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From The Glens Falls Home to The Conkling Center: Serving Senior Citizens in the 21st Century

From The Glens Falls Home to The Conkling Center: Serving Senior Citizens in the 21st Century October 10, 2023
Photo of Conkling Center Board president Jill Vogel, directors Tracey Gallagher and Carol Merchant, and executive director Joan K. Tarantino.
Conkling Center Board president Jill Vogel, directors Tracey Gallagher and Carol Merchant, and executive director Joan K. Tarantino.

The Conkling Center, the Glens Falls-based non-profit provider of services to the area’s senior citizens, is the beneficiary of this year’s Bolton Landing Holiday House Tour, to be held December 2.

The designation is an opportunity to direct some well-deserved attention toward the 125-year-old organization, which began life in 1898 as a facility for distressed gentlewomen: The Glens Falls Home.

The Glens Falls Home, both as an idea and as an entity, survives today not only in The Conkling Center’s headquarters in Glens Falls but at the Glen at Hiland Meadows, which the Glens Falls Home partnered with The Eddy Senior Living to develop and build in 2000.

In 2001, the few women still living in the 1902 building on Warren Street were transferred to the Glen at Hiland Meadows, where a Board of Directors comprising five representatives of Eddy Senior Living and The Conkling Center share oversight.

The name of the Glens Falls Home was changed in 2014 to The Conkling Center, both to honor Mary A. Conkling, whose family residence became the first Glens Falls Home, and to acknowledge that the non-profit no longer manages a residential facility.

“The Board of Directors of The Glens Falls Home did not want to manage a retirement community or a health care facility; we didn’t have that kind of expertise,” said long-time board member Carol Merchant, who explained that while The Conkling Center is represented on the Board of Directors, it is not responsible for the day-to-day administration of The Glen at Hiland Meadows, which has grown to include Independent Living apartments and cottages, Assisted Living apartments, a Memory Care Center and a Wellness Center.

Originally, the Glens Falls Home was operated largely by volunteers, “women with plenty of free time,” said Carol Merchant.

“They spent hours at the home, helping the ladies, hosting teas. By the time I joined the Board of Directors, we had a professional staff, but nevertheless, the transition to the Glen at Hiland Meadows required some adjustment from the Board. We were very involved with managing the Glens Falls Home – from discussing how to keep toast from getting burnt to choosing the color of napkins,” said Merchant.

Freed of managing a residential facility, The Conkling Center focuses its resources on offering programs and services to senior citizens, among them: transportation, de-icing, field trips, and programs on topics of interest to senior citizens and elder care professionals.

“Our highest profile program, the one we’re best known for, is our On-the-Go transportation program,” said board member Tracey Gallagher. “We offer free transportation for people aged 55 and over, living within a 20-mile radius of Glens Falls, for any purpose whatsoever, from medical appointments to grocery shopping and errands of any sort.”

According to Joan Tarantino, The Conkling Center’s executive director, the transportation program is utilized by ten to twelve people every day.

The Conkling Center also purchase of the de-icing agent Ice Melt in bulk and distributes it to senior citizen centers, which makes it available to clients at no cost.

Other initiatives include: field trips to The Hyde and Grant’s Cottage and other museums and historical sites; and three to six programs per week, by organizations such as the Warren County Historical Society and the Chapman Museum, by the Alzheimers Association, by attorneys specializing in elder law and by experts in the field of in-home care.  

“The mission of the Conkling Center is to enhance the quality of life for seniors, and that entails exercise programs to keep people healthy, trips and programs to keep the mind active, and of course, getting people to medical appointments,” said Joan Tarantino.

But, she added, “We recognize that there is a social dimension that makes life worth living, and we try to support that as well, through our programs and services. We’re looking at the whole person.”

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