Providing a Sense of Community: The Chicago Lighthouse Seniors’ Program

Losing your eyesight after a lifetime of being able to see can be a traumatic experience, and the natural tendency may be to isolate in your home and become dependent on others. The Chicago Lighthouse’s Seniors’ Program works against those inclinations, providing older adults with resources, activities and a social outlet so they can continue to live their lives to the fullest.

“If you retire and you do nothing, you’re sleeping your life away. At The Lighthouse’s Seniors’ Program, they keep us busy,” says Charlotte, a 70-year-old program participant. She has been attending the program for more than seven years, starting after she retired from a lengthy career at the Social Security Administration.

According to Seniors’ Program Director Melissa Wittenberg, around 20 seniors participate in the program’s classes and activities on any given week. Some of the most popular classes are the iPhone and iPad training classes, health discussions, support groups, and chair exercise. The program also offers a book club, movies with audio description, trivia and other brain games and more. A perennial highlight for participants is the annual cruise on Lake Michigan, sponsored by Wintrust and the Chicago Yacht Club.

While the program faced some restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, one feature that has continued has been a call-in option for participants who are unable to make it to The Chicago Lighthouse’s Chicago or Glenview locations, where the Seniors’ Program is held on a rotating basis.

“Although some seniors may live far away from our two offices and cannot come in person, at least they have the option to meet other seniors with vision loss over the phone,” Melissa says.

Charlotte likes coming as much as she can to the in-person classes, but she does find the call-in option helpful for days when there is bad weather, or she has other schedule conflicts. Her favorite activities are the chair exercise classes and group health discussions, but the most important feature of the program is the sense of community she shares with others going through vision loss.

“Just having someone else share an easier way of doing something or talking about our different experiences helps us get to know each other and create friendships.”

The Chicago Lighthouse’s Seniors’ Program is free and open to people 55 and older who are blind or visually impaired. If you want to learn more or enroll in the program, contact Melissa Wittenberg at 847-510-2060, or

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