different groups, the Seymour Center created language classes. Chinese speakers are fond of the English as a Second Language (ESL) classes taught by the Orange County Literacy Council. They take it seriously. Not only do they preview the content, they will also finish their homework and take tests. Likewise, the Chinese class facilitated by bilingual volunteers is popular among English speakers. They meet each Tuesday to learn basic words, practice calligraphy and exchange cultural ideas.

The Orange County Department on Aging provides a wealth of services, activities, programs, and interest groups at the Seymour Center and their sister senior center, Central Orange Senior Center in Hillsborough. Information about everything we offer and more can be found in the quarterly publication, the Senior Times. In addition, skilled staff and bilingual volunteers organize special Chinese festival events which are a favorite of our Chinese seniors. Currently, there are eight bilingual volunteers who work to help seniors register for programs, sign up for groups and classes, interpret for cultural events, and more, minimizing language barriers and making communication possible.

Chinese seniors are learning about their medical and housing rights, mental health, as well as physical and financial health day by day through trainings in Chinese. Topics cover oral health, CPR, stroke, hospice, fair housing and more.

To further assist our Chinese seniors and their caregivers, a Chinese Peer-to-Peer Support Group is available to provide emotional support and resource referrals. Trained mentors with similar experiences assist Chinese seniors and caregivers in finding the help that they need including additional support from the OCDoA Aging Transitions team.

In order to help the seniors maintain their independence and minimize their stress, the Orange County Department on Aging has recently created a Chinese web page that covers various questions of concern and resources for new immigrants. Topics include health insurance, transportation, caregiver support, senior housing, low-income medical services to name a few. Please refer to the following link for more information:

To many Chinese participants, Seymour is more than a senior center. It is not just a place you go at your “age,” it is a place you will start to enjoy your “age.” Just like the logo of the Department on Aging, our seniors have Endless Possibilities!

For further information, please visit or call the Robert and Pearl Seymour Center, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill, 919-968-2070, or call the Chinese Helpline at 919-259-0232.

Zhenzhen Yu, MSW, is the bilingual social worker for the Orange County Department on Aging.