Building Connections

There’s a new neighbor just off the VFW Parkway in West Roxbury, bustling with activity and its occupants won’t hesitate to tell you how much fun they have on a daily basis. Arc Connections is a day program offered through The Arc of South Norfolk, headquartered in Westwood, Massachusetts. Formerly known as Senior Connections, a day program for older adults with disabilities first opened its doors in 1993 in a 1,200 square foot building in downtown West Roxbury. The Arc of South Norfolk recognized a growing need for an aging population with increasing medical needs in the Boston area, so a larger space was sought. The Arc’s new program, Connections, has recently located at 1580 VFW Parkway. This beautiful 16,550 square foot facility is shared with The Arc of South Norfolk’s affiliate, Lifeworks, which offers residential, skill building, and employment support.

Connections has a large common area for socializing and activities, as well as classrooms equipped with ceiling-mounted lifts for those needing assistance. There is also a large, accessible kitchen space for the groups to make their favorite dishes. Access to occupational, speech, behavioral, and physical therapy consultations are available as well. The Connections program focuses on community involvement and engagement by its participants. The program also encourages a rapport among participants; enhancing self-esteem, independence, life and motor skills.

The program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Connections participants must have approval from the Department of Developmental Services, as Mass Health funds the program. Individuals who attend the day program have varied schedules that include anything from 1-5 days a week, half-days or what best supports their needs. Connections welcomes individuals age 22 and over, residing within a 20-mile radius of the West Roxbury address. The current, but expanding, staff consists of an Associate Director, Healthcare Supervisor and two Case Managers. Now in a position to welcome more individuals, Connections is looking
to fill more spots in the upcoming months.

Connections offers health and wellness programs, formal exercise classes, walking groups, and a cardiovascular “Wii Fitness” program. In addition, Connections offers educational and artistic instruction including skill development to stimulate and encourage the growth of each individual, painting canvas, a gardening program, nutrition education, a music group, and cooking classes. “Engagement is our biggest priority,” says Andy Smith, Associate Director of Connections. “Encouraging developing rapports between the participants we serve is something we put a lot of
focus on.”

A typical day at Connections begins with “morning circle,” where each individual takes a turn facilitating the group discussion. The group then transitions to conversations about current events. “It is a wonderful vehicle for social interaction”, says Andy. Andy also noted he has to be very cognizant of the energy level of the group on a daily basis when planning activities. “The key is finding the right balance.” The group participates in community exploration, recreational outings, inclusive community programs, grocery shopping, and bowling. Ann, a long-term participant with a bright smile and a sparkle in her eye, told me during my visit, “I absolutely love the activities here and all the friendships I’ve made over the years.” Gene, who’s been attending the program for nine years, shared, “I love to exercise a lot.” There is always an option to opt out of a structured activity should the individual not wish to participate. A less intensive choice is offered such as a card game, tabletop activity or going for a walk. When asked about what he enjoys most about his job as Assistant Director of Connections, Andy responded, “I am surrounded by so many unique personalities. I can be myself and have an authentic rapport with everyone.”

For more information about Connection’s programs, contact Andy Smith, Associate Director at (617) 469-1986 or