IN FOCUS: Feline therapy

Senior Independence Center has welcomed some furry residents

STORY & PHOTOS By William D. Lewis


The Senior In- dependence Center of Mahoning County offers a variety of programs for its members wishing to keep active including painting, cooking and line-dancing classes. A couple of longtime visitors to the center, however, are quite content to catch a catnap whenever they can.

Laurel and Hardy, aptly named for a comedy- film team popular in the 1920s, are a pair of cats who have become resident pets at the center. The feline duo enjoys the run of the place, often greeting visitors at the door. Hardy is the younger of the pair and can be seen zipping from room to room, while Laurel often finds a sunny spot to catch a nap.

Jeanne Stride, a social worker at the center and an owner of multiple pets, says Laurel and Hardy get a good reaction from most of the seniors at the center.

“They give the seniors a lot of loving.” Stride said.

She added the cats have been living at the center for about five years. Once, while roaming the halls at night, the cats set off the alarm system.

Jo Fiorenzo, a volunteer at the center, sat on a sofa holding Laurel while the afternoon sun streamed through a large window. “These cats are almost like members of the family. This place would be very dull without them. They add to the atmosphere,” Fiorenzo said.

Visitors to the center often spend time with the cats and have been known to bring a treat for them. The cats sometimes wander through a painting or dance class.

Joy Perry of Youngstown, who takes tai chi classes at the center, enjoys the feline company. “These cats have personality and make the center feel like home,” she said.

The Senior Independence Center of Mahoning County is at 1110 Fifth Ave., Youngstown. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call 330-744-5071 for more information.

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